Deal with the monsoon torrents of our wet, hot Colorado August being stylish and comfortable with tips from Style Fetish on a few amazing natural fabrics to wear during this damp part of summer. Natural fabrics are far superior to synthetic, so-called “technical” fabrics. My opinion is that “tech” fabrics are all basically overpriced, over processed, petroleum-based, plastic bags masquerading as fabric. Yuck! Humans deserve to have better next to our active skins, having had the miracle-fabric thing already figured out for ourselves for millennia, thank you very much. Our intrepid nature has driven us to explore dramatic climates for thousands of years and we have done so with incredible success while wearing miraculous natural fabrics such as linen, wool and silk. Cellulose (plant) and protein (animal) fiber fabrics are sustainable, natural and take less chemical processing to manufacture than polyesters and other synthetics. Here are some of Style Fetish’s favorites.
LinenLinen is the best fabric to be wet in. Its made from the flax plant, one of humanity’s oldest cultivated plants. Firm, absorptive, natural fibers dry almost immediately but still feel good while wet against the skin (unlike clammy, plastic-y polyester tech fabrics). I love this ancient fabric mostly for the qualities of its “hand,” but also for the fact that we humans have been wearing it for millennia. Linen is what ancient Egyptians grew, processed, wove and wore this fiber in their draped garments called kalasiris. Linen is the best fabric to wear on river trips, too. It is super-sturdy and tough, stretches when wet and dries perfectly broken-in. Don’t believe the hype about having to iron linen – hang it up right out of the dryer and let it have its signature, charmingly rumpled look.
WoolWool has the reputation for being warm but it is actually more temperature-regulating when worn in a shirt-weight woven or knitted fabric. When damp, it does have a slight odor, but it’s a comforting smell like the inside of an Irish barn full of gentle, useful animals. Wool dries fast, but more importantly, it will still retain a person’s body heat when wet. It is anti-microbial and won’t trap body-odor-stink like synthetic tech fabrics. I can’t get enough of ultra-thin wool and silk knit camisoles and tanks alone in summer or as layering pieces year round. Not all wool is itchy, either – Australian merino wool is incredibly soft as are wool-cashmere blends.
The only bummer about wool is its delicious taste to hole-chewing clothes-moths! Cloves, eucalyptus, rosemary and lavender as well as red cedar heartwood can be used as natural repellents to the common clothes-moth. I have found that vintage woolens treated with old-school, super-funky mothballs (aka naphtha) will repel moths but will forever reek of that icky, elderly haunted-house closet smell, which won’t come out via airing, soaking, dry-cleaning or yelling at it. So avoid secondhand wool garments that already smell weird.
SilkSilk is another ancient fabric worn by people for millennia. It is a protein fiber like wool, made by animals. Well, bugs. OK worms, actually, and the fiber comes out their butts. Dont get hung up on its dubious origins – silk is a comfy, classy, surprisingly-durable and versatile fiber that blends well with other fibers. Silk fabric in a raw or natural state does actually smell way weird when wet, but it’s a small price to pay. Thinly-woven silk is absorptive and temperature-regulating like wool and dries almost as quick. For active or wet-wear, silk blended with linen or wool is luxurious, durable and so comfortable.
So choose humanity’s tried-and-true natural fabrics over synthetics when you head outside. They honor our textile history and the sustainable critter friends who help us obtain these amazingly useful and comfortable fabrics.
Heather Narwid owns Sideshow, a vintage and modern clothing store for men and women located at 208 County Road 250 in Durango.