Learn What Your Clothes Are Made of Before You Buy
When you love clothes, you have your own way of deciding what to buy. You feel the texture, try it on, consider whether it will work with what you already own. You check the label to find out how to care for the garment—but do you understand the rest of it? Knowing what your clothes are made of is important when you’re building a quality wardrobe. Here’s how to get familiar with the most common materials listed on clothing labels.
Natural cotton is still prized for its many benefits. The fibers are hollow, which makes them soft and cool. They are absorbent enough to retain 25 times their own weight in water. They take well to dye, are durable, and can withstand high temperatures. Most important: cotton clothes are breathable.
Known for its warmth in sweaters, wool is actually ideal for clothes year-round because it keeps a layer of air around the skin. It actually can regulate temperature by absorbing up to 30 percent of its weight in moisture and releasing it to the drier environment—away from your skin.
Silk is the strongest natural fiber available, with a natural shimmer finish. It requires special care, such as dry cleaning, but its low density makes it warm in winter and cool in summer. Silk has been used in clothing for 5,000 years, although it was affordable for only the very wealthy until the 13th century.
This wonder material first came to prominence in World War II, when it was used to replace dwindling silk supplies for parachutes. Women took advantage of its flexibility in pantyhose, and since then, endless applications have been found for nylon, from ropes to surgical instruments. It’s strong, silky, and can be manufactured with many different textures.
This is what gives your clothes that stretch that gets you through the day. It was invented in 1959 as an alternative to rubber and can expand five to eight times its size without stretching out. It was first used to make women’s girdles more comfortable and is found today in athleticwear, leggings, socks, underwear, and much more.
Two words: low maintenance. Polyester is cheap, strong, and requires very little care to keep up its appearance. Many consumers can’t distinguish it from silk or cotton. The bad reputation it earned in its uncomfortable ’70s double-knit form has been rehabilitated with advanced blends such as microfiber.
When you know what your clothes are made of, you can educate yourself on quality. For instance, you may want to think about upgrading the material you wear—some fashion lovers prefer cashmere to wool—or looking into how the fabric is sourced. You wear these materials all day, and you deserve to know what’s next to your skin.