Derived from the flax plant, linen is one of many fabrics weaved from plant fibers. Fabrics that come from plants can have benefits: they absorb sweat, dry quickly, and thus keep the body cool in summer weather. There was a time when linen came only in natural tones, as vegetable dyes can be limiting when it comes to vivacious color. This is not the case today, as linen shirts come in array of deep hues and jewel tones, in addition to a variety of silhouettes. Wearing a linen shirt can be a dressier summer option to cotton–and with a few tips, it can be just as easy.
Select a style that is fits away from the body. Linen fabric has no stretching abilities, therefore it is best to pick a style that doesn’t hug the skin. While it doesn’t have to be an a-line shirt, it should allow the wearer to move and contort with little restrictions. A good way for a person to measure this is to try on the shirt and lift her arms. If the shirt is comfortable with arms raised, then the fit should be relaxed enough for all-day wear.
Iron your shirt, either damp or with the use of starch. The biggest problem with linen is its ability to seemingly wrinkle on contact. A hot iron alone is never enough, even with steam. Since it is a characteristic of fabric, there is a certain amount of wrinkles that should be expected when donning a linen shirt. Still, one way to help minimize wrinkles and creases is to iron the shirt damp. Another alternative, if one is in a rush, is to use starch and iron a dry shirt.
Choose undergarments that are flesh colored. Normally linen shirts are light. Because of this, there tends to be transparency in the fabric–especially when the sunlight hits it. White, colored, or printed underwear should be avoided, as there is a higher risk of them being seen through the garment.
Pair shirt with a natural-fibered bottom. It can be visually awkward to see a linen top with a polyester bottom, simply because designs that work well with linen tend to conflict with those that work with synthetic fibers. To avoid a fashion disconnect, linen shirt wearers should pair their top with a natural-fiber bottom of linen, cotton or ramie. From a practical standpoint, it is better for someone to have a fully breathable outfit, lest they risk having a cool perspiration-free top, and a sweaty bottom.
Keep it simple and natural when it comes to accessories. In the past, linen fashion has been most associated with the safari look. If the wearer wants a vibrant feel, she can choose a bold ethnic necklace to play off of the linen’s simplicity. Otherwise, wearers should choose accessories that are simple and understated.
Wear a leather belt. One of the easiest ways to add structure to a linen shirt is to sport a leather belt. Choosing thick or thin would depend on the style of the shirt: A thin belt would work better on a shorter shirt, and a thick belt could help cinch the waistline of a tunic. There are times when a person could pair their shirt with a fabric belt, but doing so can make the look more casual.
References and ResourcesComfort and Handle Behavior of Linen-blended Fabric
CIFF: Spring/Summer 2009 Fashion & Color Trends