How one of the oldest fabrics in the world became the must-have fabric of summer
Linen is a firm favourite for summer, loved for its simple and elegant qualities. It is well known to wick moisture away from the body and keep you cool, while being iron-free and highly durable.. what’s not to love!?
This summer, linen has gained huge momentum, appearing in store after store in beautiful designs and colours. Most snapping up the trend do not realise the long and fascinating history behind the fibre, so let’s dive in and take a closer look at linen’s journey through the centuries.
Linen, made from the fibres of the flax plant, is one of the oldest textiles in the world. Historians believe the flax plant was first domesticated in ancient Mesopotamia and discoveries of linen fabric have been found dating back many thousands of years. The process of turning flax fibres into linen is a difficult and laborious one. The plant is temperamental and requires a great deal of attention during its growth and once ready for harvest it is a long process to extract the fibre from the stalk. In addition, flax fibres are not elastic, and therefore it is difficult to weave them without breaking the threads.
With such a long and tedious journey to attain this raw material it is a wonder that linen every came about! However, possibly because of this long process, linen became a sought after quality especially among the elite and wealthy. Linen was a symbol of status and a luxury fabric to be seen wearing. Moreover, in some areas, such as ancient Egypt, priests wore linen and it was even used for burial shrouds because the fibre was seen to symbolise light, purity and wealth. Linen was so valued, that in a curious fact, for a time it was even used as currency!
With the invention of the flax spinning wheel in the 15th century, linen production grew quicker and faster and it became cheaper to purchase linen household items. However this coincided with cotton production seeing an increase and it became increasingly popular, eventually surpassing linen. Nevertheless, advancements only continued over the years until linen peaked in the 19th century with large scale improvements in farming practices and as machinery fully mechanised linen production. At this point, linen truly took off. It became available for a variety of uses: bedding, bath fabrics, upholstery, tablecloths and books. It was and still is the preferred traditional support for oil paintings.
Skipping forward to more recent time, in the 1970s, linen experienced another evolution when the bulk of production shifted from household items to clothing. It was at this point that people truly embraced the fabric in a multitude of fashion forms, from the hippie movement, to the cool sophistication of white linen. Linen was appreciated for its hard wearing quality, because it was cool to touch, smooth and loved for the fact that it got softer with repeated washing. Les 100 Ciels incorporates linen styles into our collections year after year and this season we have truly embraced a range of colours and styles to suit every woman. Shop our linen styles here!