The perfect warm weather fabric or a high maintenance material that ‘never looks sharp’? What ever your opinion on linen, it commonly fails to impress many fashion conscious Brits.
Over the past couple of years a plague of synthetic fabrics has descended on both the UK high street and designer fashion market. On a recent Italy trip I spotted a beautiful Moschino pussy-bow blouse with a €495 price tag. Naturally I presumed such a high price would reflect the quality of the fabric but was sadly mistaken when the label stated 100% polyester!
As a Style Consultant I advocate the benefits of natural fabrics (fibres) such as linen, wool, cashmere, suede, cotton, silk etc. In line with the Capsule Wardrobe principles they are long lasting, stylish and classic, in addition to being breathable, easy care and offering endless outfit combinations all year round.
When discussing natural materials with my clients they are always reluctant to try one of the most seasonally versatile ones; linen. Unlike many British and indeed Americans, the well turned out Europeans embrace and appreciate linens’ unique qualities, appearance and timeless versatility. From beach dresses to relaxed Blazers there is a version for everyone, covering a wealth of different weights, weaves, finishes and blends.
Thicker versions work well in Spring or Autumn and always blend beautifully with other natural fabrics. Picture heavy linen trousers with a fine cashmere jumper and hem tipping white cotton shirt as Spring turns, or a fine linen skirt, silk chiffon T-shirt and buttery soft leather jacket for early Summer chic. A glazed linen trench also offers a refreshing take on the functional Mac when the warmer weather still threatens rain.
Linens’ much misunderstood creasing properties can indeed put off many stylish shoppers, who presume that chic means crease free. While not wrong in thinking that immaculately turned out means wearing clothes that are pristinely maintained, the beauty of linen is the relaxed yet sophisticated edge is can bring to more formal classics.
Good quality linen will crease much more gently than its cheaper counter parts and adopts a more evenly distributed ‘crushed’ appearance. Cheaper linen sits in sharp creases in key movement areas such as the inner arms, behind the knees and across the back, which can look less smart as the day progresses.
If higher priced, pure linen is not an option then look for blends. These will enable you to create an ‘expensive’ yet relaxed look through a variety of mixes such as linen & silk, linen & rayon, linen with silk & wool etc. The options are endless and offer stylish, all season options when a tran-seasonal texture boost is required in your wardrobe.
Where to buy?
Unfortunately, natural fabrics, including quality linens are becoming increasingly harder to find. Stylish European brands such as Massimo Dutti, Cos, Hal Huber and Zara remain reliable sources as do the more wearable high end labels such as Ralph Lauren, Armani, Max Mara, Michael Kors and The Swiss Avenue.
Know your fibres
When shopping check what you are buying by reviewing the fabric label inside the item. This approach should also be taken with shoes and other accessories as many have the price and appearance of real leather but are actually synthetic. As a rule natural fibres feel warmer and softer to the touch than their synthetic counterparts, which have a colder, squeaky feeling when rubbed between the fingers.
If you are a linen novice I would recommend starting with classic wardrobe essentials such as a tailored linen blazer, white shirt or linen and silk blend summer pashmina. Try them with indigo jeans and metallic sandals or slender black cotton ankle grazers and stiletto pumps for more relaxed weekend or work style.
Add these to your Capsule Wardrobe for an immediate warm weather update!
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