La Vida Linen

morning in Jardin du Luxembourg Paris

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of linen. In the heat, there’s no fabric that’s more comfortable, but it also adjusts to a range of temperatures. It drapes well and moves nicely. It requires less water and fewer pesticides to grow than cotton, so has less of a negative environmental impact. It dries more quickly than cotton, which is why I like it for travel. And good quality linen is durable…it wears like iron!

Above: that Eileen Fisher linen maxi cardigan continues to be one of my favorite pieces! Worn here with a linen tank.

cardigan | tank | ring | jeans (similar) | shoes

Wrinkle, wrinkle, little shirt…

But yes, it does wrinkle. If a crisp look is important to you, this may be a deal-breaker. You can try starching while ironing, which sometimes (depending on humidity levels) will stave off some of the wrinkles. But linen’s true nature ultimately will out. So to my mind, there are three options:

  1. Embrace your linen, wrinkles and all.
  2. Consider linen jersey or knits. While not as crisp and structured as woven fabrics, linen knits have all of the comfort benefits without most of the wrinkling. They’re also the most travel-friendly option.
  3. Try “broomsticking*” a shirt to create a pleated look and make the wrinkles look intentional. This works best with pieces that are slightly oversized. Wash as normal (I always wash my linen in cold water) and then holding by the collar, twist the body of the shirt tightly, allowing it to coil. Leave collar and cuffs un-twisted. Set on a flat surface until mostly dry (in all but the most humid conditions, overnight is usually sufficient). Then hang to dry completely.

style blogger Susan B. uses a "broomstick" method to create a pleated effect on a linen shirt

*I borrowed this term from the longer, finely pleated skirts that were popular in the late ’80’s to early 90’s. I used this same drying method to maintain those pleats.

Are you a fan of linen? Have you learned to make peace with the wrinkles?

Top photo by Carla Coulson.

Summertime, And The Linen Is Easy…

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23 Comments

  1. Lisa Bruzzese
    June 26, 2017 / 4:40 am

    I love linen shirts for the summer. I stick with the rule that you only wear one item of linen at a time. So, no linen pants and linen shirt at the same time. Keeps one from looking like you slept in your clothes. Linen shirt, jeans or chino pants. Linen pants with a jersey cotton tee or tunic.
    I love your EF sweater. I have one too!

    • Mari
      June 26, 2017 / 5:20 am

      I like your rule and will henceforth adopt it! The wrinkles drive me buggie ! I have some of the wide legged slacks that I love, but could not think how to wear without feeling like an unmade bed. I will now wear happily with silk or knit tops and feel good about the wrinkles! Sort of a complimentary look to those on my face and body! !

  2. June 26, 2017 / 5:14 am

    I’ve never been a fan of linen… it’s the wrinkle thing. But I just discovered linen knits and love them. A couple of tee shirts I have purchased this season are linen knits. I love the texture, and the lightness.. and the semi-sheer look. That broomsticking idea is brilliant, Sue. I remember doing that with skirts back in the day:)

  3. Thea
    June 26, 2017 / 5:44 am

    I have a few linen tops that I love, I just hang them dry and that’s how I wear them…I feel like they’re meant to have that look…and yes, in the scorching Mid-Atlantic summer, linen is fantastic. I never understood why the beautiful linen trousers I had back in the 80’s had a polyester lining and I was dry-cleaning them – that’s not what Karen wore in “Out of Africa”? Another one of those weird, un-written rules from “back in the day?”

    • June 26, 2017 / 6:29 am

      Oh, this is my pet peeve, a polyester lining that ruins the “cool” factor of silk, cotton, or linen. Polyester + Heat = Horror!

  4. Deborah C Lindsay
    June 26, 2017 / 7:21 am

    I love linen too– and was always frustrated by the wrinkles. A long while ago you mentioned your broomsticking technique on the blog and that’s given me so much more use and enjoyment out of my linen!

  5. June 26, 2017 / 8:40 am

    I adore linen. There is nothing better for heat and humidity, and I’ve decided that I veer more toward “unkempt” anyway, so linen suits me well.

  6. June 26, 2017 / 9:18 am

    Broomsticking is very clever – and more planet-friendly than my solution.

    Maybe I was buying cheap linen shirts (?) but I found ironing made them stiff and unfriendly. So I stick them in the tumble dryer for nice soft even crumpling and only iron – if necessary with spray starch – the collar and cuffs.

  7. Ann
    June 26, 2017 / 10:35 am

    Thanks for this, Susan. After reading your post early today I was out shopping and found on sale at my fave consignment boutique a pair of structured and, yes, LINED, loose, cuffed, long linen trousers just like Katherine Hepburn might have worn or Cate Blanchet might be wearing right now. I love that look. And I’m pretty sure that when I wear them I won’t die of heat prostration. 😉

  8. MarieP
    June 26, 2017 / 11:26 am

    My Priscilla of Boston wedding gown was of Irish linen and I loved it! In real life; however, I struggle with the crumple effect. I do love a linen tee, however.

