It's the beginning of June and temperatures in the south-west of France are hovering around 28 to 33 Celsius. Finding the perfect "cool" clothing, as in temperature cool, is at the very least, a six month pursuit here. And so in the evening, after perusing blogs, forums and lurking in on discussion boards regarding linen clothing, the ultimate "cool", the conclusion is the same for me as for many - there is a love/hate relationship with linen. Wearing linen is like maintaining a relationship of any kind, you love it for many reasons and you put up with the flaws, in this case the wrinkles.
I found a fabric store post, specifically entitled Linen - The Preferred Fabric for Clothing of Healing, Healthy Living and Well Being that informs the reader about the positive attributes of linen. Who knew? The healing consequences of wearing linen and using it in your household and your bed are new to me. (Although I do find a very special feeling when I sleep between very old linen sheets, but that only happens in France. The rival to those old linen sheets are my Yves Delorme cotton ones.) Relative to clothing, linen doesn't garner static electricity and linen's heat conductivity keeps skin temperature 3°to 4°C below that of other fabrics including cotton and silk. You will sweat less in linen clothing and when you do, linen has a high absorption rate thus keeping you cooler. In cool weather linen holds in warmth. What's a few wrinkles with all that going for it?
NICE: Although all those healing attributes are apparently lost when blending linen with other fibres, I do find it more manageable and wearable when it is blended with rayon or some other synthetic. Mind, if you're wearing it for the healing benefits, the last thing you'll care about are the wrinkles.
NO THANKS: I once had a gauzy linen shirt that literally came apart at the seams. When I read about linen's strength and that it actually becomes softer and more supple with washing, I was surprised and perplexed when mine essentially disintegrated with each wash. It was purchased in an independent clothiers not a discount center or market, yet after that experience I do check the fabric and I would hesitate to buy such a soft loosely-woven gauzy linen again, particularly in a white shirt.
NOTE-WORTHY: If you get into a zen-like state when you iron and take pleasure in the moment, at the most a few moments, linen will happily and now I know, healthfully exist as a wearable item in your wardrobe. Those who are not into the zen of ironing but still want linen, look for clothing made by manufacturers, who put a special finish on the fabric to make it less crease-able or blend it with synthetics to get a longer-lasting smooth finish.
NEED: A white linen shirt, a little longer in the body, and one where I can roll up the sleeves. In my mind's eye, I can see it . . . or you can see an example of a long linen shirt that I think I would like very much by clicking on Eileen Fisher.
NEW: Three pairs of linen and rayon drawstring wide leg pants for the summer - that calls for another post.
Taking Care of Your Linen Clothing:
- Linen may shrink slightly so be aware of that when buying 100% linen.
- You can wash linen in hot temperatures but dry on cooler temperatures. (I've researched that and am relating it to you but can not tell you the reasoning behind it.)
- Iron on the wrong side, or over a damp cloth; you can get shiny spots when using the direct heat of an iron.
- Iron damp or use a good steam iron to get out the crinkled look. Apparently, the more you wash and wear linen the nicer it becomes and you too slowly grow out of that "crisp" expectation.
- When traveling with linen, stuff the sleeves of jackets and legs of pants with rolls of other clothing, then cover each piece with a plastic dry cleaner bag. I have never done this! The point is to not fold your linen items. Now if everything you take is linen, stuff the sleeves and legs with tissue. You'll have to take your largest suitcase but it will be light. Good grief! I roll my linen but I pack it without ironing. I iron it when I need it or I just wear it crumpled. Whether at a hotel or a bed and breakfast, I have always been able to find an iron. I used to pack a travel iron but not anymore. What with weight a significant airline issue, who needs a travel iron?