This Week I Love …

…  linen knits.

My hatred for woven linen is well documented here on the blog. I own exactly one piece – a bright blue tunic from Boden’s 2005 summer offerings. And I love the color and the cut, but generally wear it once per summer and then want to SET IT ON FIRE. I am far more comfortable with use-wrinkles than I probably ought to be. I often look like a human accordion once I get home from a day at the office. But a garment that wrinkles the very second it hits my bod? Oh no. No, no, no indeed to that.

But linen is, undeniably, the ultimate summer fabric. It’s light, breathable, breezy, classy, and has the feel of luxury without costing a mint. So I’m thrilled to have found a few garments made from linen KNITS, which wrinkle less severely and less quickly than their woven cousins. (Many of these are linen blends, but I totally still count ’em.)

 

French Connection Women’s Linen Stripe Knit Sweater – $108

Boden Drapey Jersey Tee – $17

Merona Women’s Boatneck Pullover Sweater – $17.48

AG Adriano Goldschmied Assymetrical Vent Tee – $76.50

Eileen Fisher Linen Jersey Tunic– $75

Merona Scoop Neck Top – $14.99

Smitten crochet trim tunic sweater – $83

How do you feel about linen? Are you a fan of this summer-weight fabric in all its forms? Ever tried a linen knit? Those of you who love the woven versions, do you have wrinkle-management solutions or do you just accept the wrinkles and relax? Either way, teach us your secrets!

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  • I’m not a fan of woven linen, either. It looks fairly chic when you FIRST put it on, and then the moment you start living in the clothes, it is an instant fail. I’m always reminded of the “jet setters” challenge on Project Runway (Jeffrey Sebelia’s season) when the rosette-girl (Amanda? Alicia? I can’t remember) made a pair of truly heinous linen crops with rosettes on her ass cheeks to wear on a plane, and she just looked SO RUMPLED and unkempt in them… Ugh.

    On the other hand, I am 100% with you on linen knits. I borrowed a loose knit linen pullover the other day, and they’re the perfect way to cover up without feeling like you’ll spontaneously combust from the heat.

    That being said, I do like the look of linen suits in magazine photoshoots, but that’s just because they look so pressed and perfect and photoshopped in print. Yet another impossible goal to aspire to from a fashion mag, lol.

  • I got a couple of linen knit sweaters from Eddie Bauer’s big sale and I have to say, I really like them. I don’t wear much linen because historically I’ve hated the wrinkles, but now that I’ve moved (apparently) to the tropics I’m beginning to reconsider that.

  • CP Shades’ linen doesn’t wrinkle. I don’t know how they do it, but their linen is amazing. I’m wearing a black linen skirt right now that I bought from them in about 1995. It was very long, so last year I shortened it to knee length and it is my all-time favorite summer skirt. It is literally wash and wear…no ironing. In 16 years, the black has barely faded and it just gets softer all the time. It is a heavy, dense fabric that drapes so nicely, yet breathes and flows.

    I have a very simple test for linen before buying it: Crumple it in your fist. If it is a wrinkled mess when you let go, walk away. 95% of all linens fail the test. Yesterday I saw some linen skirts by Jones NY that I may stalk until they are on deep discount. They got a B+ on the test, wrinkling a bit but relaxing fairly quickly.

    • I second the crumple test. I do it at the fabric store, too, when there are different options for linens, linen-blends, and linen-look that doesn’t actually include linen.

  • LOVE the linen knits! I have a couple of EF tops in that linen jersey and they are SUBLIME. Glad to see some other retailers have options too.

  • Katharine

    I just accept the wrinkles, even though they do make me look even more like a pretentious high school art teacher in baggy clothing than usual. I have a few linen-knit items, but unlike you, I am not a fan; I’ve never found one that wasn’t so thin you’d be able to see right through me without something underneath. Summer layering is not my favourite thing — I just get too hot — so, tempting and pretty though they are to look at, I’ve given almost all the linen knits I’ve tried on a big miss.

