Fabric Facts: What’s So Great About Silk?

Ahhh, silk — the mere thought of it makes our fashion senses tingle. Silk first began delighting people in 2640 BCE, when according to Chinese legend, Empress Hsi Ling Shi became interested in silk worms and learned how to reel the silk and weave it into fabric. In the 3,000 or so years since, silk has became synonymous with luxury. But with so many synthetic alternatives available, why should you splurge on the real thing?

Iconic Silk Scarves by Hermes

The International Silk Association of the United States touts the tagline: “Only Silk is Silk.” And if you’ve ever worn a polyester blouse made to look like silk, you know this is true. Imitation fibers are prone to static, stick to your body and lack silk’s natural luster and drape. Here are a few more reasons silk is often imitated but never duplicated:

  • easily dyed and printed in brilliant colors
  • inimitable natural luster
  • moderate abrasion resistance; one of the strongest natural fibers
  • sheer fabrics are cool in the summer while heavier fabrics are warm in the winter
  • available in a variety of fabrics that can be used for apparel and furnishings
  • smooth, soft and not irritating to the skin
  • natural and renewable resource
  • good absorbency
  • moderate resistance to wrinkling
  • seldom shrinks during care

Silk is so wonderful that many people attribute the development of the manufactured fiber industry to the ongoing desire to emulate silk at a lower cost.

Do you splurge on silk or opt for synthetic alternatives? 

Info Source: Kadolph, Sara J. Textile Tenth Edition. Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2007. Print.
Image Source: Vogue.com


Fabric Facts: What’s So Great About Linen?

The official start of summer is about a week away, and with it comes one of the most daunting sartorial tasks: creating cool, comfortable looks that don’t sacrifice style. When the mercury rises, we reach for breezy linen pieces. But what makes linen so great for hot days?

The short answer is that flax, the fiber linen is made from, is a good conductor of heat. This means heat passes through the fabric instead of being held in. Add that to linen’s high air permeability (breezy!) and hygroscopic nature (absorbs moisture without feeling damp), and you have the ultimate summer fabric. Here are a few more reasons to love linen:

  • less environmental impact than cotton (fewer chemicals, seldom requires irrigation)
  • high natural luster
  • naturally resistant to bacteria and fungi
  • naturally odor resistant due to hygroscopic nature
  • strong and abrasion resistant
  • usually machine washable and iron safe

On the downside, linen has poor elasticity and is notorious for wrinkling. We think wrinkles are part of the fabric’s charm, but suggest steering clear of pure linen pants, skirts and dresses if you like a crisp look. However, blending linen with other fibers (like cotton, rayon, or spandex) greatly reduces this problem. So go for pure linen tops and tunics but stick to linen-blend pants, skirts, and dresses.

Image: Old Navy Dress, Juicy Couture Scarf, Vince ShirtClu Top, J. Crew Skirt
Info Source: Kadolph, Sara J. Textile Tenth Edition. Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2007. Print.