Do you have a problem wearing synthetic fabrics like polyester or is it just me?

by Sylvia

What is polyester - properties and advantages and disadvantages of fabrics

I was out shopping with a young Singaporean woman last week, when she noticed me checking the clothing labels. I explained to her that I always check the labels before buying anything as I’m keen on only wearing quality fabrics and preferably no synthetic fabrics. I was surprised to learn that she wasn’t aware of all the different fabrics and their qualities. To her it clearly didn’t matter what fabric a garment was made of (so lang as it looked good of course) and price was a far more important factor.

I also see these fabrics on some of the most stylish bloggers. Unfortunately, many times when I really like a garment from a picture, I’m disappointed that it’s 100% polyester. This is a fabric I will just not buy in the stores. It certainly limits a lot of my clothing choices as a lot of the bright garments are made from Polyester.

Understanding the different fabrics

Even I don’t always know the specifics of the different fabrics and to be honest I SHOULD know as I once completed cerfification for the knowledge of fabrics (above an image of my notes from all the fabric testing we did). I carried out (burning) tests knew all the fabric’s names and their qualities and could distinguish them by smell. It’s surprising how much I have forgotten.

So for a little brush up for us all, here are some of the main fabrics and their qualities (most of the research was done through Wikipedia):

FabricWhat is itAdvantagesDisadvantages

ANIMAL FABRICS

woolHair of domestic goats or sheepLess conbustible than cotton or synthetics, easily returns to original shape, keeps you warm, is breathable, resistant to tearing.Pills easily, dull fiber, stronger dry than wet, can itch, can mildew/mold, will deteriorate through sunlight exposure.
CashmereHair of the indian cashmere goatSoft, lightweight and silky.Can be expensive.
MohairHair of the North African Angora goatSoft and easier to dye, light, absorbant, non-flammable, absorbs moisture, resistant to creases.
SilkAnimal textile made from the fibres of the cocoon of the Chinese silkworm Most hypoallergenic of all fabrics, soft and beautiful shine, highly absorbant and lets your skin breathe, durable, light.expensive, yellows with age, needs special care and dry cleaning, leaves water spots.

PLANT FABRICS

CottonA soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium.Hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant, durable, environmentally friendly, soft, breaths well.Creases, easily soiled, burns easily, weakens with exposure to light.
ModalA cellulose fiber made by spinning reconstituted cellulose, often from beech trees. 50% more water-absorbent than cotton, can be dyed like cotton and is colourfast, resistant to shrinkage and fading, lightweight, appearance of silk, soft and smooth.Prone to stretching and pilling.

SYNTHETIC FABRICS

PolyesterPolyesters include naturally occurring chemicals, such as in the cutin of plant cuticles, as well as synthetics. Used in all types of clothing, either alone or blended with fibres such as cotton.Easily dyed, strong, light weight, and resistant to shrinking, stretching, mildew and creasing. Sun resistant. Main disadvantage is that Polyester does not breathe. Fabric shine can be unattractive. Stains are difficult to remove. Not environmentally friendly.
AcrylicA fibre used to imitate wools, including cashmere.Woolly feel, durable, soft, colour fast, easy to clean.Not as warm as wool, can irritate the skin.
Viscose or rayonViscose is a viscous organic liquid used to make rayon and cellophane. Viscose is becoming synonymous with rayon, a soft material commonly used in shirts, shorts, coats, jackets, and other outer wear.Viscose rayon has a silky appearance and feel, breathable similar to cotton, inexpensive.Not environmentally friendly, creases easily.
NylonA tough, lightweight, elastic synthetic polymer with a proteinlike chemical structure. Used to imitate silk.Very resilient, easy to care, resistant to insects, fungi and mildew.Not absorbant, can have an unpleasant sheen, environmentally unfriendly, prone to static electricity.
Spandex or LycraA polyurethane product that can be made tight-fitting without impeding movement. It is used to make activewear, bras, and swimsuits.very elastic, good resistance to lotions oils and perspiration, light weight, strong and durable, soft, smooth, easy to care for.Does not breath very well, slippery on surfaces, sensitive to heat, will show every blub on your body!

COMBINATIONS

VelvetA closely woven fabric of silk, cotton, or nylon that has a thick short pile on one side.Depends on the fabric it's made of.
SatinA smooth, glossy fabric, typically of silk but also nylon or polyester, produced by a weave in which the threads of the warp are caught and looped by the weft only...: "a blue satin dressLuxurious, smooth, silky, drapes nicely.prone to water spots.
OrganzaA thin, stiff, transparent fabric made of silk or a synthetic yarn.Lightweight, fine, crisp and sheer.

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My main issue with synthetic fabrics like polyester

The main problem for me of synthetic fabrics like polyester is that they don’t breathe. This results in a feeling of humidity all the time and I find it generally unpleasant. Many synthetic fibers also look too shiny and cheap to me and just don’t give me the same sense of luxury, comfort and happiness as natural fabrics like cotton, wool and silk.  Synthetic fabrics when worn as trousers also hugely irritate my intimates and I have learnt never to make the mistake of buying 100% synthetic pants.

So I’m very picky about the fabrics I buy and always check the labels. I’m always astonished as to how few natural fabrics are on sale in a humid country like Singapore. Even expensive brands like Diane von Furstenberg stock a lot of synthetic materials and charge high prices for it!

Brands that feature a lot of natural fabrics

Here are some recommendations of brands that feature natural fabrics. Please check the specifications of each individual item though! If you have some further recommendations, please let me know by leaving a comment below and I will update this list.

So I really wonder: is it just me or are you picky about your fabrics as well? Do you check the fabric label before you decide to buy something? How particular are you about fabrics and what are your favorites? How much more are you willing to pay extra for a quality fabric?



{ 146 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tanya

I am very picky about fabrics and refuse to buy anything made of polyester, mainly because it doesn’t breathe. I completely agree with you on the disappointment of finding out that designers charge an arm and a leg for polyester.

I used to work in technical sales and picked up some advice about dressing/looking like I don’t need the sale, which meant selecting richer-looking fabrics for my suits. I started with polyester suits due to budget, but after reading that piece of advice, switched to wool and the occasional cotton or cotton blend. What surprised me was how much cooler light-weight wool pants are, even lined, in the heat than polyester.

I also take a note from men’s clothing. Although synthetics are becoming more prevalent, their clothes are still mainly made of natural fibers.

My budget is still limited, so I usually wait until the end of a season to pick up pieces in wool and silk. I’ve been giving viscose/rayon some thought as that fabric is prevalent in the fast fashion stores, but after reading your note on its environmental effects, I may have to reconsider.

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2 Sylvia

You are so right about wool. When buying a suit I always went for (cool) wool. Cooler and so much better looking. However, I no longer work in an office and since Singapore is hot, I tend to go for cotton more now.

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3 Tangobabe

I understand where you both are coming from. For me too, certain fabrics just are too (what I call) ‘plastic’, so I skip those. For underwear, like Sylvia writes, I definitely want cotton to avoid irritation. And for socks cotton and wool, to avoid sweaty or cold feet.

If money was no issue and if my favorite articles would be available in fabrics like cotton, silk or wool, I would choose for that if I consider the feeling, the breathability and sometimes the look.

For me, there is however one other important aspect besides cost and comfort and that is maintenance. The first thing I check in the labels is the wash prescription. My preference is ‘machine washable’: a cheap and easy method. ‘Handwash only’ is not handy, but still acceptable. ‘Dryclean only’ is something I will try to avoid, except for coats. Way too expensive in maintenance and too complicated.

This criterium unfortunately often contradicts the one of comfort and breathability, since fabrics like wool and silk are usually not the ones you just throw in your machine ;-).

And since my style is more one of loose, sheer layers, then of body hugging clothes, breathability is not such a big problem, in general.

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4 Sylvia

Totally understand that as well. But the labels are not always reliable. Afraid of claims, labels will always be rather safe than sorry. I find that my silk tops can be washed in water, but yes, they do take additional work…

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5 Chicatanyage

Interesting. I do try to avoid polyester. Thought viscose was more natural and made of wood pulp. I find it a lot in quite expensive clothes

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6 Sylvia

You are right, that is why viscose is still breathes like cotton. But there are chemicals involved with the creation and apparently it’s very polluting. Here is what wikipedia says:

At first wood pulp is dissolved in caustic soda and after steeping it for a specified period of time it is shredded and allowed to age. Aging contributes to viscosity of viscose. The longer the ageing time the less viscosity it will have. The aged pulp is then treated with carbon disulfide to form a yellow-colored cellulose xanthate, which is dissolved in caustic soda again, but of a lower concentration. This is the starting stage of viscose formation. During the process an acetate dope is added to alkali cellulose which is necessary for the yarn lustre. Viscose currently is becoming less common because of the polluting effects of carbon disulfide and other by-products of the process, forcing some factories to close. One way to comply with sulphur emission standards is to install a wet sulfuric acid process unit which recovers sulfur compounds to sulfuric acid or use the Lyocell process which uses N-Methylmorpholine N-oxide as solvent.

