Fabric superhero

Dressing for White Linen Night isn't as easy as you'd think: How to survive the sultry summer night looking fab

Dressing for White Linen Night isn't as easy as you'd think: How to survive the sultry summer night looking fab

There’s no mistaking the dress code for White Linen Night. Even if the fashion directive wasn’t clearly stated in the annual Heights event, why would you wear anything other than linen Saturday night?

It’s a superhero of the fabric world and the perfect way to look and feel cool on what promises to be a very steamy and sultry night.

While white-clad Houstonians are milling about 19th Street, checking out shops, art galleries and the 7:30 p.m. fashion show (Contents, Harolds in the Heights, Buffalo Exchange, Wind Water Gallery and Hello-Lucky are sending looks down the runway), our neighbors to the East will be doing the same. White Linen Nights originated in New Orleans and the two cities hold the event on the same weekend in August.

Native New Orleanian and stylist Dawn Bell has experienced both events and says despite the heat, her hometown adds plenty of Southern charm.

“It’s a very elegant affair in New Orleans. Women stroll the streets with beautiful umbrellas and everybody wears white linen,” Bell says. “It was started in New Orleans by merchants fighting the summer doldrums and stirring up business.”

Bell found linen she likes at Neiman Marcus (tunics start at $68) and at Oolala Boutique on Studewood ($62 to $114 for shirts and dresses). Target and Nordstrom also have a good selection of linen pants and shirts for men and women. Pop by Hobby Lobby for a selection of bamboo umbrellas.

The magic of linen is thanks to the fibers of the flax plant. Incredibly absorbent and resistant to dirt and stains, linen is a natural choice for Houstonians throughout the spring and summer because it soaks up more than 20 percent of its weight in water, a helpful talent in humid Houston.

“Linen has been proven in tests to keep a person wearing it two or three degrees cooler and allows the body to breathe and white reflects the heat,” Bell said. “There’s a reason why it’s worn in the tropics.”

Unlike sweaters which pill or fabrics that fade over time, linen looks better the more it’s washed and worn, although Type A’s will just have to accept the wrinkles that inevitably come with wearing linen.

In true New Orleans style, mussed linen is also given its due the weekend after White Linen Night with the Dirty Linen Night on Royal Street. The atmosphere is similar to the previous week’s event and shop owners place laundry baskets in front of their stores to signal a party stop.

It’s a minor party compared to the original fete and no word if there’re plans for a similar event here, however if it can be arranged in an air-conditioned bubble, it just might work.

News_White linen_ruffle neck linen sheath dress_Anne Taylor
Ruffle neck linen sheath dress, Anne Taylor Courtesy of Anne Taylor
News_NM_linen tunic_linen poet pants_by Cannisse
Cinched linen tunic and linen poet pants by Cannisse Courtesy of Neiman Marcus
News_NM_linen vest_shell_cami_skirt_by Eileen Fisher
From Eileen Fisher, linen separates to mix and match Courtesy of Neiman Marcus