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Cotton suits are perfect for those in hot and humid environments. It’s strong natural fibers offers a light fabric that is durable and versatile. Through its ease of cultivation and widespread appeal, cotton suits range from the ultra-economic to the highest of quality. Knowing proper cotton aftercare for your shirts and suits will prolong the life of your investments. Read on for what makes cotton unique and the dos and don’t of caring for your cotton suits or shirts.
The cotton we know is processed from the flowers of the cotton plant. These buds are harvested from a field and fed through a machine which removes the seeds and other impurities to create the raw material for cloth. As cotton is so readily available, many apparel items are made from cotton, from jeans to suits, to shirts. This does not mean that all these items are equal, the cloth used to make cotton suits are finer and of higher quality, losing some of its durability in the process.
This fine cloth however, is what makes a cotton suit breathable and airy, perfect for summer weathers. Cotton cloth at a microscopic level is much more chaotic than the rigid lines you would see in linen, for example. This means that the fabric easily creases and is highly absorbent of moisture.
Cotton suits and shirts need to be stored in a cool and dry environment. It is a natural fiber so in extremely unfavorable conditions, it will start to grow moldy and rot. When hanging your jackets in the closet, there is little you can do for them to avoid getting slightly wrinkled, especially around the sleeves. To do the best you can, make sure you have a full width shoulder on your hangar, and a thick dowel beam from which to hang your suit trousers upon. The full width shoulder hangar will help retain the shoulder shape and thus look better when worn again.
Shirts are fine on thin wire hangars as their shoulder seams line up nicely with the wire frame. During storage, it is likely that your trousers will lose its straight and clean edges, once again due to the characteristics of the fabric. If in a pinch, this will be hardly noticeable, but for special occasions a quick ironing or pressing of your trousers before wearing will return them to their former glory.
Treating your suit well will always increase its longevity, but thankfully cotton is one of the few fabrics that can really take a beating. Once again after daily use, a simple brush down with a suit brush will help get rid of any grime that has collected during everyday wear. Dry cleaning uses harsh chemicals, try to limit this to only about once or twice a year. Cotton suits tend to get very wrinkly, but respond very well to heat. Even a pair of cotton suit trousers left at the bottom of a hamper can be restored with a quick steaming. Steaming is a much more gentle and easier process than ironing, but ironing can be done until you buy yourself a steamer. Pressing is also viable for those in a rush, but constant use may damage areas around zippers and buttons. If you have a cheaper cotton suit, you could even machine wash the pants, just be sure to use the proper settings on your washer and hang it to dry. A drying machine may cause shrinkage. Once dry, steam to get rid of the wrinkles.
Stains are the easiest to banish when you act fast. First add water to the stained area to dilute the stain. Then with a tissue or paper towel, softly dab the stain to draw out the water and stain mixture. Be sure to be gentle, if you push too hard, you will just force the stain deeper into the fabric. Keep repeating this process until the stain is removed or it no longer has an effect. If you have any laundry detergent on hand, you can also add a small amount to the water.
Cotton is thankfully very absorbent, this will mean that water can seep into every inch of the fabric to tackle stains. Keep persisting and almost all stains can be removed through this process. If the stain is proving stubborn, or if covering a large part of your suit, send it to the dry cleaners as soon as you can. If the stain is just on the trousers, you could also consider machine washing.
Cotton is perfect for hot weather as it is light and breathable. It is also a very durable fabric, so you can wear with ease during your everyday wear. The only thing you should worry about is creasing. Try not to leave your suit jacket slack on top of a surface, keep it hung and if you can, supported at the shoulders. Of course, all these problems could be easily solved if you keep a portable fabric steamer in your office or car, to quick fix any wrinkles. A cotton suit is so durable in fact, that besides unsightly wrinkles, you could foreseeably wear a cotton suit everyday as long as weather allows and you are unafraid of fashion faux pas.
When travelling to a hot destination, the cotton suit is your best friend. As it is so easy to iron/steam and is such a light fabric, you can really squash it in your luggage with no major problems. Just be careful you aren’t snagging anything on the zippers or buttons and you are good to go. No need for any fancy suit carrying travel devices. Once you get to your hotel, a quick iron/steam and it will be good as new.
With proper care, your cotton suit and shirts will clad you during many summers to come. Cotton suits are a necessity in our home town of Hong Kong. With such hot and humid weather most of the year, cotton is the fabric of choice. At Senszio our master craftsmen apply their 3 generations of experience into making the finest cotton suits for the discerning gentleman. Book your next appointment and check our touring schedule here.Fabric weight and GSM explained for suits and shirts
With fabric, there are several types of numbers to consider that define it. Why is weight important to understand? The weight has a great deal to do with how warm you will be and how the fabric drapes, wrinkles and responds to your movements. The raw material and quality of the fabric also effects these things, but a 180GSM vs. 300GSM of any material will definitely contribute to how it feels on your body.
Fabric weight is usually measured in ounces or in GSM (grams per square meter or gm/2). Metric is more common but you will still find some mills measuring their fabrics using imperial measurements (ounces – oz or oz/yd2). Light weight fabrics would be from 180GSM to 230GSM. These would include your linens, silks, cottons and fine wools. Medium weights would be from 240GSM to 290GSM, including wool, some thicker cottons and certain silk blends. Heavy weights would be anything higher than 300GSM such as thick wool and tweed.
The lighter your fabric is, the more breathable and summer suited your suit will be. It is no surprise that tropical climate fabrics like linen and cotton are also very light. If you are looking for something to wear all season, or when purchasing your first suit, stick to a wool in the 210-230 GSM range. This should keep you cool in the summer, and be thin enough to sneak a cardigan underneath in the winter. The heavier you go in GSM, the thicker the fabric tends to get, making high GSM fabrics ideal for keeping warm in the winter.
The weight of the fabric also affects the fit of your suit. Tailors love to work with heavier fabrics as they hold their shape more readily, and drape downwards easier. This creates a very clean and fitted look when being worn. As the fabric gets lighter, it sways more in the wind, creases easier and is more likely to get snagged on your shoulders, belt or shirt sleeves, causing a disheveled look. Heavier fabrics are usually thicker, which might cause one to look portly.
While cottons, linens and silks will not vary too much, you can find wools in a wide range of weights. Many are aware that wool comes in different thread counts, usually labeled as Super 110s – Super 160s+, but are unsure how this affects weight. It is true that as wool goes up in thread count, it will usually be lighter, but as the threads themselves can vary in size, you can still find Super 150s from 220GSM all the way to 290GSM. Italian super 150s+ usually favor the ultralight side of wool (as low as 220gsm), while British fabric mills will create a heavier variety.
Shirting Fabric Weight
Shirt fabrics will follow the same principals as suit fabrics however with less complications. Due to the various fabric materials and uses of a suit, jacket or blazer, the fabric weight choices are much more. A quality dress shirt will typically be made of cotton, linen or a blend of each. The thickness will vary less and typically range in the 100 – 200 GSM range. To separate the nuances of fine shirting and understanding of the weave and origin of the raw material is more important determinant of quality.
Fabric weight can get a bit technical, if in doubt during your first fitting your tailor will always be happy to advise you in the right direction.