Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be a rich boat owner or of a certain age or demographic in order to wear linen: there’s a particular stereotype associated with linen wearers and we’re here to bust that myth. Linen is one of the world’s oldest fabrics dating back to 4500 B.C. Made from the fibres of the flax plant – which grows in cooler climates than cotton and is robust against insects and drought – it’s laborious to manufacture and has been worn for millennia.
Traditionally, linen is used in suits but modern silhouettes tend to be big, boxy, and less concerned with tailoring. Linen’s USP is its ability to stay sweat-free, which is why it’s so popular in warmer climates, though there’s trepidation as to whether it has enough sex appeal. Is linen sexy? The answer is yes thanks to a swathe of labels giving new-found life and appreciation for this age-old material through modern design and sophistication. Read below for some of our favourite linen pieces of the season; whether you find yourself adrift on a desolate island somewhere or relaxing on the shore of Achill Island.
The traditional touch
Striped linen dress, €49.95 at Mango.com
This is a beautiful example of how to wear modern linen. The idea is quite generic but the execution is perfect with neat spaghetti traps, traditional tortoise-shell buttons and pockets. If you’re petite, the addition of a faint white stripe gives the illusion of length. Keep this outfit simple with dainty layered jewellery and paired-back makeup.
The wardrobe arsenal
Linen blouse, €99 at uterque.com
A crisp, fresh white linen shirt should be part of every woman’s wardrobe arsenal. This stunning blouse from Uterque, above, is made from delicate linen and features a deep neckline, ruffled sleeves, peplum detail at the hem and placket fastening with pearl button details. This is a great year-round option and can be worn on its own with a pair of smart shorts or under a cosy jumper for chilly evenings.
Linen for Irish weather
Linen jacket with belt, €59.95 at zara.com
The simple reason why linen isn’t as popular on our shores as it is on the sunny coast of Costa Del Sol is down to weather: light-coloured linen looks picture perfect with a healthy dolloping of sunshine and freckles, but it doesn’t have the same appeal in the rain, does it? With that, linen doesn’t just come in light and neutral shades as shown above by high street favourite Zara. This rusty grey linen jacket is a great alternative for our “summer” weather and, what’s more, it will transition easily into your autumn wardrobe too. That’s smart future-proofing!
Embroidered linen top by Innika Choo, €180 at net-a-porter.com
With summer holidays fast approaching there’s no time like the present to start thinking of the all-important holiday wardrobe prep. This cute and delicate linen top – from Australian designer Innika Choo – is cut from breezy linen that’s perfect for balmy weather. It’s embroidered with stars and flowers and has a ruffled elasticated hem and neckline that can be adjusted to create an off-the-shoulder silhouette. Choo often wears her own pieces in Bali, where she currently lives with her family.
The savvy accessory
Woven, dyed and sewn in Ireland by Kathryn Davey, this 100% sustainably dyed Irish linen tote bag is big enough to carry all your essentials and falls perfectly over your shoulder. Davey produces her pieces at her studio in the south of Ireland and uses only natural fibres and materials, making this bag a great choice if you care about the planet and want to support local designers.
Linen tote bag, €64 at kathryndavey.com
Striped linen shirt, €42 at topshop.com
This striped linen shirt from Topshop, above, is a breezy option for spring dressing. It’s finished with a contrast pocket and asymmetric buttons and comes in three earthy tones that are just right for this time of the year. This is no-fuss kind of top and can easily translate from the school-run to romantic dinner with the addition of a statement earring or necklace. Job done.
Patterned linen-blend kimono, €79.99 at hm.com
This floral kimono from H&M is the perfect way to make an entrance at a summer BBQ or a embark on a quiet stroll through town. It works great as a stand-alone piece (worn either as a dress or jacket), or together with the matching trousers as seen above. This piece does all the talking for you, so keep the rest of your look fresh with dewy skin and a bright smile.