Styling Silk for Summer
The drape and sensation of silk on the body feels just as wonderful as it looks.
I am a huge silk enthusiast and enjoy wearing my silk garments year round. My mindset —silk is one of the finest natural textiles available to elevate our day-to-day style. For too long silk has been a textile reserved for special occasion garments. Fortunately this outdated sartorial ideology is giving away to the concept of silk as a suitable fabric for every day dressing. The inclusion of silk in the everyday wardrobe brings an appealing juxtaposition of a luxe material fashioned into unfussy silhouettes for ordinary pursuits.
I understand for some the decision to choose silk as a key fabric in the everyday wardrobe is a complicated issue. In recent years silk production has come under pressure from human and animal welfare groups. Therefore, some companies are halting the production of silk garments and consumers are abstaining from purchasing silk products. However, I ardently believe, there are very few suitable synthetic alternatives to silk textiles. Although, there are reports that claim the process of silk production has a significant environmental impact, in regard, to carbon and water footprint, there are silk producers committed to reducing the carbon footprint and harmful waste. Many synthetic alternatives are equally very polluting and are frequently fabricated from petroleum products and treated with toxic chemicals. Synthetic alternatives also take hundreds of years to biodegrade and release harmful toxins into the soil and air. Silk, on the other hand, decomposes in one to three years without the release of harmful toxins into the environment. The benefits and the extraordinary natural properties of silk greatly outweigh any drawback or downside of choosing it to build a better wardrobe.
History of Silk
Silk’s history is steeped in nobility and prestige. Chinese folklore credits Empress Leizu for the discovery of silk. While partaking in the ritual of drinking afternoon tea, a cocoon dropped into her tea cup. Upon extracting the cocoon from her cup, the threads began to unravel from the heat of the tea. Empress Leizu was captivated by the luxurious silk threads. She entreated her husband to plant a grove of mulberry trees to harvest the silk worms for their beautiful threads. She is attributed to inventing the silk reel, an instrument which joins the silk filaments into a thread long and strong enough for weaving, as well as, the silk loom.
Regardless of how much or any of this folklore is factual, China has a long history in the production of silk or sericulture. Silk cloth, became a luxury material highly prized and a very lucrative commodity of trade for the Chineses among the foreign nations of the ancient world. Although silk was exported across the Eurasian continent and beyond in vast quantities, the art of sericulture remained exclusively Chinese for three million years. Although silk production (today) is manufactured in the countries of India, Uzbekistan, Thailand, Brazil, Korea, and Japan; China still leads in the production of silk.
Silk Composition & Properties
Silk has some amazing qualities. It is the strongest natural fiber available with extremely high tensile strength or the ability to stretch and retain strength. A thread of silk is stronger than a wire of iron in the same diameter. Silk is an ideal summer fabric as it is highly absorbent and dries quickly. It can absorb up to 30 percent of its weight before becoming damp. In the warmer months, silk can efficiently cool the the body by wicking perspiration away and allowing the skin to breathe. And yet it provides insulation in the colder seasons, keeping the wearer warm and cozy. Silk takes dyes and pigments exceptionally well, thus the explanation for silk garments extraordinary saturated hues. Its low density or thickness makes silk very light and comfortable to wear.
Silk Momme Count
Most individuals are familiar with the term “thread count.” A fabric term to measure a piece of cloth’s overall quality. To distinguish the quality of a silk cloth, the measurement is in weight or “momme.” The simplest explanation of momme assesses the weight of 100 yards of silk, 45 inches wide, in pounds. When a silk cloth is listed with a momme weight of 10mm, this means that 100 yards of silk cloth weigh 10 pounds. Generally, silk textiles range between 6 mm on the lower end to 30 mm on the higher end. Increasing the momme count creates a cloth that is luxurious, durable, and substantial.
Hand washing is generally the preferred method of laundering silk garments. But you can machine wash with a mild detergent and on a delicate setting — cool to cold water. I use mesh bags when machine washing my silk garments. Tumble dry on a low heat setting or hang to air dry. Be extremely careful when drying silk garments in the dryer, as excessive heat or temperature dulls the surface and can cause shrinkage. My preferred method is to hang dry as most wrinkles will disappear. However, should a few stubborn wrinkles remain, I lightly steam or press with an iron on a low setting with the garment inside out. Please don’t dry silk in direct sunlight, doing so can fade the color and damage the fibers. Repeated washing and wearing can cause subtle fading and softening of silk garments over time, but gentle washing and cleaning only when necessary will minimize these effects.
How To Wear
I like to select silk garments much like I choose my linen separates for the warm-weather wardrobe. I opt for silk garments in soft, fluid or slightly, relaxed silhouettes. Choosing semi-fitted to loose shapes allow for pieces that are simple in design but still versatile and adaptable. Simple silhouettes that flow away from the body, keep me comfortably cool the way I need when the day is a scorcher and my skin is clammy. (Silk is made for summer’s humid days and dewy nights.) Plus I love the sensation of billowing silk fabric and the ease of movement it gives.
When the summer heat gives way to autumn chill, we can layer our silk pieces with cotton, wool, or velvet. A silk cami can be worn on its own during the peak of summer, but layered under a velvet blazer for winter holiday. A simple silk tee dress can be a staple for a variety of summer activities, but come autumn wear it under a denim jacket and boots for a leisurely but stylish outfit for weekend pursuits.. A basic silk skirt can be dressed up or down, worn alone or layered, and go from day to night whether it’s summer or autumn.
My favorite brands for warm-weather silk separates are Elizabeth Suzann and Cuyana. These clothiers make silk pieces of exceptional quality that are extremely simple, but still make a fashionable statement
A better wardrobe revolves around a few key core pieces. Elevate the concept of your warm-weather wardrobe to an entirely new level when a few essentials are fabricated from silk. The presence of silk in the everyday wardrobe demonstrates our appreciation to wear the finest materials nature has to offer for all the moments of our life.
Please note: I do not receive any form of compensation from the brands mentioned or represented in this article.