While the pandemic certainly brought about the rise of casual workwear, it has also seen a resurgence of men and women wearing suits to work from home. This trend will undoubtedly continue as we move back to the office.
Why do some workers still appreciate getting dressed up for work? For some, it’s about differentiating the workday from everyday life at home. Others find that a polished look helps them behave more professionally – and get taken more seriously by others.
Of course, suits offer polish and sophistication for events outside of the office, as well. Both men and women need at least a few suits for weddings, formal concerts or theater, or even nights out at excellent restaurants. As the United States reopens after the COVID-19 pandemic, occasions to wear suits will increase dramatically.
Ready to buy a new suit? This guide offers an overview of common suit fabrics, reasons to choose that fabric, and care recommendations for each material.
When choosing the right suit for the season and your body type, it’s essential to understand fabric weights. A piece of fabric can be considered heavy to lightweight, depending on three primary considerations:
A heavier weight fabric doesn’t always mean that it’s not breathable, but it does suggest that it will hold its shape more than lighter-weight fabrics will.
That means that if you purchase a silk suit, then it will fall more loosely and hug your body more closely. A heavier fabric, in turn, will be more forgiving but may also add bulk to your frame.
Some people have misguided notions that wool is a fabric only appropriate for winter weather gear. This isn’t the case, as the natural material is breathable, meaning it adapts to hot and cold seasons. Wool also doesn’t wrinkle, meaning that you can travel with it and wear it for long periods.
The only trouble with wool is that it can be bulkier than other materials. If you want to stay looking trim, then you might choose a different material.
To care for your wool fabrics, it’s essential to read the label. Some wool garments are washable, but others may be dry-clean-only because of the processes they undergo in construction. Wool also needs to be brushed periodically to ensure a longer lifespan.
Think of worsted as wool’s smoother, fuzz-free cousin. Worsted wool is a wool fabric that uses thinner fibers to create a flatter and lighter-weight composition. In contrast to heavier wools that you might not feel like wearing in the warmer months, worsted is cool enough for spring and summer while maintaining the same crease-free properties as wool. What’s more, suit lovers who don’t want to add heaviness to their ensembles often choose this fabric variety.
Care for your worsted wool fabrics the same way you would as wool. A rule of thumb is to hang your worsted (and wool) fabrics for at least 24 hours between wearings. This way, the materials will return to their natural, wrinkle-free shape.
Another type of wool, cashmere, is sheared from a particular breed of goat. Cashmere is more expensive than other types of wool because it is exceptionally soft and medium weight, yet at the same time offers more than three times more insulation than wool.
That’s why it’s such a smart fabric for autumn, which can be chilly and warm in equal measure. So, if you’re looking for a slim-fitting fabric that will keep you warm, cashmere is your best bet. Even a small amount of cashmere in a garment can make it feel more luxurious.
If you need to care for your cashmere fabric, you may be able to wash it in your machine on the lowest cycle, though it’s better to hand wash it if you have minor stains. Also, be sure to fold your cashmere rather than hang it so it doesn’t get stretched out.
Cotton suits are more affordable alternatives to wool, especially if you’re looking for a summer suit. One thing to keep in mind is that cotton won’t drape as wool does, so you’ll need to find a pair with a crisp crease to keep the suit looking sophisticated enough for the office. What's more, unlike wool, cotton will show your sweat, so if you’re planning on wearing it somewhere you’ll get overheated, you may want to rethink.
Another benefit of cotton is that you can often machine wash it and iron it without worry.
Linen is a light, traditionally summer fabric made from flax plants. Linen is popular in Europe because it breathes so easily, yet it is also known for its wrinkles. This means that if you choose a linen suit, you should appreciate wrinkles, not try to fight them. Because the fabric is light, linen is best worn in the warmer months, especially for casual outings. Linen is a smart fabric to choose if you don’t like tight clothing, as it won’t hang onto places on your body that you don’t want emphasized.
Again, you may be able to wash your linen suits, though they sometimes need to be dry cleaned. If you do wash it in the machine, don’t crowd it, as it takes on more water than other fabrics.
Most of the time, you’re not going to be able to find a completely silken suit, even if you wanted one. Instead, silk is typically one material in a wool blend fabrication. Sometimes, you can find suits with silk lining if you’re looking for a luxurious feel, yet breathable, feel against your skin.
Silk is quite delicate, so the best way to clean your silk garments is using baby shampoo to hand-wash the fiber.
Velvet is making a comeback in both women’s and men’s suits. They add a cool, retro feel to any ensemble. Velvet isn’t a fabric itself but is a composition of cotton, nylon, and silk. The nylon makes velvet less breathable than other fabrics, but it’s not so heavy that you can’t wear it year-round. Tailored velvet jackets flatter every body type.
Be sure to hang your velvet jacket up after wearing it. Never iron it, as it will damage the fabric, though you can steam it if it gets wrinkled. Velvet garments typically need to be taken to the dry cleaners.
Polyester is a synthetic material that’s sometimes blended with natural fibers to create an inexpensive fabric. If you can choose a different material for your suit, we recommend it. Not only do synthetic materials wrinkle easily, but they also don’t breathe well and often have a shine that makes the suit look cheap.
No matter how many suits you own, you know that each one is an investment piece. If you care for your suits properly, too, you’ll be able to wear them for years to come.
For hangers that will hold up to heavy suit jackets and maintain even delicate fabrics, consider purchasing Butler Luxury’s men’s and women’s suit hangers. These carefully-made, wooden hangers protect your suits, as well as making a sophisticated statement in your closet.
For more advice on how to care for your suits, check out our “Guide to Luxury Suit Care.”