  • Velma

    I have two linen knit sweaters (one a V-neck, and one a hoody) by LL Bean c. 2004 that I’ve loved and worn into the ground. Bean has recently revived these sweaters, and I tried to order a replacement, but they are not the same–much flimsier and cheap-looking. Too bad! If I ever find a similar sweater, I will buy three or four. They drape well and are wonderfully cool, but somehow also warm enough for a chilly evening–and they do not wrinkle.

    Woven linen: nemesis and friend! I lived in Texas for 15 years, and when it is truly hot and humid, there’s nothing better. I have a few linen and linen-cotton summer tops and blouses that I handwash; I put up with the wrinkles as a feature of the fabric, but they do look rumpled and creased by the end of the day. Lined skirts work better, but the lining defeats the purpose of being perfectly cool and breezy.

  • Anna D.

    Honestly, I don’t mind the wrinkles in linen. I figure it’s a feature, not a bug. I have a higher tolerance for shirts and skirts than pants, though, and I only wear it in casual styles (loose tunics, long breezy skirts). Crisp, office-y linen (like tailored pants or suits, or tailored shirts), I can’t really do at all, because then the wrinkles do bug me. (Though I could probably handle a black linen jacket in a looser cut. Eileen Fisher rather than Brooks Brothers, if that makes sense.)

  • Cel

    I have to admit, I wouldn’t be able to pick up an item and know whether or not it was linen. Or what exactly is meant by linen. Or the difference between woven or knit. Or anything else about fabrics for that matter hah. How I manage to do laundry without ruining my clothes is a mystery.

  • Anna

    I like linen, but ironing is a chore, and I don’t currently have any linen garments. A length of lovely blue linen has been languishing in my fabric stash for years, waiting forlornly to be made into a garment, but I may just give up and hem it into table linen instead.
    It cracks me up to see the catalog descriptions of “washable linen” that have appeared in recent years. Linen has been washable since the day it was born, many centuries ago.

  • Velma

    P.S. My linen substitutes for really hot weather: linen-rayon blends, which do not wrinkle so much, and floaty Indian silk skirts. Here is an example:
    http://cgi.ebay.com/Boho-Womens-Gypsy-Hippie-Wrap-Around-Silk-Skirt-Sarong-/290582569332?pt=Vintage_Women_s_Clothing&hash=item43a8122174
    Wow, these are cool and wonderful in extreme heat. I have two (one from this seller), and they are wonderful if you don’t mind the boho vibe–especially great for travel, as they are reversible and hand-washable. They dry on a clothes line in about twenty minutes!

    • KL

      I have one of these Indian wrap skirts, too, and have probably gotten more compliments on it than on any other piece in my wardrobe. I’ve worn it multiple times without washing, just airing out, and gotten the edge caught under a rolling chair several times–it’s still in great condition for all the abuse I throw at it.

      • Velma

        I wear mine a lot of times between washings, I’ll admit 🙂 –but they do hand-wash really nicely. Just soak with mild soap, rinse, and air dry. No ironing required!

  • oh, ugh, i hate woven linen. it feels fantastic, comes in great colors, and is a dream to sew up, but the insta-wrinkles are a dealbreaker for me. i’ve never heard of linen knit, though! now i want to investigate!

  • Linen is so irritating! It’s impossible to look good in linen because it always looks craptastic. I have a linen dress I never wear, despite it being a fabulous color/cut. Depressing! I’ll have to check out linen knits, though…

  • I love that striped linen top. Love love love.

    This post is quite timely. I put on a gorgeous red linen top this morning, one I had just thrifted and was excited to wear. Five minutes after tugging it on, it looked a wrinkled mess. I guess the beauty of linen is that it isn’t “perfect” – it’s not going to stay neatly pressed all day. Maybe that’s kind of the beauty of it. Wearing linen reminds me that it’s a natural fabric and it’s going to do what it does. Sure, I could spend all day worrying about it, or I can accept it because it feels great on. And that’s what I’m choosing to do.

  • Diana

    I like linen knits and have a couple of items – mine are handknit by me! I think it wrinkles less when it’s in a blend as well. Wrinkling does not really bother me as I hate to iron so I’m pretty much always wrinkly!

