Saturday, January 7, 2012

MY Simple Wardrobe - Fabrics

 There was a time in my life when I was a natural fiber snob. Only woven cotton, linen, wool (alpaca, cashmere) or silk would ever touch this body. This prejudice had an unfortunate side effect. I had to be addicted to ironing. 

I learned to like ironing. Really, I did. It was satisfying to see that wrinkled fabric become all smooth and pretty because of my ministartions. I never minded ironing at home. It was just the end part of the laundry routine. And, as chores go, I'll pick laundry over floors any day.

But this was in the days before all hotel rooms were stocked with individual irons and boards. Young people, it is true. I know it may seem hard to believe, but back in the old, primitive times, you had to call to the front desk and request that a housekeeper bring you an iron and a board if you needed one. Sometimes this would actually happen before you had to go to bed.... you weren't stupid enough to call and ask for an iron IN THE MORNING were you? 

Hence, a natural fiber snob like myself also had to acquire a travel iron and maybe even a table top ironing board that would fit into a suitcase (as difficult to find them as now). And if you went to Europe or somewhere where they use that funny electricity, you also needed a whole bag full of power adaptors. Travel irons, being small, just don't work well at all. Never did, never will. But even though they are worthless for actual ironing AND they took up about a 1/4 of your suitcase AND added 7 pounds of extra weight, you packed them up anyway, if you were a natural fiber snob like myself. (But at least, these were the days when you could check MORE THAN ONE suitcase for free.)

What happened was that you would arrive at your hotel along with your travel iron. You would discover that the travel iron was virtually worthless when you attempted to iron your shirt for the next day, so, because you had important business meetings, you would just call for the darn hotel iron and ironing board and then guard them jealously for your whole stay. Sometimes you had to wrestle them away from well meaning housekeepers who found that vacuuming the carpet around a set up ironing board to be difficult.  "No, please, leave it! If you take it away, you'll just have to bring it back again this evening!" When it came time to pack up, you would look at the travel iron and decide it was not worth the space and extra weight to pack the silly thing to take home, so you would leave the travel iron in the hotel room. (Besides, you had acquired great stuff from your brief time shopping in the city that you don't live in, stuff that you needed space for in your suitcase.)

So, back in those days, it was difficult to travel and manage to look nice in those natural fiber clothes.

I imagine that after awhile, probably at the International Important Hoteliers Association Annual Meeting, a brilliant young go-getter from Marriot / Hilton / Sofitel presented a seminar entitled something like "An Iron in Every Room: How to Win the Brand Loyalty of the Natural Fiber Wearing Traveler, An Underapreciated  Market Segment" and the rest is history. Probably they had found that selling all those abandoned travel irons by the pound to shipping companies for use as ballast just wasn't the revenue center people thought it should be, and after awhile it became apparent that Something Had To Be Done.

The risk of putting an iron in every room was probably minimal.  Guests who had thrown out travel irons because they were too heavy were unlikely to be light fingered with a full size iron. Besides, these guests all probably had better quality full sized irons waiting for them to return home. And guests who arrived with nothing but polyester permapressed clothes probably would not get natural fibre religion from the mere sight of a potentially steal-able hotel iron. 

But I digress.

One day I looked around and noticed how the women who were my mom's age (Mom included) were all dressing all the time in polyester permapressed pant suits, usually in pretty pastel colors. What's with that? Why did they only want clothes made of petroleum products when there were so many gorgeous natural fibers to be had?

Somehow memories from my childhood helped me figure it out. I recalled things like wringer washing machines, clothes lines, ironing boards and electric mangles (machines that had a large, hot rotating drum  that ironed things like sheets and towels....yes, towels.) I recalled how our fathers all had underwear that was ironed. I recalled how doing laundry was a MAJOR CHORE for women my Mom's age.

No wonder Mom and girlfriends all found polyester to be a true miracle from on high. Polyester! Not only did it never get wrinkles in the first place, if you ever tried ironing, it would MELT.

About the time I figured that out, two things happened in the clothing industry. First people started making more things than tee shirts from cotton KNIT fabric.  It was my beloved cotton, but it never needed ironing.

Next, someone invented PolarFleece. OMG! Soft, cuddly, warm, bright, colorful, washable, dries in a flash. If it weren't for the whole melting if you get it too close to flame thing, it would be absolutely perfect. And if that weren't enough, they came up with microfiber.  Polyester to die for.

Cotton knit, PolarFleece and microfiber, now those are my kind of fabrics. Add in a little bit of lambswool, alpaca and cashmere for sweaters, socks, scarves, hats, gloves and mittens, and there you have it....totally simple fabrics.

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