35 items of clothing, 8 pairs of shoes, 3 bags
I am obsessed with the quality of the fabrics in my minimalist wardrobe. If you have a small wardrobe, it is very likely you wear each of your items of clothing often. You need to purchase items that are resilient, as they will get washed a lot. It is valuable to have an idea of the qualities of different fibers to make informed decisions and ensure the durability of what you purchase.
As a general rule, natural fibers require more care but are more durable, practical and comfortable. Synthetic fibers, especially those with elastane in them, are more likely to warp with wear and time.
Here is a very basic guide to the most common natural and synthetic fabrics you are likely to come across while shopping.
Cotton is a fiber created from a family of plants called Malvaceae. The cotton fiber grows as a casing around the seeds of these plants. Cotton is spun to create a breathable fabric that has been utilised by humans for thousands of years. Cotton is excellent for hot conditions as well as layers that create warmth.
Linen is a fiber that originates from the flax plant. Linen fiber is thick and has a textured quality, though it is still light and breathable. Linen has similar qualities to that of cotton, though it is more labour intensive to produce and can therefore be more expensive.
Silk is a fiber created by some insects that form cocoons. Silk is extremely light and soft, and reflects light to create a shimmering effect. Silk is a lightweight luxury for those who live in warm climates. While it is often expensive, it is a worthy investment.
Wool describes a variety of fibers which come from most commonly sheep, though also come in the form of mohair and cashmere from goats, angora from rabbits and other varieties from other hoofed beasts. Wool is extremely resilient, and perfect for cold weather as it insulates from both cold and moisture.
Cat Jeffries guarding cashmere and cotton knits
Viscose (or Rayon) is a semi-synthetic fiber manufactured from wood pulp. Viscose is a lower cost alternative to completely natural fibers. Viscose is most commonly made into light, breathable items of clothing and is most appropriate for warm weather.
Elastane is a synthetic fiber valued for its elasticity. On its own it can be quite restrictive and uncomfortable, though when added to other fibers such as cotton or viscose, can add a stretch while remaining comfortable.
Polyester is a synthetic fiber used very commonly in a lot of contemporary clothing. It can be used to mimic natural fibers such as cotton and silk. Polyester does not have the breathability of the fabrics it mimics. It is however excellent for producing water resistance in outerwear.
Acrylic is another synthetic fiber, though finer than polyester. It is often used to mimic natural fibers such as wool, and is quite commonly seen in knitwear. Acrylic knits lack the insulative qualities that real wools do.
Know your fabrics, and choose them well. Having a couple of wool knit layers and a polyester moisture resistant layer can make all the difference during a cold winter. Likewise, you want to stick to breathable silks and cottons rather than sweat producing polyester in hot climates.