With the exception of some of my non-period Middle Eastern dance attire, all of my garb is Linen (with some wool for the evenings as well). There are great sources for linen online:
- http://www.fabrics-store.com/ This is my favorite resource for linen. In general, I think most people have been happy with the quality and the price. Note for those who have not bought from them in the last several years, the quality now is more fine and more even than it used to be!
- http://www.mcssl.com/store/gray-lines-linen-inc/solid-linen I have not yet purchased from this store, but know several people who do and I have fondled their swatch cards. This fabric is lovely and I am sure I will eventually be giving them some business.
- http://www.fabricmartfabrics.com/ This shop has stock that comes and goes quickly. Occasionally they have great deals on linen. They also have online coupons for new customers as well as regular sales. (This is also a nice resource for wool.)
- http://www.fabric.com/ I have made many purchases from this store over the years, sometimes the linen quality is hit or miss, so it is good to order swatches first (however, I once got $3/yard linen that was less nice than I am used too, but for $3 I still consider it an amazing buy).
The one other thing I watch out for, especially when it comes to linen for hot weather, is short-staple linen. Regular linen is spun from long fibres from the flax plant. This is a strong fabric that absorbs water well and stays cool in the heat. Short-staple linen is made from the same fibres, but they have been chopped up, processed and spun together in to a more coarse yarn. It is a similar process to that used to make to silk noil (raw silk). The texture is often wrong for period linen, it is not as colorfast as some of the other types and, in my opinion, it does not really act like line should in the heat. Some merchants sells this linen (and at least last year started labeling it as short-staple to differentiate it). At $3 a yard, it is not a bad buy, but at $6 I really feel one are better off spending a bit more and going to one of the sites mentioned above. (Of course, I still prefer short staple linen to cotton, but I would not deliberately buy it at this point unless I got a great deal on it.)
In addition to making wise fabric choices, here are some other tips for warm-weather attire (not always period, but they often make people happy while still allowing for a look that exceeds the required "attempt"):
- If you are wearing late-period garb, it is possible to fake your under layers. For example, you can sew chemise sleeves into an Italian gown.
- You can often face some items, such as linen Entari (Ottoman coats), with a contrasting color and eliminate a lining completely for hot weather. The contrasting color can still give the illusion of a full lining.
- Certain garments, however, just need to be lined, they lay better and offer the necessary support that way. You can, however, line with heavy linen or only partially line the garment (I have lined quite a few cotehardies to the upper hip only).
- I personally am happier with a linen chemise and a cotton gown than I would be with a cotton chemise and linen gown. The linen absorbs moister better and, for me, is more comfortable next to the skin. (Of course, I would say that an ideal world would have all layers being from linen.)
- If you are using cotton, look for cottons without a heavy layer of dye on them. Some quilting prints are very pretty for garb, but some of them use a process of dying that is more like paint and it affects the breathability of the cotton. If it still seems somewhat airy and the drape is not too stiff, it will probably work well for warm weather.
- Many Indian block print cottons have a bit looser of a weave than regular cotton broadcloth and have very thin dyes used only sparsely. Depending on the print, they can actually be very period!
- Adopt a summer persona! Personally, I admire those who have one persona and are dedicated to being an Elizabethan Lady in any weather. I cannot express enough how incredible these people are. However, that does not work for many who do not tolerate the heat well so consider going Roman, or Norse, Indian or early Celt if you need less layers in the heat.
- If you are crafting a wardrobe on a very tight budget can cannot choose linen, it would be a good idea to plan for items that layer well, and do not create bulk. (Pleat skirts or pants on to a waist band rather than gathering up the entire width on a wide piece of elastic. A double casing and narrow cotton elastic can also be fairly comfortable and I show that here http://awanderingelf.weebly.com/a-wandering-elfs-journey/salwar-for-the-summer )
Now that you know what most of my garb is made out of, I will show you what I wear most often on those hot, hot days! (Note that I also take wool coats, cloaks and dresses for cooler weather as we often can have a chilly night or two at Pennsic, but I am focusing on the bulk of my garb in this article and that is geared towards heat and humidity!)