A Wrinkle in Fashion: Livable Linen

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By Roxy Rowton

Linen is one of summer’s hardest working and most remarkable fabrics. Embrace an unadulterated frame of reference on this summer classic as linen brings its sunny disposition and exceptional aptitude for coolness and freshness into the warm-weather closet.

The word linen is a derivative from Latin for the flax plant. Botanists acknowledged the remarkableness of linen by naming the flax plant “Linum Usitatissimum,” which literally translates to “most useful linen.” The textile industry commonly makes reference to linen using the German term “Edelknitter” or “noble wrinkle.” The description befittingly illustrates the intrinsic nature and indispensable quality of linen. The charm of linen is that the wearer accepts that linen is “guaranteed to wrinkle” and enthusiastically appreciates the textile for its luster, durability, unequaled breathability, and comfort in extremely warm conditions despite its natural temperament to rumple or wrinkle.

Linen textiles are some of the oldest in the world. The history of linen production dates back many thousands of years. The earliest recordings of an established linen industry originate from Egypt. However, it is not until the 12th century that a robust systematization of flax production commences. Today flax is cultivated in many places around the globe, but the finest quality of the textile is sourced from countries renowned for their exquisite offering of linen cloth: Ireland, Belgium, and Italy.

One of the most minimally processed textiles, linen is naturally ecological and environmentally friendly. The flax plant requires little to no irrigation or pesticidal treatment during growth. The environmental impact of spinning and weaving flax into linen fabric is virtually zero. All parts of the flax plant are used, and 100 percent of the byproducts are biodegradable.

Nature has gifted linen with special properties: Linen textiles have a luxurious body and weight, which allow linen garments and home goods to withstand and endure many years of daily use or wear. The more linen is worn, the softer and suppler it becomes. Because linen has the capacity to absorb up to
twenty times its weight in moisture before it feels damp, it is one of the best natural fabrics for wicking moisture away from the body. As it releases moisture into the air, linen will remain cool and dry to the touch. Linen is truly healthy as it is non-allergenic, odor resistant and lint free. It does not irritate the
skin because of anti-static properties that soften and maintain the skin’s natural pH balance. The non-allergic, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties of linen are gaining recognition.

These properties are just a few of the factors that make linen bedding and towels so highly prized for luxury and refinement. Linen also has inherent UV protection properties.

Most linen garments require no special treatment when laundering and are colorfast, although repeated washing and wearing can cause subtle fading and softening over time. The rumpling and wrinkling of linen during the laundering process can make garments seem as if they have shrunk. Try pressing
or steaming the garment while it is still damp to return it back to its original shape and fit. Or leave linen unpressed for a beautiful rumpled look. (In this humble fashionista’s opinion, the rumpled and wrinkled appearance only makes linen garments more appealing.)

It is no coincidence that the world’s oldest textile is still highly treasured. The modest textile with the wrinkled reputation has offered fashion designers an abundance of creative artistry and has been sartorial inspiration for clothing adaptations throughout fashion history. Linen offers the wearer nothing
short of comfort and delight. Linen garments are an ideal choice for the easy-going attitude and the relaxed routines of the summer wardrobe because of their extraordinary comfortability and exceptional durability.

Wardrobe and style consultant Roxy L. Rowton (rlrowton@everydayrefinement.com) spends much of her workweek in the closet or the fitting room helping women look and feel their very best. She has two-plus decades in the fashion, apparel and beauty industries.

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