Summer – who doesn’t love it? Sunshine, strolls in the park, picnics at the beach… and sweat. Hot weather may be great, but it comes with a dilemma – what can we wear to beat the heat and not end the day as a hot, sticky mess?
The key, of course, is comfortable, cool fabrics that absorb moisture and let your body breathe. But which fabrics are best? And is there an alternative to that tried and tested summer favorite, cotton? Prepare to find out.
If you don’t want to spend your summer trapped in a vacuum of your own sweat, cotton makes a great choice. This natural fiber lets air circulate freely around your body, preventing moisture build-up and keeping you as cool as a cucumber.
Lightweight, durable, and affordable, cotton comes in a smorgasbord of different styles and varieties. The one downside is that tiny bit of extra TLC it needs to keep looking box-fresh – but who minds a little extra ironing when it comes with 24/7 freshness?
What says summer like a pair of cool linen pants? Linen absorbs moisture like a sponge and dries it just as fast. For Sweaty Betty’s, this easy-breezy fabric is king.
If you’re not quite ready to go cold turkey on your jeans, say hello to denim’s younger, lighter, and although more fashionable little sister, chambray. With the look of denim, the feathery lightness of linen, and the wrinkle-free, low-maintenance appeal of polyester, chambray is a summertime dream.
Buttery soft and luxurious looking, silk is a fabric that offers great breathability. But beware: even one tiny drop of sweat sticks out a mile. Unless you’re happy to cover yourself in industrial levels of antiperspirant, this is one natural fabric you’ll want to avoid.
Wool doesn’t need to be just for winter. Merino wool offers fantastic breathability and is available in a great range of light, summer-friendly styles.
Here we have our ultimate list of breathable fabrics and our ranking.
Polyester is many things. It’s cheap, it’s widely available, it’s durable, it’s so low maintenance you barely need to do anything but wash it. What it’s not, however, is good for wearing in summer. Not unless you want to end up a walking, talking puddle, in any case.
Polyester is water-resistant, which means that rather than absorbing water, it just lets it gather. Replace the word ‘water’ in the last sentence with ‘sweat’ and you’ll understand why wearing polyester in the height of summer is best avoided.
And if you thought you could get away with a poly blend, think again. Even if the blend contains natural fibers, as little as 40% polyester can negate all their moisture-absorbing qualities, leaving you no better off than if you’d stuck with one hundred percent poly.
Who can resist the buttery softness of silk? Slipping on a silk blouse feels like you’re slipping into a liquid cloud… but beware.
It may be light and it may feel breezy, but silk and hot weather don’t mix. Despite being a natural fiber, silk repels, rather than absorbs, water – something that becomes particularly noticeable in areas prone to heavy sweat-stains.
The end result? Regardless of how polished you start the day looking, prepare to be a sweat-stained mess by the end of it. Worse still, silk clings to bad odors like a drowning man clings to a raft.
Unless you like being a sweat-stained, stinky mess, do yourself a favor and skip the silk.
Unsurprisingly for a fabric that’s sometimes referred to as “artificial silk”, viscose shares many of the same qualities as silk. It’s lightweight, it’s smooth as honey, and it feels as soft and sumptuous as a marshmallow. It’s also a big no-no in hot weather.
Despite its easy-breezy appearance, viscose, like silk, doesn’t get on well with water, and is much more inclined to repel it than absorb it. Slip on a viscose top on a sweltering day, and you’re likely to end up sweaty, smelly, and irritated.
Linen and summer go together like a horse and carriage. Like cotton, linen is made from 100% natural fibers. With superb breathability, outstanding absorbency, and fast-drying times, it’ll keep you cool and comfortable no matter how hot it gets.
As an added advantage, linen garments tend to have a relaxed, loose fit, meaning you don’t have to worry about them sticking or clinging to you as the temperatures rise. On the flip side, keeping linen looking pristine can be a 24/7 job – but hey, better to look a little crumpled than a hot, sticky mess, right?
Rayon is often touted as a cheap alternative to linen, but beware. While the two fabrics might look remarkably similar, looks can be deceiving.
Smooth, flowing, resistant to static, and possessed of a gorgeous drape, rayon sits well on the body and suits any number of different styles. It’s also lightweight enough not to trap heat against the body.
So good for hot weather, right? Wrong. Rayon might be light and breezy, but like most synthetics, it doesn’t get on well with water. Rather than absorb sweat, rayon will simply let it gather in pools until you’re wet, stinky, and altogether miserable. If you want to survive summer, avoid rayon.
Is nylon a good fabric for hot weather? In a word, no. Nylon is 100% synthetic, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned by now, it’s that synthetics and heat don’t play well together.
