How Can I Keep My Linen Clothing From Wrinkling?

Written by: Deb German


Photo: Deb German

The answer is short and sweet: you can’t, but why would you want to in the first place? If you hoped the smooth, crisp linen shirt you chose to wear this morning would stay unrumpled all day while it continued to do your bidding, it’s time to iron out your thinking: linen’s wrinkles are not character flaws, but instead add interest to this cool and breathable ancient textile.

Written by: Deb German


Photo: Deb German

The answer is short and sweet: you can’t, but why would you want to in the first place? If you hoped the smooth, crisp linen shirt you chose to wear this morning would stay unrumpled all day while it continued to do your bidding, it’s time to iron out your thinking: linen’s wrinkles are not character flaws, but instead add interest to this cool and breathable ancient textile.

The Benefits of Wearing Linen: The Coolness Quotient

Linen truly is a wrinkle in time, keeping us cool now—arguably better than any other textile—just as it kept people cool thousands of years ago. But we tend to get hung up on rules and regulations even in this day and age (to wit: when to wear linen), and all the more in the American South, whence I came, and where people cling to tradition like kudzu vines to, well, everything. Being properly dressed has always had a tacit “crispness” imperative: wrinkles and neatness are mutually exclusive.

Ever tried to stay crisp in 85% humidity with a triple-digit heat index?

That, in a nutshell, is why linen is so appealing in the tropics, and generally in hot climes the world over, and why it continues to insinuate itself into closets now just as it did 35,000 years ago: linen is quite possibly the coolest, most breathable natural fiber on the planet. Pair those affable qualities with its quick-drying and superior wicking properties, and some insist it’s almost like you’re not wearing clothing at all.

But the other truth about linen is it wrinkles, copiously, and there is exactly nothing you can do about it. Sure, you can starch and steam iron the bejesus out of it, but it stays pressed only until you exhale. And if you’re driving somewhere? Forget about it. Your linen pants will wrinkle at the hips, knees, and tush, and the front of your linen shirt or jacket will betray where the seatbelt was cinched across it. It’s the nature of the beast: linen’s stiff, crisscrossing yarns tend to bend and stay bent.

I ask you, why oh why is this such a big deal?

How to Iron Linen: When Wrinkles Simply Won’t Do

When you’re wearing your slouchy, summery linen blouse over a tank top for a coffee date with friends, skip the iron. But I’ll give you your outdoor wedding, or any dressy occasion that insists on a tad more decorum. Go ahead and press the dress (or pants or shirt or jacket). Here’s how to remove wrinkles from linen:

  1. Iron it while it’s still damp. Spritz it with water, roll it loosely and give it five minutes or so for the moisture to penetrate the linen’s fibers.
  2. Fill your steam iron with water and use its highest heat setting.
  3. Are the pad and cover on your ironing board in good shape? If they’re not, place an old terry cloth towel on the ironing board, under your garment.
  4. Keep the iron moving to prevent scorching the linen. If the linen is embroidered, iron the ‘wrong’ side, and iron the embroidered area first.
  5. If you iron the ‘right’ side of the fabric, a pressing cloth will prevent shiny spots from coming on the garment.
  6. And if you insist on a truly stiff look to your linen, go ahead and spritz it with starch or fabric sizing. This is also a good strategy if you wish to press creases into your linen trousers. Just be advised that even this action will not forestall wrinkles in your linen—the creases will still be there, but they’ll soften a bit around the edges.

Tip: to quickly revitalize your linen shirt, pants, or dress without an iron, toss the garment into the dryer on low with a single ice cube for 10 minutes. The ice melts and gives off steam, which in turn de-wrinkles your clothing—et, voilà!

How NOT to Iron Linen

While getting wrinkles out of linen is possible—if an ephemeral condition for linen clothing—for most occasions, I say, leave the wrinkles be. Don’t even bother ironing. You can toss your just-washed linen into a hot dryer long enough to get it steaming, and then hang it up to finish. You won’t get a starched-and-pressed look, but you will get a close approximation. Here’s a low-maintenance linen manifesto that’s easy to live by:

  1. Wash your linen and wear it often. It improves with age, like wine or cheese. The exception is a lined linen jacket with a ‘dry clean only’ label: heed the label, or ruin the jacket.
  2. Steam your linen instead of ironing it. You won’t get a pressed-to-a-crisp look, but the worst wrinkles will fall out.
  3. Experiment with a wrinkle-relaxing spray, but test an inconspicuous area first: some preparations leave stains.
  4. Store all your linens on hangers.

How to Wear Linen: Smart Style for Modern Sensibilities

It’s easy: flaunt the wrinkles. Linen has been described by people in the know as both “gorgeously relaxed” and “unexpectedly sophisticated.” Give me gorgeous and sophisticated, and I’m in. And if you are wedded to crispness, try pairing your wrinkled linen shirt with extra crisp chinos or khakis for visual interest: think of it as sweet is to savory, or yin to yang, if you prefer.

There is no time like the present to get out your linen shirts (and shorts and pants and dresses, too). A sleeved linen top keeps you both cool and covered, wherever you are in the world. And if you opt for a knit or hybrid linen shirt, you can expect an even better, more forgiving drape. But even a pure linen shirt will improve with each washing, achieving more softness with time—and it is cooler than cotton. In which guise you choose your linen wardrobe really boils down to your own sensibilities.

Linen’s wrinkles possess their own appeal, and that is all. As one Southern humorist observed, wrinkles are a barometer for quality: they’re how you know it’s “the good stuff.” And those wrinkles just keep getting better; the sometimes-misunderstood linen is an evolved textile. Not only is the “good stuff” more refined these days, but the admixture of other fibers—silk, rayon, cotton, Tencel®, or viscose, for example—improves linen’s performance (read: makes it less wrinkly). So there is a bit of good news if its wrinkles make linen a wardrobe deal-breaker for the crisply starched among us.

