Caught by a bewitching window display, I give up my leisurely stroll to get closer to the most perfectly designed dress, top or outfit. But as soon as I get near enough to inspect the fabric, the spell is broken. The weight, the texture, the look & feel of the fabric is all wrong.
It needs to have once been alive
In curating our perfect closet, Dapper husband and I created one simple rule for the type of fabric we’d let into our abode: It needs to have once been alive. And in one brief moment, we had narrowed down our possibilities beyond what is found in most fast fashion shops at the mall and started to get at the heart of what creates a long lasting, quality piece of clothing.
Of the options we list here, Cotton is the most affordable. Cotton comes in three grades based on the fiber length: Short, Long and Extra-Long Staple cotton. The longer the fiber, the softer and more durable the material will be. Pima is a generic name for extra-long staple cotton. Unfortunately, not all products using the name are held to the highest standards. If the label doesn’t specify that the product is made with ELS, you can always fall back on how does it feel to the touch. Shorter fibers have a rougher, itchier texture.
Patterns & Styles
Seersucker is an all cotton fabric.
You can often find twills in cotton including herringbone and houndstooth weave.
The perfect material to keep you cool in hot weather, linen has been produced for thousands of years. Ancient Egypt was home to the oldest known factory dating back 4,000 years ago. However, currently, linen is not quite as popular as cotton and tends to be a bit more expensive. In general, the material is resistant to stains, lint and pilling. Despite its durability, the linen fibers have a low elasticity meaning repeatedly ironing and folding the same spot eventually causes breakage (collars and hems are particularly susceptible). The material is also prone to wrinkling– an attribute some consider charming. If you’re a fan of starched, stiff, wrinkle-free perfection, you might find linen hard to live with. But we have good news! You can have a bit of linen breathability with a few less wrinkles in a blend (see below).
A luxurious fabric produced in China as early as 3630 BC. Silk is made from the unraveling of a worm’s cocoon. The most well known silk is from the Mulberry Silkworm– called that because its favorite meal is the mulberry leaf. I visited a silk factory while I was in Cambodia a few years ago where I was able to see silk farming. Most silk is produced from domesticated silk worms as wild moths have variations in the color and texture. The worms themselves are quite dependent on human care after 1000s of years of domestication.
As a fabric, silk is wonderful against the skin and can be worn in hot or cold weather. Also, its density can save you from unwanted bug bites as annoying little bits like mosquitoes are unable to penetrate through the silk.
Bonus: Sleeping on silk has long been considered a wonderful treat for your skin and hair. The smoothness of the material doesn’t rough the hair cuticle like some other fabrics or leave wrinkle inducing marks on your face.
Some popular materials made from silk include: charmeuse, chiffon, taffeta
season: Spring, Fall & Winter
Different from hair or fur, wool is found on a number of different animals. It’s water-resistant, and resilient to wear and tear. With extreme diversity, you can find it makes a range of fabric from a lightweight, smooth pair of slacks to a thick, warm sweater.
There’s a lot of wool out there. So where do you start? The source of the wool means a lot.
Similar to how cotton has a variety of grades, we have the same thing with wool. Just “Wool” can be made from any fleece.
Meanwhile, Cashmere comes from a specific area of the cashmere goat. However, like pima cotton, what is advertised as cashmere isn’t always 100% cashmere. Often, it is a blend of cashmere and a less expensive wool– the scratchy feel gives it away.
Merino Wool like cashmere gets its name from the sheep its grown on. Merino is also very soft and quite expensive. Its claim to fame can be found in its resistance to pilling.
Angora Wool is the odd bunny out: It comes from the angora rabbit. Angora is soft and fluffy and often found blended with nylon.
Patterns & Styles
While wool comes in just about every pattern and color you can thing (it’s so wonderfully versatile!), I like to keep my eye out for colorful wool tweed. It’s perfect for fall time jackets and skirts.
As mentioned above, blends can give you your cake & let you eat it too. Dapper husband has a pair of wool/silk blended trousers he’s quite smitten with. The silk adds a breathability and luxurious feel to the fabric. A Cotton/Linen blend gives you the benefits of both materials. You’ll find a fabric that is more wrinkle resistant than plain linen, lightweight, breathable and can keep you a bit warmer allowing that linen look to transition into colder seasons such as Spring and Fall.
There are a lot of other blends you can find in our closet. What blends, why and how we love to wear them will be explored deeper in a future post.
Season: year-round accessory, clothing in the fall & winter
Leather is a complicated and in depth topic of its own so keep your eyes out for a future post. We’ll keep it simple today: Leather is the perfect accessory. For my closet, I’ve selected a range of shades from camel to chestnut for my purses, laptop bag, gym bag, belts and jacket.
And while leather works all year, I find the fuzzier texture of suede is definitely a fall/winter look in my book. Colder weather also brings the opportunity for a nice pair of leather gloves.
There’s nothing quite so romantic as fur. While the full length mink coat might be a bit dated, there’s still a number of ways to wear fur: Trim on gloves, coats, collars and hats. Or perhaps as a stole, wrap, and I cannot give up on the retro fur muff.
There are a number of choices when it comes to fur. A few popular ones include:
Rabbit: Perhaps the most affordable, but no less lovely are furs made from rabbit pelts. In addition to an abundance, rabbit fur can be dyed and manipulated to look like other furs making it even more popular.
Mink: In a bygone era it was the height of luxury with its short, thick and soft texture. Mink is often found in a rich, dark brown color but can start to fade with age.
Fox: Silky texture and much fluffier than the other two listed here fox fur comes a few different colors depending on where the animals originate from. Red fox fur is quite commonly used for trims and accents and as the name suggests if a coppery orange-red color. Alternatively, blue fox fur is mostly white with dark accents.
For the most part, I enjoy buying furs secondhand instead of buying a new one when there are so many homeless and unappreciated pelts sacrificed already. It feels great to give a piece of fur a new, loving home. The most important factors when buying vintage include checking for bald spots and making sure it comes from a smoke free home (for the smell). Many pieces can be re-lined so I never concern myself too much with the condition of the lining.
By sticking with natural materials (cotton, linen, silk, wool, blends, leather and fur), you find quality pieces that will not only last but are some of the most comfortable garments to boot! Added bonus: you might find (as I did) that it can curb your participation in fast fashion.