Singapore’s year-round sunny, tropical climate might be welcome for those who detest the cold. However, many of us face the familiar predicament of perspiring almost immediately when we step out of the shower. The fact is that the weather here dictates how we dress.
To stay cool and comfortable, it’s wise to choose fabrics that will work to mitigate the heat and humidity, not ones that trap even more heat. Of course, don’t throw out the latter garments – you still need them when the occasion arises.
Here are five types of fabrics to help you beat the heat, and five that won’t, so you can make more informed shopping choices:
Cotton shouldn’t come to anybody’s surprise in the curation of best materials for hot weather. The natural fibre is naturally derived from the cotton plant and has long been used to create apparels that are lightweight and breathable. Cotton is also great to absorb sweat (though thicker variants also hold water and can be less moisture-wicking), durable and versatile in the sense that you can find it in almost every shop.
(Read also “Keep Yourself Stylishly Cool In These Summer Dresses“)
Other variants of cotton that you can also seek out include poplin, seersucker and jersey. Because of cotton’s widespread availability, it can be blended with other materials, including the ones we suggest to avoid (perhaps to offset some of the negatives).
In short, cotton is an all-rounder choice.
Pictured: Long Tent Dress With V-neckline In Pine Green, $169, from Rye
Another summer staple you should own is linen. Made with the fibres of the flax plant, linen is especially durable and lightweight. The fabric is also highly absorbent yet it wicks moisture easily, allowing sweat to evaporate quickly.
Pictured: Jem Stripe Linen Jumpsuit, $230, from The Missing Piece
Chambray might be an unfamiliar name but you would have definitely heard of its closest relative: denim. Both of these are made with cotton, but, unlike denim, chambray tends to be a lot lighter and thus make a great alternative for those who still want that sense of casual ease that denim affords.
Pictured: Palmer//Harding Triangle Asymmetric Cotton-chambray Shirt, US$236.27 (S$335.13), from Net-a-Porter.
Technical fabrics refer to materials specifically engineered for a purpose. With the theme of lightweight, breathable fabrics perfect for summer, the first that would probably come to your mind would be Uniqlo’s AIRism.
Beyond that, there are other technical fabrics such as Lululemon’s Everlux and those that provide UPF – ultraviolet protection factor – that shield the body from harmful UV rays from the sun. As Singapore is a tropical country that receives plenty of sunlight year-round, sun protection through clothing is an important factor you shouldn’t sleep on.
One note though: UPF clothing can made with different fabrics, with some less suitable for our weather. As such, do keep this list in mind when purchasing.
Pictured: AIRism UV Cut Crew Neck Long Sleeve T-Shirt, $19.90, from Uniqlo
Wool might conjure images of thick, fluffy sweaters and pullovers that would result in heatstroke in Singapore’s weather, but merino wool is another case. Its fibres, obtained from the namesake sheep, are thinner and softer than regular wool and can keep you cool by wicking away moisture when it’s hot. Though merino wool is on the pricier side, it is super soft, feels luxurious on the skin without being scratchy and touts anti-odour properties.
If you’re looking to invest in a great sweater or long-sleeved jumper that you wear to and from work (i.e. into air-conditioned and outdoor conditions), merino wool is the way forward.
Pictured: Alex Mill Merino Wool Sweater, US$116.22 (S$164.85), from Net-a-Porter
Silk has long been loved for its lightweight and smooth texture, making them great choices for anything from slip dresses to kimonos that many sport during warmer weathers. Silk, however, is notorious for trapping moisture and sweat. So unless you’re not one who sweats a lot or stays cooped in an air-conditioned office, we recommend staying away.
Moreover, silk has odour-retentive properties and generally requires the extra care of handwashing to ensure that it doesn’t break apart. Too much work for too little reward.
Leather is another tricky material to pull off in Singapore’s heat. While you can definitely go for thinner options or those that are smartly tailored with vents or shorter silhouette, leather should be generally avoided.
Like the leather jacket that are great for autumnal and winter climates, leather tends to be heavy and traps heat. Plus, it usually isn’t that breathable either and the trapped moisture can lead to premature degradation.
The same applies to faux or imitation leather.
Ahead, we had proposed chambray as a stylish alternative to denim. But here we will tell you why you might want to give up your denim jeans and jackets when it gets too unbearably hot. While denim is made with cotton – see the first point – its construction is heavy and thick, which as you guessed it, traps heat and moisture. Moreover, denim’s tight weave drastically reduces its breathable quality and most variants are not stretchy – two qualities that further exacerbate its heat-insulating nature.
But if you really can’t bear to part with denim, opt for less heavy weaves and shorter cuts like denim shorts and skirts. Picking a lighter wash might be helpful too.
Synthetic fabrics is an umbrella term comprising man-made materials such as polyester, nylon, acrylic and rayon. They each have their own outstanding benefits, including being wrinkle-resistant, lightweight and many other characteristics. These fabrics also tend to be waterproof. This means that sweat wouldn’t wick off easily and consequently trap both heat and moisture within – not enjoyable scenarios you want to be in Singapore. Although you might see many sports attire made with these materials, they aren’t good to keep cool and comfortable over prolonged periods.
Pro tip: Satin can be made from either silk, polyester or rayon.
Remember the plastic shoe trend that started a few seasons ago? While the transparent panels gave a unique spin to footwear and allowed us to show off our lovely pedicures, the PVC or vinyl construction is the best at trapping heat and moisture. Plastic shoes might be great for the ‘gram but they will fog up and trap sweat (and odour) eventually.
We say: skip the plastic shoes altogether.
This article was first published in The Singapore Women’s Weekly.