Worn by the likes of Cleopatra, Jacqueline Kennedy, Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, and numerous mid-century summer brides, linen has always had a place in the world of fashion. There was a time that people detested it, and it was pushed to the back of wardrobes and avoided by designers. However, this spring and summer saw a massive increase in the demand for linen clothing, for holiday-wear and occasion-wear. With new people experimenting with the fabric, it has been re-embraced by a wider audience than ever before. With its natural fibers and breathability, it is no wonder that this warm summer has seen an increase in the demand for linen. What has made it especially popular with the younger generations is that it is natural and highly sustainable. It is one of the very few products that can be ethically obtained but also looks stylish when worn.
Made from flax
Pure linen is derived from a plant called flax, which is also often called linseed. It is a member of the genus Linum family, Linaceae. What is so amazing about this plant is that it can be used for both food and clothing. It has both ethical and historical value, as it is one of the oldest fabrics in the entire world. A few years ago in a cave in Georgia, archaeologists unearthed a linen shoe that was estimated to be over 38,000 years old.
A little later on, in the thirties, linen was the most popular fabric to have your wedding gown made in. It was also used to make cool linen suits for men. For a long time, the material was associated with hippie culture, as they would sew it into peasant dresses and harem trousers – which are also making a massive comeback this year. Despite being one of the most accessible materials around, it took a back seat for a long time. We aren’t exactly sure why this happened, as it was one of the easiest man-made fabrics. Our best guess is that it just went out of style, but like everything in fashion, what goes around, comes around.
During the 1930s, people couldn’t get enough of linen. They had linen suits, which were favored over bikinis and shorts for yachting-wear. In fact, in a famous Vogue magazine, there were women sporting linen-wear and photographed by George Hoyningen-Huene.
In a famous portrait of the Kennedy family in 1963, both Jackie Kennedy and their kids were all wearing linen. Mrs. Kennedy often wore the latest linen dresses on holidays, and this caused them to increase in popularity even more than they already were. In the famous portrait of them in Florida, she is wearing a mauve linen dress by Oleg Cassini, which was in high demand promptly after this photo was released.
If you fast forward over fifty years, we can now see linen on our catwalk. In 2017, Brock Collection decided to use linen on their runway period-drama dresses. This instantly made everyone question why linen had ever gone out of fashion in the first place, and it began to make a slight appearance again that summer.
In 2018, French fashion designer Simon Porte Jacquemus used a lot of linen in a collection, which he dedicated to his mother. Similarly, Brock Collection decided to use the fabric in a bateau neckline gorgeously embroidered dress. Since then, the fabric has made a sensational comeback, but be warned: it isn’t very elastic at all. If you keep linen and wear it for a long time, except that it will eventually break or begin to curl at the ends. Now, in 2019, you best keep a lookout for your favorite styles, because you might just find your favorite outfit is now made in the breathable linen material.