Choosing the Right Fabric

Because I aim to build a minimalist wardrobe, I’m extremely selective about fabrics.

Choosing the wrong cloth is costly. If you want a winter cloth but make light-weight flannels — game over. Buying twice feels crummy.

To start, I pore over tailors’ swatch books and request many swatches.

When the swatches arrive, I carry them with me or lay them on my window sill. That way I see how the colors reflect in light and dark.

Having the fabrics within eyeshot also helps you think about them constantly.

The fabric must meet all three factors:

  1. Color
  2. Weight
  3. Weave

1. Color

If you are commissioning a pair of trousers, visualize all the jackets and outerwear you own.

Take your swatches and set them against those garments.

Also choose a conventional color that will blend in. True story — I spent months searching for a perfect mid-grey flannel.

If this year’s colors don’t suit me, I’d rather wait for next year’s.

2. Weight

Some guys (or even tailors) will tell you there isn’t much difference between a 9 oz and 11 oz, 11 oz and 13, and so on. So pick whichever cloth you prefer.

Ignore that advice.

The difference is slight, but it’s there.

More weight = better drape. But also consider your climate.

Knowing the weight of a pair of trousers you already own will help. It’s not a definite indicator since weaves vary, but you will learn whether you prefer lighter or heavier weights.

3. Weave

The weave should depend on your fabric’s function.

A summertime fabric will benefit from an open weave, allowing breezes passing through.

A tightly-woven cloth, however, will give your garment more drape. It’s less prone to wrinkling.

I still have a lot to learn about weave. But for you, feel and compare different swatches.

Negotiating these three factors, find a fabric that will suit your climate and preferences.

Selecting fabric is difficult, but very rewarding once you’re done and wearing an appropriate cloth.


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