Let’s hope they do that.

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7 Ana

No, it’s definitely not just you. As a general rule, I absolutely detest completely synthetic fabrics. I’ve accepted that a lot of times, I’m going to get something with a pretty low synthetic mix — say 5-15% — and I can live with that. I don’t mind a tiny bit of spandex in a pair of otherwise cotton jeans, and such, but pure polyester or acrylic just gives me the shivers. Very much a case of too-often being cheap and shoddy-looking, and also, I just hate the way it feels. Borderline synthetics like Modal and Viscose are basically OK with me, because they breathe.

If I lived in a climate as hot as yours, I’m sure I’d hate it even more than I do.

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8 Sylvia

Yes, I’m ok with Spandex too and if the fabric looks decent and I really like the garment, I sometimes go for mixes…

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9 Kris

I agree totally. I will occasionally buy blends, and like Ana, I don’t mind a bit of spandex to make things more comfortable, but totally polyester- no way! As “hot flash Hannah”, I have to be cool and comfortable, or I am not a nice person! As a bit of a contradiction, however, I am finding that exercise-wear made of microfiber are comfortable, and I even sleep in “long johns” made of poly microfiber, because they DO seem to breathe, and I have found that keeping my body temp relatively constant helps to stave off night sweats. I think that is because they are knits, and not wovens, and they are a far cry from my grandmother’s bright green polyester doubleknit pants. Microfiber feels ok on my skin, and in athletic weaves, it seems to wick the perspiration away pretty effectively. Maybe manufacturers are actually using their brains for a change!

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10 Sylvia

Good point Kris. Most of my sportswear is synthetic too. Special fabrics that keep you drier when you sport. For some reason I can tolerate those and specially made dry-fit fabrics do help with sport!

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11 Cynthia

When the hot southern summer sun hits polyester, it is NOT a pretty thing. I have a whole Pinterest board called “Too Bad It’s Polyester” for things I like the look of but will never buy.

I learned in lampworking class that many synthetic fabrics basically conduct heat into your core. I made the mistake of wearing a cotton/rayon or maybe cotton/poly blend tee to class one day and could feel the fabric heat up and heat me up. Had to change so I wouldn’t heat stroke. Sun on any kind of high poly blend has the same effect at a lower intensity.

For day wear, I can do viscose/rayon, although I notice that it heats up in the sun more and doesn’t breathe as well as cotton or linen. Microfiber exercise wear and woven technical fabrics are a totally different animal and don’t seem to cause the same issues as poly. My Athleta capris are comfortable in the summer.

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12 Sylvia

What a great idea to make such a pinboard! I might consider doing that as well. Perhaps it will make manufacturers more aware that we DO care about fabric quality.

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13 Anne @ the Frump Factor

I buy a lot of cotton/polyester blends, which (in my view) give me the best of both worlds while avoiding the pitfalls of both. I also like viscose and some rayons. Mostly, though, I don’t go by the label; I go by the look and feel of the garment. If it looks too shiny, feels scratchy, or doesn’t breathe, I probably won’t buy it. And even some all-natural fabrics fail this test.

Synthetic fibers have come a long way. I don’t think it’s quite true any more that all polyesters don’t breathe. (Isn’t athletic wear often made of polyester fabrics that actually wick sweat away from the body?) So I really just go by look and feel. Do I love well-made garments created exclusively from high-quality, natural fabrics? Yes, of course. Can I afford to buy them all the time? No.

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14 Anne @ the Frump Factor

Oops — one of your alert readers already pointed out the athletic wear issue. Sorry! 🙂

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15 Sylvia

A cotton/polyester blend can work well. I guess I have just become extra sensitive to polyester as it really is too hot for Singapore. Synthetics are definitely great for sports!

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16 Aleya Bamdad

I always prefer natural fibers because my skin can breathe more freely in them. However, today the quality of the synthetic fibers are much better that what they used to be so once in a while if I love something I’ll pick it up. As far as evening gowns go, I don’t have much of a choice because silk can go for a thousand or more.

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17 Sylvia

Yes, you will need to be creative with evening gowns. Lucky I don’t have many black tie events!

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18 Kate

As a lady who attends many white and black tie events, I cannot agree that silk dresses will go for that much money. I’ve been able to find wonderful dresses and gowns made of pure silk at incredible bargain prices. I don’t shop in designer boutiques, but rather on-line, in vintage shops and dress agencies. Also, I am a decent seamstress and that certainly helps.

I loathe synthetic fibres, and avoid them at all costs. I am dismayed that so many clothing manufacturers offer polyester, nylon, and other man-made materials. Is it my imagination or was there lots more silk clothing in shops just a few years ago? I seem to remember that not even 10 years ago many dresses were made of silk. I have some Ann Taylor Loft dresses from that time, and they are 100% silk. Now, even Ann Taylor offers more polyester than anything else.

The first thing I do when looking at a garment is checking the label for fibre content. If it doesn’t meet my specifications I won’t buy it. I don’t care how pretty it is. I do make an exception for viscose, which, although it wrinkles easily, is fairly pleasant to wear. I find that viscose can be handwashed and dried on a towel without losing its shape or shrinking too much.

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19 issy

I am 48. I avoid polyester in most cases. Though I will buy something in polyester if it is lightweight and “breezy” and for just a season or two. Now that I am having hot flashes, synthetic fabrics are harder for me. But I do love a ponte knit pant or skirt in the Winter.

I do however, not like cotton for exercising. It is just too hot and sticky to work in AND get approriate coverage. So I do tend to go toward synthetics for excersing.

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20 Sylvia

Thanks for your comment Issy. I too use sportswear for exercizing. Should probably have mentioned that in my article!

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21 Heather Fonseca

WOnderful post! I love that list of fabrics as I’ve forgotten so much as well.
On polyester, I think I dislike the idea of it more than the reality. I do have polyester garments and they don’t bother me at all physically. Wool, on the other hand, is impossible on my skin as I have a lanolin allergy. I do really dislike acrylic sweaters though and I won’t buy the,m as they tend to pill. Wish I could afford more silk! And cashmere!

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22 Sylvia

I usually wait for the sales to snap up the silk. It’s just the most perfect fabric for dressy blouses and tops in Singapore!

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23 Greetje Kamminga

I like your list. Now I finally know what “Modal” is. Always wondered about that.
Synthetics don’t bother me at all. Not even during my hot flashes period (which, thank God, are over). They might bother me a bit more when it is really hot. But when you live in Holland you don’t really have to take sunshine into consideration. LOL.
Therefore I never look at the label. Which sometimes gives me a nasty surprise: like a white shirt that calls for dry cleaning only….. And I know you are right Sylvia, that manufacturers put these things on labels for no reason other than to avoid claims, but I don’t dare to take the chance of washing it myself.
Wool is difficult for me. It irritates often, which I feel immediately when I put it on. And it pills quickly which means it looks shabby in no time. Exceptions to that rule are cool wools and cashmere. And then we are talking serieus money.

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24 Sylvia

You are lucky. Unlimited choices in the shop!

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25 Greetje Kamminga

In that respect, yes I am. But it is not a frase my bankmanager would use haha.

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26 Nanne

I try to stay away from some synthetic fabrics, and I won’t buy for instance acrylic knits. I don’t like polyester either, at least not anything that’s 100 % polyester, but some blends can be ok, like in blazers which is not worn in direct contact with my skin. And I do like milano fabric in pants and dresses for winter, which I think contains a small amount of polyester. I like wearing viscose garments too, too bad that it’s not environmentally friendly. And of course I totally agree when it comes to sportswear, as I’m a jogger and need moisture wicking clothing for that.

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27 Sylvia

I think they CAN make it environmentally friendly if companies are just willing to make the investment of getting the proper filters. I agree polyester can fine in blends or for blazers. I have succumbed to a blazer with a blend as well. Will see how it goes…

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28 Kim,USA

I do have a problem with polyester. It sticks on my skin when I am sweating and just don’t have any flow or body. I also feel very uncomfortable it hug the bulges on the body, lol! I love cotton. ^_^

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29 Sylvia

Exactly why I don’t like it!

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30 Robin

Kim-What do you wear for exercising? Almost all workout wear is made of polyester or poly blends. It’s purpose is to wear while sweating.

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31 Kate

I am not the one you asked, but I wear cotton leotards with a bit of lycra. I used to dance ballet at a professional level (3 hours of training 5 days per week for 20 years) and am very fit. The problem is that an athlete’s body sweats more than average people, because their bodies are so efficient. I sweat quite a bit.