Like polyester and rayon, nylon won’t absorb moisture so much as repel it. if you sweat while wearing a nylon garment, that sweat ain’t going anywhere.
Unless you want to end up chaffed, irritated, and sweaty, avoid nylon like the plague.
Summer is no time for heavy jeans or scratchy woolen pants. Keep things light, breezy, and deliciously cool in a lightweight summer dress made from one of these equally light, breezy and deliciously cool fabrics:
Jersey: Jersey dresses come into their own in the summer. Granted, jersey’s slightly heavier than cotton, but it still has excellent breathability and a comfortable, easy fit that will take you through even the hottest of days with ease.
Cotton: A cotton dress is a summer staple, offering superb breathability and comfort. Best of all, cotton is cheap, widely available, and comes in a huge variety of colors and patterns.
Voile: Light as a breeze and superbly breathable, voile makes a great choice for summer frocks (although just be aware that it runs slightly more to the see-through than the opaque, so be sure to use a lining).
Linen: Sure, linen may crinkle a little, but who cares about wrinkles when they come with a fabric this cool and comfortable?
It may be predictable, but cotton is your number one friend when the temperatures rise. Cotton lets the air circulate and move freely through the fabric, leaving you comfortable and, joy of joys, dry. Best of all, cotton is widely available and comes in enough styles, colors, and options that you don’t have to sacrifice style for comfort.
Just one word of advice. Cotton may be comfortable, it may be cool, and it may be the best option during a heatwave. What it’s not is a miracle worker. Like every single other fabric, a sweat patch is going to show. Play it safe by steering well away from any bright, light colors (of which pale gray is one of the worst offenders) and sticking to darker, more forgiven hues such as navy blue, charcoal and black.
You know the feeling… you plonk yourself down on the sofa and half an hour later, you find yourself melded to it - or worse still, leaving an embarrassing little sweat patch on the seat. But it doesn’t need to be this way.
If you live in a country blessed with long, hot summers, do yourself and your guests a favor by choosing a sofa fabric designed to withstand the heat. You don’t necessarily need to have it upholstered in the fabric – simply cover it with a throw or slipcover when the temperatures start to rise.
If you need some inspiration, here are a few of the best options:
Top Tip: Regardless of the type of fabric you choose, make sure it’s in a light color if your sofa faces in the direction of the sun. A dark-colored sofa will soak up the heat, making any lengthy lounging a pretty painful experience. A lighter color, on the other hand, will reflect light away from the sofa, resulting in a far more comfortable sitting experience than you’d have otherwise.
A summer wedding can be a beautiful thing, but if you’re not careful, that bridal glow could soon turn into quite the lather. Play it cool by choosing a wedding dress from one of these light, breathable (not forgetting exquisite) fabrics.
Light as a cloud and far more comfortable than weightier fabrics like Duchesse satin, tulle make a great choice for ballgown type wedding dresses, lending an air of refinement and elegance that will look sensational no matter what the weather.
Charmeuse is a lightweight, woven fabric that breathes well and has a delicate, lustrous quality that suits flowing wedding gowns a treat. Just be aware that while it’s a beautiful choice, it does tend to hug the body like a glove – if you’re not body-confident, forget it.
What could be more romantic than a lace wedding gown? Soft, delicate, and with an ethereal quality that will make you feel like a princess, it makes a stunning choice for summer weddings.
As you’d expect of a fabric spun from cotton fibers, voile is tremendously breathable. With its matte, slightly sheer fabric, it’s the perfect choice for more casual weddings.
The crepe-like georgette has a light, sheer appearance that’s ideal for informal summer weddings.
Light, breezy, and breathable - if you want to look a million dollars without sweating up a storm in the process, chiffon is a great way to go.
So, we know which fabrics are best for hot weather. But which ones are worst? Surprisingly, it’s not just those made from man-made fibers that make the list. Although natural fabrics are often touted as the number 1 choice for hot weather, not all are suitable.
If you want to breeze your way through summer, be sure to steer well clear of these bad guys:
Sure, rayon and viscose are light and breezy, and won’t stick to your body like a second skin when the temperatures start to rise. On the downside, the fact they’re made of synthetic fibers means they’re more likely to repel water (or, in this case, sweat) than absorb it.
Yes, it’s natural and yes, it’s light, but even the tiniest drop of sweat will stand out a mile on silk. If you’d rather not spend the summer with your elbows glued to your sides, avoid.
Stain-resistant and durable they may be, but man-made fabrics like polyester are a no-no during hot weather.
If you want a fabric that traps heat and repels moisture, pick nylon. If you want to get through the day without becoming a lather of sweat, pick something else.
Denim may be a girl’s best friend, but unless you’re happy to spend summer worrying about chaffing thighs and bum sweat, opt for its much friendlier little sister chambray instead.