Refresher: You Do Not Have to Choose Between Modesty and Comfort

Refresher: You Do Not Have to Choose Between Modesty and Comfort June 3, 2014

Saw a headline this morning about a young woman daring to bare skin for health and safety.  I didn’t click through, but the photo suggested this was not some horrid case of misogynist cult oppression in a tropical dictatorship.  More along the lines of: My very typical American school dress code impinges.

I will not claim that you can dress modestly and still be fashionable.  When the fashion is to maximize sex-appeal, you can’t demure on sex-appeal and still accomplish what the fashion demands.  But one certainly can choose to dress with class and style without compromising one’s morals.

[Reminder: I don’t give out fashion advice.  I leave that to trendier dressers than myself.]

However, you can only achieve this if you ignore the utterly irresponsible marketing claims of various merchants.

What you need to know, and your catalog company isn’t telling you, is a tip from the historical re-enacting world: To avoid heatstroke, dress in a single layer of 100% natural, unblended fabric.

That is, to review:

Or: 100% Cotton.
Or: 100% Linen.
Or: 100% Wool.

You can wear a cotton shirt and a linen skirt, that’s not what I mean.  But if you wear a shirt that’s a “refreshing blend of cotton and linen” you are going to swelter.  The pinch of spandex in those shorts is asking for trouble.  Rayon is not your friend.  The polyester lining in that breezy “pure linen” jacket has all the cooling power of plastic wrap.

–> There are a few synthetic fabrics in the high-end sporting goods world that are in fact truly breathable.  I’m not qualified to give you a survey of them; if you have the means you can do some testing.  Your nylon soccer shorts are not that.

Where Do I Buy This Stuff?

You can find it anywhere.  On the affordable end of things, your best bets are thrift stores and clearance centers like Ross.  From there you can go as expensive as you like. I’ve found good stuff at Target, Lands End & LL Bean, Eddie Bauer, Territory Ahead, and on up from there.  Other than a few obscure specialty vendors, I’ve seen no merchant who carries only heat-appropriate summer clothing.  You have to read the labels.

Read carefully.  I’ve seen catalog companies mix fabrics within the same collection — the shirt might be pure cotton, but the matching skirt is cotton-poly.  An interesting find this year: A handful of light, springy pure merino-wool pieces on super-clearance amid all the noise and craziness.

You Don’t Need That Many Clothes

Is it a pain reading all the fine print in order to acquire that one pair of shorts that won’t give you heat rash?  Think of it more like a combination treasure hunt and money-saving scheme.  To keep yourself from wasting money on things you don’t need but that happen to be summer-compatible, the e-book you want is Hallie Lord’s Dressing with Intention.

I don’t actually object to the owning and wearing of polyester.  If you have an average metabolism and you’re moving from one air-conditioned venue to the next, you can get away with all sorts of summer fabric failures.

But if you are finding that it’s just not possible to dress modestly in hot weather, per ordinary standards accepted throughout the western world for the past 80 years, the problem is probably not with the cut of your clothes.

File:Raja Ravi Varma, Mrs. Ramanadha Rao.jpg

Artwork: Raja Ravi Varma [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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