The fabrics of a suit set the stage for silhouette, drape, texture and style. The drape of the finished fabric generally influences the suit's silhouette. And although many textiles, such as poplin and wool, are available in different weights, some are generally associated with a specific season, i.e., poplin is usually associated with spring and summer suits, while wool is mostly associated with fall and winter business attire. Since both fabric styles are available in all-natural fibers as well as blends, textile mills have developed heavier weight poplin as well as tropical-weight wool. Get to know these popular suit textiles to keep you cool during the summer and warm throughout the winter.
During the 15th century in Avignon, France, silk-like fabric -- referred to as "popeline" -- was used to make the pope's robe. A plain-weave method was used to produce an identifiable crosswise, rib-like textile called poplin. Though originally the ridged fabric had a stiff finish, today, it has a soft hand. Ranging from light to heavy weight, cotton poplin is a popular shirting and suit textile that is generally wrinkle-resistant and machine washable. Though polyester poplin is a popular uniform textile, it is also available as a combed cotton and polyester blend for suits.
Keep cool on warm summer days wearing a men's lightweight, soft gray, two-button, combed-cotton poplin suit. Pair it with a white shirt and pocket square, adding a blue tie with white and gray striped accents for a pop of color. Men can also wear a soft beige poplin suit over a striped blue and white dress shirt as another summer suit option. Women can opt for a cotton stretch poplin blend. Whether you choose a skirt or traditional pant suit, the cotton stretch poplin adds comfort and ease during natural movement. Since poplin is a popular textile for blazers, blouses and skirts, be bold and mix and match pieces. Wear a swing jacket in bright red poplin over a lightweight stretch poplin shirt and pencil skirt, both in white. Cinch the waist with a white wide belt to finish the mod-inspired suit look.
Woolen vs. Worsted
When shopping for wool suits, the fiber content label lists the type of wool used to produce the suit. Since wool is a durable animal fiber with a crimp-like texture that creates natural elasticity, the processing steps divide the wool into woolen or worsted categories. Woolens are made of carded fiber -- a process that separates, cleans and removes short fibers. Worsted wool is made of carded and combed fibers -- an added process that produces fine, uniform yarns.
The wool cloth type generally differentiates a high-end quality suit from an economical suit style. Woolens generally retain creases; have a fuzzy, nap surface; and do not have a lustrous finish. Durable worsted wool has a lustrous, smooth surface; retains its shape; and is less prone to wrinkling. Superfine merino worsted wool is associated with high-end suits, while wool/cotton/polyester blends are more economical suit cloths. Read care labels since most wool suits are dry-clean only.
Though most associate wool as an insulating and absorbent cold-weather textile, this versatile fabric is also made in tropical weights. Men can wear a steel gray wool-linen blend suit with a striped dress shirt and charcoal gray, silk skinny tie paired with suede lace-ups. From pinstripe to chalk stripe, men can opt for heavier weight wool suits in a slim-fit silhouette for the fall season. Be bold by wearing an on-trend, belted, solid dark color suit. Women can wear the same heavier weight in a patterned wool. Choose suits with pocket detailing or shorter lengths as an edgy suit-style choice. Layer a classic skirt suit with an overcoat, selecting all pieces in the same pattern. Look for on-trend wool suit details such as pinstriped boyfriend-style silhouettes, oversized shoulders, vests, wider leg cuff openings and sleeveless jacket versions.