The Beauty of Natural Materials

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There’s no such thing as a good piece of clothing that’s not made out of a natural material. I belive we all know the 4 main natural materials, those being wool, silk, linen and cotton.
It’s important, when buying a piece of clothing to check its composition, which is usually written on the label sewn into the inner part of the garment. This should not be confused with the label hooked on top, usually cardboard and added by the retailer. The information on those two slips isn’t always the same and it comes from a desire of retailers to pass off inferior pieces as natural. What I consider a good material composition is 100% natural material, at least 80% natural material or a mixture of two natural materials. My personal favourite combination is wool and silk for winter and linen and silk for summer. I avoid polyester like the plague. Once in a designer Budapest boutique, I was looking for a more formal blouse, something I could wear to the theatre or opera. It’s a sad fact, but in modern times, formal pieces are usually made of polyester and it’s very difficult to find a formal piece made of natural material, or even an acceptable mix. Going through the store, looking at the labels, the store clerk asked me if I was allergic to polyester. In a sense, I am allergic to paying good money for the privilege of wearing polyester or any other type of uncomfortable plastic. 

Wonderfull Wool 

My absolute favourite material is wool. I adore wool. For a long time, I’d wear acrylic sweaters, which are a very bad imitation of wool. Acrylic fibre is all over the stores, unlike wool which is difficult to find because it’s so much cheaper. A few years ago, when I began my journey towards good style, I bought my first wool sweater in a long time. And then I fell in love with wool. When I was young, I wore a lot more wool sweaters, which were a lot more available back then for some reason.
When comparing acrylic sweaters to wool, there are many differences to note. Wool is heavier and much more pleasant to the touch. When I wore acrylic sweaters, I’d put them in the wash after wearing them only once, because acrylic doesn’t breathe, leading to more sweating and it also absorbs sweat and other unpleasant smells, which accumulate after only a few hours of wear. Unlike acrylic, wool is very pleasant to wear, does not absorb sweat and doesn’t accumulate bad odour. There’s no or very little need to wash woollen pieces, which was very strange to me. Wool is a magical material which cleans itself. I wear my all my woollens all season without washing them. Trousers, sweaters, hats, scarves, all of them need no washing. If, for example, you go to a restaurant and they absorb the smell of cooking, all they need is to be aired out for a while and the odour will be gone. If they really need to be washed, just follow the instructions on the label. I usually wash them in cold water and never use a dryer – that’s how clothes get destroyed. 

An important note on storing wool: moths also love wool, so make sure you have lavender branches or lavender pads (sold in stores) in the wardrobe where you keep your woollens. In short, I simply adore wool and would wear it all year if I could. I recently discovered a new type of wool, known as cool wool which is appropriate for summer wear and cannot wait to try it. 

Sophisticated Silk 

Silk is the most expensive of natural materials. It’s difficult to find in stores, even harder to find than wool. Silk looks very luxurious and it is very appropriate for formal or otherwise auspicious occasions, where it is always good to appear with a silk shirt, scarf, dress or a blazer. It’s also excellent for underwear, just ask Al Capone. However, it is hard to find and when you do indeed find it, it’s usually very expensive. Most of the silk pieces I own, I’ve found in second-hand stores, so always check your local thrift shop for silk. 

Just like wool, maintaining silk is a challenge. You must follow the instructions on the label to avoid damaging the piece. I usually wash my silk pieces by hand, using cold water and air dry them (never use a dryer). 

Lovely Linen 

Linen is a summer and spring material. It has a reputation for quickly and easily crumpling, so people don’t wear it often, which is a big mistake. Linen is allowed to be a little crumpled which adds charm to the piece. While it’s relatively difficult to find in stores, it’s not as hard to find as silk or wool. It’s perfect for warm days and usually comes in white or some sort of bright cream colour, to protect against strong sunlight. It’s likewise easy to maintain. It is readily machine-washable, though it’s still a good idea to air-dry it. If you want to look good and elegant in summer, in 40Cº weather, linen is the material for you. It comes in trousers, shirts, hats and dresses, so there are all sorts of combination available out there. 

Common Cotton

Cotton is the most widespread of all natural materials and my least favourite of them. It’s easy to find, in all sorts of pieces. This doesn’t mean that it’s quality cotton and usually, the pieces will lose their shape and their colours will fade after a few times in the wash. Therefore, you shouldn’t assume that high quality cotton pieces are easily found. These days, I usually avoid 100% cotton pieces and I prefer linen mixtures. The only type of cotton I could say I like is recycled cotton. Higher quality cotton is more expensive, so if you find a cheap cotton piece, it’s not a good idea to buy it. Cotton is a lot easier to maintain than wool or silk. Cotton clothes don’t generally mind being machine-washed or machine-dried, although they are prone to shrinking if washed in hot water. 

Special guest star: Leather 

I’ll also speak briefly about leather because it too is a natural material. Personally, I’m not a fan of leather trousers, skirts or dresses, but I prefer that my belts, purses, bags and shoes are made of leather. I’ve worn a leather jacket in the past and one of my perennial quests when going thrifting is to find a red leather jacket. 

There’s a drive to drop the use of leather in garments and accessories, which is purportedly driven by concerns over animal rights, but it’s very obviously a ploy to produce these items on the cheap. None of the leather imitation materials can even come close to genuine leather. So-called eco-leather or vegan leather is just plastic, which is unacceptable. There are variants made from pineapple skin, but they’re inferior to leather and don’t have leather’s unique characteristics. For example, the more you wear leather shoes, the more they mould to your feet and become more comfortable, and of course, leather breathes which helps us avoid foot odour. 

All of these natural materials have their so-called drawbacks, usually because they’re more expensive or more difficult to maintain, however I don’t believe these should be a barrier to having an all-natural wardrobe. I believe that having high-quality, natural clothes is worth the effort of maintaining them. Wearing natural fibres instantly improves your look and that is precisely what we should be looking for when shopping for clothes. 

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