Historically linen has been used for everything from mail sacks to roof thatching. But the blue flowering flax plant—an unassuming Old World annual—can be refined into exquisite linen with a beautiful, wrinkled drape. To gorgeous and sophisticated add versatile, exotic, and exquisite. Iron it if you must, but I defy you to tell the difference a few minutes later: either way, there will be wrinkles upon wrinkles—some even call them “rich,” but I prefer gorgeous and sophisticated. Can you iron linen? Sure, but why not live dangerously? Go ahead—rock the wrinkles.

Is Corduroy in Style for 2018?

By: Orvis Staff

As the weather becomes increasingly chilly, prompting you to take stock of your winter wardrobe, you may wonder: are corduroy pants in style for 2018? The answer—judging from fall 2017 fashion shows—is an emphatic yes. Attractive, comfortable, and warm, classic corduroy pants and jackets are always in style….

By: Orvis Staff

As the weather becomes increasingly chilly, prompting you to take stock of your winter wardrobe, you may wonder: are corduroy pants in style for 2018? The answer—judging from fall 2017 fashion shows—is an emphatic yes. Attractive, comfortable, and warm, classic corduroy pants and jackets are always in style in spite of having been around forever. Their enduring appeal is undoubtedly also related to their practicality. Not only is corduroy clothing low maintenance and long-wearing, it can be dressed up or down, which makes it appropriate for work and a wide variety of other occasions. And, thanks to its unique construction and texture, corduroy just gets softer and more comfortable with wear.

History of Corduroy and How It’s Made

What is corduroy made of?

Corduroy is constructed from cotton or a cotton-blend fabric made from twisted, tufted fibers arranged in parallel rows (‘cords’ or ‘wales’) and woven together with channels in between, giving it its special ridged texture. Corduroy evolved from an ancient, heavy cotton weave called ‘fustian,’ popular during the European Middle Ages. Like so many enduring textiles, ‘modern’ corduroy emerged in England during the Industrial Revolution. It was used principally to clothe factory and other blue collar workers, until it was discovered by college students and hippies in the 1960s. It entered the fashion mainstream in the 1970s in the form of men’s leisure suits, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Corduroy Wale

Corduroy is generally described in terms of its ridges, or wales, from fine or pinwale corduroy fabric with 16 ridges per inch, to wide wale corduroy with 8 ridges per inch. The density of corduroy’s wales affects the weight, heft, and softness of the fabric; a higher number of wales indicates corduroy with a finer and softer texture. Very fine corduroy can feel almost like velvet or moleskin, which are related fabrics. Because of its interesting texture, corduroy often makes an appearance as trim or other accent on various apparel and other products.

Corduroy and Pop Culture

Another reason for corduroy’s enduring ubiquity may be its pop culture heritage. Corduroy jackets, for example, were notably worn by starring characters in beloved movie classics including Animal House and The Graduate. The fabric even has its own ‘Appreciation Day’ on 11/11 (get it?), coinciding with Veteran’s Day.

At the end of the day, does it really matter whether corduroy is in style? It’s comfortable, warm, and easy. Maybe you won’t want to wear it to go dancing at a nightclub or to a formal venue, but you can wear corduroy pants or a blazer to do just about anything else during cool weather months. What’s not to love about that?

All About “Wrinkle-Free” Pants

By: Orvis Staff

As perennial wardrobe staples, khakis and chinos are among the fashion industry’s greatest inventions. Comfortable, versatile, and good looking, they can be dressed up or down and are appropriate for work and any number of occasions. But not if they’re wrinkled. And that has always been a major drawback to old-style cotton khakis: you can wear them only once or twice and then they’re likely to become a crumpled mess. And who wants to spend the time (or money) ironing pants only to have them get wrinkled again right away? We think there are much better things to do with your time, which is why we’re fans of “wrinkle-free” cotton fabrics for our clothing.

By: Orvis Staff

As perennial wardrobe staples, khakis and chinos are among the fashion industry’s greatest inventions. Comfortable, versatile, and good looking, they can be dressed up or down and are appropriate for work and any number of occasions. But not if they’re wrinkled. And that has always been a major drawback to old-style cotton khakis: you can wear them only once or twice and then they’re likely to become a crumpled mess. And who wants to spend the time (or money) ironing pants only to have them get wrinkled again right away? We think there are much better things to do with your time, which is why we’re fans of “wrinkle-free” cotton fabrics for our clothing.

How to Get Rid of Wrinkles in Clothes

Instead of having to iron or steam your everyday clothes such as shirts and pants on a regular basis, modern technology has produced wrinkle-resistant fabrics to help you achieve a polished, well-put-together look without any extra effort. But the quality of these wrinkle-resistant fabrics varies among manufacturers; sometimes lesser fabrics can feel rigid and uncomfortable.

Thanks to our special patented technology, you can ‘have your crisp-looking khakis and wear them too.’ You can enjoy the comfort of wrinkle-free pants and shirts made of superior, naturally soft fabrics, while not having to worry about how to maintain their neat, tailored look—even for repeated wearings in between laundering. Who doesn’t love wrinkle-free work pants? And, when you do finally get around to throwing them in the wash, you will be pleased to discover they emerge ready to wear again.

Why Do Clothes Wrinkle?

