Most people don’t think about fabric. Part of the reason, or probably the main reason, is because fabric is a generally boring topic. But there is a value in learning about fabric. It can help us make better decisions for our personal style, for our budgets, and for our planet.

Another way to learn about fabric, without getting technical, is to define fabrics in terms of purpose.

The Favorite

“Happiness is Warm Blanket,” according to Linus in reference to his favorite blue blanket. Some fabrics are just that – cozy, soft and secure. We all have a favorite cotton jersey tee shirt, that becomes better and softer after each wash, and harder to part with the longer we have it. Cotton fleece or French Terry sweatshirts are even better. The newer ones need breaking in. The older ones have stories to tell.

The Special

A camel hair coat; a duchesse satin gown; selvedge denim jeans or cashmere flannel pants – these are examples of clothes made from special fabrics. What they have in common is that we wear them on certain occasions, on days that we want to look or feel good; they are made well and fit well; we take care of them and fold or hang them nicely, we hand wash or have them dry cleaned as instructed. Like the favorites, these are keepers.

The Functional

Clothes made from these fabrics are waterproof, warm, stretch, or durable. In some cases they are anti-bacterial or non-flammable. I am not including quick-dry here because I’m not convinced that synthetic wicking fabrics are real, not after a few washes anyway. We own clothes made from these type of fabrics out of necessity and their value is largely based on how well they perform. Functional clothes are typically made to last several years.

The Daily

These are the clothes we wear every day, that don’t fall into the above three categories. The fabrics are not necessarily special, unique, or functional, they’re just good for the moment. We like them for the style, fit, color and comfort. We are wearing them now, and someday we’ll be either be over them, the style will be outdated or they will will wear out, and we will and either sell, donate or recycle them. The short life cycle of clothes in this category contributes to the clothing industry’s high level of carbon emissions.

The Edit

With an awareness of fabric quality in terms of purpose, we can shop for more clothes in the favorite, special and functional categories, and less of the daily. We can buy higher quality pieces that last longer, build a better wardrobe, and develop our style. With less clothes we could save money and space, and spend less time purging our closets. The amount of meh clothes needed for our daily lives would decrease, which would help lower the demand for constant apparel production, and reduce the industry’s constant pollution.

So… wearing our favorite cotton tee shirt with cashmere flannel pants and a Macintosh raincoat would make our lives better and help lower pollution. And we would look good.