    I am ambivalent about woven linen… I have a couple of skirts that I like but am not crazy about how woven linen almost always comes in blah neutral colors. I also find a lot of cheaper woven linens to be weirdly itchy especially as pants so tend to be a little leery of them.

  • GingerR

    I have a few linen blouses. In the Mid-Atlantic there are days where you appreciate how cool it is, even if you do always look a bit wrinkled.

    You can have them dry-cleaned and then wear them with something washable underneath and get several wearings between cleanings.

    If you wash them at home then it’s to the ironing pile. In my house that means the items spends a lot of time on the ironing board until I get around to ironing. Spray starch or sizing helps make your ironing job last longer.

  • SarahN

    I’m wearing a linen-blend cardigan today, actually. I picked it up at TJ Maxx recently and it’s quickly become one of my favorite pieces for summer. I throw it in the machine on delicate, lay it flat to dry, and it comes out great. To store it, I fold it in half, then hang it lengthwise on a hanger so the shoulders don’t stretch out.

  • Leah

    Ooh I do love linen, but it’s exclusive domain is beach holidays for me. I don’t mind being a bit crinkly when I’m holiday and it breathes so darn well. I’ve never worn a linen knit so I am interested to try it out.

    I also have a couple of woven linen/viscose blend garments. You get all the drape and heft of linen but the viscose mitigates the accordion effect!

  • By and large I really don’t like linen. I do have one linen skirt that I like and the wrinkles aren’t too bad by the end of the day. Linen shirts I’ve had – I have just given away. I’ll have to try the crumple test next time! I haven’t tried the knit blends, but I will be on the lookout for them.

  • Jean S

    linen-rayon blends are less likely to wrinkle…

    I think part of the problem is the lack of quality fabric. My mother had many linen pieces, and they did not dissolve into a crumpled mess. This was the 1950s and 60s. In Miami.

  • I avoid woven linen like the plague – as soon as I look at something linen it wrinkles beyond repair. I have never even thought to try a linen knit, since when I hear linen I run away. Thanks for introducing an alternative!

  • LinB

    Love love love love love love love love love me some woven linen. But then, I am a Woman of a Certain Age who lives in a hot, humid climate. Linen breathes. Linen lets my sweat evaporate, for a cooling effect. Lined linen — with cotton, please! — wrinkles far less than unlined linen. Heavy-weight linen in skirts or slacks wrinkles far less than light-weight linen, if it wrinkles at all. Spray linen garments with a fine mist of water and the wrinkles relax, just as in cotton garments. Don’t bother ironing linen for ordinary occasions, just enjoy the ease and comfort of this fine natural fiber.

  • Leslie

    I love linen, and can tolerate the wrinkles in a shirt or tunic, but not in pants or a dress (skirts are OK as well). I agree with others that a lot of the problem is the quality of the fabric. Intrigued by the idea of linen knits and may check those out.

    One of my favorite skirts is a linen-silk blend (I forget the proportions) that is finally, literally wearing out after over 10 years of regular use. Another thing I really like is to have undergarments–slips or camis–out of handkerchief linen. Over time it gets silky soft, and is way more breathable than almost anything else; cool even in warm weather. Hard to find; easier to sew.

  • linen ties with silk as my favorite fabric to wear, so i am a wrinkled mess basically all the time. the only thing i dislike is linen pants, because i hate having my whole crotch area highlighted with wrinkles. i’m wearing a linen dress today, and woke up this morning with my linen duvet cover.. it is everywhere! i try to think of the wrinkles as “added texture”.

  • Jeannie

    Hi Sally, I love your blog, fabuloso colours! and so much good sense about body image.
    Re: linen knits.
    Have you ever come upon a UK firm called Poetry? Their fabrics are lovely, all linen and silk and soft cotton and (now) hemp too. Colours are neutrals rather than brights though, so maybe not really your thing…!
    You can find them here, or google poetryfashion. salehttp://www.poetryfashion.co.uk/category-POEST2/tops-tshirts/

    • Sal

      Oh Jeannie, I LOVE those garments! Thanks for the tip, lady!