Naturally absorbent fabrics, like cotton and linen, wrinkle when they’re compressed while being exposed to heat and moisture—exactly what can happen to pants when you sit in them for any extended period of time. It has been an age-old problem: how to keep pants from wrinkling while wearing. The wrinkling is caused by a chemical reaction whereby the bonds holding the polymers in place within the fabric’s fibers are broken, allowing them to shift into new positions. The newly-positioned fibers appear as wrinkles. Of course, this chemical process can be reversed though ironing or steaming the fabric as it’s pulled taut (or hung up, for the same effect) to eliminate wrinkles.

How Are Wrinkle-Free Cotton Fabric Different?

The fabrics described above, as well as other others, can be treated with a chemical solution that binds to their fibers, rendering them thicker and stronger and, thus, more resistant to wrinkling. These wrinkle-free treatments have been in use for decades, though they have evolved and improved considerably over time. And, make no mistake, these fabrics will still wrinkle under certain conditions if you don’t take care of them, particularly during the laundering process. Of course, you can always touch up your wrinkle-free cotton pants with a quick ironing, if necessary.

Travel in Style with Wrinkle-Free Clothing

Because of their good looks and versatility, khakis and chinos have always been an appealing choice for travel. And they’re even more practical in a wrinkle-free cotton, allowing you to spend more time focusing on the sights or your work and less time fussing with your wardrobe. And, just maybe, with wrinkle-free pants, you can emerge from that long flight without looking like you slept in them (even though you might have).

Those of us with active lifestyles tend to dress more for function and comfort than for style. But, we concede that having a somewhat polished appearance matters for work and certain other occasions, which is why we appreciate high-quality, wrinkle-free pants and shirts. Wrinkle free clothing frees us to concentrate on important things without worrying our appearance is not up to snuff.

Tencel® vs. Cotton: a Story of Nurture and Nature

By: Orvis Staff

You’ve probably seen Tencel® masquerading here as your favorite cotton shirt, or there as the silk blouse you might pair with your pencil skirt for the office. Cotton you already know and love, . . .

By: Orvis Staff

You’ve probably seen Tencel® masquerading here as your favorite cotton shirt, or there as the silk blouse you might pair with your pencil skirt for the office. Cotton you already know and love, and have from the get-go. But Tencel, a thoroughly modern, “regenerated”—not synthetic—fiber made from the cellulose in eucalyptus wood pulp, has elbowed its way into the garment fray, gaining popularity and establishing itself as a niche luxury. For all its glossy, engineered grandeur, Tencel possesses a figure-flattering and sometimes billowy drape that has earned it accolades in recent years. And what does Tencel feel like after all that manipulating? In a word, soft: its smooth hand and other amiable qualities have helped put Tencel on the textile map.

The competition is tough, but not so stiff: natural, renewable cotton is always a top choice during hot summer months because it is cool and breathable, but still insulates admirably against winter’s worst. And it’s also soft, by nature. Tencel versus cotton: read on to see how this formidable twosome stacks up in your everyday wardrobe.

Cotton Is a Household Word, but What on Earth Is Tencel?

Unlike its ancient cottony cousin, Tencel is something akin to a ‘Frankenstein’ fabric, a laboratory marvel that begins with naturally harvested parts. And however stridently Tencel occasionally tries to shake off the moniker, some still insist on naming it a synthetic because the process by which it’s converted from tree to textile requires an elaborate manufacturing technology. Turns out this industrial property is a positive, imparting an enviable versatility to Tencel. Its fibers can be made to varying thicknesses depending on the spinneret from which it is extruded, resulting in discrete materials, each with a distinctive hand—short staple length fibers make Tencel look and feel cottony, for example, and longer fibers produce a material more like silk.

By contrast, ubiquitous cotton has been around the block a few times: people have made clothing with this renewable, natural cellulose fiber since 5000 BC, and it remains the most widely used natural fiber in the world. For the most part, when you buy cotton clothing, you know more or less what you’re getting. Let’s compare the two.

Does Tencel Shrink or Wrinkle Like Cotton? Answers Herein:

Tencel Cotton
Shrinkage? Yes, but not quite as much as cotton. Yes, but buying a slightly larger size usually compensates.
Wrinkly? Yes, about as much as or slightly less than cotton. Some wrinkles will release naturally in a warm, moist environment (e.g., a hot bathroom). In most cases a light ironing will take care of the leftovers. Yes. Most woven cotton requires pressing with an iron unless it is wrinkle-free cotton.
Moisture-wicking? Yes. Tencel is more absorbent than cotton because it is made of nanofibrils, meaning minuscule fibers or filaments. This superior wicking property makes Tencel an excellent choice for sensitive skin. Cotton absorbs sweat and allows it to evaporate, working like a towel to wick away moisture, thus discouraging the growth of bacteria and yeast. Cotton can absorb up to a fifth its weight in water before it feels wet.
Breathable? Yes. Yes.
Comfortable to Wear? Most find Tencel exceptionally comfortable to wear. Cotton is exceedingly comfortable and remains so even during exertion.
Soft? Yes, and depending on how it is finished Tencel can be as soft as silk and softer than cotton. Cotton is inherently soft and stretchy.
Colorfast? Yes. Yes.
Strong? Tencel is stronger and more durable than both cotton and linen, and is stronger than cotton when wet. Cotton is strong and durable, and stronger still when wet, allowing it to hold up well in a hot water wash cycle.
Hypoallergenic? No. And while it is recommended for sensitive skin because it wicks away moisture, the chemicals used in its creation can cause problems for some. Yes, cotton is hypoallergenic, rarely causing a reaction or skin irritation; thus it is frequently recommended for people with allergies.
Blends with Other Fabrics? Yes. Yes.
Cost? Generally pricier than cotton, owing to costlier production. Commensurate with quality.
Biodegradable? Yes. Yes.
Recyclable? Yes. Up to about 20% recyclable, with the remaining ‘down’-cyclable to uses beyond clothing.

