HOT, STICKY weather calls for a fabric that keeps you cool when it feels like 100 degrees in the shade. You guessed it: Linen. It’s absorbent, draws heat away from the body and dries more quickly than cotton. That it’s not particularly suited to fitted clothing makes it a perfect fit for summer.
The best linen comes from high-quality flax, which is primarily grown in Western Europe. Garnet Hill’s linen is made from flax grown in Normandy, J. Crew linen shirts are made in Ireland, while South Street Linen’s fabric comes from a mill in Lithuania.
There are differing opinions on how to wear linen. I’m in the relaxed camp, which doesn’t mind a wrinkle or three. I put my linen shirts in the washing machine on the cold-water gentle cycle, hang them to dry and happily wear them slightly rumpled. Sometimes I’ll use a steamer if I want to look more polished. However, if your daily schedule involves going to an office, where looking crisp and professional is de rigueur, dry cleaning is your best option. Our friend, Washington Post design and lifestyle reporter Jura Koncius, takes her linen shirts to Zips Dry Cleaning, which charges $2.29 for cleaning and ironing. “But most cleaners charge like $6 or more to clean and iron a linen shirt,” she says.
No matter how you choose to wear them, linen shirts are the antidote to global-warming weather. Check out our choices in different colors and patterns below.
LEFT: Cut a bella figura in one of Giangi Napoli’s tailored linen shirts. Available in several yummy shades, this violet one is $287. See more sartorial splendor (mostly European) at the boutique Donna Lewis at 309 B Cameron Street in Old Town, Alexandria. RIGHT: Easy-going linen has always been part of the Eileen Fisher repertoire. We love the color of this generously proportioned Organic Linen Boyfriend Shirt. It’s reduced to $89 from $178, although only available in limited sizes at Neiman Marcus.
LEFT: Be the coolest (literally) kid on the block in Talbot’s breezy-looking Split Neck Floral Linen Shell,$69.50. RIGHT: No matter what the Fahrenheit says, you’ll look crisp and unwilted in Boden’s roomy Tie-Dye Print Linen Shirt. $85.
LEFT: All the fabric for Maine’s South Street Linen comes from Lithuania, which, according to assistant operations manager Geneva Waite, has the right climate for growing flax. Their linen clothing, including this loose-fitting, not-too-sheer, not-too-heavy Boyfriend Shirt ($219) have garnered a reputation for being durable and long-lasting. The almost-jacket length is better for office and better for wider hipped people. Shown above in indigo, the shirt also come in vibrant colors like fuchsia and turquoise. RIGHT: You can count on Everlane for budget-friendly basics. I have put this Relaxed Linen Shirt for $58 on my to-buy list. Available also in lavender, pale yellow, indigo and black.
LEFT: Details matter. This airy Batik Floral Linen Tunic with decorative buttons down the pack and a pretty print sets the wardrobe refresh button. And, it’s on sale Talbot’s. $41.99. RIGHT: Keep it simple in Talbot’s Border Stripe Linen Top, $79.50. No need to spend time figuring out what this will go with. The answer is everything.
LEFT: Made from flax grown in France, Garnet Hill’s oversized Easy Linen Tunic can be worn as a jacket over a T-shirt or camisole or on its own. Besides, coral chambray (above), it comes in five other colors. $98. RIGHT: J. Jill Lee Linen Tunic button-front tunic with high vents, with a hemline that is slightly longer in back for an easy fit and added coverage. Word to the wary: Linen aficionado pals have noticed that J. Jill’s linen has gotten thinner over the years.
LEFT: White, pink and turquoise on Talbot’s Linen Camp Shirt-Filigree Floral ($84.50) turquoise makes us think of days and/or evenings at the beach. Make the colors pop with white shorts or jeans. RIGHT: Won the lottery, an unexpected bonus? Spend some of it on this Loro Piana Cubetto Light Weave boxy cut sweater, made from linen jersey. When you dream of the perfect summer sweater, this has to be it. Available in port, antique rose and white, too. $725, Loro Piana.
LEFT: Don’t you wish more brands would make shirts with three-quarter sleeves? Stay cool in this linen one from Foxcroft. Also available in black and white. $51.60, Nordstrom. RIGHT: This Slim Perfect Shirt from J. Crew is made at Ireland’s Baird McNutt mill, which is known for its high-quality, soft linen. My two Baird McNutt linen shirts are going strong after a couple of seasons of wear. I machine wash them, but when I want to look less rumpled, they’re off to the dry cleaners. $99.38.
LEFT: Do your best Jackie O. imitation. Pair this black V-Back Linen Top with cuffed kimono-style sleeves with white pants and strappy flat sandals. $29.49, Nordstrom. RIGHT: Casual but chic. This Vince Camuto Canyon Stripe Linen Blouse with rolled cap sleeves looks so comfy and wearable, you’ll forget the heat. $99, Nordstrom.
LEFT: Count on Massimo Dutti, Zara’s higher-end sibling, for classic but stylish looks, like this 100% Plain Linen Shirt (from sustainably grown European linen). $69.90. Pop the collar and pair it with khaki paper-bag linen trousers as shown above. RIGHT: Take note of the sweet embroidery detail on the chest pocket of Lafayette 148 New York’s boxy Justice Sublime Linen Blouse. Knot the shirttails for a less serious look. Shown above in pink, it’s also available in yellow and white and reduced to $178.80 from $298, at Saks Fifth Avenue.
LEFT: Hot, steamy weather, meet your match: Frank & Eileen’s airy, open-weave Striped Italian Linen button-down in a relaxed fit. $228, less 25 percent during the summer sale. There are also about 25-plus other color/pattern choices. RIGHT: If you like linen but can’t abide wrinkles, this J. McLaughlin Brynn Linen Shirt has your name on it. A little bit of spandex (5 percent) keeps it looking pristine. And three-quarter-length sleeves. $118.