Why are linen clothes such a summer favorite?
Humans have been wearing linen for thousands of years. Why do we still love it?
- Linen is a strong material despite seeming so lightweight, so your clothes should last for several seasons
- Linen is cool to wear because it doesn’t hug your skin and allows air to circulate over your body
- Linen absorbs perspiration without showing it. Linen can absorb a fifth of its weight in moisture without feeling or looking damp
- Linen is kind to our planet. It uses very little water to grow compared with cotton and it loves poor soils
- Linen is a vitally important cash crop for many poorer farmers across the world because of its tolerance of harsh conditions and its ability to thrive without much, or any, fertilizer
- Linen is the ultimate use-it-all plant. What isn’t used for fabric is eaten as seeds and their flax oil content. Many people consider these as pro-health ingredients today
- Linen is totally biodegradable, of course
- Finally, linen is popular because it takes dyes well, so you can get clothes in natural earth tones all the way through to vivid hues
What’s not to like about linen?
The downside of this amazing fabric we all know!
It crinkles over time and especially after it is washed. If you’ve ironed it well and used starch then it will develop knife-like creases when you sit down or bend your arms.
This is why styles in linen are usually cut wide. Wider knees, elbows and hips on clothing means you are putting less strain and fold on the linen, so there’s less creasing.
And it’s why a natural crushed look is definitely acceptable these days.
I’ve included a linen dress, linen long shorts and a linen large top in my Summer Capsule Wardrobe 2021 – take a look and see what you think!
Best linen pants
You will notice how wide all the pants are that I’m featuring here for summer. That makes the most of the properties of the fabric I have outlined above.
These can be dressed up or down as they are reasonably fitted on the hips and backside. What I love about these is the smooth transition from waist to hip. The waistband sits just under the waist adding no bulk to an area most of us don’t wish to highlight.
The flat band means you can leave a loose shirt or tee to hang outside. This can be useful in warm weather when you don’t want clothes that cling. If your hips are your widest area then I’d go with a short very square-cut top or a three-quarter length tunic top that comes well below hip level or even to the knees.
These pants come in lots of sizes as well as in regular, petite and tall.
These will be your most comfortable summer pants for sure.
The floaty width will keep you cool and the shorter length will look great with sandals.
There’s an elastic waistband so no worries about pinching if you are heavy like me.
Frankly I don’t like the look of these pants with the waistband on show. Unless you are really slim a gathered waist all the way round just draws attention to your mid section. If you buy these pants I’d definitely think about investing in a wide shortish top to cover the waistband. Or choose a layer such as a fine cardigan that can cut off the sides and drop straight and true down to low thigh or just above the knee. But keep everything loose.
Eileen Fisher offers a huge range of sizes. Check the length though. No problem if you are tall as these pants will look on trend however cropped they are on you. But if you are short you may need to turn up the hem. Fortunately fine linen is a doddle to hem either by hand, on a machine or using a Velcro-type band to turn the hem up inside without any cutting or sewing.
Best linen tops
Wear this classic shirt open over a tee or buttoned up like a tunic. It comes in white, black and this gorgeous apricot color. All will look extra good once you have a tan of course.
Turn up the sleeves neatly for a smart look or scrunch them up for a holiday vibe.
It may be a bit see-through for you if you’re over 50 or so. In that case wear the thinnest finest tank top underneath.
Look at the reviews before choosing your size. This shirt is designed with the new extra wide silhouette but you may decide to buy one size down.
As always H&M offers from XS to XXL.
Three quarter loose fit sleeves make this top the perfect choice for summer if your arms are a bit saggy or carrying extra fat.
But even better are the beautiful prints it comes in.
Wear it over jeans or linen shorts in a color that picks out one of the colors in the pattern of the bottom item and you’ll look effortlessly well put together.
Best linen dresses
A delightful summer dress that makes you think holidays as soon as you see it.
It comes in three lengths to ensure you get that mid-calf hem that looks so good with flat sandals and simple beach shoes.
There are no zips to annoy you as the wide waist allows you to just pull it on over your head. This means you can happily wear it over swimwear too.
The wide sleeves add to the cool airy styling making this dress perfect for strolling round summer markets in the sunshine or playing with the grandkids in the backyard.
I like the vertical stripes as these help make us look taller and slimmer. And their many colors mean that choosing a matching cardigan or lightweight jacket as a cover up for the end of the day is simple.
I’d emphasize the look with larger than average earrings. Anthropologie have a good selection of raffia accessories and jewelry including these fun hoops.
This frock will become a favorite for years.
It has that easy pop-over styling we love. It’s over the knee which works well for us after 50 if we want to go bare-legged in warm weather. Read the post on getting your legs ready for the summer to give you confidence.
I like the three-quarter embroidered sleeves. They add just a touch of holiday travel without looking all-out ethnic. They’ll marry up well with beads at the neck or those rafia earrings I mention above.
The relaxed shoulder not only leaves you feeling cool but is right on trend too. It’s details like this that will make this dress look just right this year. I’m all in favor of keeping clothes to wear for years but it’s fun to update sometimes too.
Madewell offers a large range of sizes in this cotton-linen mix dress.
Caring for linen
Your first decision is whether to go for a crumpled look or a smart ironed look.
For crumpled linen you can either hang, or as I prefer, roll the item and put it on a shelf or in a drawer.
Otherwise, you’ll need to use a hot iron on linen. So use a muslin or cotton piece of fabric between the iron and your clothing. It’s easy to scorch something when you iron very hot. And it’s really easy to put a shine on trousers when you press them.
To prep the clothes for ironing spray them with water then roll them up and leave whilst you iron your other items. By the time you come back to the linen it should be moist but not wet. Perfect for pressing. I find just using steam is not quite good enough for linen that is dry but it works well as an extra aid when the clothes are slightly moist already.
To get that sharp look that linen does so well you’ll need to use starch. You can use spray starch although I have had mixed results with sprays. Occasionally I’ve found the spray leaves traces on the fabric. Soaking the item in starch works well – ensure it is well diluted – but again, it’s a bit of a hassle!
Personally for summer time I like the crushed look if the item is already very casual.
Dresses are often a cotton-linen mix because they are easier to iron and stay looking smart for longer.
Linen is said to be insect-repelling so over-wintering should present no moth problems.