  9. June 26, 2017 / 11:48 am

    Oh, yes, I had those broomstick skirts.
    If you iron your linen while it’s still just a bit moist, it will be very crisp. Will that last? So-so. I am OK with the results. It helps to choose a style/cut that is a little large and unstructured, so any wrinkling looks cool rather than, well, wrinkled.
    Linen is very comfortable for the heat. I have antique linen sheets that are amazing.

  10. Liana
    June 26, 2017 / 12:10 pm

    I just returned from Italy where it was around 90 degrees. I took several knit linen pieces that I wore nearly everyday. I took an Eileen knit black and white linen skirt and wore it with different tops. I also took a gray knit linen sleeveless dress. Because it was so hot I didn’t try to change the look with different tshirts. I carried a scarf to cover my shoulders should we visit any of the churches. Both linen items were below the knee in length which passed the church attire that stated that the knees had to be covered.

  11. Ellen
    June 26, 2017 / 5:06 pm

    I work with linen all the time, as well as wearing it, and I have spent a lot of time on the “fabric science” of linen, so here is a bit more advice: linen is one of the most durable natural fibers there is; don’t feel that you need to be gentle with it. Linen can go in the dryer; it can’t shrink, and it will come out with a pleasant rumpled but not creased look. Woven, wrinkled linen can be rehabilitated by hanging it on a hanger and lightly spraying it with water, and perhaps smoothing it lightly by hand. It will dry quickly and will regain that pleasant rumpled state. (and its easy to but a small, empty spray bottle in your suitcase) Hemp (less available in the US, but its presence is growing as part of a blend) will behave exactly like linen; they are both “bast fibers” (obtained from the stalk of a plant), and have the same pros and cons. Hemp is more likely to be part of a blend,combined with cotton or rayon. Rayon knitted with linen or hemp is a lovely, softer, almost wrinkle free fabric.

    Downsides not mentioned: for technical reasons due to the spinning process, knitted linen has a tendancy to bias, i.e.. to twist at an angle out of shape. If you see a linen garment where the rows of stitching look diagonal instead of horizontal, don’t buy it. It will look worse once its washed and twist out of shape. I have seen this in items from Eileen Fisher, as well as from Target. You can steam iron it back into shape, but you won’t be able to do that on a trip. It has nothing to do with how you washed it, and everything to do with how it is spun.

    If you don’t appreciate wrinkles, look for the heaviest linen you can find…and it is hard to find. I have a pair of James Perse linen pants that barely look wrinked at all after three full days of wearing them. They are very hefty linen which is okay: linen can’t hold in your body heat, so even if its heavy, you won’t feel any hotter.

    • June 26, 2017 / 7:00 pm

      I love hemp knits, but they seem hard to find, especially if one wants to avoid psychedelic imagery and very junior styling. I’ve never machine-washed any of the linen knits I have, and they don’t seem to get twisty.

    • Linda (BlueHorse...)
      June 27, 2017 / 1:18 pm

      Ellen, thank you very much for this information. Every Eileen Fisher linen knit top (all expensive, of course) I’ve owned has done this ugly twisting thing. I always thought it was something I’ve done wrong, even though I am extremely gentle in washing them. I simply stopped buying them; this is unacceptable to me in a shirt that’s well over $100. Thanks for the insight!

      • Ellen
        June 28, 2017 / 1:38 pm

        You can usually steam iron them back into shape, but thats not helpdul for travel. Anyway, its not you, its them. Garnet Hill, Adrianne Vittadini (cheap, from TJMaxx), Poetry (mail order from UK) have all done well for me. The latter also sells hemp blends

  12. June 27, 2017 / 1:41 am

    Love linen. Love that it breathes on days when the temperatures soar, which is quite frequently here in summer. The wrinkles don’t bother me at all – maybe because I live in a very casual seaside area, of a overall casual country (Australia).

  13. plutrell
    June 28, 2017 / 12:32 pm

    Very helpful, Susan…thanks so much. I will be in linen a lot this summer…the heat has already been extreme in South Texas. I do love EF linen. Good post!

  14. Andrea
    June 28, 2017 / 8:45 pm

    Everlane has linen knit tees at this time of year

  15. June 29, 2017 / 10:54 am

    I stood in that exact spot in Paris a year and a half ago in all linen, so I enjoyed this post so much. I like the idea of not wearing head to toe linen although that’s what I did in France that year. Good idea. Not sure I like broomstick effect though. I used to use that spray starch when I ironed it and it helped a lot. Not sure they still make that. Love all your posts, Susan.

  16. Christina
    June 30, 2017 / 4:24 pm

    Check out South Street Linen website – they are located in Portland,Maine – beautiful linen clothing and scarves.

  17. July 13, 2017 / 12:04 pm

    I adore linen and think that the wrinkles are part of its charm.

  18. Lisa Bruzzese
    July 14, 2017 / 5:30 am

    I have recently started buying from ETSY and found an incredible shop called not PERFECT LINEN. I ordered a Moss Green top from the shop and it arrived yesterday and it is truly beautiful. I just ordered two linen dresses. They make their linen. The shop is in Lithuania but it only took 10 days to ship. The owner replies back promptly to any questions you have. Much more moderate pricing then Eileen Fisher and the quality is outstanding. Here’s the link .

    . https://www.etsy.com/shop/notPERFECTLINEN

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