The average person doesn’t look at what fabric their clothes are made of (note I said fabric not material because cement is also a material), unless they are hypoallergenic or really into their fashion. The average person looks at item, loves the design or style and buys it.
But is it really important to know what fabrics they are? The answer is a big YES! Fabrics are important to designers because you can’t make all items using the same one. Others don’t hold shape, some are too fluid and others are expensive and don’t forgive the designers mistakes. To you and I, the type of fabric determines the care of the garment, how it will feel in winter or summer, it’s strength and endurance and most importantly the price of the item.
So let’s look at the most popular natural – made from plant and animal fibres not synthetic – made from chemical fabrics.
- Cotton – this is from plants. It’s breathable as it absorbs sweat and allows for the circulation of air. It’s cool in summer and warm in winter and the best part, it’s hypoallergenic so it doesn’t cause skin allergies.
- Silk – it comes from silk worms. It is the most hypoallergenic of all fabrics. It stays cool in summer and warm in winter. It’s highly absorbent and can absorb up to 30% of moisture in its weight without being bulky. It also resist odors well.
- Linen – this is a popular one in my country, South Africa. It’s lightweight and perfect for hot weather. It also comes from plants and It is believed to be one of the oldest fabrics. It is very difficult to iron and wrinkles easily. Also over time, it will get softer.
- Wool – we need to thank the sheep for this. Although it usually needs to be dry cleaned, it’s still eco friendly as it is biodegradable. It very warm and can be worn a couple of more times before it needs a wash. But one has to be careful as it can shrink with moisture and heat, moths love it, absorbs smells and can be scratchy.
- cashmere – this is a winter lust. It sounds as dreamy as it feels. It’s soft, luxurious and warm. Doesn’t produce static and absorbs moisture. But it needs special care and did i mention its from goats!
- Mohair – South Africa is one of the largest producers of mohair and it also comes from a goat known as Angora. It’s soft, light and absorbant. It is non flammable and absorbs moisture. It also doesn’t crease.
- Leather – the first thing that comes to mind is durability. Leather lasts long. This is a great quality because it’s also timeless. This is a piece you can keep for your grandchildren. It’s eco friendly. It doesn’t pick up smells, which is why leather shoes don’t smell.
Another fabric that confuses people (myself included in the beginning) is rayon . It’s called a semisynthetic because although it is manufactured, it’s done so from wood pulp. It can also be made to imitate and feel like other natural fabrics like silk, wool and cotton.
You will also find that fabrics are blended. You can get wool with polyester for example, in this case the polyester helps the garment to keep shape, or a leather skirt with a synthetic lining.
Natural fabrics are great in that they last longer and they are durable, that’s why we have vintage clothing. Most of those were made from natural fabrics but they are also expensive and for the average fashion lover, like myself, having a whole wardrobe with them is really hard. When you add the care they need, then well, it’s near impossible. “Near” being the key word because you can find other ways to incorporate natural fabrics into your closet with a minimal budget.
Some items that are worth investing in are leather items like a jacket and definitely shoes. These will last long and will save you money over a long period of time. A wool coat and pants, a cotton white shirt, a silk blouse here and there can add the luxurious feel your closet needs. Accessories such as bags (leather) and scarves (silk and wool) are also great.
So next time you go shopping, look at the label, know the fabrics and how to take care of them and make your items last longer.