No-wilt wardrobe The right weight and weave can keep the heat at bay

July 24, 1991|By Pat Morgan | Pat Morgan,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

You pick up your summertime favorites from the cleaners. Crisp cotton shirts, easy linen skirts, soft silk dresses.

You slip into one of them, feeling very summery.

Then you walk out into the 90-degree heat and wilt.

Crisp cotton turns soggy. Drapey silk goes limp. And yes, linen is supposed to wrinkle, but isn't looking like crumpled gift wrap a bit ridiculous?

The dilemma: do you opt for the cool comfort of natural fibers, or do you look presentable for the lunch meeting, the after-work drinks or the Big Date?

Thanks to high-tech fabric technology, you can do both.

The chicest heat-busting fabric these days: Lycra.

Garments with as little as 5 percent Lycra blended with cotton, silk or linen are much less heat-vulnerable and more wrinkle-resistant than 100 percent natural-fiber styles. And the added stretch makes them more comfortable in the bargain. They also dry quickly and hold their shape better than garments without Lycra.

For the physically fit, second-skin stretch cotton may be the ideal answer. Just because it's close to the body doesn't mean it's confining or hot. For those a tad less daring, cotton jersey offers the same advantages with a less curve-hugging fit.

Rayon is cool and lightweight, but does tend to wrinkle. Rayon crepe, however, holds its shape and stays relatively wrinkle-free even when packed.

Then there's cotton pique the cloth used for many polo shirts. The knit is lightweight, ventilates naturally and is strong enough to resist snags and tears.

Cotton lawn, woven tightly from fine combed cotton, is one of the lightest-weight fabrics around and is wrinkle- and wilt- resistant.

Other hot-weather options include vented and dobby-weave cotton. Vented cotton, woven from yarns of differing weights, looks like oxford cloth but has tiny perforations which make it lighter. Dobby weave gives cotton a mesh texture that is self-ventilating.

If you aren't sure if a cotton garment is vented or dobby-weave, hold the item up to light. If you can see the perforations or the mesh texture, you've found a heat-buster.

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