28 In Anatomy of an Outfit/ Styling Tips

Anatomy of an Outfit: Styling a linen dress two ways

Wearing linen dress by Artful Home

The Sandrine linen dress in spring/summer outfits


Working with women over the ages (decades if we’re really counting) I find women have definite opinions about linen. Put simply, they love it or they hate it.

When I come across people who hate linen, it’s definitive and absolute…although I’m hoping to influence that passionate response right now.

My mother would have been in that I-hate-linen category. We could have been shopping together at Herberger’s in Fergus Falls, MN and I could have picked out a marigold linen top for her (she LOVED that color). She’d have looked at the fabric, her smile would have turned upside down and she’d have said, “No, Honey. It wrinkles.” She was from the Midwest so that’s the nicest way someone could express their disapproval. A non-Midwestern response could be, “Linen? Are you kidding? It wRiNkLeS. Never!!”

As if wrinkles make the garment defective from the start.

For the people who love it (I’m in that category), there’s no uproar. In fact, nothing has to be said. It’s like linen lovers share a secret wink, handshake, or a hug that makes you know how much they love and appreciate linen, too. Like loving weekday movie matinees, soft serve ice cream or watching a British detective series on Netflix, it just goes without saying.

Now if you study women who wear linen, I think you’ll see an air of confidence or je ne sais quoi. It’s an intangible quality but you recognize it when you see it. I have a theory on why that’s so and it starts with wrinkles.


Wearing linen in Sonoma

Poolside in Creekside in lovable linen


News flash: Linen is supposed to wrinkle

Clients have said, “I don’t like wearing linen because I have to press it every time I wear it and then it’s wrinkled in five minutes. I don’t have time for the upkeep.”

Trying to keep linen from wrinkling is futile. It shouldn’t even be attempted. When you accept the fact that linen is supposed to wrinkle, there’s a freedom that comes over you.

What I notice is that when I put linen on my body or put it on a client’s body, fashion fairy dust starts falling all around. There’s an excitement in the air, a sizzle. If one could bottle it, it would be similar to the excitement that takes over the moment you tell the kids, “We’re going to Disneyland!” Remember that feeling?


Linen dress over Eileen Fisher jeans

Wearing a linen dress over frayed jeans


Linen is practical. When the weather is warm-to-hot, linen is the coolest fabric you can put on. I like mixing it with other fabrics too. I took this Sandrine linen dress designed by Lisa Bayne from Artful Home and wore it over my frayed cotton creamy-colored ankle jeans. The Sandrine dress comes in three colors: ink (the one I’m in), poppy, and marigold.

Linen calls for expression. There’s an uncontrollable urge to adorn linen with your favorite things. And maybe for those of you who are skeptical about linen, think of it this way: Linen naturally calls for accessories and the pulled together look you create is going to draw the eye away from the wrinkles anyway. Win/win! You’ll feel cool and relaxed while looking glamorous or chic.


Creative accessories with linen

Linen brings out creativity in accessories


When I wore the Sandrine dress over my frayed jeans, I reached for my beaded necklace from my friends the Sol Sisters. Look at those colors; they stand out beautifully against the ink dress.

This dress made me reach for a scarf to weave into my hair. That’s what happens when you wear linen! I added my Wendy Stauffer earrings from Artful Home (here’s one of hers that is similar) and my Pat Flynn Iron Moonlight Cuff. It’s also from Artful Home.

Now tell me, are you going to say no to the linen dress when it looks as great as it does all put together? I didn’t think so!


Removing the jeans and wearing the linen dress alone


Sandrine linen dress and pearls

Sandrine linen dress and pearls


Like I said, linen makes me do things that I wouldn’t think to do with another fabric. At least the ideas wouldn’t come as fast as they do with linen.