Of course, cotton absorbs sweat, and I just live with the fact that my leotard or other clothing will be soaked after 15 to 20 minutes. I’ll just take it off when I am done, shower, and put it in the wash. I went for a 10km run with my husband the other day, and wore cotton shorts and a tank top. It was okay. I just don’t like the feel of artifical fibres.

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32 tania

I am so happy I read your opinions! I was in London this weekend and I was shocked to discover that about 95 percent of clothes in the shops was from polyester!!!! I would never buy it, it’s disgusting, you immediately sweat, it’s full of static electricity and it looks cheap… At the end I didn’t buy anything which never happened to me in LONDON! I stilll wonder who wears it? And why is it so widespread this year?! please STOP IT!!!!!

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33 Sylvia

Hi Tania, I think it’s because people want more clothes for less money. I think we have to get the focus back on quality again and getting people to buy less clothes but higher quality. This is one thing I will try and do more this year.

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34 Kate

This is very true: fewer clothes and more quality! I love vintage shopping, and thanks to growing up with a hobby seamstress mum, I know quite a bit about fabrics and sewing techniques. Most modern clothing — even in the middle to upper price ranges — cannot hold a candle to vintage items.
I don’t know if you are familiar with Marks & Spencer, a British retailer in the lower-price category — what I’d call typical high street. They’ve been around since the 1880s and used to have all their clothing made in the UK. Their house label was called St Michael. Two years ago, I bought a 1950s tweed skirt with box pleats from that label. The fabric is amazing: thick wool tweed woven in Scotland; ample seam allowances, finished edges, hand stitching (in the pleats, buttonholes), darts in the lining to prevent bunching, etc. The attention to detail is amazing, and is only available in couture clothing these days.

This skirt was made for the average woman, not a society lady, and it is almost 60 years old, but it still looks great. I am almost certain that most of our clothing won’t be around anymore in 60 years as it will have fallen apart.

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35 Melinda Nowers

So glad I found your blog….and yes, I am picky. Although every once and awhile, I do break my own rules. I am a stylist and explain this every time to my clients. It’s very frustrating when the higher end labels use synthetics. Thanks to your chart though I did not realize Modal was a combo. Good to know….Melinda
thestyleexpress.com

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36 Elizabeth

This becomes a problem when you are into vintage clothing……. 😛

In any case, I start itching if I so much as LOOK at acrylic.

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37 Sophie Davis

I have long held a passion for quality fibres and, if selected carefully, they can be a fantastic investment.

The first myth I would like to dispel is that they need to cost a lot more than man-made fabrics. Yes, they can be extortionate, but shop around and you can find some very good items which are realistically priced. The initial outlay for man-made fibres may be less, but in all likelihood, the product won’t last as well or look as good.

Secondly, I couldn’t agree more with Sylvia about the qualities of nature fibres versus man-made fibres. A scarf made of 100% acrylic may be a bright splash of colour on a dull winter’s day, but it won’t keep you as warm as one with cashmere or silk.

Additionally, a beautiful silk scarf needn’t been reserved for cold days – it can still be worn on a summer’s evening because, as Sylvia points out, it allows the skin to breath. You’d look pretty daft with an acrylic bundle wrapped around you, so that scarf is going to stay in your drawer for half the year unused! Doesn’t seem quite such good value now, does it?

As a retailer of pure silk scarves, I come across a percentage of ladies everyday who simply wouldn’t spend the money on this sort of item. They love it, they stroke it, they covet it – but they won’t buy it because they consider it too extravagant. Sure, we all have a budget. However, spending a few more pounds on something wonderful can make us feel top of the world.

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38 Kate

Dear Sophie,

How very true! I, too, pay lots of attention to fibre composition and details such as stitching. You are spot on in your assessment that most people only look at the purchase price. I have a formula that I use when buying clothing: purchase price divided by the number of times I wear the item. I have a lovely Diane von Furstenberg silk wrap dress that I bought at Harrods (fellow Brit here 🙂 ) for full price several years ago along with a Burberry jacket.

Both items together were quite expensive indeed (almost 800 quid), but this is a dress that I can wear all year long. I probably wear it 25 times in an average year — with tights and a woolen coat in winter, and with bare legs and open-toed shoes on a cool summer day. I handwash it and put it on a towel to dry. The same is true for my Burberry jacket — lots of wear and washes (despite a dry cleaning only label), but it still looks great. I figure that my “cost-per-wear” for the DvF dress, which was roughly £275, is little more than £1.

The lesson is to not just look at the price on the shop’s tag, but to calculate how much wear you’ll get out of it. You may be surprised to find that the seemingly high-priced designer item is less expensive than a £25 dress from Primark or Matalan that falls apart after two times in the wash.

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39 Anthea

I loved reading your comments here – I’ve often thought I’m alone in the irritation I feel – physically – if I try to wear polyester or acrylic – and mentally, when I see shops full of these fabrics. But now I’m noticing how many garments say that they’re viscose, when they look and feel like polyester. I’m wanting to buy some summer clothes to head off to Africa: it’s only when I reach the heat that the acid test hits I you know the truth of what I’ve bought [it’s snowing now where I live so little chance of finding out at home]. Does anyone know a way – prior to reaching the sunshine – of telling whether something truly is viscose or polyester?

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40 Sylvia

In school we always did burning tests. Viscose, being cellulose, would burn rapidly, leaving an ashy residue that smells of burnt paper. Polyester melts and has a more oily smell, with black smoke. All this will not be of much use in shops though, so all you can do is trust the label…

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41 Marlena

Yes, there is a good way and that is to feel the fabric. Viscose has a cool feel to it. When you touch it you will know what I mean, it just does not seem to warm at all even if you have warm hands. It always seems cooler. It also has a more “meaty”, or “weighty” feel in your hand.
Polyester on the other hand feels more rough and unbreathable. It feels like plastic, as if you can wrap your hand in it and it will almost be waterproof. Feels like if you rub your hair against it it will be static.
If you do not feel this way about the fabric then it ia probably a blend with cotton or similar, and the bad effects will not be as strong and I would say it is safe to buy.
Hope it helps! Please check out my blog as fabrics and accessible quality fashion is the topic as I am so passionate about it!
Marlena
http://Www.thehighstreetdaily.com

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42 AO

As someone who sews I have a passion for fabrics and can tell what a cloth is by the feel and so understand the pros and cons of synthetic fibers. The cons are many the pros are few. Why anyone would want to wear a cheap synthetic fiber I can’t understand. Especially as underpants – eck. People forget we are ourselves organic creatures. Wrap smoked ham in plastic wrap and it will sweat and smell yet if you use a ham cloth it will last a while. Common sense. Ego overcomes sense and the desire for fashion at an affordable price dictates & guides the ego. I do own some synthetic items (its almost impossible to avoid them now) yet I look at the quality feel and weigh it against the price, however in some case they make sense as in quality outdoor and protective clothing, and women’s bras have used synthetics for years but are still able to be comfortable and long wearing. What most people don’t understand is that its all about price and making a buck. The almighty bottom dollar. Natural fabrics take time and money to produce. Synthetics quick and easy. The price of cotton world wide has risen and so producers are adding synthetics to make it stretch out and cut their costs. Bottom line is if people buy they will continue to use it. Its is the consumer that dictates. I personally have spent big money on gorgeous silk and natural fiber items. In turn I look after my garments and they last. I’m not adverse to a bit of viscose/acrylic but the items don’t last and end up in the rag bag. I’m sure many readers have been devastated when they have to throw out a cherished silk, linen or cotton item, not because it looks like a dish cloth or has little lumpy bits, or even lost its shape but because after years and years of wear it just simply wore out, yet it still managed to look and feel great right to the end – and I bet compliments have been given on it as well. Think quality over quantity. But the world of fast food fashion is brain washing the masses.

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43 Alice

I’ve enjoyed reading the comments on this. I live in Brisbane, a sub-tropical climate with usually hot, humid summers. The only way I can keep cool is to wear cotton garments. I’ve been dismayed lately at the amount of viscose clothes in the cheaper clothing shops recently. I bought a couple of viscose tops (one woven, the other knit fabric) to see how I went with them but they wrinkle badly after hanging in the wardrobe, even when they came off the line fairly wrinkle free after drip-drying; and I’m sure they’ve also shrunk – so I think these will be heading for the bin soonish – a waste of money. So back to reading labels on garments in the search for cotton. Good quality cotton, knit or woven, can have very good wearability properties, but it’s hard to find. So the shops won’t be making much money out of me buying new clothes as I’ll be on my perpetual search for cotton. I find it great even in winter – as well as allowing your skin to breathe, it insulates your body to the temperature you need.

Something new that has appeared lately are garments made of knit linen. I’ve bought a few and find they’re very comfortable to wear, don’t wrinkle and don’t need ironing like woven linen.