Caring for Tencel and Cotton: Take off Your Kid Gloves

Tencel

Most versions of Tencel can be hand or machine washed and tumbled dry without incident. And while Tencel is susceptible to mildew, it’s easier to remove stains from it than from cotton. But some Tencel fabrics do better with dry cleaning, depending on how the material was processed during manufacturing: consult your garment’s label and follow the instructions.

Cotton

Cotton generally requires no special handling—it launders well, resists static cling, and maintains its shape when it contains less than 5% of spandex. It is machine washable and dryable, and can be ironed as needed, but line drying your cotton will prolong its life. Cotton repels foul odors well in the wash, and in spite of scoring slightly lower marks than Tencel for stain resistance, still repels stains well. Fabric softener encourages stains to set, so use it sparingly on your cottons.

The Environmental Impacts of Tencel and Cotton

Part of Tencel’s appeal lies in its relatively shallow environmental footprint. The manufacturing of the fabric occurs in a ‘closed loop’ system with low emissions and minimal waste, where nearly all the chemicals and solvents used to process Tencel from wood pulp to finished product are reclaimed. Tencel production requires less water than cotton production—industrially farmed cotton can use up to 20 times more water. Tencel also requires less land; a half acre of forestland otherwise unsuitable for farming can produce enough eucalyptus trees without the need for pesticide or irrigation, to produce a ton of material. The manufacturing of Tencel is a process that comes pretty close to completely ‘green.’

While cotton requires more land to produce, a more balanced comparison with Tencel will take into account that cotton is a drought- and heat-resistant plant. Cotton production accounts for three percent of the world’s agricultural water, but supplies about a third of the fiber used in the world’s textiles (Tencel accounts for only a tiny fraction of global textile production). Cotton output has expanded without claiming additional acreage, and impressively, growers are achieving this bump up in production relying less on irrigation water and more on rainfall. So while your favorite cotton sweater may have required more land and water to make than your Tencel blouse, cotton’s admirable qualities must enter the conversation as well. And there is no escaping the chemicals used to make Tencel, whereas cotton is manufactured without them.

In the end, there is little difference in sustainability between Tencel and cotton—you can feel good about wearing a garment made from either fabric.

Tencel vs. Lyocell

Tencel and lyocell are the same material. Tencel is merely the branded version of lyocell, much like Kleenex is to facial tissue, or Xerox to photocopy. Lyocell is a form of rayon, which consists of cellulose fiber made from wood pulp.

Tencel Through Time: a Brief History

  • 1972 – What we now call Tencel is developed through the pilot stage by American Enka (now defunct), who calls it Newcell.
  • 1980s – The new fiber is commercialized by Courtaulds Fibres in the UK.
  • 1990 – Courtaulds opens its first plant in Mobile, Alabama, and renames the fiber Tencel. It enters the consumer market in 1991.
  • 1996 – Lyocell—the generic name for Tencel—becomes the first new fiber group in three decades to gain the approval of the Federal Trade Commission, who deem it to have enough unique qualities to distinguish it as such.
  • 2004 – Lenzig of Austria purchases Courtaulds and merges it with their own lyocell business but retains the Tencel® name. They remain the only major producer of lyocell fiber.

Where You’ll Find Tencel and Cotton

Tencel has been used in athletic apparel, bedding, and denim since the ‘90s. Now it’s also found in a wider array of clothing, including shirts, blouses, dresses, and pants, that mimic luxurious silks and cottons. While it’s a tad harder to find garments in 100% Tencel, it’s routinely used in soft blends with other materials, including cotton. Beyond clothing, manufacturers use lyocell in various applications:

    • Conveyor belts
    • Ultra-low tar cigarette filters
    • Abrasive backings
    • Carbon shields
    • Specialty papers
    • Medical dressings and surgical swabs
    • Batteries

Because cotton is a natural insulator, it’s a year-round textile. Soft, stretchy, and comfortable to wear, versatile cotton can be woven or knitted into a variety of fabrics, including corduroy, chambray, lace, and velour, to name only a few. It is a top choice for workout clothing, undergarments, sleepwear, and baby clothing. But cotton can be made weatherproof, too: when it is woven densely and a weather-repellent is applied—for example, a wax dressing—the result is “weather-resistant outerwear that remains comfortable and breathable.

Manufacturers use various parts of the cotton plant in applications beyond apparel, including:

        • Foods
        • Plastics
        • Paper products
        • Bandages and gauze

In the intervening years since its invention Tencel has gained visibility and enjoyed acceptance in the clothing industry for use in designer and higher-end apparel because of its appealing luster, texture, and drape. In short, Tencel has the look and feel of silk—or even Egyptian cotton—but it’s easier to launder. And the casual observer can’t tell the difference. Tencel may be a serious contender as a luxury fabric hanging next to your finest cashmeres and silks, but breathable, natural cotton is often more affordable—and it will never go out of style.

Cashmere vs. Merino: What’s the Best Wool to Wear?

By: Orvis Staff

Wool is one of the best performing materials available, and also one of the oldest. But in a contest of two favorites—cashmere versus merino—does a clear winner emerge?…

By: Orvis Staff

Wool is one of the best performing materials available, and also one of the oldest. But in a contest of two favorites—cashmere versus merino—does a clear winner emerge? Which wool is the warmest? Which one is the softest and the most comfortable? Which lends itself to more formal occasions? And what about durability—does merino wool clothing resist pilling better than cashmere? To best appreciate the differences between cashmere and merino—and the benefits of each—it’s helpful to understand how these different types of wool are sourced and produced.

What is Wool?

