Our closets change with the seasons. If you are in a milder climate, the shift may be a bit more subtle, but everyone changes up at least a few things in their closet each season. One of the most significant differences between cold-weather and warm-weather clothes is the fabrics used to make them. Cotton is always a light, summer staple material, but there are others. Chambray and linen are also considered warm-weather fabrics. Is there a difference between these two textiles? Yes, there is! Read on to discover what makes chambray and linen unique.
The primary difference between chambray and linen is that linen is defined by what it is made from, and chambray is defined by how it is made.
Linen material is woven from flax. The flax plant grows abundantly in Europe, where the fabric was first developed around 8,000 BC. Linen-makers take the stalks of the flax plant, break them, scrunch them, comb them, then weave them into linen. These fibers are very rigid, which is why linen is durable, wrinkles easily, and is inelastic. There are many variations of weave and likewise many purposes for linen. Depending on the texture and the weight of the weave, linen can be used in clothing, such as men's and women's linen shorts, or household goods, such as tablecloths and duvet covers. It even used to be used to make sailcloth for the sails of ships!
Chambray is a tight, plain weave and can be made from cotton, flax, or silk. It was invented in Cambrai, France, circa 1,500 AD, which is where we get the word "chambray." It is primarily used for clothing, particularly chambray shirts and dresses, but it may also pop up in furnishing items like throw pillows and even bedsheets. It is generally blue and is often mistaken for a thin denim material, but the weaves of denim and chambray are different. They often use similar colors, but denim uses a twill weaving pattern, leading to the heavier jean cloth, while chambray uses the basic plain weave. Chambray is perfect for those who like the look of denim but prefer a lighter, more breathable fabric.
Women's chambray shirts, especially in the typical blue color, make for a great basic. A lighter chambray top looks nice with white jeans, which is a perfect light-colored summer look. Switch the jeans for a fit-and-flare skirt, and tie the bottom of your chambray top for another cute outfit. You can also put a chambray shirt over a white blouse or a black and white striped shirt with black jeans and brown shoes for a casual yet sophisticated ensemble. If you want something with a little more color, go for a pair of mint pants with a floral blouse featuring cooler colors. Put your light-colored chambray shirt over the top, and you have a fun summer outfit. On the other hand, if you want to wear chambray to work and need to dress it up a bit, consider tucking your chambray top into a black skirt and heels or wearing your chambray shirt as an overlayer over the top of a dark work dress.
Speaking of dresses, a chambray dress is another excellent summer choice. Many of these are shirt dresses that look great with waist ties. Put on a pair of sneakers for days you know you will be out exploring, and go for a pair of brown flats or sandals for your lunch date. You can get a chambray tunic top as well and wear it with black leggings for a gorgeous combination.
As for linen, light women's linen shorts and loose women's linen pants are fabulous summer pieces. The paper-bag style works well with this kind of fabric. White linen bottoms with a black or blue blouse or a pink linen shirt would look great. Tan women's linen shorts with a loose white women's linen top is also a good combination. A light blue or cream linen jumper with a waist tie is another fun summer look. Most linen pieces come in natural, neutral colors, so building a bunch of outfits from the linen tops and bottoms you find is relatively easy. Don't let that scare you away from going bold with color, though! Bright green women's linen shorts could be just what your wardrobe is looking for!
Men's chambray shirts look great against white men's pants or men's shorts, especially in summer. Use boat shoes or espadrilles to finish off this look. Another nice pairing is the chambray shirt with olive or khaki bottoms. Lighter-colored and gray chambrays look very stylish with dark-wash jeans. You could even wear a collared chambray shirt if you tuck it into a pair of tan trousers with a brown belt. Put a tie with it, and you have a complete office ensemble.
The lightest men's suit you can find will be made from linen. A linen blazer in cream, white, or light brown is excellent if you need to take your summer wear to the next level. If you prefer more casual looks, loose men's linen shorts or pants and men's linen shirts are great for cool, breezy outfits to keep alive in the summer heat. Again, those natural, neutral colors will look great on most guys, but you can always change things up with light pink, gray, or light blue. A pair of striped men's linen pants could also be fun. Play with it and see what works for you!
Now that you know the difference between chambray and linen, don't be afraid to go out there and add it to your wardrobe! Happy Summer!