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Summer Loungewear Shopping: The Fabrics That Will Keep You Cool

Hi, my name is Quinne, and I love loungewear. Like, I really love it.

I run a loungewear line. I wear loungewear even when I'm leaving the house. And I spend most of my clothing budget (and sewing budget) on loungewear. When I get up in the morning and sit down in my home office, I switch from my comfy night loungewear to my fancy day loungewear.

I'm always trying to convince people to wear more loungewear. I think wearing loungewear that makes you happy is important! Especially right now, when so many of us are working from home or otherwise stuck inside all day due to COVID-19. With everyone staying home and blasting their AC, staying cool is important, too. Potential brownouts and blackouts loom over neighborhoods like mine in NYC.

With all this in mind, I decided to develop the ideal shopping guide for summer 2020. Here's how to find loungewear that will keep you cool at home this summer!

So, What Are We Looking For?

We’re looking for fabrics that are cool and breathable. A breathable fabric allows air to flow through it easily, which keeps you cool.

We’re also looking for fabrics that wick moisture away from the skin. A moisture-wicking fabric literally pulls moisture away from your body to the exterior of the garment, where it can evaporate more quickly.

Not all moisture-wicking fabrics are breathable, and not all breathable fabrics are moisture-wicking. It’s up to you to decide what’s important for your comfort, and shop accordingly!

Focus On Fibers, Not Fabrics

Yes, there’s a difference! A fiber is a type of material that can be made into fabric. Think silk, cotton, or polyester. A fabric is the final product made out of that fiber. Think satin, jersey knit, or seersucker.

When you’re buying clothing to keep you cool, focusing on the fiber over the fabric is important. A fabric might look comfortable for warm weather. However, most of the time, the fiber content is what will keep you cool. Just because something is sheer, doesn’t make it more breathable or comfortable!

So when shopping, never assume a “silky” fabric is made of silk or polyester. Likewise, never assume a “cotton-y” fabric is actually cotton, as it could be something else entirely. Instead, look for the fiber name when shopping. For instance, if you buy a 100 percent silk satin slip, the fiber is silk and the fabric is satin.

Not all satin fabric is silk and not all silk fabric is satin - and there’s a huge tactile difference between silk satin and synthetic satin. Knowing how to recognize the difference will help you make great shopping choices.

How Can I Find Out What a Fabric is Made Of?

First, check the label or the website item description for the garment’s fabric content, or what fibers the fabric is made of. In most countries, companies are required to list fabric content on their garment labels. If you’re shopping online and the product does not have the fabric content listed, don’t be afraid to reach out to the brand or designer and ask.

So what fibers should you be wearing to stay cool? There are pros and cons to every fiber. Read on for my 5 favorite cooling fibers, so you can buy the loungewear that works for your life (and budget) this summer.

Gap PJ Shirt, $30; Shorts, $25

Fiber #1: Cotton

Cotton loungewear is easy to find, relatively affordable, and - most importantly for our purposes - incredibly breathable. Air circulates easily between cotton fibers, which keeps you cool. Plus, cotton fabric is simple to clean and care for.

The biggest downside to cotton for summer is that it does not wick moisture very well. While it does absorb sweat easily, cotton tends to stay damp for much longer than other fabrics on this list. Its breathable qualities tend to outweigh this aspect for most people. However, if you tend to sweat a lot, you might prefer a fiber that has better wicking qualities.

Olivia Von Halle silk pajamas. Silk is one of the best loungewear fabrics.

Olivia Von Halle Lila Pajamas, $490 via Net-a-Porter

Fiber #2: Silk

One of the best parts of wearing loungewear all day is the chance to bathe yourself in silk! This strong fiber has a gorgeous sheen and makes a fabric with a beautiful hand.

Silk loungewear is luxuriously soft and often lightweight, making it great for the summer months. Silk is super breathable, and better than cotton at wicking moisture.

Of course, it’s also relatively expensive, and must be carefully cared for. Most silks are dry clean or hand wash only. Putting your silk loungewear in a dryer will change the texture at minimum. At most, it completely ruin the garment. If you’re vegan, you might want to skip silk, since it’s an animal byproduct.

Fiber #3: Rayon

Yes, rayon! This category includes trendy fabrics like modal and bamboo, which are just different types of rayon.

These fibers are technically not synthetic or natural. Rayon is man-made, but it’s made from processed plant-based cellulose. That means it has qualities of both synthetic and natural fibers. Rayon is lightweight and comfortable. It keeps you cool, doesn't hold in body heat, and is decently moisture wicking. Plus, rayon is way cheaper than silk.

However, if it hasn’t been pre-washed and dried, rayon can shrink easily. In addition, though bamboo and modal specifically are growing in popularity, rayon isn’t a very common loungewear fabric, so it can be hard to find.

Fiber #4: Linen

With its naturally cool touch, linen is an awesome summer fiber. Linen is known for its slubby texture and subtle shine that typically starts off crisp and gets softer with every wash. Like cotton, it’s relatively absorbent. However, unlike cotton, it dries quickly and is super breathable.

One of the stand-out characteristics of linen fabric is that it wrinkles easily. For me, this is part of its charm, but if you dislike that crumpled, worn-in look, linen loungewear is definitely not for you.

Flora Nikrooz Gabby Robe, $88 via Bloomingdale's

Fiber #5: Polyester

Yes, really. Polyester has a bad reputation, but this is one fiber where it matters what the end fabric is like. Polyester can be made into a waterproof fabric, but it can also be made into one that wicks moisture from your body. This moisture-wicking polyester is the fabric most often used in mid- to high-end loungewear. Although it’s hard to judge online, look for high quality polyesters with a soft hand, as well as polyester blended with natural fibers like cotton.

The best part of polyester is how affordable it can be! A satin robe made from silk can easily be three times the price of a polyester robe. However, depending on the fabric, polyester isn’t as breathable as some of the other fibers on this list. It also doesn’t feel as luxurious as some of the other fabrics, either.

A Few Final Thoughts on Fabrics...

You might not need a separate summer loungewear wardrobe, but it's nice to have a few pieces that will help you stay cool when you're hanging out at home. Plus, you can use this new knowledge when shopping for street clothes, too! Breathable fabrics are breathable fabrics, no matter what type of garment they're used in.

What do you think? Do you disagree with any of my suggestions? What are your favorite things to wear in the summer?

Quinne Myers

Quinne Myers is a lingerie expert living in Brooklyn, NY, where she creates quippy written content, crafts dreamy illustrations, and runs the ethically-made loungewear line, she and reverie.