  • Cristina

    This is the first time I’ve tried a linen/cotton blend. I normally can’t do linen because it’s SO itchy. I got this skirt from EMS and LOVE IT: http://www.ems.com/product/index.jsp?productId=4326258

    The waistband is still a touch itchy for me, so I have to tuck a shirt in. But I’m very, very sensitive to any clothing itchiness! (Have to use a seam ripper to cut the tags out, etc.) So far, the wrinkles haven’t bothered me at all. I usually avoid anything that wrinkles because I don’t like to iron… but if something is wrinkly, I will iron (or wash and dry) before wearing. I don’t have to do that with this skirt!

    Now I’m left with the decision… slip or not? I’m usually a stickler for slips, but I really don’t want to wear that polyester against my skin in the summer!

    • Sal

      What about a silk slip? I adore mine!

  • Krysta

    I agree with those who suggest linen-rayon blends! I have a dress I made out of a linen-rayon blend, and it is wonderful! When I pre-washed the fabric for sewing, it came out a bit crumply-looking and that didn’t iron out, but I just accepted that as a feature of the fabric. Otherwise the dress I made out of it doesn’t wrinkle. I’ve even bought more to make another dress out of!

  • Vicki

    I never wear linen because I really hate the wrinkle look and I live in the deep South.

  • rb

    I like linen a lot. I don’t have much of it, but I have finally cultivated a few pieces that have paved my way toward wrinkle acceptance. I think the key is to not expect the linen to look tailored. For instance, don’t buy a business suit made of linen. (This is me talking to my 1988 self.) I’m not sure why they sell this stuff but it makes no sense. Anything that is supposed to fit close to the body is going to be a pretty bad idea in woven linen.

    The linen items I own and wear are a full skirt, an a-line skirt, and a ruffle-front shell. These are all casual items for me, and I wear them on the warmest days of the year. They feel wonderful on those days, and when it’s that hot and you’re not at work, no one cares about wrinkles.

    I am totally in favor of linen knits, but my experience has been that they tend to stretch sideways and shrink in length over time. Just don’t spend too much on them. 🙂

  • rb

    I love how I can find everything I own in ebay. Here are my two linen skirts. I couldn’t find the top. Anyway, you can see that these are quite casual styles.

    Here’s the a-line skirt
    http://cgi.ebay.com/NWT-EILEEN-FISHER-LINEN-GAUZE-SKIRT-L-258-GRAPHITE-/110688881725?pt=US_CSA_WC_Skirts&hash=item19c5924c3d

    Here’s the full skirt
    http://cgi.ebay.com/NEW-JONES-NEW-YORK-BEIGE-TAN-LINEN-SKIRT-SIZE-6-NWT-/370515446423?pt=US_CSA_WC_Skirts&hash=item5644710a97

  • I only have a couple of woven linen things and they’re both pants. I think I’m the opposite of the ladies who prefer linen shirts!

    I don’t mind the wrinkles because to me they’re just part of the look. Nobody expects linen garments to be starch pressed. Maybe it helps that these pants are loose and light colored, so the wrinkles aren’t as stark? One of the pairs of pants is lined, too, and that seems to help.

  • I love linen, and I actually kind of like the wrinkled, lived in look (except on linen trousers and the crotch area. Ugh. That is just horrid.) Having said that, some blends are better than others; linen/silk blends are divine, as are linen/rayon.

  • Anne

    It’s hard to believe now, but the bulk of my summer wardrobe before having children was linen and linen blends. After leaving my career in retail admin. I stopped sending everything to the cleaners and started washing them by hand or on gentle cycle. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the longer you own linen pieces, the softer and less wrinkled they become. I also owned a wonderful cream silk/linen blend cardigan sweater for like 15 years; absolutely loved it and mourned its passing. I remember thinking it was an expensive purchase at the time but I sure drove down the cost per wear.

  • Julie

    It’s funny, I only just last week banished all linen from my professional wardrobe. This was a result of snapping some blog-style photos of myself in outfits I had previously thought were perfectly “work appropriate” for summer. They were not. I thought the wrinkles were “not too bad” and sort of expected in a summery, humid world, but the photos told another, rumpled and unkempt story. The wrinkles kill any attempt at professional confidence. And sadly, the linen knits posted above look decidedly casual to me, as well. Weekend wear and travel, perhaps, but not Monday-Friday.

