In an effort to study the relation of fabrics to the critical states of granular aggregates, the discrete element method (DEM) is used to investigate the evolution of fabrics of virtual granular materials consisting of 2D elongated particles. Specimens with a great variety of initial fabrics in terms of void ratios, preferred particle orientations, and intensities of fabric anisotropy were fabricated and tested with direct shear and biaxial compression tests. During loading of a typical specimen, deformation naturally localizes within shear bands while the remaining of the sample stops deforming. Thus, studying the evolution of fabric requires performing continuous local fabric measurements inside these bands, a suitable task for the proposed DEM methodology. It is found that a common ultimate/critical state is eventually reached by all specimens regardless of their initial states. The ultimate/critical state is characterized by a critical void ratio e which depends on the mean stress p, while the other critical state fabric variables related to particle orientations are largely independent of p. These findings confirm the uniqueness of the critical state line in the e − p space, and show that the critical state itself is necessarily anisotropic. Additional findings include the following: (1) shear bands are highly heterogeneous and critical states exist only in a statistical sense; (2) critical states can only be reached at very large local shear deformations, which are not always obtained by biaxial compression tests (both physical and numerical); (3) the fabric evolution processes are very complex and highly dependent on the initial fabrics. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.