Has anybody had any experience with clothes made from bamboo, which also seems to be around?

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44 Sylvia

thanks for your feedback Alice. I’ve personally not experienced bamboo yet, but hopefully others will see it and give you your feedback..

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45 Greetje

No sorry, I don’t have any experience with bamboo either. Am intrigued by the knit linen. Should be lovely, linen and not creasing. Wow. Have not seen that in the shops yet.

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46 Carmen

Most of my casual blouses are made of bamboo. I purchase them from Chicago’s Merchandise Mart during a once a year One Of A Kind Christmas shopping featuring different designers in the USA and Canada, sometimes Asia. I love this material. I was not careful with washing them the first time, now I treat them with TLC as I replenish them. Gentle wash cold and delicate or no heat dry process. Hang to completely dry, no need to iron.

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47 Sylvia

Thanks for great feedback Carmen!

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48 Sheil

I’d add my voice to everyone who doesn’t touch polyester with a barge pole. It’s both uncomfortable and ugly, cheap looking. I can spot it at 100 metres. I don’t mind viscose since it seems breathable and keeps well. I’m ok with buying mixed garments – cotton or other natural fibres with man made, as long as there’s not too much in it. I find in the right proportion, they help each other and can make for a good product.

I won’t buy acrylic products either because they degenerate very quickly and find it an inferior ‘wool’.

In a tropical climate, I would certainly want to buy natural fibres. I don’t know how people manage to wear anything else. I can only assume they are made into very loose garments(?)

I do prefer natural products, but can’t always afford them, and some/many are often of inferior quality. Some linen garments are really itchy. I don’t know if it’s just me. A good linen product is a thing of love, to me. It is cherished.

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49 Sylvia

Thank you for taking part in this conversation Shell and giving feedback!

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50 Crissy

I recently became aware of the natural feel of wearing 100% cotton clothes. I haven’t purchased anything synthetic this entire year and I’ve never felt better in my clothes. I also switched all my bed sheets, blankets and towels to 100% cotton as well. The feel of natural fibers in your life is so worth it, i recommend it to anyone!

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51 Sylvia

Yes, it makes a real difference. Thanks for your feedback Crissy!

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52 Omkari

Not only are synthetics (especially polyester) uncomfortable to wear, they are not healthy for you or the environment. They off-gas in the landfill, take years and years to decompose (if ever) and don’t allow your body to naturally release toxins. People who have to manufacture this “textile” and make garments from it are at a great health risk. Studies have proven that these workers are showing higher incidents of breast and lung cancer. Don’t buy polyesters!! This is the only way the clothing industry will listen…. when their polyester, health risk garments remain on the racks and the natural fibered ones are purchased and adorning our beautiful, healthy bodies.

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53 Sylvia

Thanks for the feedback Omkari. I hope many women will read this and stop buying less polyester. Sofar the amount of polyester only seems to increase in shops….

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54 Delaney

Hi, I don’t know how old this article is since I can’t find a date on it so I’m sorry if I’m beating a dead horse. I just wanted to correct you when you said that polyester is bad for the environment. Sure, it’s not the best, but it’s more or less the same as cotton as far as impact is concerned. The extra energy needed to create polyester is about equal to the energy saved from laundering polyester in comparison to cotton. In addition, polyester is recyclable and can thus be turned into a new blouse, skirt, or whatever after it’s been soiled whereas cotton is turned into insulation or other uses. Also, if reference to the scientific process, yes you are wearing plastic when wearing polyester, but you are wearing plastic textiles which naturally have holes in them as a result of being woven together. The size of the threads can be determined giving polyester textiles all different feels to them, which is why in my experience I’ve never felt like I was wearing a plastic bag on a hot day, in fact many of my summer blouses are made from polyester. It’s quite a versatile fabric, and while certain pieces of clothing aren’t suitable for a hot day, it’s because that’s not what it was made for.

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55 EmilyAnn Frances May

I agree with your commenters about the quality and beauty of natural fibers. I want to add a different point of view concerning the price of clothing and affordability. Given the ongoing difficult times many are having in this economy, many people are obtaining necessities like clothing by buying the lowest price items possible. Synthetics and blends are widely available for many lower income people. Consider how much money a wardrobe for the office would cost a secretary making $30K per year. A pure wool suit would be at least $200. A wool blend much less and a polyester suit would cost maybe $50. When rents consume over half the monthly take home pay, there are many considerations to make when purchasing things like clothing.

For those who can afford natural fiber clothing and fabrics for sewing one way to help out is to donate these high quality garments to charities that help outfit women who are re-entering the workforce after completing an educational program. Or pass the clothing on to people you know who need some helping out.

I think some solution can be reached by finding ways to recycle synthetic fibers like they do in Japan.

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56 Sylvia

Yes very good point EmilyAnn and great suggestions!

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57 Nina

Tired of suffering through scoring desert summers, I jumped on the not-polyester train with gusto in the fall of 2012. My closet is now cotton, linen, silk, and rayon. It’s heaven.

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58 Sylvia

Yes it can make a real difference!

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59 Ariel

The thing with polyester textiles is the wide variety of types of fibers that are not included in the tag. Polyester is a polymer, basically plastic. That means that you can mold it into whatever you want, and there are polyester threads of widely different properties. In most cases, the more noticable difference comes in the filament count. There are many polyester fabrics that are indistiguishable in comfort and properties to cotton, because of a high filament count and a good quality texturizing process (not to mention microfilaments, which have great properties). But it is harder and more expensive to make than polyester with a higher filament count, so most clothing made from polyester is of the lower-grade. The thing is, in the cases where higher quality polyester is used there is no mention of it in the tag, because, in essence, it’s still polyester. You can also give the textile all kinds of inherent properties, from flame-retardancy to impermeability. My point is, don’t hate on polyester because most of is low-grade, and don’t rely entirely on the tag; feel the clothing first, usually it’s enough to tell.

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60 Sylvia

Yes very true Ariel. But as you say it’s not easy to determine how good the polyester is when you’re in the shops….

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61 Laura

There would be no way to know how hot a garment will feel in the summer without buying it first, so I just do not buy it. Feeling it by hand is not enough. It all feels awful to me anyway.

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62 GalAboutMtl

Hi all! I am ALSO trying very hard to avoid polyester in my wardrobe….but its REALLY difficult! Any suggestions of North American retailers that do a good job of staying away from synthetics, and still offer stylish clothes?

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63 Keith

I just looked at all the shirts I love the most and they are either 100% polyester or a high percentage mix. To me, when polyester is turned into the right kind of fabric, it is the coolest, most breathable, and no unsightly sweating color change when outdoors in some nice hot sun. My exercise wear is all polyester, and I have grown to hate cotton for all it’s flaws in the heat. If I want to keep warm, then I’ll use cotton. Wool is an itchy nightmare. Hand or gently washing my synthetics, and hanging to dry, keeps them so perfect compared to cotton. I wonder why women’s polyester clothing isn’t as wonderful as I think it is.

I got here looking for more info about fabrics, so surprised to see dislike for synthetics.

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64 Kate

Keith, I apologise for being blunt, but polyester really isn’t a wonderful fabric. As polyester is essentially plastic (it’s a petroleum-based polymer), science has proven over and over again that it does not breathe at all. I really don’t know why you would call your polyester shirts breathable, when every chemist will confirm that polyester fibres do not possess breathability unless you cut holes in the fabric. When wearing polyester you are essentially wrapping your body in a plastic bin liner (from a chemical persepctive): http://www.essentialchemicalindustry.org/polymers/polyesters.html
Also, cotton doesn’t really keep you very warm at all. It is a breathable fibre with a high water absorption capacity (polyester repels water, btw). Cotton is a fibre suitable for warm climates. It’s not good for cold, wet weather as it has quite poor insulation capabilities. This is a fibre characteristic, and not dependent on the weave.

I don’t really understand why you would call wool an itchy nightmare unless you are perhaps allergic to lanolin. Merino wool is well-known for its heat retention and insulation abilities, and has been used by outdoorsmen for centuries. The shepherds and farmers in the mountains of Bavaria, Austria, and Switzerland still wear specially woven woolen jackets, cloaks and coats because they protect so well from the elements. Essential in an area where the weather can go from a pleasant 20 C with clear blue skies to a snow and hail storm within 60 to 90 minutes.
http://www.merkur-online.de/aktuelles/bayern/mm-mehr-zuschuesse-bayerische-bergbauern-298562.html and http://www.fotos.sc/gali_+192589/gallery.html

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65 EmiyAnn Frances May

Keith, well thought out comments based on your own experiences. For me, some natural fibers are also very disagreeable since I’m allergic to goats hair and certain woolens make me itch. I once worked with an interfacing that contained goats hair (I think it was Armo hair canvas) while making a dressmaker suit. My hands began to itch and turn very red. I had not checked the content of the interfacing before buying. Although Armo gives a lovely shaping to a woman’s suit for someone like me it would result in a very costly visit to the dermatologist.

