Over the past few months I have browsed through more clothing websites than I could ever imagine existed. I have seen fast-fashion brands greenwash their new collections. I have seen fancy boutiques charge absurd amounts of money for literal plastic. I have seen fabric stores sell almost no natural fibers. I have even seen an old lady who frankly should have known better absolutely outraged because one of the few linen bolts in the aforementioned shops CREASED. But it was today, while doing your average confinement yoga and getting sweaty nowhere except under my form-fitting lycra top that I thought: that’s it. I have held this rant inside me for too long. We need to stop the madness.
This, if you haven’t figured out yet, is a rant about polyester.
Let me preface this by saying: I get it. Polyester is cheap. Polyester doesn’t wrinkle. Polyester will not get eaten by mots. A 5 year-old could do your laundry if all of it is polyester because it will withstand almost any washing you throw at it. These are all fair points and obviously why such an absurd amount of clothing sold and owned today is made of out of polyester.
But let me counterpoint this by quickly saying — it’s plastic. Literal plastic. And since plastic doesn’t breath, all the sweat you are producing under your clothes will not be absorbed or evaporate. It will cling to your body. It will give you weird armpit smell. It will make you feel clammy and I am sure you are now recoiling a bit because you know exactly what sensation I am referring to. Polyester is uncomfortable.
The real issue
This is where we get into my actual rant: fancy brands and polyester.
The main and frankly only reason to even consider buying polyester is the price. It’s cheap fabric. So it’s insane that some brands dare not only to use it, but to charge the same as you might charge for a natural fiber. Maybe you are already aware of how common this is. But if you aren’t, no matter how much you trust a brand, always check the label. You’d be surprised at what you can find.
Look, for example, at this beautiful skirt. It’s well cut, has nice details and it’s from a small-ish french brand. It sounds like a perfectly good buy. However, clicking on the “material” tab will tell you that this 155€ skirt is made from 100% polyester.
I take no pleasure in bad-mouthing brands like this because they are at least a step better than huge fast-fashion retailers. However, I can’t help but feel a huge disappointement in this choice. If I had bought this skirt and only later checked the label, I’d have felt ripped off.
Another example, and an even weirder one, would be this Sézanne shirt. Take a close look at the composition:
This means that depending on the model you choose, you might be buying, say, 46% plastic or a blend of 70% cotton and 30% silk. For the same price.
Again, this is a french brand with a ton of beautiful pieces that I’d love to own and that are for the most part made in Europe. But the quality and comfort a cotton-silk blend offers is not, ever, comparable with a cotton-acrylic-viscose-polyester blend. The price should at least reflect it. (And to be fair, the 100% silk is slightly more expensive.) But more than that, why is Sézanne even considering these fabrics?
The only reason brands can get away with this is because we stopped caring about what type of fabric we are wearing. Worse yet, we are so used to wearing plastic that natural fibers like linen (hell, even cotton) seem too fancy. We completely downplay the comfort nice cloth can bring. We look for fashionable cuts and pretigious brand names and mistake high prices for high quality.
So next time you are looking to buy clothes, especially expensive clothes, pay attention to the composition. If it’s plastic, consider looking at other brands that are bringing the joy of nice textiles back. It will be better for the planet, for your smelly armpits, and for the general beauty of the world.
More about the properties of polyester: