Clothes that let the body breathe
Archie Modequillo (The Freeman) - March 5, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — There’s an old saying: “Beauty is pain.” The saying must be particularly referring to physical beauty. And, true, in order to look beautiful one would frequently need to defy nature itself – an act that’s quite a pain to do, every time.

High heels, for instance. Any woman who has had the experience of wearing high heels would swear to the great discomfort. But because she believes she looks fabulous on those, she bears with it.

The same is true with almost everything that people wear, especially the pieces that are seen or intended to be seen. What’s the first thought that crosses one’s mind on the subject of clothes? Right, fashion… how she will look in those clothes.

Rare is the person who bothers about outfit comfort and breathability. Then, at an outdoor social event in summer all the effort in trying to look her best is defeated when her makeup starts to melt from the heat. It’s when she realizes that the dress she chose to wear is the wrong fabric.

The result of a wrong outfit choice is not only discomfort but embarrassment, too. Worse, it will all show on the wearer’s face. And nobody looks pretty with a frowning face.

It is all the more important in a tropical country like the Philippines to pay attention to fabrics and clothes that let the body breathe. One may think that the solution to heat is simply to wear less. No, scantily-clad doesn’t necessarily mean keeping cool; it can look improper on certain occasions and heat-absorbing textiles “like Spandex or Lycra are the equivalent of a fashion death trap,” according to the website, even if there’s less of it covering the body.

Comfort starts with the choice of fabric. When it comes to breathable fabrics, cotton stands out, it’s durable, soft – and it breathes well. But if one is looking to raise the glam, she will of course want fabrics that have that alluring look with the same great properties of cotton. There’s something called modal, a cellulose fiber made by spinning reconstituted cellulose from beech trees, that is resistant to shrinkage and fading, lightweight and, most importantly, has the smooth appearance of silk. There’s viscose too, a synthetic fabric with a silky appearance and feel that has the same breathability as cotton.

Linen is also a good choice to minimize or avoid sweating. Sweat draws in dirt, which then solidifies and blocks the pores; so aside from the discomfort and sweat marks on the clothes, there’s eventual acne to contend with. Again, as much as possible, linen made from natural fibers shall be opted instead of synthetic ones. Linen made from natural fibers is super-absorbent with a quick drying time, just like cotton.

And there’s an amazing new development. A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are creating the next trend in sportswear: clothes made out of living microbial cells! The researchers believe “that microbial cells can be used as functional building blocks for constructing moisture-responsive materials.” The cells that researchers used are the most common nonpathogenic strain of E. coli, printed onto latex sheets. The cells were then designed into ventilating flaps in the workout suit; the tiny thumbnail- and finger-sized flaps open and close in reaction to the heat and sweat generated by an athlete’s body.

Overall, though, textile is only part of the comfortable-clothing equation. Design matters too.  Lightweight linen trousers, shorts, and shirts make the body breathe in hot weather. And yet, it’s not only in hot weather that the body needs to breathe, but in cold weather as well.

Professional fashion designers suggest that clothes shall fit just right – not too loose, not too tight. It’s easy to imagine that clothes like that also look just right, neither too sexy nor too bland. When clothes allow the body to breathe, the wearers are comfortable and it shows in their total look.

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