Friday, September 19, 2008

The Linen Look

Linen is a comfortable fabric to wear in a hot climate, but it creases abominably. For this reason, I have ignored all the fashion industry's efforts to get me to buy linen garments, however attractive they may appear in the catalogues and on the hangers.

(Two industry secrets include starch that keeps the garment looking pristine until washed, and steam laundering applied to garments in store removes transit wrinkles.)

I have learned, from the unexpected source of an Interior Design consultant, that the modern linen look is designed to be crumpled. Crumpled linen curtains are IN. Linen garments continue to be popular. So if you don't mind the haphazard, lived-in look, by all means line up for linen!

Victoria Hill linen options include this charming embroidered shirt and matching pants,

and this sundress and matching blazer (also available in ice pink).

Victoria Hill's catalogue stylist exlaims, "Linen is the must have fabric this summer! Enjoy the wonderfully 'lived in' look of our 100% linen."

Linen Facts

Highly absorbent and a good conductor of heat, linen fabric feels cool to the touch. Linen is the strongest of the vegetable fibers, with 2 to 3 times the strength of cotton. It is smooth, making the finished fabric lint free, and gets softer the more it is washed. However, constant creasing in the same place in sharp folds will tend to break the linen threads. This wear can show up in collars, hems, and any area that is iron creased during laundering. Linen has poor elasticity and does not spring back readily, explaining why it wrinkles so easily.

When freed from impurities, linen is highly absorbent and will quickly remove perspiration from the skin. Linen is a stiff fabric and is less likely to cling to the skin; when it billows away, it tends to dry out and become cool so that the skin is being continually touched by a cool surface. It is a very durable, strong fabric, and one of the few that are stronger wet than dry. The fibers do not stretch and are resistant to damage from abrasion. However, because linen fibers have a very low elasticity, the fabric will eventually break if it is folded and ironed at the same place repeatedly.

Mildew, perspiration, and bleach can also damage the fabric, but it is resistant to moths and carpet beetles. Linen is relatively easy to take care of, since it resists dirt and stains, has no lint or pilling tendency, and can be dry cleaned, machine washed or steamed. It can withstand high temperatures, and has only moderate initial shrinkage.

Linen should not be dried too much by tumble drying: it is much easier to iron when damp. Linen wrinkles very easily, and so some more formal linen garments require ironing often, in order to maintain perfect smoothness. Nevertheless the tendency to wrinkle is often considered part of the fabric's particular "charm", and a lot of modern linen garments are designed to be air dried on a good hanger and worn without the necessity of ironing.

A characteristic often associated with contemporary linen yarn is the presence of "slubs", or small knots which occur randomly along its length. However, these slubs are actually defects associated with low quality. The finest linen has very consistent diameter threads, with no slubs.

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