What is a Linen Suit?

Greer Hed

A linen suit is a set of garments that are made in matching linen cloth and usually include a jacket and trousers or a jacket and a skirt. Linen suits are worn by both women and men, particularly during the summer months when suits made of heavier fabrics, such as wool, become impractical. Generally looser-fitting and more casual than a traditional suit, a linen suit can be ideal for wear while on vacation or at a summer wedding.

The flowers of a flax plant, the stalk of which is used to make linen.
The flowers of a flax plant, the stalk of which is used to make linen.

Linen fabric is made from the fiber of the flax plant. Historically, linen was favored by the Egyptians and used to wrap the mummies of the pharaohs. In modern times, linen woven in Ireland has become one of the most desirable varieties of linen cloth. Undyed linen usually appears in shades of gray, tan, ivory, and off-white, although the fabric may be dyed as well. Garments made from linen typically are sturdy, absorbent, and feel cool to the touch.

A folded square of linen.
A folded square of linen.

Another property of linen fabric is its tendency to wrinkle when worn. Due to the stiffness of linen fibers, a linen suit creases when its wearer moves around. The inflexible linen fibers are slow to bend back the other way, so creases stay. When the person wearing the suit perspires, the linen fabric will wrinkle even more. Wrinkle-resistant linens are often treated with a special fabric finish that helps to reduce creasing.

Linen was used to wrap the mummies of the ancient Egyptian pharoahs.
Linen was used to wrap the mummies of the ancient Egyptian pharoahs.

Casual and lightweight, a linen suit is usually considered a summer suit. Linen suits may be taken on vacation or worn for special occasions during the summer, such as an outdoor wedding or banquet. Depending on the occasion, a linen suit may be dressed up with a long-sleeved shirt in silk or cotton, or dressed down with a t-shirt. Summery, casual shoes are usually paired with this type of suit, and men can choose whether or not they wish to wear a tie.

Repeated ironing can cause linen fabric to break.
Repeated ironing can cause linen fabric to break.

Dry-cleaning a linen suit helps it to maintain a crisp, new appearance, although the suit may also be hand-washed. This type of suit should never be put in a dryer at home; instead, it should be laid flat or hung and allowed to air-dry. If a linen suit requires ironing, the iron should be set on high and applied while the suit is still damp. Repeated ironing over creases or wrinkles can cause linen fabric to break. The suit should typically be stored on a hanger, rather than folded up, to further avoid wrinkles in the fabric.

A linen suit may be hand-washed.
A linen suit may be hand-washed.

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Discussion Comments


Linen is actually a pretty incredible fabric. I learned a little bit about it when I was in Europe and took a tour of a flax farm.

It is expensive because it's quite difficult to make. It takes a lot of work to get from the plant to the fabric, unlike, say cotton, which is relatively simple to make.

Linen is much stronger than cotton, even if it does have a tendency to break if it gets creased too much in one place.

It can also hold a lot of water before it starts feeling damp (which is something to be aware of if you have a linen suit). It's even stronger when it gets wet than when it is dry.

Whew, I'm starting to sound like the guy who told me all this trivia. He was a goldmine of information about linen, maybe because he wanted to sell me some linen suit jackets or something.


Linen suits can be expensive, but unfortunately it is usually pretty easy to tell if someone is wearing a cheap suit. If it is shiny, it's probably made of polyester or some synthetic fiber rather than from linen.

And while it does seem silly to spend so much money on a different kind of fabric, linen really is more comfortable and looks much nicer than most other kinds of fabric. I particularly like Irish linen suits.

The only kind I'd take over it is certain types of wool suit and only because they don't wrinkle so easily.

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