Wool is a natural fiber also known as fleece, similar to human hair or fur, that covers the skin of a variety of animals including sheep, goats, and alpacas, and is used in different woven and knitted textiles. The fibers are collected during the annual shearing of the animals, and then processed. Wool has been used for thousands of years to make warm clothing, blankets, and other furnishings; regardless of which animal produces them, the “crimped” nature of the wool fibers makes them an effective insulator against the cold. The quality and other properties of the wool, however, vary considerably, depending on the type and breed of animal.

Sheep’s Wool

“Sheep’s wool” is a general term that refers to the fibers produced by various breeds of adult sheep grown all over the world (versus “lambswool,” which comes from their lambs). Sheep’s wool is the most common and widely available type of wool, though its qualities vary depending on the breed of sheep that produces it. In addition to its insulating properties, sheep’s wool contains lanolin, which repels water and bacteria. This is why wool doesn’t readily absorb odors compared to other materials. But garments made from ‘regular’ sheep’s wool, while warm, are relatively heavy and can feel scratchy due to the coarseness of the wool.

Merino Wool

Merino wool, on the other hand, is softer and more refined than regular wool. It comes from Merino sheep, raised mostly in Australia and New Zealand these days, and bred to produce very fine wool fibers. Merino wool is a superb material for performance clothing especially, given its moisture wicking properties. It is warm yet lightweight and breathable, making it suitable for a wide range of active pursuits. And since merino wool garments tend to retain their shape without wrinkling, they are great for travel and appropriate for varied climates. Are the best wool sweaters made from merino? The answer probably depends on the situation. Merino wool clothing has certainly proved its mettle for the wearer who enjoys an active lifestyle.

Cashmere

Cashmere comes from goats and is softer still than sheep’s wool. Specifically, it is produced from fibers that make up the soft, downy undercoat of Kashmir goats that originally inhabited areas in China, India, Iran, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Collecting these particular fibers is a laborious task that must be done by hand during spring molting season, resulting in a relatively small yield. The difficulty involved with collecting cashmere wool explains why it is relatively rare and considered a luxury item compared to sheep’s wool. It takes at least two goats to make one two-ply cashmere sweater, whereas the wool from one sheep can be used to make four or five conventional wool sweaters.

Cashmere wool is softer and lighter than sheep’s wool and possesses a higher loft, which translates into plush, luxurious fabrics with a silky feel. Because it also drapes beautifully, cashmere garments impart an elegant look on more formal occasions.

Cashmere vs. Merino—What’s to Choose?

  • Warmer: Cashmere can be seven to eight times warmer than merino wool.
  • Softer: Cashmere has a higher loft, which makes it softer.
  • More Durable: Merino wool is sturdier and resists pilling more effectively.
  • Easier to Care for: Merino generally requires less care in washing.
  • Dressier: Cashmere is a more luxurious fabric with an elegant drape.

If you spend a lot of time outdoors in all seasons like we do—whatever the weather—you’re probably always on the hunt for the latest and greatest in performance clothing. Though high performance apparel made from synthetic fabrics abounds these days—designed for different outdoor activities in all seasons—the purists among us believe that nothing beats good ‘ol natural wool. Attractive, warm, water repellent and breathable, wool garments, particularly if they’re a refined version such as cashmere or merino, are singularly comforting.

How to Choose a Scarf to Match Your Outfit and Look Your Best

By: Orvis Staff

Scarves are such a practical and appealing wardrobe accessory, it makes sense to have a large and varied collection of them on hand. Not only are they stylish, adding a dramatic effect to any . . .

By: Orvis Staff

Scarves are such a practical and appealing wardrobe accessory, it makes sense to have a large and varied collection of them on hand. Not only are they stylish, adding a dramatic effect to any outfit, scarves can keep you warm and provide protection from wind, sun, and rain. But you may be among the many people who wonder how to ‘match’ a scarf with clothes. Perhaps you lack confidence when it comes to pairing scarves with outfits, worrying that they won’t match. We say it’s time to stop worrying and start boldly wearing those beautifully colored and patterned scarves with whatever you want.

Spoiler Alert: the Scarf Doesn’t Have to Match

Many of us have been brought up to believe there are rules against mixing and matching certain colors and patterns. These rules can hinder us, especially when it comes to choosing a scarf to perk up a dress, a top, or an entire outfit. Some of us feel a pang of anxiety doing something so seemingly simple as figuring out what scarf to wear with a black or camel coat or jacket.

We’re happy to report those old-fashioned rules no longer apply. You can mix non-complementary colors and patterns with patterns—with impunity. So go ahead and choose that beautiful scarf you’ve been admiring. We have some recommendations to help you make it work so you look your best.

Your Scarf Should Flatter Your Face

The most important consideration when choosing a scarf to wear around your neck or on your head is whether it flatters your face. That means choosing colors and patterns that complement your skin tone and hair color. The good news is that choosing the right scarf lets you wear an outfit in colors that don’t normally suit you. For example, if you long to wear black to achieve a chic look, but don’t because you believe black makes you look pale and washed out, go ahead and pair that cute black dress or other outfit with a scarf in your special color(s) and you’ll end up looking fabulous. It’s the color next to your face that makes the ensemble work.

Don’t Shy Away from Printed Scarves in Bright Patterns

Of course, a brightly patterned scarf will perk up any plain or monochromatic outfit. But don’t be afraid to wear patterned scarves with other patterned apparel. For example, just as men can wear a patterned tie with a striped or checked shirt, anyone can pair a patterned scarf in a similar fashion.

Scarf Fabric and Texture

In addition to different colors and prints, scarves come in varied materials, each with their own benefits. For example, wool scarves keep you warm and can be a lifesaver in frigid northern winters. But they also provide a classic, timeless look—think “Harry Potter”—particularly paired with a chunky sweater and boots. And scarves made from fine wool like Merino and cashmere are so soft and cozy, they will make you feel good even if you’re having a bad day. A plaid scarf is a wardrobe must-have, especially during the holidays.

