[Productive style] 4 reasons to be selective about the materials you wear
In this series of articles we are thoughtfully exploring ideas to help curate your own signature style.
There are five parts in this series, and I've written mini, less-than-5-minute articles within each one for you to explore bit by bit.
This article belongs to the Curating chapter.
Everything you touch touches you
If you had been born in the 1920s, like Uncle Len, you likely would have grown up with a truly minimal wardrobe:
Most children, even well-t0-do ones, mainly wore the same clothes each day. Some might have a spare pair of certain things they could wear when the 'main' outfit was being washed.
I can't be sure, but I imagine this was probable true for children in most parts of the world at that time.
In the 2020's, when Uncle Len reached his 90's, he had strong opinions about the quality of shoes and clothes in the shops 'nowadays'. "Something of nothing", he'd remark - and he was often spot on. Things don't last the way they used to. Uncle Len's childhood outfits were made of strong, robust materials with threads that could withstand a rigorous hand washing process, wringing, and more.
Some clothes we have now don't last a couple of wears before they start coming apart at the seams, even if they appear robust and cost a high price.
There are lots of lessons to take from Uncle Len's experience of clothing, as opposed to ours in the current reality. But let's focus on the materials: which materials managed to last so long, and be so well-used a hundred years ago?
There are certain materials I keep circling back to, many of which got the Uncle Len nod of approval.
- Blends or mixtures of the above
I have found these to be the most suitable for the climate I live in (desert!), but you may need to select others for your own climate, including wool or similar.
Another thing to consider with material is ironing and care:
Some people love ironing. If you are one of those people, in my eyes you are a magical and wondrous creature.
I have been known to avoid buying a piece of clothing if it appears to need ironing. It became a key criteria I look for in new clothes.
Some other things to consider about cheaper materials, are the way they smell! Some materials take on smells more quickly than others. Synthetic materials are prone to this. The ones I particularly avoid are:
- Blends of polyester or nylon with cotton or linen or wool. They just won't be as comfortable.
Just like you might be curious about the ingredients of food and check the labels to see what's inside, it's a similar curiosity that might drive you to look at the quality, source and fibres of clothes too.
Once I began to pay more attention to these things and buy clothes that belong to the fabrics I wanted more of, I noticed several pleasantly surprising things happen in my wardrobe:
1 - The clothes seem to need less washing, less frequently.
I have also heard that natural fibres don't 'pollute' water the same way synthetic ones do, making it an easier wash for mother nature.
2 - There is less need to constantly iron and maintain them
I thought switching to cottons and linens would mean more ironing, but strangely, they need less. Once ironed and worn a few times, they have natural creases that don't need constant ironing.
Further, the seams on natural fibres seem to hold together better, and the clothes seem to just keep it together for longer.
3 - It is easier to mix and match with other clothes
This is my favourite efficiency hack about choosing certain materials.
Similarly to the way having a colour palette helps make it easy to introduce new clothes to your existing ones and create combinations, similar materials will do the same.
It's easier to make new outfits and for your clothes to make friends with each other and hang out more when they are of similar fabrics :)
4 - Everything you touch touches you, and can even affect the way you feel
Clothes touch our skin more than anything or anyone else.
If the material doesn't sit well with you upon touch, find an alternative that feels better.
Touch has a memory: and you'll be wearing your clothes often, so choose materials that support you and make you feel at home.
Being selective about the materials your clothes are made of can have an impact on many surprising things, including:
- How much you need to wash them
- How long they will last
- How much more easily you can mix and match outfits
- How they make you feel (touch has a memory)
Less washing, longer lasting material, and clothes that really make you feel better is one of the keys to a sustainable closet that outlasts trends and stays with you for years.
I hope this article helped give some perspective on why it's important to choose materials selectively for your curated closet. Which 4-5 materials will make it into your closet?
When researching my own material palette, I found this article helpful in understanding fabrics and fibres.