Friday, June 8, 2012

Textile Friday: How to Build A Summer Wardrobe Style

         Hey everyone, we're back from a great few weeks getting the shop cleaned up and in order for summer shows. As a follow-up on how to build a general wardrobe which has been our most popular series to date (aka- advice from my grandfather), we've decided to do another wisdom series on summer wardrobes. Hopefully this will be helpful to you in giving general wisdom for summer style. Most of this advice is not new and I will try to mention the people that gave it to me as the series progresses. Many of these people are in the area, so if a particular topic interests you, I encourage you to give them a call.
        When building a summer wardrobe, you have 3 major considerations that you do not have during the winter seasons. Most of these have to do with the fact that people are more active and sweat more in the summer. One, your clothing must be stain resistant AND easy to clean repeatedly. Summer clothing gets a lot more abuse than winter clothing. Two, it must breath easily as you need to remain cool during the summer to prevent heat stroke. And three, it should travel well. Most summer clothing weighs a fraction of winter clothing, is cheaper, packs easily, and is wrinkle resistant. Active wear is a more common purchase than suits during the summer.
         Because of these heavy use requirements, summer clothing has a more limited fabric selection than winter clothing. It generally boils down to linen, cotton, silk, and polyester. For the past 10,000 years, linen has been the go to for summer wear due to it's light weight, easy-breathing, incredible strength, and ease in dying/resistance to fading. For many, it is still the industry standard for summer clothing and you will see it in better clothing, particularly resort wear. Some cultures have substituted silk for linen, especially Thailand and Asian countries. Roughly 300 years ago, the industrial revolution began in Britain, then moved around the world. It was fueled by a new comer, cotton when machines learned how to extract the seeds from the fluffy white cotton for processing. The fabric mills of the 1700s and 1800s fueled a world-wide appetite for cotton fabric as it was cheap, easy-to-clean, and dye. At roughly 1/20th the price of any other fabric on the market it is the basis of a revolution we are still feeling the effects of today. In the South, it spawned the saying "Cotton is King" due to how much money poured through this grape-vine. Cotton does not last as long as linen and is not as strong, but it is easier to produce. Also, it does not wrinkle to the same extent. The final fabric is polyester from the 1970s (often recycled plastic soda cans) which is used in specialty fabrics, particularly active-wear for it's cheap properties. Synthetic fabrics used in bathing suits, sportswear, and lower-end clothing is only meant to last a season or two before it sags due to poor resistance to the elements.
          As a general rule of thumb, most people should buy cotton as much as possible for their summer wardrobe and substitute in linen where they can afford it. My summer suits are generally linen so I won't boil in the sun, but my dress shirts are often cotton. Linen becomes stronger when wet so even the crappiest college laundry mat still leaves this stuff looking great. If you are worried about wrinkles, a 60% linen-40 cotton  blend works great and is the only blend I suggest for clients as it doesn't seem to tear apart like other blends. I never suggest summer silk to clients as I've yet to find any that launders well for our North Carolina weather. Better heeled clients love light-weight summer silks that are dry clean only, but make sure you can shell out for dry cleaning if you buy silk. You will generally pay as much in dry cleaning for a summer silk shirt EACH year as something comparable in cotton or linen you can wash yourself making them impractical for most people. You know me, I'm cheap at heart.
         The last summer fabric is polyester blends, this is generally used in sports, active wear, and one of the worst possible to buys on the market due to the fact that synthetic fabrics fade and sags in the sun. They are made to fall apart in 6 months, but I must say anyone who has ever put on a pair of hot yoga pants knows how cute they make your butt. It's like chocolate, so bad, and so good for you at the same time. I melt every few years and buy a pair. A complete waste of money, but it's like godiva chocolate...every so often a girl has to be bad. So there's your summer fabrics. Now that you know the basic building blocks, let's start building your summer wardrobe.       

PS- All this advice comes to you thanks to Brandon Mays who worked with me for 5 years in the men's department at Belks. One of the smartest people I have met when it came to fashion and making your clothing last. Thank you.

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