Silk scarves, with their soft sheen and alluring drape, add a touch of elegance to any outfit. And they’re light and comfortable in a wide variety of climates, making them an excellent travel accessory. Silk scarves also represent a classic look, notably worn by iconic movie stars including Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Susan Sarandon in Thelma and Louise.

Interesting Ways to Tie a Scarf

There are myriad ways to tie a scarf around your neck for the best effect. You can style the scarf into different shapes employing a variety of knots and loops. With the help of one of one of the many online tutorials that abound, you can create chic twists, braids, ‘necklaces’, shawls and wraps without much effort. In addition to a simple loop whereby you double the scarf and hang it around your neck, pulling both ends through the “loop” in the front, here are a couple of other easy styles to get you started:

  • ‘Pretzel’ Loop – As a variation on the simple loop above, double the scarf and wrap it around your neck. This time rather than pulling both ends through the loop, only pull one end through the inside of the loop and pull the other end over the loop and through the other side.
  • Simple Knot– Hang the scarf around your neck. Tie a knot near one end of the scarf and pull the other end through the knot, making it even with the knotted end.

Depending on the shape of your head and neck and your hairstyle, these different styles can be more or less flattering. And the heft of the scarf should relate to the rest of your outfit. For example, wearing a bulky, intricately tied scarf with a skimpy summer outfit would look unbalanced.

So go ahead and wear that gorgeous scarf that looks so pretty against your face and don’t worry about matching it to the rest of your outfit. Or, rather than trying to match a scarf to your outfit, maybe you want to match your outfit to your scarf!

Is This Business Casual?

By: Orvis Staff

As a dress code, business casual is a moving target. In this fast-changing world, what is considered appropriate casual office attire today is different from what it was even just a year ago. Maybe . . .

By: Orvis Staff

As a dress code, business casual is a moving target. In this fast-changing world, what is considered appropriate casual office attire today is different from what it was even just a year ago. Maybe you’ve asked yourself, ‘are chinos business casual? What about polos, or Capris?’ Of course, it depends where you work. Certain organizations and professions—especially, for example, in the legal or financial services industries, that involve face-to-face interactions with clients—demand a more formal office dress code than others. But what are current business casual rules for the rest of us? We venture to answer this question below while tracing the evolution of the current workplace wardrobe.

Casual Fridays

Corporate casual was once reserved for Fridays—“casual Fridays”—and if your employer was truly enlightened, the summer months. Traditionally, business casual meant you could wear nice slacks, such as chinos or khakis, paired with a crisp, collared shirt or blouse. Jeans (yes, a nice pair of dark jeans is business casual), leggings, sneakers, and flip-flops were off-limits. You were supposed to look professional. These days, however, the only widely-acknowledged prohibitions include ripped jeans, grungy T-shirts, and tank tops. How did we get to this place where casual dress in the workplace is the new normal?

When Did Business Casual Become a Thing?

The genesis of today’s business casual can be traced to the 1980s nascent Silicon Valley tech world where young, talented upstarts began calling the shots, revolutionizing the workplace. In order to lure other coveted technical geniuses to their cutting-edge product development teams, high tech companies began offering various office perks, starting with a relaxed dress code. Engineers, who often went on coding binges for days on end, were not expected to wear a suit and tie; they dressed for comfort.

Even well before the tech revolution and continuing through today, creative professionals have often eschewed any kind of corporate uniform—because they can—opening the door for the rest of us.

Millennials Don’t Wear Suits and Ties

Fast forward to the present where a similar office dynamic seems to be at work: in order to attract new talent in a tight labor market, companies cater to employees. As the economy hums along, resulting in more job openings than qualified people exist to fill them, workplace culture continues to be geared toward making employees happy so they’ll stay on the job. Moreover, modern lifestyles which embrace instant communication, flexible work hours, and virtual offices, blur the lines between home, leisure, and work, making mandatory office attire impractical. And many Millennials simply aren’t accustomed to dressing up, as formal dress codes were disappearing around the time they were born.

Examples of Appropriate Business Casual Outfits

So what should you wear to work or to a function that specifies “business casual” on the invitation? Some companies make it easy by spelling it out in their employee handbook. Otherwise, you have to figure it out on your own. You might reasonably wonder: Are jeans acceptable? How about polo shirts? Can women wear Capris? And, what about shoes—are casual Sperrys considered appropriate business footwear? Here are some recommendations:

  • Jeans seem to be widely accepted as appropriate workplace wear—especially paired with a nice top—as long as they’re not ripped, unduly faded, etc.
  • If you want to play it safe, substitute khakis or chinos for jeans. The clean seams in a pair of chinos make them a conservative choice for a corporate casual environment. And corduroys are a classic look, perfectly okay for anyone asking, “Are Corduroys business casual?”
  • Polo shirts seem to be okay in many offices in summer, but not otherwise.
  • Collared shirts are still a general standard for men, at least on the East Coast.
  • T-shirts aren’t advised.
  • Women’s Capris are acceptable.
  • Shorts are generally not considered suitable.
  • Clothing that reveals too much skin (e.g., tank tops, crop tops, etc.) should be saved for other venues.
  • There is wide latitude in acceptable footwear, though flip-flops are still frowned upon. Some common styles and even brands are acceptable—for instance, many of the shoes made by Sperry are business casual.
  • For men and women, a sweater paired with a collared shirt is a classic option. Pullovers and quarter-zips are traditional, but a cardigan is business casual as well.

