Linen is a fabric woven from the fibers of the flax plant. It is durable and long-lasting. The fabric can be stiffer and thicker or thinner and more malleable, depending on how the flax fibers are woven. Because of its flexibility, it has been used for thousands of years for many different things. But one of the primary uses of linen has been for clothing.
Linen is made from flax. Flax has long stalks that contain the more delicate fibers. The flax fibers have to be separated from the stalks. This is done by breaking the stalks and retting what you don't need away with water or chemicals. Then the fibers are combed and ready to be woven. Linen can be woven in different ways to make almost anything. A simpler texture and a more lightweight weave results in a thinner variety of linen that can be used in clothing — for example, men's and women's linen shorts and pants. The more complex texture and a heavier weave lead to a thicker variety of linen that is great for household goods like tablecloths and duvet covers. It can even be used to make sailcloth for the sails of ships!
Linen was invented in pre-historic Switzerland around 8,000 BC. This was likely due to the abundance of the flax plant in and around Europe, as well as its durability. The fibers are flexible but rigid, making linen strong and long-lasting (but prone to wrinkling). It is thought to be the oldest fabric in the world.
Yes, it is! Linen is one of the most environmentally-friendly fabrics out there. Flax can grow with little water and in poor soil conditions. We can also use almost every part of the flax used in linen-making. The seeds can be made into linseed oil, which can then be used in home improvement projects and as a dietary supplement. And the stalk that is stripped away can be used in burlap and for tough sewing thread. With enzyme-retting to take the place of chemically removing the extra stalk and natural bug predators to replace pesticides, this fabric can give hemp a run for its money!
Yes, linen is a summer fabric! Because the weave of linen is looser than cotton or wool, it feels very porous and breathable. Plus, the flax fibers are thin, which means this fabric can be lightweight. With all these cooling benefits, linen is a natural fit for the hottest season of the year. Put some beige or cream linen pants with a loose white linen top for a boho look. Linen tunic tops over summer leggings or white jeans are another stylish option for a nice event. A linen jumper or jumpsuit in a light ocean blue might also make a great outfit. Don't forget a pair of summer sandals to complete your outfits!
Many people wonder if linen can only be worn in the summer. It can actually be worn in the fall too! The fall season has a reputation for being unpredictable. Linen can help! When you are sweating in the sun in the middle of the day, you will be glad for a lighter women's linen shirt. Then as things get chillier at night, you can layer over your linen to keep warm. In addition, with a lighter, absorbent underlayer like linen, you can wear a heavier outer layer like a wooly peacoat or thicker sweater without overheating. Alternatively, if you pair linen pants with boots and a white sweater, you have another cute fall look. Have fun using a bit of linen to free up your fall!
Yes, it can! It may require a bit of strategic layering if you live somewhere very cold, but linen's durability makes it great for winter wear. A linen dress with a warmer wool outer layer like a women's cardigan and a pair of thick tights with boots works well, for example. A chunky white sweater with a cardigan and colored linen pants would also make a very nice winter ensemble. You could also have some fun with an oversized linen blazer. Don't let the cold limit your linen!
Never! It looks great, is classy, and feels fabulous.
Now that you know all about linen and how great it is, see what linen pieces make sense to add to your wardrobe. Remember, you don't have to restrict linen to summer! See how you can play with your linen pieces and the different styles to bring this versatile fabric into your fashion all year round.