Monday, July 1, 2013

What is That Stuff Anyway?

Let it rain, let it rain...

I bought a leopard raincoat the other day (file that under "One Can Never Have Too Much Leopard"). It's trench-coat styled, really soft and squooshy and easily stashes away on a questionable weather day. The sign over the rack said SILK, but when I got home and read the label, it said 100% POLYESTER. Maybe I missed quotation marks around the word "silk", but I was certainly surprised. Okay, so a silk raincoat would seem a contradiction in terms, but was that signage a little shady if not downright illegal?

I've written before about polyester that looks like silk and also sells for silk prices. This was not the case. A stylin' $49 raincoat is a bargain anywhere. An item of clothing doesn't need a pedigree or a designer label to make me love it. Nevertheless, sometimes it's nice to know what it is.

For instance, two of the most misunderstood fabrics are natural and synthetic at the same time— natural materials but fashioned by man. One is a god-send; the other I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot hanger.

Tencel is a "cellulosic fiber obtained from wood pulp using recyclable solvents". This sounds like something leftover at the dry cleaners. But, no, Tencel is made of wood pulp from trees grown on sustainable tree farms. It's biodegradable and 50% more absorbent than cotton. It feels wonderful, and wears and washes like a dream. For ages garments made of Tencel were on the pricey side. The manufacturing process was streamlined to make Tencel more affordable. Tencel's European cousin is called Cupro. And all this time I thought that was Spanish for "silk".
Tencel, meet your cousin Cupro

Rayon is a "manufactured regenerated cellulose fiber". Sounds chewy, doesn't it? Rayon is made of plant pulp and thus breathes like natural fibers. Rayon got its start as a cheap alternative to silk and then a real alternative when the Asian silk industry went MIA during WWII. Alas, 99% of all the rayon I've ever met wrinkles just looking at it. Whatever virtues it may have (strength, economy, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound), rayon won't be coming home with me.

Rayon spelled backwards
is "No yar"


  1. I doubt I could pass up a leopard raincoat no matter what it was made of! This was a funny post...and informative, too :-)

  2. Great post! I won't buy rayon either. It's hot, wrinkly and looks cheap to me.
    Leopard is a neutral for me. I adore it!