Working That Fabric

For most, it’s the look and the feel of a garment, how it drapes, and how well complements our form that encourages a purchase. But further scrutiny into what provides a good fit, long-lasting wear, and even proper maintenance leads to the foundation for every piece of the clothing we own or intend to buy — the fabric.

Jazz Armstrong, technical design director for The Limited Design Studio in New York, has worked with textiles and garment construction for most of her career in the fashion industry and confirms that fabric consideration should be an important part of any purchase. “For investment pieces and clothing that you intend to keep, you should always go for natural fibers,” she offers. “If it’s a trendy piece, the new rayons and microfibers can be fun.” Just don’t expect them to last.

Natural fibers include cottons, silks, linens, and even hemp, which is considered an eco-friendly fiber. Microfiber fabrics include acrylic, nylon, Lycra, rayon, and viscose, which Armstrong says is the same as rayon. Many of these man-made fabrics are constructed in polyester base. Yes, the one-time offensive material has become quite a respectable fabric. “There have been great improvements in the technology of polyester,” explains Armstrong. “Polyester blends with natural fibers wear quite well, are easier to care for, and don’t require as much ironing.” Acrylics rate low for Armstrong, as they peel quickly and easily develop pills.

As spring ushers in new fashion options, Armstrong says you’ll find a variety of new garments in fabrics that are versatile, comfortable to wear, and easy to maintain. Look for tropical wool. A construction recently launched by her company, it transfers well through the seasons and is washable. Also, expect a variety of crochet sweaters, such as pontelle, which is an open knit found in fabrics such as linen. “In winter, they can be layered with a long-sleeved top and in warmer weather they can be worn over a camisole.”

Double knits are back as they allow for great comfort, particularly when traveling. “They’re great for the professional woman who is off the plane directly to a meeting,” says Armstrong.

And, of course, there’s denim. Because fashion success is a result of design interpretation, this rugged cloth — once considered a workman’s material — has graduated to high fashion. It will be interesting to see how well sweat-suit knit fabrics will be received. According to Armstrong, you can expect to see it used for the construction of matching skirts and jackets. “It elevates the casual Friday look,” she explains. We’ll see how it washes.