  • Anonymous

    I think I may only have one linen item, which I never wear. I generally try to stay away from “high maintenance” fabrics. I think it is beautiful, though. Very crisp and cool looking. I just don’t have the patience to do all the ironing it requires.

  • I absolutely agree with The Waves on this one, linen/silk blends are the best. Seriously. One of the most exuberant and sartorialist experience ever is wearing a smart, stylish linen/silk knit top. We can’t all afford Saville row grade wool, so this is as close to textile heaven as it gets.

  • Nice roundup here. I’m usually not a fan of linen because the few pieces I own are all work-related dresses, and they look terrible wrinkled. If I had some more relaxed pieces — tunics, maxi dresses, etc. — I’d probably be more open to wearing it.

  • GlamaRuth

    My modern linen wovens do get wrinkly – but in looser, more casual shapes, like palazzo pants, I think this is ok. In items meant to be sharply tailored , it is too much hassle. BUT all of my vintage linen – tailored dresses from the late 50s, early to mid 60’s – is amazing. Gorgeous saturated colors (cobalt, peacock and lilac paisley print; bisque trimmed in cocoa with Yves Kelin blue belt; sulpher yellow; striped indigo, grass green, blood orange, teal and plum), sophisticated cuts and no wrinkles, but then, the vintage linen is like nothing I’ve seen today, even in high-end labels. It is heavy, with a noticeable weave, and the weight just doesn’t lend itself to wrinkles.

  • RK

    Hmm, I never thought to reach for a linen shirt (I’ve owned a pair of summer linen pants that I wore sparingly), so this is new territory for me! I’m fairly lazy about ironing to begin with, so I never really ironed my pants either…I just accepted it as a “casual look” that didn’t need to be ironed. Those shirts you listed look very nice though…

  • Gauss

    I seem to be one of the few commenters who absolutely loves linen! I find it to be extremely comfortable and cool, and go for pieces that don’t need to be “razor sharp”. I think a lot of the advertising is deceiving, showing linen pieces always perfectly pressed and stiff, whereas the beauty of linen comes out in the softer, more flowing clothes. Anyway, I buy linen shirts whenever I find them (in my usual second-hand haunts) – they are perfect for summer when I don’t want to get a sunburn but need to stay cool.

  • Marie

    The only linen piece I currently own is a knee-length skirt, and I just accept the lines across the front from sitting. A lot of my non-linen skirts wrinkle there as well. I used to have a pair of wide-legged, flowy linen pants that were great in summer! I think the dark color hid the wrinkles.

  • Tenshi

    I must come to the defense of woven linen! I love it, love it, love it. There is nothing better than linen for summer, be it trousers, skirts, dresses or blouses. Yes, it wrinkles, but it doesn’t bother me – as someone else put it, it’s a feature, not a bug, and wrinkled linen to me doesn’t look crumpled and dishevelled, but somehow chic. Linen is not meant to be sharply tailored, but soft and flowing (and it gets better when it ages) and a little wrinkled. It is, in my mind at least, meant to look summery, natural, at ease and effortless – not polished, sharp and sterile.

  • – Tessa

    I HATE linen! But I see I just might have to try some knit versions – what a novel idea. Thanks for the head’s up Sal!

  • I embrace the wrinkles and relax. I also only own woven linen skirts … I think … maybe there’s a hoodie still kickin around, but I’m pretty sure it gave up the ghost a while ago. Now, doesn’t the prospect of a linen hoodie change your mind? THe wrinkles are acceptable there, they kind of embrace the casualness that “hoodie” entails … erm, right?

    And ps, re: linen knits (which, I agree, are FAB; I am still mourning the loss of a linen sweater I lost somewhere in the desert years ago), madewell and jcrew have some great linen and linen/rayon knit blends this summer!

  • oh yes, I too also just bought linen wide legs. I love linen wide legs. A few swooshy strides and most of those wrinkles are falling out, anyway.

    cheers, Sal – happy long weekend!