I’m the kind of girl who can’t stand humid bathrooms post-shower, so it is reasonable that one of my favorite things about Seattle is that we don’t have humid summers. As soon as I found out that’d I’d be headed to NYC for summer, I started looking for new shirts. I had looked in my closet and found that the majority of my nicer tops were made from synthetics, which I know do not breathe. Synthetic fibers trap air around your body, which only causes one to sweat more and feel like you’re walking around in a portable sauna – blah. Seriously though, I usually have sweat running down my stomach & back while waiting for my morning subway train. Because I didn’t find much useful information around the internet about shopping for humid weather (especially if you have to work inside with AC) and because JCrew had a laughably poor response to what to wear in humid NYC, here’s what I’ve learned and bought and worn in the two weeks I’ve spent in this great city:
Know your fiber content – take the time to look inside a piece of clothing for the tag that gives information about what material was used to make the piece. Sometimes this can be found in the center back tag area, but is often found along one of the sideseams of shirt or dress near the hem (keeps those pesky tags from itching your neck!) Manufactures are required to disclose anything that makes up more than 5% of the fiber content, so you should be able to easily find out what you’re buying. Stay away from anything that says (or has a majority of) synthetic, polyester, spandex, or even silk. Silk, sadly, does not breathe as well as one would like for a natural fiber. Yes, oftentimes your workout gear will be made from synthetics, but I’m focusing on stuff I can wear on the subway, walk through central park, and then stop in the Met without dying of heat exhaustion. Following the JCrew post’s instructions, one could try a ‘lightweight’ polyester, but you’ll be soaked through with sweat in no time. I (silly me) brought a few light polyester shirts that work nicely in Seattle, but was so sweaty by the time I got to the subways station, that I am currently planning on mailing all my polyester shirts back to Seattle asap.
Fibers that do breath well in hot, humid weather include cotton, rayon, viscose, bamboo, and linen. (I’d add to stay away from wools, but that should be self-explanatory…). Never heard of rayon or viscose? Basically they are made by taken plant fiber (usually wood pulp), breaking it down with chemicals, and then forming yarns by spinning out the solution in the same process used with synthetics. But, because they are plant based, they retain the valuable properties we want from natural fibers. Various post-treatments can yield fabrics that look and behave like silks/synthetics or cotton fabrics – the range is amazing!
The JCrew post was right about shapes – the looser the shape and the more a piece can hang away from your body, the better. This is why I dislike being a lab scientist some days; closed toe shoes and long pants are not fun to walk around in outside of the ac in the lab. If you get to wear things like skirts and dresses, do it; as awkward as it sounds, a breeze under your skirt or between your legs is very refreshing. If you can’t part with your pants, at least wear shorts or maybe pants made with a looser cut or of a really breathable material.
In my quest to find wearable tops, I found the company Everlane. While I had heard of them a long time ago, when I first browsed the site they were selling mostly silk garments. I love me some silk, but gah not in NYC. I found out that they’ve greatly expanded their line of clothing to include lots of cotton, linen, and rayon. I have pretty much worn an Everlane shirt every day I’ve been NYC… My favorite fabric so far is their rayon – I’ve worn a Ryan tank ~70 % of the days that I’ve been here. The shirt is cut long, which great for my long torso, and it drapes beautifully. This fabric also resists wrinkling way better than their cotton tank. I love the cut and fabric for the v-neck tees, substantial without being too heavy. The linen line is also surprisingly wrinkle resistant and breathes well. My only warning about the linen tops concerns the side split – it’s a bit higher than you’d expect, so I just wear mine with higher waisted jeans. I did try the crop top and U-neck shirt, but both didn’t quite look good with my proportions. I think I’m all set for the summer, otherwise I would definently be trying some of the cotton slub line; I love the blush color!
ryan tank and linen tee
the cotton tank and v-neck tee
If I could, I would probably include one of every Everlane style in my wardrobe; the silks would be perfect for Seattle weather. I would also love one of their shoes, but alas, my feet are a hair to long for their shoes – when will companies realize that the average women’s size is increasing and maybe make some that fit us tall ladies???
all photos besides the one of me at the top are from Everlane.com