Cool for the Summer

by Madeline Felauer

Perhaps one of the only things keeping those of us who did not escape to Florida in April sane is the knowledge that the summer shift is coming soon. My personal plan when the temperature hits 75 degrees will be to lay out my lawn chair, make a margarita on the rocks, and sit next to a blow-up pool until I realize my pale, freckled skin can’t handle the heat. 


Yes, the heat, the sweltering heat! Although welcome, this change in humidity often leaves the best of us with unappreciated sweat stains and hair that looks teased but isn’t. One of the culprits adding to this dilemma might be more avoidable than you think. Fabric plays a huge part in being able to “breathe” in clothing. It’s best to pack up those corduroy pants you just bought at a BOGO sale if you want to ultimately avoid heat exhaustion and start searching for a fabric that keeps you refreshed and not roasting.


There are two main types of fabrics that stem from natural products: protein-based fibers which are animal made, and plant-based fibers which derive from cellulose. Silk is a natural protein fiber from insect larvae known as a silkworm. When most think of silk as a fabric, it is envisioned as a slinky, shiny dress, pooling on the floor. But silk doesn’t have to be formal at all, and is often mixed with synthetic fibers such as polyester to make it more adaptable. Silk is breathable, lightweight, and luxurious, which makes it highly desirable for summer wear and for those who prefer soft textures. A slip dress made from this fabric would be perfect to dance the night away at a lakeshore bonfire, so light you might even forget you’re wearing it. 


Organza is a fabric that stems from protein-based fiber and can be found in a nylon or polyester blend that allows for a four-way stretch instead of pure silk’s two way. Organza is a plain, shear weave that is almost see through, often layered with other fabrics to avoid flashing your neighbor your day-of-the-week underwear. I suggest that organza is saved for more special occasions, as you’ll usually find dresses, skirts, and fancier blouses made from it. 


As for our plant-based brethren, cotton is the most popular fabric in the world and holds the title of most worn during the summer due to its casual qualities and absorbency (sweat fighter). Cotton fiber is the cellulose puffs that are harvested from the plant’s seed pod, which are then pulled apart and made into a plain weave that is soft, lightweight, and cheap. I imagine someone in Appleton has a closet full of t-shirts from every one of their children’s sports teams. 


Like cotton, linen is also plant-based but made from the flax plant. This fabric is OLD, as in one of the oldest fabrics documented throughout history. Admired for its lightness and open weave, linen can be found in every type of clothing. Its distinct appearance immediately conjures images of summer and laying on the beach.