What I’m trying to say is that we all have different needs and different responses to fibers. There should always be a variety available. What needs to be done is find a way to creatively recycle all kinds of fibers when our clothing is no longer serviceable as a garment for ourselves or as a give-away to others.

If I have a year end bonus I could splurge on something lovely but the hard cold reality is that luxury items during this prolonged recession are the province of those who can afford to buy them without having an impact on their other responsibilities. If one can do so they by all means enjoy your shopping and spending. make your choices and respect the choices others make.

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66 cat

I always check the labels, hate buying polyester for the same reasons – it looks cheaper and makes me feel ‘damp’. Why are manufacturers ignoring more natural products? Why aren’t designers using more viscose, which still breathes and can look like jersey, silk, or cotton? I find shopping incredibly frustrating, as most dresses are either entirely polyester, or a polyester spandex mix. I have heard about higher quality polyester having more breathable properties, but not yet found it, even by feeling the material. I am not a pure material fanatic, as viscose or rayon is fine with me, but having a wider choice of materials available would be nice.

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67 liz

Yes!! I ALWAYS look at fabric type. Polyester is a total deal breaker for me, too. Bummer as it seems to have replaced cotton in a lot of clothing lately. I, too, have noticed that higher end stores are selling garments with poly, and for an arm and a leg. They would have to pay ME to wear such things.
Thanks for this article.

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68 Jeanette Ball

Totally agree about synthetics – here in Australia where it is hot and most of the population live on the coast (read:humid) our stores are filled with polyester garments.

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69 Heather

I hate wearing anything synthetic and living in the tropics means I need natural fibres. I found it really hard to find anything made of natural fibres when I first came to Singapore years ago so I started making my own clothes again. Now I think there is a little more available in natural fibres but I have more selection and control of what works for me with going to the fabric markets and sewing. I do not mind the creases that natural fabric give, and yes polyester fabric does not crease and always looks good but it is not a fabric for the humid weather. I always check the fabric labels before I purchase anything. I wish they were easier to find on the garments as sometimes there are none.

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70 Sylvia

Yes you’re right that details are sometimes hard to find here. I don’t think there are specific regulations here (as I know there are in Europe). Well done for creating your own clothes!

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71 Laura

I will not buy anything with any amount of polyester in it. I sweat a lot as it is. UGH. Even stores like GAP are now adding a lot of poly to their tees, etc. Fabric content is the first consideration after looks for me.

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72 Shirley

I have respiratory reactions to synthetic fabrics; polyester and rayon being the worst. (Even washing the item doesn’t help). I am able to wear a small amount of cotton clothing with spandex content below my waist but cannot wear spandex above my waist – again the respiratory reactions, including a headache. I wear 100% cotton tees, and tank tops when exercising. Cotton and small amount of spandex content for the bottoms. I don’t have any trouble finding cotton tops and I shop online often. For dress selections I am limited to cotton and silk and the search for dresses is challenging. Fabric content is first thing I check. It is a comfort to know that I am not alone in this difficulty of searching for synthetic free clothing.

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73 Sylvia

Hi Shirley, Wow I never realised reactions to synthetic clothing could be so severe. Thanks a lot for your feedback.

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74 One Bert

Polyester is superior to cotton. All Nike Dri-fit and Adidas Climate Control apparel is made of 100 percent polyester. It fits better, keeps you dry, keeps it’s size, retains it’s color, and doesn’t stains easily contrary to what the writer would have you believe. This article is nonsense when it comes to that fabric…

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75 Sylvia

For sport yes as it needs to do different things. Here in Singapore I also prefer the dryfit sportswear to cotton but for normal wear polyester is definitely not the way to go.

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76 Kate

No, One Bert, this article isn’t rubbish. Polyester is not superior at all. I suggest not buying into the marketing hype, but studying the actual science behind the making of polyester. Feel free to wear your plastic, but don’t tout its superiority to others who know more about fabrics.
http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/polyester.aspx
http://www.popsci.com/article/cotton-vs-polyester-which-gym-clothes-trap-most-body-odor
http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/09/05/346055067/stinky-t-shirt-bacteria-love-polyester-in-a-special-way

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77 AM

I also shop by looking at labels due to the lack of breathability for the synthetics. It is really tough to find natural and breathable clothes that are stylish and available locally.

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78 Laura

I agree with you that I avoid buying synthetic fabrics whenever possible. My body seems even more sensitive to breath-ability because I find even synthetic athletic fabrics that say specifically that they are breathable are not breathable enough for my body. Does anyone else out there find athletic garments that say they are breathable not breathable enough? I can wear something from cotton or wool and feel comfortable but when I put on something synthetic in the same environment I am suddenly hot and uncomfortable. I can wear a mix of the two fabrics and depending on the percentages, I can feel comfortable. A little synthetic material (<20%) is usually fine for me.

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79 Lala

Hi 🙂

Yeah I’m the same too. It seems as though here in the UK,people don’t pay much attention to materials when buying clothing and are sometimes ready to fork out £100 on a polyester dress which cost £10 pounds to make just because of the brand name. Quality is often forgotten. However I’m French and in France ,people pay much more attention to those kinds of things. You’ll often see people asking the shop assistants what material the clothing is made out of just as you do.
The following rule tends to be true over there: The more high market the shop,the more natural materials they use and when they use sythetic it can be a mix of very good quality stuff.

I however, CANNOT wear polyester or acrylic for more than an hour or 2 as it makes me sweat soo much and for some reason it also tends to make my sweat smelly which is something I don’t get from cotton or wool. 🙂 Makes me itch too. BUT I find that good quality gymwear is almost always synthetic and I prefer it to cotton sports wear which just seems to absorb all the humidity. Pretty interesting contradiction really 🙂

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80 Jessica

I, too, wear predominantly natural fibers. Pretty much all of the observations made in others’ comments are why synthetics don’t work for me. (My body does seem to do fine in rayon, although I did not know it was so polluting to create). I especially like bamboo–it is so soft and silky, but I don’t know if it, too, requires a creation process that is not environmentally friendly.
In less than two months my son is getting married (a winter wedding in Houston). His bride really wants me to wear a formal mother-of-the-groom dress to conform with her mom’s and stepmom’s choice in wedding wear. I’ve been urged NOT to wear black, but after hours of searching, I am not finding natural fibers in formal wear (except black). Does anyone have a suggestions as to where to look? I have olive skin but could wear deep teal, forest or sage green, deep plum, some browns–like chocolate, navy. I’d like 3/4 or long sleeves or a jacket if dress is sleeveless. I’m about 5’7″, (38AA), 140lbs. (Size 8-10.) The bride’s desire is that I wear tea-length or maxi hem. I’d prefer to spend $250 or less (so probably no silk), and want to be able to use the dress again.
Thanks for any leads. 🙂

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81 Sylvia

Hi Jessica. You may like to look at this article for inspiration https://40plusstyle.com/how-to-dress-mother-of-the-bride/ even though prices tend to be quite high for this store. Other than that it will be a matter of trying every store. I found this dress https://40plusstyle.com/the-blue-green-party-dress/ at Cos, which is a (brushed) pure cotton, but you will need to lucky to find something like this. You can also check my selection of dresses here which come in a variety of fabrics: https://40plusstyle.com/fabulous-dresses-and-tunics/ Good luck and enjoy the wedding! (By the way, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event; I once made the mistake of not spending enough on a major event so I do believe in spending more for special events like this. Perhaps you could consider a silk dress after all).

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82 Nina

Hi, Jessica. I second Kate’s separates suggestion. I chose separates for my friend’s wedding who had a similar request. Her wedding was held in the middle of summer. She had a 3-color scheme that flattered most skin tones. I wore an olive linen ensemble – maxi skirt, tank, collared jacket – and it turned out great!

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83 Kate

Hello Jessica,

I firmly believe that formality exists on a continuum. I completely understand both your future daughter-in-law’s wish that you dress formally and avoid black (it really is overrated and overdone), and your desire to find something in a natural fibre and flattering, rewearable cut. My advice is separates! Separates can look as formal as you wish them to be – a full, floor-length ball gown skirt and matching bustier can be white tie appropriate – or the very same skirt can be more casual when paired with a blouse or a simple cashmere jumper. You can also select a sleeker skirt silhouette. I will post some image links later. I am currently on my Ipad which makes switching between windows very difficult.

