Knowledge about fabrics and their properties is not very popular. Of course, we all know that natural fabrics are good and synthetic are bad; and that is mostly accurate. However, it is good to possess more detailed information about what to expect of the blouse or dress you would like to buy. That way, we will not be disappointed when it actually is not great to wear every day, because you sweat in it, it wrinkles or does not keep shape very well. Our shopping choices will be considered, rational and even economical because we would also look at the price and see if it is adequate. A $100 polyester dress is not usually worth it.
What is the basic division of fabrics? There are natural and chemical fibers. Natural fibers include vegetable (cotton, linen, ramie, bamboo, etc.) and animal fibers (silk, wool, cashmere, etc.). Chemical fibers divide into synthetic (polyester, polyamide, elastane and more) and artificial (viscose, lyocell, modal, etc.). In this article I will briefly characterize natural fibers: cotton and linen. Other natural fibers, such as coconut, bamboo or ramie do not occur often in clothes, and it they do, they are only additions to the main fabric, such as 80% cotton and 20% ramie.
It is safe to say that we all know how cotton plant looks like. The pros and cons of this fabric may be a little tricky. Let me point out the advantages of cotton. It is anti-static, because it can absorb large amounts of water. It is resistant to chlorine, pressing, ironing and boiling, which are why you can wash and iron it in the highest temperatures (mostly white cotton, though). Cotton is durable and resistant to stretching. Moreover, you will not sweat in it, so it is brilliant for summer.
There are not that many disadvantages of cotton. It does not keep shape of the clothes very well, it gets dirty quickly and it is flammable. It can also shrink over time, although not much. Contrary to some beliefs, it does wrinkle because it is not very elastic.
Linen is also a natural fiber and a very popular one. It is excellent for summer months, because it has cooling properties. It is hygienic and hypoallergenic. Compared to cotton, it is more durable and does not get dirty quickly. It is also anti-static. You can wash and iron white linen in the highest temperatures.
The biggest disadvantage of linen is that it wrinkles a lot. That is why blends with cotton or other fabrics can be beneficial because it will not wrinkle that much and other properties will be improved as well. If your linen blouse wrinkles always in the same place, be careful because the threads can eventually break. Linen also does not retain shape of the clothes well.
The information above is a little shortcut to fabric knowledge. I did not mention ethical and ecological aspects of cotton and linen production because this is not my area of expertise. However, in my website articles I include brief notes about it. If this subject is also important to you, there is plenty of information in the Internet.