Today in office hours, we’ll be talking about what can make or break your business attire. It all has to do with what it’s made of. Today’s office hours applies to women and men’s wear, so share this with your guy friends because they’re gonna want to know this too. This is so important, but most people don’t know what a huge difference material and quality can have. What your clothes are made of basically defines your entire experience with them: how much it wrinkles, if the color fades, how you clean it, does it look professional, does it feel good.
IF you have questions feel free to put them into the comments – we love to hear from you!
So to get started there are two categories of materials: natural and man-made.
Cotton is great for the day to day. Below are items made with cotton.
Cotton is probably the material we are most familiar with. Cotton shows up in your button down shirts, basics, jeans – yes jeans are made out of cotton. There’s lots of different types, and blends. Cotton is popular because its breathable and absorbs moisture. This is largely true for all naturally occurring materials. You want breath-ability and moisture absorption because it feels good. When you’re cold cotton can help keep you warm, but it also doesn’t stick and cling to your body like synthetic materials such as polyester. But the down side of cotton is that the color will fade, from sun exposure and washing. Have you ever noticed your free t-shirts from college fade have that grayish white fuzzy tint? That’s because cotton doesn’t hold color as well, and whites also become discolored over time. The next down side is cotton wrinkles and shrinks, so it’s very susceptible to it’s environment. However, cotton is great for blouses, pants, things you might find yourself wearing for a long time. If you do buy bright colored cotton just know that it’s not going to last.
Wool is great for suits and professional attire. Below are items made with wool.
Wool comes from sheep, so it’s animal based. Wool generally shows up in the more formal attire, suiting, sweaters, outerwear. So finer, nicer wool, cashmere, feels soft, but it also has structure. What this means is in suiting, wool is used because the fabric it looks like it can just stand on its own, unlike cotton. That creates clean lines that you need for interview, or presentation. Finer wool, for sweaters is the same in that its breathable, absorbs moisture, very good at keeping you warm. If you put it wool under a microscope, you’ll see it actually has little scales like on a fish, that’s what gives it structure, so cleaning it is more complicated than cotton. Wash and drying is bad idea because it’ll ruin the structure and cause snags. Generally dry clean is advised. Unfortunately, wool doesn’t hold color as well, especially in the sun. Look for wool in your suiting and professional attire for the clean lines and polished look.
Great for skirts and scarves. Below are items made with silk.
S is spun from silk worms, and feels great ont he skin. Silk shows up in fun dresses, skirts, blouses, scarves. Silk is known for its draping quality. So if you had a handkerchief of silk put a finger in the middle it’ll drape beautifully unlike cotton or wool. This is great for skirts and dresses, because it has that flowy quality that you don’t get with other materials. The draping also means that it is delicate. In fact, silk hates the sun, nothing ruins color on silk like the sun. Silk also isn’t great in water, so it’s a little more high maintenance.
Great for fashion and color. Below are items made with polyester.
P olyester is synthetic, and it’s made at very high temperature and pressures. This material shows up everywhere, blouses, suiting, pants, tops, dresses because cheaper to produce. Polyester, unlike natural materials, can hold color very well. Wash it or lay it in in the sun, it doesn’t fade. It’s fibers are stronger, which makes it great for that flowy blouse. Polyester doesn’t absorb moister very well. There’s polyester blends for athletic wear that does, but it also looks like athletic wear. Polyester also isn’t great for keeping you warm, and if it’s hot it’ll just stick to you and not very breathable. So if you’re going somewhere hot we’d actually recommend packing cotton, not polyester. Polyester is great for fashion pieces, colorful tops, skirts, or blazers that add to your personal style.
Great for light pieces with a little bit of shine. Below are items made with rayon.
R ayon is plant-based, but has undergone so many chemical processes that it’s mostly considered synthetic. Recycled materials such as clothing can get respun and reconstructed into rayon. Viscose is a name you might see often, which is a type of rayon. Rayon shows up a lot in work wear because it has a shine or gloss, similar to silk, but “feels” like cotton. You have a suit or dress that’s just a bit glossy? That’s the rayon. On the plus side, rayon also drapes well and looks professional. Unfortunately, rayon can also wrinkle easily, which means it requires extra care. It’s good to have some rayon pieces because the shine does give off a classy look. Rayon or viscose suiting can also be lighter and better for summer than wool.
Elastane or Spandex
Gives clothing a little bit of stretch. Below are items made with some spandex.
Elastane is like a mini rubber band and goes by spandex, or Lycra which is a specific brand. Spandex gives clothing stretch. It’s usually blended with other materials, and it really comes in handy after a big team dinner when you’re thankful for the 2% that’s working very hard. For work wear, you don’t want too much spandex because it can cause the piece to look cheap. Also remember the more you wash and dry it the less effective that stretch gets, its like a rubber band eventually it’ll stretch out. So if something has spandex it’s recommended that you don’t dry it with too much heat. Spandex is great for pieces where you want a little bit of wiggle room. It’s good for pants and dresses with a more faltering silhouette.
Get in the habit of checking
If you don’t already, you should start checking what clothes you buy are made of. One, its good to know how to take care of it, and two, it’s good to know if you’re overpaying for basic polyester.
So where do you find this info? In person, pants usually at the waist there’s a bundle of tags. For dresses, shirts, and jackets it’s usually near the bottom side of the item. Online you can easily look at the fabric and care, or product info/details section. Make this a habit ESPECIALLY online. For example, if you’re wondering if the dress has give, if its 100% polyester or synthetic the answer is probably no, but if it’s wool, cotton, or there’s 2% spandex then the answer is probably yes.
Thanks for tuning in to this week’s office hours! Check back in next week for great tips!
Share this Post