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84 Connie Anderson

I am a highly sensitive person. It was near impossible to find school clothes as a kid. Acrylic must not breathe. I get so hot in it. It would be good for park as. I usually stick to cotton with a hint of something else so it won’t shrink. I couldn’t stomach polyester. But I love microfiber in blankets, etc. It is just impossible to find clothes that don’t scratch, don’t make me feel like I am in a sauna, pinch, bind, etc. I love to dress nice for work, outings, etc.. But, like you said: too many synthetic materials and very cheap sewing from third world countries (WomanWithin).

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85 metta jr

Hii……am from Tanzania….
I always prefer to wear cloth made from cotton since it makes me comfotable

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86 Jennifer

i am an elderly lady who cannot wear synthetics at all bras are a nightmare I break out in a really firey sore rash if I try I am big busted so do really need a bra but cannot buy a all cotton one anywhere..ideally I would like some made but can’t even do that,always wear cotton tops and pants no nylon taboo

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87 Nancy

Ever try girlease bra liners , they are great ! Company is in San Diego CA. Found them one line . This is a step up from when grand ma used to put tissues in bra ! LoL. Also try gold bond powder or other anti fungal powder or OTC anti fungal cream after clearing with your doctor of course.

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88 Christiane

I just wanted to suggest to take corn starch instead of Gold bond because it’s the same stuff but they had chemicals in it for preservation (apparently It helps to preserve but corn starch is one of the best and versatile product that ever exist with many anti-bacterial, anti-viral and fungal and so on in it… I also wanted to add that I too i’m very picky with the material i wear and always check the label. Cotton, bamboo is new to me and i love it, wool, leather etc… even my household has to be as closest as possible to true material like wood. I’m sick of finding plastic in everything and everywhere. Today i was actually looking up for a pillow i saw on FB. The filling inside is call Fossflakes so i want to know what the flakes are made up of and that’s how i fell on your site… This is the ingredients i found… The filling material of the Fossflakes Superior Comfort-U Body Pillow Senior is a unique blend of 70% Fossflakes Essentials (polyethylene) and 30% Fossflakes Clusters (siliconized polyester fibers)…. How good is that? Completely turned me off… too bad it was a nice body pillow.

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89 Rasna

Hello!

I am very picky as well! It is nice to see that I am not the only one. It doesn’t matter how beautiful a garment is, if it is polyester or rayon I don’t buy it. I stick mainly to cotton and silk, and sometime cashmere if I can afford it.

Thanks for this great article.

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90 K. Louise, Spoonie Style

I have a facebook page and fashion blog for people living with chronic illness and/or chronic pain–a common side effect for many medications is sweating for no reason, in addition to the fact that many chronic illnesses come with a “broken” personal thermostat and/or extreme skin sensitivity. This makes polyester a very difficult fabric for my readers to wear, and probably 2/3 of the research I do on clothing is spent just checking fabric content. I make a point of including plus-size items (weight gain being another common side effect of maintenance meds and limited physical activity) and about 97% of plus-size clothing, including very high-end items, is polyester. I do allow, with some caveats, clothing made of nylon or occasionally acrylic, since these at least have slightly better moisture permeability….and since virtually every bra in existence is made of nylon or polyester, it’s an important distinction at times. For the commenter Jessica, looking for a mother-of-the-groom dress, you may want to look into Rent the Runway–an option which allows you to rent extremely high-end gowns for an event rather than purchasing them outright. Soft Surroundings is a nice source for highly embellished pieces and items in quality fabrics that come in regular and plus sizes. For simple basics, J. Jill is perhaps the best at reliable quality and timelessness–their fit model is very boxy, however, so sizing down or having small alterations made may be advisable for some who prefer a more curve-skimming fit.

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91 Pauline

Im With You. Cannot Wear, Or Wont Wear, Synthetics.

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92 Ann

Couldn’t agree more about polyester and other synthetics. I too am an avid reader of labels. I have to disagree about wool however. I have sensitive skin (made worse by chemotherapy) but I wear woollen underwear in winter—I have some which feels like silk. It all depends on the right wool. Superfine merino is the way to go, not cheap stuff from China. And I have to also disagree about other fibres keeping one just as warm as wool. The only ones that do that are other natural fibres such as alpaca or cashmere —which can be obtained for a reasonable price if you shop around.

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93 Rosie the Grouch

Hi Ann,
I’m very curious to know where you find (soft) woollen underwear? I have never seen that. In fact, even just 100% cotton underpants are hard to find where I shop (Northern and Central Europe).

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94 George Kiama

I am also concerned about Polyester because it is hard to clean I have some few Polyester clothes.I normally don’t look at the fabric when buying.In Africa many people are not aware of fabrics and their qualities.

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95 Nikki Franklin

I also always read labels anything cotton silk linen mix are good for me. I have also recently tried viscose & does seem to breathe quite well. I find assistants in shops seem a bit mystified when request what fabric contains & wish sometimes the writing was a big bigger as very hard to decipher. Thanks for the list of fabrics & their qualities

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96 Cindy

I find polyester hot, and I am upset that it is almost all the jeans I have shopped for including Gap, Old Navy and Loft.

If anyone knows of jeans that are cotton only with some spandex maybe, let me know.

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97 Kate

Hello Cindy,

I don’t know what type of jeans you like, but when I wear denim, which doesn’t happen very often, I choose Seven for all Mankind. Mine are 96% cotton with a bit of spandex. I also have a pair of J. Crew jeans that are cotton with just a bit of stretch, and Banana Republic still makes 98% cotton jeans with a hint of spandex for better fit.

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98 jennifer

Hi there. For jeans and t-shirts that are mostly cotton with a bit of spandex try American eagle outfitters! Infact I found very few with polyester and I look very carefully as I appear to have a sensitivity to polyester.
Many of aeo have viscose as well which is so soft and comfy.
T-shirts are 100% cotton. Check out the yoga pants as well .
I hope this helps. Their prices are agreeable too.
Jen.

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99 Mavis

Hi there – I could not agree more – I cannot wear synthetic materials as I get so hot and water really does run down me (perspiration)! Why are so many garments made of it. Even expensive clothes. Don’t they realise it causes so many problems and is so bad for the environment. What can we do apart from not buying the goods but others do not see it and just buy all the time.

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100 mxine

Hi, im a graphic designer living in rarotonga, cook islands. I found this blog because of my research on buying a sublimation that print designs on fabrics for display and hoped of printing on a variety of fabrics but to my dismay it will only on POLYESTER, the thank you for the info its important for us to use breathable and environmentally friendly fabrics and in the last 15 years we have been seeing an increase in polyester sarongs and fabrics not suited to our island climate…puzzling? Like why? I almost was going to purchase this amazing printer but only by cause the colours looks so hood and vibrant. Thank you:-)

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101 Carla

I am a label checker also, polyester makes me sweat. It also affects my deodorant. 100% cotton or silk for me.

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102 Jessica

I love the look of polyester shirts and love that they last longer than other materials like cotton. However, all of my polyester shirts stick to my skin which cause a very unattractive look (shows my stomach) and is obnoxious. Any advice on how to help this issue would be very appreciated! I have thought about a cotton undershirt? I have polyester undershirts and that makes everything stick together.

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103 Sylvia

Yes a cotton underskirt could help. Of course this issue is one of the reasons I avoid polyester skirts myself.

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104 VICKIE

Your list failed to mention the most wonderful fabric for clothing or home furnishings, and that is natural flax linen. As I have grown older, comfort is my number 1 issue in clothing, due to health and other concerns. I began making my own loose style of clothing with linen because I could not find the style and fabric I wanted in the stores. Linen is the way to go for all clothing as it is breathable, antibacterial, and comfortable in all seasons. I suggest that anyone dealing with health issues, menopause, or just want a more organic way of living to try linen. I wear nothing else!

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105 Sylvia

Thanks for letting us know Vickie!

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106 Rosie the Grouch

I also couldn’t help noticing that linen was missing from the list. Two other plant fabrics missing are hemp and bamboo 🙂

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107 Mary

I agree, Vickie, this past year I’ve been hit hard with Perimenopause, and I’ve been searching for clothes that are breathable. Linen has been the best, but I still have not found a bra I can comfortably wear.

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108 Valerie

Its such a relief to find someone who thinks like me …. I really hate all of this synthetic fabric that seem to be everywhere these days. Polyester, nylon and spandex are the worse ones for me. I know of many women who shop in ‘second hand clothing’ stores for just this reason where they can pick up items with quality natural fabrics.
AND … whats with the use of Merino wool ??? When I was young this was only used for carpet and the like because it was so tough. Why are we not using the softer wools – you would think Merino was the only sheep that roamed this planet.
Anyway Vickie, thanks for publishing … its a very interesting read .

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109 Ann

I don’t know where you live Valerie, but it is well known in Australia that Merino sheep produce the finest wool. It may have been used for carpets when you were young but years of careful breeding have reduced the micron reading so that it can now be used for all-season wear, even summer. I do agree with you about the synthetics though—horrible and uncomfortable.

