It’s only in recent years that I’ve become so obsessed with fabrics. I wouldn’t dream of buying anything these days without first checking the label.
Wearing fabrics that allow your skin to breathe makes a stifling hot day much more pleasant. And your clothes won’t necessarily need washing after every-single-wear (which is great effort-wise but also better for the planet).
Speaking of the planet, being more mindful about fabrics will also support sustainability. I always assumed that buying 100% cotton was the best way forward. How wrong I was…
Growing cotton uses more water than any other fibre. The amount of water used to make 1 cotton t-shirt can be over 5000 litres. And one pair of jeans an astounding 15,000 litres.
Ironically cotton was grown sustainably for years and years before fast fashion became a thing…
Thankfully, most brands are now being more open about their suppliers and organic cotton is more widely available. Organic cotton is grown without harmful chemicals which reduces pollution of local water supplies.
Marks & Spencer only sells clothes made with 100% organic cotton these days.
So, aside from organic cotton, what else is breathable and therefore comfortable to wear in the summer months?
This won’t suit everyone. If your clothing style is more natural, you’ll happily embrace the creasing but if you are classic, step away. The creasing will drive you insane. Or, choose a linen blend that is less likely to cause you stress!
If you are still unsure of your unique clothing style, check out the blog posts I’ve linked at the end of this blog, or get in touch to find out how you can get my support in working it out.
Viscose is made from renewable plants and is a great lightweight material that drapes well and has a lustrous finish, making pieces appear more luxurious. A viscose blend will help to combat the creasing issue.
This versatile fabric is breathable and absorbent. Great for hot weather.
Tencel which is a brand name of lyocell is a sustainable fabric. It’s made from wood cellulose. The fibres are grown sustainably and it’s biodegradable.
Another breathable fabric, it can be blended with other fabrics such as cotton which makes it less likely to wrinkle and feels silky.
Side note: Apparently Tencel is also a great option for summer bed sheets. They are cooling and hypoallergenic!
And Ecovero is popping up all over the place. This is a sustainably sourced viscose and feels lovely to the touch. Baukjen use it a lot in their collection.
I’ve learned that Bamboo is 40% more absorbent than even the finest organic cotton! Clothes made from Bamboo are less likely to shrink and bag (which is why its a great option for leggings!).
I have made a few purchases in the past from BAM and love their sportswear – my only issue being that it can take an AGE to dry (being so absorbent!).
Why Polyester is out of favour
Polyester is a manmade fabric. The production process uses harmful chemicals, including carcinogens which can cause significant environmental damage.
It’s also non-breathable so traps heat inside making you hotter and hotter throughout a warm day…
When washed, it leaches tiny plastic particles into the water system – although using a ‘Guppy’ bag reduces this.
Although this post was intended as a guide to choosing comfortable, breathable fabrics, it’s turned out to be quite sustainably focussed – which is ok and important, but I also want to point out two things:
1. I am not a sustainability expert.
2. Buying clothes (regardless of what they are made of) and wearing them to death, is always a good option. Fast fashion and our throw away culture has to stop. Buy well and enjoy those pieces for a very, very long time. Knowing what suits you is a great place to start. My online program The Style Plan will help you to identify what works best for you so that you can start being more sustainable in your choices.
Blog post for the Classic and Natural Styles
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Thank you Helen! Such a useful and informative article, I wish I’d paid more attention to fabrics in the past for environmental and personal comfort reasons, but I thought 100% cotton or linen were my only options. Much appreciated.
My pleasure Amanda, I’m so happy to hear that his was helpful x
That is literally the permission I needed to buy a lovely viscose dress I’ve had my eye on…I had been worrying it could be sweaty!
Ha! Always happy to give you permission Harriet x
That was really helpful Helen. I’d always assumed viscose and polyester were basically the same thing! Needing to think about temperature control these days so very grateful for the guidance, thanks so much.
Temperature control is real isn’t it! Spent so many years hearing about it and not understanding it!
Great tips Helen – I’ve been avoiding polyester for years as don’t like the feel and realised i feel like I’m suffocating when I wear it. Good to hear I’m helping the planet too. Could you give a bit more info about the linen/viscose mixes that are good – what makes up the mix? Thanks, Judith
Great question Judith! My understanding is that the higher the linen content, the ‘stiffer’ the fabric and more creasing potential and the higher the viscose content, the softer and less creasage…but if I’m honest, that’s a guess!