Twenty years ago, scientists predicted that better understanding of fiber development would lead to novel ways to engineer superior cotton fiber. Advances in genetic resources, DNA markers, DNA sequence information, and gene expression data have indeed provided new insights into fiber initiation, elongation and maturation. Many exciting applications of this knowledge offer the potential to select better cotton genotypes more effectively in mainstream breeding programs or engineer genotypes with improved agronomic and/or quality traits. Here, we discuss recent progress in understanding genes involved in fiber development, and their regulation and manipulation to engineer improved fibers. Better understanding of quantitative trait loci/gene interactions that influence fiber quality and yield may help to tailor superior cotton genotypes to diverse environments.