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110 Andrew

I have to disagree; A poly-spandex blend such as in activewear is almost exclusively all that I’ll wear. The colors don’t fade, the fabric is taut and durable, it’s supportive, looks vibrant, much easier to wash, less expensive to wash (cold water, gentle cycle, low heat dry), doesn’t hold onto water and sweat like cotton and similar fabrics do, stretches and conforms to the body, more resistant to shrinkage, and is not a source of nutrition for bugs or other pests.

Plus, what difference does it make if a cotton shirt or a polyester shirt is out in a landfill? It’s still gonna take years and years for either one to decompose.

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111 Jeannie

It’s true that a polyester shirt could take up to 200 years to decompose, but a cotton shirt takes less than one year to decompose, often less than 6 months.

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112 Mabel

Ummmm …. exactly!!! less than one year – which basically means they dont last. At all. i wear designer clothing – i want it to last longer than just 1 year!! completely agree andrew – synthetic fabrics are more comfortable, hygeinic and durable.

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113 Dan

Reading the many comments regarding how many find it difficult to locate 100%
cotton apparel, I’m compelled to introduce my family’s company, Needham Lane.
Designed in USA and manufactured in India, all of our products, dresses, skirts, tunics, sleepwear, are made in 100% cotton. Visit our line at http://www.needhamlane.com

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114 Leola Kielty

I am 83 years old and cannot wear polyester and other similar fabrics. My entire body gets very cold and sweaty all over. In recent years I find lots of fabrics made of cotton with some polyester which I can usually wear. However, for many years starting in 1950 thru 2010 it was impossible to find cotton blouses and shirts. For years I didn’t realize what was causing me to be so uncomfortable and clammy all the time. I would advise everyone to only put cotton clothes on their babies. When my son was born (1951) I didn’t understand about fabrics and I am sure he suffered from the fabrics I put on him. He was a sweaty and fussy baby. Please mothers, only put clothes on your babies that are cotton or at least 50% cotton. Carter makes lots of them.

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115 Karen Griffin

Thanks for these comments. Since I started menopause I have had such trouble keeping my body temperature regulated and finding comfortable clothing. Cotton without polyester is becoming harder and harder to find. I buy only 100% cotton sheets and cotton or wool blankets. Otherwise I’m miserable. It makes it hard to go somewhere – I usually travel with my own bedding, which makes me seem ungrateful as a guest when I use my own bedding. I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who notices how polyester makes you so uncomfortable. Even when signs say “cotton” they might not be more than partly cotton. Keep reading labels! I especially love the comments about the babies. I see these babies wearing the most outrageous get-ups sometimes in the name of fashion. Poor little guys!

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116 LiLi

Nice read overall. Be careful listing above fibers. Modal and Viscose/Rayon are artifical fibers (a mix of chemical and natural materials)

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117 Valerie RJ

As many have said, it’s nice to see it’s not just me.

One issue for me is, fabrics with a high polyester content (heaven forbid 100%!) not only don’t breathe, but a lot of times they don’t give. Especially when you’re talking a button down shirt.

The primary issue is, polyester (and most manmade fibers) make my skin crawl. I seem to have skin that is sensitive to touch. I have the same problem with wool, cashmere, and angora. Feels great when I touch them with my hands, but I put it on and it makes me swat at whatever is trying to touch me. Especially my face.

If I wear it too long it will actually cause my skin to hurt…

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118 Mark

I am also with you. I will not wear anything polyester, period.
I find it astounding that a company like Underarmor is so successful. Their clothing is almost elusively polyester.

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119 Dan

For those seeking 100% soft cotton sleepwear and apparel, I invite you to visit my company, Needham Lane,website, http://www.needhamlane.com

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120 Karianne

Thanks for writing this article! For me synthetic clothing is a no-go to, mostly because of the static shocks you get when wearing these fabrics. In The Netherlands it’s cold quite often so the heating is on at home and everywhere you go. The air gets very dry because of it and synthetics will give me shocks with almost everything I touch.

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121 Charlie

Viscose syntetics? Absolutely wrong. Viscose/Rayon is made from cellulose. Cotton is also cellulose. It is breathable which is impossible for a syntetic fiber. Modal is also viscose but a little stronger.
You better check your sources.

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122 Sylvia

This is what Wikipedia says: Viscose is both a semi-synthetic fiber, formerly called viscose rayon, or rayon and a solution of cellulose xanthate. The latter is produced by treating dissolving pulp with aqueous sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide which is used to spin the viscose rayon fiber. Although a large part of it is cellulose, it’s still very much a man-made fabric. It’s actually declining in popularity due to its high pollution levels.

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123 Laura

Thank you for this fabric information. I always question polyester because I’ve been told it’s changed from when it first came out years ago, but I still find that it does not breathe unless it is a lower percentage combined with another fabric such as cotton with exception to polyester and spandex. Many times I find something that I really like with beautiful colors and learn it is 100% Polyester. I pass. In regards to Mohair which should be soft and comfortable I don’t understand why I find that it itches.

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124 Aaron

I landed on this page while looking for advice about electric blankets — they all seem to be made of synthetic fabric. I wanted to know the difference between “non-woven polyester”, and, well, ordinary polyester. Until about 9 years ago, I slept between sheets that where a blend of polyester and cotton. When I got my first pure cotton bed sheets — WOW! — the increase in comfort was AMAZING. I actually slept more peacefully, woke up well-rested and in comfort. Now I can almost say I’m allergic to polyester. But I guess there’s no such thing as a cotton, or wool, or even silk electric blanket. I’m thinking that the cotton sheets I use will shield me from the dreaded polyester, but I know polyester to generate a lot of static electricity. In my case it’s especially bad because I have long flowing hair, which itself sparks when I comb it (which I rarely need to do anyway). Any info & advice would be most welcome.

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125 Me

Non-woven is most likely a fleece like material.

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126 Maureen

I agree for the most part. I much prefer natural fibers in general, but every once in awhile will find a polyester blend that works for me and wears well. I like that I can grab it in the morning without having to iron. I recently brought a beautiful poly/spandex dress which I have never done before and I was pleasantly surprised how comfortable it is. Possibly manufacturers are improving the quality a little these days.

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127 Ainun Najwa

Thanks for writing this article!
In the recent years, human have known how to make their own fibers by synthesizing the cellulose like molecules from oils example are polyester and nylons. The synthesizing forms are quite flexible and often very poor in breathing and hence they should always be mix with cotton.

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128 Anabela

It’s nice to learn that it’s not just me that looks at fabric labels! What’s also upsetting is that active wear/ sports where your skin should breathe because your sweating, a lot of Sports wear is polyester and expensive! They cheap out on quality but still sell it pricey!
I just don’t like how polyester feels on my skin and knowing that it’s not environmentally friendly makes it worse.

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129 vix

I am more concerned about how a garment looks and feels than fabric content, but I, too, have trouble wearing polyester. I have a couple tops that are labeled as polyester, but feel more like rayon. One is woven and the other is light knit. I have a couple other light knit items that are polyester but are very light and soft. I can wear these, too, but they are not very cool in summer. I have no problem wearing rayon, although it does not hold up as well as most other fabrics. Rayon feels cool in hot weather, but tears easily when wet. This means it does not hold up well for wearing during strenuous activity when you sweat. I have been having a lot of trouble finding night gowns. I absolutely cannot wear polyester or poly-cotton blend nightgowns. Polyester is usually made of short fibers that pill after a few washings. Pilled polyester feels like steel wool against my skin. There was a company that made the best cotton nightgowns until about ten years ago when they started selling 60 percent cotton, 40 percent polyester gowns. Soon nearly all the nightgowns sold in better department stores were made of poly-cotton. I am very careful at looking at fabric labels when I shop for nightgowns. It does not matter how careful I am. Sometimes I see a gown that says 100 percent cotton, but the “hand” of it feels just like polyester. Designers are also using more short staple cotton. That too will pill just like polyester. Unfortunately, I think that in the future we will be seeing more short staple cotton in our clothing because long staple cotton is very expensive to grow. Growers need to use a lot of pesticides on it. Short staple cotton is not as susceptible to the pests that can ruin long staple cotton crops.

