Monday, February 21, 2011

The 10% Rule

We've all heard that the average person only uses 10% of their brain. This is a myth. Just look at a brain scan. I know we have all met some one we were convinced only used 10% of their brains but sadly they were really using all their brain. They just didn't have much of a brain. But this year the 10% rule will apply to clothes. The cost of clothes will be going up at least 10%.

Why the rise in the cost of clothes?The price of cotton has more than doubled in the last year. The price of cotton has hit an all time high. This is good for the farmers in South Texas but bad for the end user ( you and I). The price of synthetic fabrics has jumped 50% as demand for alternatives has risen. This may be good time to explain the difference between natural and synthetic fibers.

Natural fibers are found in nature, they come from animal and vegetable sources. Synthetic fibers are manufactured fibers and fibers created by scientist including some manufactured from cellulose and wood pulp. Is one better than the other - no. They have different properties but both natural and synthetic fibers have advantages and disadvantages. So how do you choose which to buy - check the care label. The best advice is to buy whatever you can afford to care of. One thing that those of in South Texas may want to remember , natural fibers tend to be cooler as it allows better air flow.

Some natural fibers are cotton, linen, ramie, silk, wool, bamboo, jute, hemp, and sisal.

We all know cotton - the iconic blue jean. If you have ever driven I-37 to Corpus Christi - you've seen cotton growing in the fields. Cotton grows in the seed pod of the cotton plant. Cotton is the second strongest natural fiber. Cotton has been used in fabric since 5,000 B.C. in Egypt. ( yes I used B.C. and not B.C.E.) Cotton takes dyes well allowing for a wide range of colors. Even though the cotton ball seems white -once it is made into fabric it has an optical brightener to make it appear whiter. So wondering if the unrest in Egypt is going to effect you? The answer is yes, Egyptian cotton is used to make some the best sheets and shirts.( gentleman please take note - if you like heavy starch -stay away from Egyptian cotton - it gets softer with wear and washings unlike Texas king cotton).

Linen is the vegetable fiber from the woody stem of the flax plant. Linen has been around as long as cotton and was popular with the Egyptian Pharaohs. Linen is cool and absorbent but it wrinkles easily.

Ramie is from a plant similar to flax. The plant is grown in China. ( which explains all the made in China labels on ramie.)

Silk is from the cocoon of the silk worm. It was the fiber of the Chinese Emperors.The legend of silk is the concubine of an Emperor Yuen Fei dropped a cocoon into hot teas 2600 B.C. and it unraveled into silk fibers.Silk was a guarded secret in China for 3,000 years. The dye on silks can be very delicate.

Wool is the strongest natural fiber. It is breathable,hard wearing and can be soft or scratchy. Wool is the hair from a number of different animals ,most commonly sheep. If you are allergic to animals - you can be allergic to wool.

Now for the synthetic fibers...Acetate, acrylic,microfiber,nylon,polyester and rayon

Acetate is both natural and synthetic. It is composed of refined plant cellulose or wood pulp and acetic acid. It is long wearing ans resists wrinkling.

Acrylic is derived by polyacrylonitrile. Acrylic has a wool-like feel but lacks wool's insulating properties.Acrylic stretches easily - and pure acrylic cannot be steamed. Acrylic also pills easily. But if blended with natural fibers it is very durable.

Microfiber is a generic term for any synthetic fiber finer than silk. Currently, there are four types of microfibers being produced - they are acrylic,nylon,polyester and rayon. Microfiber is 100 times finer than a human hair.

Nylon was invented by DuPont in 1938.Nylon was the first completely synthetic fiber created. Nylon is very strong and flexible. nylon wears well and resists static electricity.But nylon is not breathable. Nylon makes great umbrellas and parachutes.

Polyester the fiber of the 60's and 70's. ( remember the polyester suit worn by Herb on WKRP in Cincinnati ?). Polyester is short strands of fiber bonded together. It dries quickly. It is fade resistant, abrasion resistant and doesn't wrinkle during wear. But polyester will retain permanent wrinkles if dried in high heat. Do not dry polyester in your home dryer.

Rayon is regenerated cellulose.rayon is made from regenerated wood pulp, cotton linters or other vegetable matter. Rayon is a manufactured fiber that uses natural materials. Rayon was invented in 1910. rayon does not do well in high humidity as dampness can cause shrinkage. The sizing used in rayon are often water soluble and leave the areas that get damp darker. This can cause the rayon to look stained. So don't go "walking in the rain with one you love" wearing a rayon dress or shirt .

So now you know the difference between natural and synthetic fibers. But no matter which you choose these will both cost you more.Higher cost will affect how clothes are made. Clothing makers are using more synthetics and designers will use less beads and embellishments. You may also notice less color choices. Bad weather in August of 2010 cut harvests in major cotton producing countries including China, the U.S. ,Pakistan and Australia.Restrictions on exports from India ,the worlds second largest cotton exporter behind China have also lead to the higher prices. During the recession many Chinese factories were shut down. So all this is leading to the higher costs.

What can you do? Take care of the clothes you already have. Never put anything away dirty. Even if you don't see a stain - if you know you spilled something on your clothes - clean them. Those stains will up later. Read care labels. Make sure you know exactly how to take care of your garments. When buying new garments - read the care label. Can you clean this ? Can anyone clean this? Does this require special care? Can I afford to take care of this garment? As Dad always said "when times get tough -the tough get going" Be tough - make sure you know exactly what you are buying and make sure you or your favorite dry cleaner ( ME) can take care of it. If the seafood restaurant offers that cheesy plastic bib - wear it. Make sure your winter wools are properly stored this season - now is not the time to surrender to moths and silver fish. You can do this . I can help. But get tough - know what you are buying and then take care of them. Well made clothes can last decades ( if you stay away from the latest fad and stick to the classics). I have some sweaters ( yes they still fit) that are over 20 years old. My secret - proper care. I have dresses ( some don't fit - but I keep them to encourage me to exercise) that are 30 years old. They all look perfect - proper care. So get tough - take care of your clothes and they really can last for decades.