In general, as long as you’re wearing reasonably nice clothes that aren’t ripped, dirty, excessively wrinkled, etc., your attire will probably fall within what’s currently considered the norm for business casual wear. But at the end of the day, if you wish to be taken seriously as a professional, and don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons, play it safe and err on the conservative side. Otherwise, ask the person who hired you.

Fair Isle vs. Intarsia vs. Stranded Knitting

By: Orvis Staff


Fair Isle Cardigan (left) and Celtic Knot Intarsia Pullover
Photos via orvis.com

Sweater knits create the distinct style and pattern of your favorite cozy winter pullovers and cardigans. Change up the type of stitch, and the weight and type of yarn, and you change . . .

By: Orvis Staff


Fair Isle Cardigan (left) and Celtic Knot Intarsia Pullover
Photos via orvis.com

Sweater knits create the distinct style and pattern of your favorite cozy winter pullovers and cardigans. Change up the type of stitch, and the weight and type of yarn, and you change up the look, warmth, and drape of a sweater. Add more than one color of yarn to a single sweater and the design possibilities are endless—from subtle motifs to bold patterns to contender for ‘ugliest holiday sweater.’

Aside from office Christmas parties, best to avoid the last. But changing up the patterns of your sweaters can bring welcome variety and vibrance to your cold-weather wardrobe. Read on for a primer on some popular knit patterns and the distinct sweater styles they create.

Colorwork Knitting

If there’s more than one color in your sweater, that’s colorwork. Whether they are knit by hand or manufactured, all patterned knits with two or more colors of yarn are considered colorwork. Variations in the knitting methods and motifs create the different patterns found in both contemporary and traditional sweaters. It doesn’t matter what type of yarn is used—colorwork patterns can be woven into cotton, cashmere, and wool sweaters.

Stranded Knits

One of the most common colorwork methods, stranded knitting is used to create the majority of traditional sweater patterns, including Fair Isle knits, and Scandinavian or Nordic Knits. Stranded knits are made using two or more colors of fine yarn in a double layer, which creates a warm sweater without the bulk. ‘Stranded’ refers to the process of stranding the yarns not in use for the pattern along the inside of the fabric until they are knit into the motif again.

Fair Isle Knits

This traditional knitwear originated hundreds of years ago on Scotland’s Fair Isle, a windswept island in the North Sea. Fair Isle sweaters are beloved for their intricate jacquard-knit motifs. The exact origins of the designs are unknown, but legend holds that seafarers brought patterned textiles from abroad that inspired the women knitters on Fair Isle to create their own designs. There are scores of different Fair Isle motifs, but among the most common ones are ram’s horns, anchors, and repeating XO motifs. Classic Fair Isle sweaters feature rows of these intricate, geometric patterns across the entire sweater, knit in up to five colors. A pattern may repeat at some point on the sweater, but often every row features a distinct motif.

Visitors to the island appreciated the beauty and warmth of the sweaters and a cottage industry was born. In the 1920s, Fair Isle sweaters gained global popularity when future King Edward VIII, then the Prince of Wales, wore the style during several public appearances.

Modern versions play with the motifs, weaving them all over, or only around the yoke, down the arm, or around the hem.

Nordic Knits

Norwegians know sweaters and there’s proof they’ve been perfecting them a long time. In 2013, a receding glacier in Norway revealed an ancient wool pullover that was 1,700 years old. It was well-used, patched in places, and crafted with a simple weave in a simple design. The familiar, patterned sweaters that evolved into today’s Nordic knits first appeared in the 1600s. Like the Fair Isle sweater, Nordic sweaters feature many traditional motifs, but the most iconic is the ‘selburose’ — an eight-pointed rose pattern that evokes thoughts of hot cocoa after a long day on the slopes.

Intarsia Knits

Intarsia is a colorwork knitting technique that creates blocks of color by changing the yarn color completely, rather than stranding the unused color yarn along the inside of the fabric as in stranded knitting. If you turn an intarsia knit inside out, you’ll see a mirror-image of the design on the inside of the sweater.

Argyle, with its repeating colored diamonds, is one of the most popular and familiar varieties of intarsia knitting. Colorblock sweaters and large band stripes are often created using the technique. Intarsia can also be used to create single large images, such as a flower or a dog, resulting in sweaters with dramatic or whimsical styles.

Knit patterns weave fascinating tales of traditional motifs and techniques that evolved in specific locales before becoming popular around the world. So when you reach for your favorite patterned knit sweater, do it justice—head out to create your own winter adventures so you have awesome stories to tell by the fire when you get home.

The Sweater vs. the Sweatshirt: Two Fall Favorites

By: Orvis Staff

Crisp autumn breezes, the crunch of leaves underfoot, and the rich, oaky scent of wood smoke wafting through the air—these are telltale signs it’s time to trade those lightweight T-shirts for . . .

By: Orvis Staff

Crisp autumn breezes, the crunch of leaves underfoot, and the rich, oaky scent of wood smoke wafting through the air—these are telltale signs it’s time to trade those lightweight T-shirts for the embrace of warm, woolen sweaters and comfortable sweatshirts. When you’re spending your days cheering on your favorite college football team, in the orchard picking apples, chopping wood for the coming winter, or tucked inside your office, autumn summons a sense of warmth and coziness. Whether your tastes run to a thick lambswool pullover, or a soft cotton sweatshirt, each offers warmth and comfort in chilly weather; let’s take a look at these two cherished fall favorites.

History of the Sweater

A humble yet smart clothing staple, the wool sweater dates as far back as 230 to 390 A.D. These were simple, hand-knit shirts or tunics. In 15th century England, the garment we’ve become more familiar with was most often crafted by the wives of fishermen and sailors. Constructed from wool, which retains its natural oil, sweaters protected against the cold weather and the damp climes of the English Channel isles of Guernsey and Jersey, hence the name “jersey,” which quickly caught on throughout the rest of Europe. In the 1890s American athletes adopted the heavy pullovers and called them sweaters, wearing them before and after athletic events for protection from the cold. In an ironic twist, the garments worn by most professional athletes now are called jerseys.