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130 Anja Sutcliffe

Hello, I am searching the net for women that share my concern about polyester and synthetic clothing across the board especially in women’s fashion. I am one of those women who cannot wear polyester and nylon and depended on cotton clothing my entire life. Not just when we are 40+, synthetic clothing irritates younger women as well. I got so fed up with the industry, specially in the legging market, that I developed my own brand of colorful cotton leggings. I opened my company Just for Colors in August 2016. It took almost a year to develop the company and my product to design and perfect the fit and the cotton fabric for my leggings. My leggings are designed with the mature women’s body in mind with a design that doesn’t squeeze us into shape but pants that give us flexibility and breathing room while conforming perfectly to our natural bodyform.
I found in the last 20 years that polyester and nylon kicked out cotton in the entire industry, including leggings, I was unable to find cotton leggings anywhere in the stores or online that where colorful and cheerful. I did find them for my daughter and was always mad that there is nothing for us older girls out there in cotton. Blacks and grays are dominating the market.There is nothing wrong with a black or grey legging, but if that is all there is than there is a problem. I don’t want to wear blacks and grays, I love color and I love fun designs and prints. Leggings for everyday wear, specially as a stay-at-home mom, who just wants to feel dressed and comfortable in functional clothes, that can be washed with ease and thrown into the dryer without feeling static. I have suffered my younger years with eczema and still have a tendency to very dry and easy irritable skin, thus I avoid synthetics at all cost. The same can be said for women’s bras, there is nothing , absolutely nothing out there in cotton, just very unfashionable sport bras, that look terrible after a few times in the wash. Accommodating bras and panties are next on my designer heart. I also would love to experiment with other sustainable fabrics, specially with clothes that directly touch the skin.
I am asking for help in introducing my cotton leggings to the market in finding women who encounter the same issues that I have in a world that has put plastic in our daily lives and has taken over the clothing industry and convinced us women that we have to wrap ourselves in plastic to be fashionable. My skin needs cotton, it cannot breathe without it. I am a women over 50 and I want to be fashionable and wear fun clothes that won’t compromise my health.

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131 Fiona Blair

Hi
Please check out my good friends facebook page – she is of the same opinion as you with her clothing line and will never make anything out of polyester!

Regards
Fi

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132 Simone Altmann

An interesting and informative blog. I too am a label looker as I just can’t tolerate synthetic fibres. Mela Purdie an Australian fashion designer uses a fabric called mouseline tec polyester. I can’t seem to find any information on this fabric. Although it sounds synthetic it is a fabric that I can wear. Can anyone shed any light on this fabric?

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133 Kate

I definitely avoid polyester, it gives me an awful rash. Also, it makes you sweat smell much worse. Once I slept in a hotel with 50% polyester sheets and I got all itchy.
Last few years I find it more easy to find cotton jeans without polyester.
But now I’m shopping for a summer dress and it seems 90% is polyester!
Viscose is ok, it breathes, no humid feeling and no rash. (I thought it was natural)

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134 Paul

Well I just read all the comments and then went and checked all my clothes and was shockingly surprised that most of my best looking shirts and pants are 60% cotton and 40% polyester.
On the other hand all my 100% cotton clothes looking dull just after a single hand wash. I don’t know about the rest of you but I want to look good and wool, linen and cotton doesn’t do it for me.
There is a reason why there is so much polyester and nylon out there. Cause it looks good and very durable.
In my view girl will sacrifice a bit of discomfort in order to look amazing rather than look like a granny in a wrinkled, cheap looking dress.

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135 Sylvia

Combinations of polyester with another fabric can look good. But many polyesters actually look cheap and don’t look good in my opinion. As with anything it depends on the quality. However, the main reason why there is so much polyester and nylon is because it’s cheap to produce and brands simply make more money from it.

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136 Megan

Hey There,
I love the breakdown of these fabrics as I am always explaining the differences to people after I took a textiles class in college. My biggest fabric beef is with rayon, not so much woven raton but the rayon spandex blends because even if you dont dry them they shrink to much over time. My favorite is linen..obviously because its breathable but also because it can get a little baggy throughout the day whih I actually like. I hate when people complain that linen is too sheer or shrinks, like no sh**t do your research before buying fabrics.

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137 Lisa

Who cares, most people can’t afford to buy all their clothing in natural fibre fabrics. I see something I like, I try it on and if it looks good and feels good and I can afford it then I buy it. I hate it when people are so laadidaa and picky about everything. Some synthetic wools and fabrics feel nicer than the animal fabrics.

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138 Laura

I don’t have a problem with natural vs synthetic necessarily. I just go by the look and feel of the garment. Some 100 percent cotton garments can also look and feel quite cheap, for example, if the fabric is too thin or coarse. I have no knowledge of garment manufacture, but I usually look at the stitching to see if a garment is higher or lower quality. Messy stitching or crooked seams are a dead giveaway. I also like to see that that the patterns match up along seams or at least don’t look obviously misaligned. I would like to know if there are some fabric blends that are considered higher quality than others or are more durable.

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139 bo

Thank-you! It’s frustrating shopping when the vast majority of clothes are made from those itchy, fake fabrics! I’m actually put off working in an office because I cannot stand the thought of all the polyester shirts and trousers; I feel itchy, sweaty and gross just thinking about it! They’re always the wrong feeling, like when it’s hot they’re sweaty but when it’s cold, they’re freezing. Like reverse thermals. It’s so distracting when your clothes just aren’t right and it’s so difficult to find anything made out of a nice, breathable fabrics. I don’t even shop with my friends now because I wind them up feeling all the fabrics first. Don’t even get me started on how badly women’s clothes are designed too, they’re uncomfortable, impractical and mostly made of sweaty sandpaper lol! Give me strength. Please do a separate article on where to buy well made clothes online because I think everyone is done with the high street and I’d be so interested in finding a store/ brand I can finally trust! xxx

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140 Tessa

Sorry for the correction by Viscose is manufactured from naturally occurring polymers so it is classified as a semi-synthetic fabric, not a synthetic one as you have put. Because although the fibres are naturally-occurring, the Viscose process used to make the fabric is very much man-made. It is defined as a ‘re-generated cellulose fibre’. Also, Rayon is the generic name used for any fibre using regenerated cellulose and subsequently the yarn and fabric made from this. Viscose however, is the process that the wood pulp goes through to make the Rayon fabric, there are other processes used to make Rayon fabrics, such as Modal or Lyocell, again these are given their names after the process used to make them. Both Model and Lyocell are more environmentally friendly processes than the viscose process, but they are still a cellulosic fibre that makes a rayon fabric. The viscose process is also called the ‘Cellulose Xanthate’ process!

Yes, I look at clothing labels and won’t wear certain things. I am also studying a masters in fashion futures and sustainability and read a lot about fibres!

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141 Derick Lloyd

Can anyone help me?
I have a casual jacket manufactured by SOHO UNITED, that does not have a Washing or Dry Cleaning instruction label. There IS a tab that identifies the material as 50% Poliester (not Polyester), and 50% AL6ODON (or something close to that, it is not totally clear) and I need to determine how to clean it. It was a gift to me and unfortunately I am unable to determine a way of contacting the manufacturer, or the establishment it was purchased from. I have searched extensively for information without success, and hope some kind caring person can advise me.

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142 Sue

I detest polyester – hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and does not breathe.
To me, polyester = plastic. I don’t care what other name it gets called; it’s still plastic. Lived in Houston and polyester in 99% humidity does not work together. Houston women don’t wear hosiery either. It’s just miserable. Ladies — if something says it’s “silky” that does not mean it is real silk. Silky is glorified polyester.
Try real silk (if you can afford it), linen, cotton or a combination of cotton and linen. If it’s 100% linen, you might consider having it dry cleaned — it doesn’t wrinkle as much as washing. I can manage some items with rayon. Yes, you may pay more for natural fabrics, but they usually last longer. Look at it this way — natural fabrics are cheaper than heat strokes.

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143 hiuzetr

I recently saw a $230 Prada men’s tie made of polyester. The polyester turned me of more than the price. And then I saw the tie was lined with silk!! Why didn’t they make the tie of silk and its lining of polyester?? Almost comical.

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144 A.C. Smith

Yeah, me too! My initial prejudice is for naturals and against synthetics. However, my extensive wardrobe still includes a few synthetic or part synthetic items and I’d be loath to chuck them, because they do do a turn. Really, it’s a matter of horses for courses. Thus, e.g., while most of my shirts are 100% cotton (including some sea
island quality), there are also a dozen or so polycotton shortsleeved ones that are convenient and were also dirt cheap. Again, most of my tailored suits are 100% pure wool but that doesn’t stop me occasionally wearing the one wool and poly mix one any more than the silk and linen mix one. Such eclecticism leads to desirable versatility. I have all cotton underwear but would wear certain synthetic base layers for their thermal properties.

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145 cassie

I cannot stand polyester! The man-made materials of all kinds seem to continually cause issues in the world. I am extremely allergic to it. I am always carrying benadryl. If I react I can have hives the size of my head all over my body, eyes swollen shut, lips up to 3x their size. I’ve been reacting for 14yrs now. Olive oil on hives helps with itch, either claritin or zytec everyday has helped with touch all day in places I go and not notice.

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146 Dove

I was wondering what sort of features a fabric made of 95% polyester and 5% elastane. Does it perish easily? is it see through? how does it go after a few washes?

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