Sweater styles and stitches come with an antiquity all their own. The beloved cardigan sweater was popularized by British Army officer James Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan who famously led the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava. The Aran is a traditionally off-white wool sweater with beautifully and carefully constructed stitches. It has a rich legacy carried down from the three Aran Islands in Ireland: Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer. Several of the stitches used in the Aran sweater echo Celtic art. The favorite “cable stitch” of an Aran sweater depicts fishermen’s ropes and represents good weather at sea. The “diamond stitch” symbolizes the small, neat fields of the islands, and the “Irish moss stitch” is symbolic of abundance and growth.

Sophisticated Sweaters

If you’re wondering whether sweaters are appropriate business casual attire, the answer is yes: a sumptuous cashmere cardigan layered over your favorite blouse is perfect for an afternoon in the office, yet still stylish and understated. Whether it’s a chunky wool cable-knit crewneck on a frosty winter’s day or a luxurious Merino pullover paired with slim-fit jeans and ballet flats for a quick bite to eat in town, these timeless knitted pieces give you endless options. Sweaters remain chic and make the perfect companion layers in your fall and winter wardrobe.

The Iconic Sweatshirt

The sturdy sweatshirt, which dates back to the 1930s, was a drab, gray, functional affair that athletes wore while training. And as its name suggests, it was used not only to absorb sweat during exercise but to induce the same. How times have changed. While still heavily influenced by sports, the sweatshirt has cemented its place not only in sports culture but as a staple in fashion culture as well.

Nothing harkens the start of football season like pulling on a favorite, thick cotton sweatshirt emblazoned with your college alma mater logo. Memories of tossing the ball back and forth on the front lawn with dad, lazy days spent lounging around the house, or grabbing your favorite sweatshirt before heading out to the movies with friends—are all wrapped up in this soft cotton classic.

Modern Sweatshirts: from Functional to Fun

There’s more to this simple garment than meets the eye. Crewneck, zippered, or hooded, sweatshirts provide warmth and an effortless style to your fall wardrobe. If you’re looking for a way to dress up your sweatshirts, consider adding a patterned scarf over a solid sweatshirt and pair it with slim-fit jeans for a sleek yet fun look. Taking your sweatshirt from “ho-hum” to “oh wow” is a breeze with the simple addition of a statement necklace and heeled shoes or boots. A sweatshirt layered over a collared, button-down blouse and paired with a pencil skirt is smart enough to wear to the office.

Whether you prefer the luxury of a classic cashmere turtleneck sweater or the classic, relaxed feel of a sweatshirt to help ward off the chill on these cool fall days, you have myriad options to add both understated elegance and chic comfort to your fall wardrobe.

How to Wear a Sleeveless Cardigan

By: Orvis Staff

It’s too warm for a sweater, but not quite warm enough to go without. You need a versatile layer to wear when you’re looking for a little extra warmth—or just a dash of style. Enter the vest . . .

By: Orvis Staff

It’s too warm for a sweater, but not quite warm enough to go without. You need a versatile layer to wear when you’re looking for a little extra warmth—or just a dash of style. Enter the vest cardigan.

What Is a Vest Cardigan?

A vest cardigan is a sleeveless cardigan—essentially a sweater vest that buttons or is open in the front. The cardigan sweater first gained popularity as menswear for its resemblance to a military uniform waistcoat, but has since become a favorite of both men and women. The classic cardigan’s sleeveless counterpart is a perfect layering piece. It can add visual interest to both office wear and casual attire. Often associated with cooler weather, a sleeveless cardigan is also a smart choice in spring and summer.

Here’s a look at a few ways to style a vest cardigan in any season:

Women’s sleeveless cardigans come in a wider variety than the men’s style. A neutral color is more versatile—you can mix and match your favorite items—but patterns offer a fantastic opportunity to bring some color into your wardrobe.

Spring and Summer

Lightweight knits and flowing versions of the open-front sleeveless cardigan are easygoing favorites. A chic, flyaway front offers a carefree style for spring and summer.

  • Go casual with a comfortable tee and your favorite jeans paired with an open, sleeveless cardigan.
  • Top off a fitted dress when with a cardigan in a similar length.
  • An evening out calls for a patterned sleeveless blouse, fitted stretch ankle pants, and a coordinating long cardigan vest.
  • Wear a sleeveless cardigan over a pencil skirt and blouse for a day in the office.
  • Bring a nautical feeling to your next vacation with a red or yellow sleeveless cardigan over a three-quarter sleeve striped crewneck.

Fall and Winter

Play up the cozy vibes in cooler months with a long, sleeveless cardigan. Chunky knits, waterfall or shawl collars, and fur-trimmed sleeveless cardigans are wintertime favorites. Part sweater and part jacket, an open cardigan offers a little extra warmth as cold winds blow.

  • Layer a cardigan vest over a turtleneck or crewneck shirt for a simple silhouette.
  • Cinch the waist of an open sleeveless cardigan with a statement belt.
  • A festive plaid shirt styles well with a cardigan vest for casual parties or days spent shopping.
  • Dress up a winter getaway with a faux-fur or faux-shearling trimmed sleeveless cardigan.
  • Cashmere and Merino wool bring a touch of elegance to the cozy style.

A sleeveless cardigan can carry you from summer straight through to next spring. Skip the sweatshirt on the weekends. Instead, button up in a cardigan vest for a comfortable, put-together style you can don for a day around the house or on the town.