Here I decided to go crazy with my pearls. I created a focal point at the base of my neck by grouping two chunky pearl necklaces together. I’ve done that before here in a jean outfit. I added my Alexis Bittar lucite earrings, my Lanvin vintage bangle, one of my button bracelets and my Victor Sanz owl ring. I put on my patent leather blush platform sandals by Prada. I felt ready to for the next social event on my calendar where I wanted to be on the dressy side.


Dressing up the linen dress

Dressing up linen is easy because it’s so versatile


Can you see how open linen is to accessories? And it very well could be the wrinkles that are enticing that action. With that little bit of rumpled feeling with the fabric, more accessories is more better. If this was a fine silk dress, more wouldn’t be better. It could be overpowering.


Denim and linen go well together

A simple jean jacket is a perfect wrap for linen


I pulled out my denim jacket as a quick wrap for the Sandrine dress. Aren’t those blues great together? My jacket had a cluster of pins on it already and I left them all on. Mostly they are pearl pins, plus a bee pin and one that has Mother’s initial: A for Alma. I want to bring her along in this outfit. She may not be ready to embrace linen but when she saw how cute this outfit is, it could have opened the door a tad.


Linen is perfect in warm weather

Linen is sublime, don’t you think?


One last thing to share about linen: I rarely if ever press it. I’ll take it off after wearing it for a day, hang it on a hanger. Some of the wrinkles will relax, but really, I don’t care if they don’t. I accept and embrace the properties of linen.

In closing let me just say that you are a free woman. I LOVE that about you! You can choose to wear whatever you want. You can also change long-held beliefs about things if you care to. And you can try new things with baby steps. Maybe you’re not ready to wear a linen dress but maybe you could wear a linen jean jacket or a linen shirt that you wear open like a jacket over a smooth T-shirt. I just want you to know that if you decide to join the linen loving club, you’ll be met with open arms. We really are a friendly bunch. You’ll like us.

So my friends, I’m ready to open the door to your comments. Love? Hate? Might consider? Open to trying it now that you know it’s meant to wrinkle? Have been wearing it for years; what’s the big deal? Let’s get this linen conversation going!



This post was sponsored by my friends at Artful Home. Thanks for letting me use the Sandrine dress to share my ideas about linen!


Rough Luxe Lifestyle blogger Cindy Hattersley

Say hello to my friend Cindy Hattersley, a fellow linen lover!


P.S. Here’s my friend, Cindy Hattersley from her Rough Luxe Lifestyle Blog. We just had lunch last week with three other blogging buddies. She’s a fabulous interior designer and loves linen too! Click here to read about her happy linen stories!

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  • Reply
    May 29, 2018 at 12:52 am

    I love linen! Yes, it’s wrinkled: well so am I and that’s just fine.

  • Reply
    Jacqueline UK
    May 29, 2018 at 1:12 am

    I love linen. Am sewing tops, like Cindy’s in my new colour palette. Thanks to your post on how your colours change when you are ‘fading’ and need to get back into brighter shades in my case.

    Love the dress and the way you have styled it. Your styling three ways always gives me ideas on how to use my clothes more imaginatively.

    BTW – do you have double gauze fabrics in the US. Beautiful soft cotton and minimal ceasing for those who don’t like linen.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2018 at 3:39 am

    Yes, I love linen. Have for years, and collect it when I can. I have numerous blouses, mostly white but a few brighter ones as well. Skirts are great and are so cool when they flow around my knees. I wore a linen blazer on the plane recently and don’t care about the wrinkles, it was a great silver grey colour and worked really well the whole trip. You know, I just realized that I do tend to add fun jewels to the mix. I guess it does bring out the adventure and I never really thought about it until you demonstrated that. Great post as usual. Oh, and I did just recently get a blue dress that I use as a tunic over pants/leggings, about the same colour as yours shown.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2018 at 4:31 am

    A lovely post about a lovely fabric! Thanks.

  • Reply
    Sandy Miles-Blaxland
    May 29, 2018 at 4:32 am

    I too love linen. I’ve always ironed it but you’re right — it never lasts long. I think I’ll join the don’t-care club with all you ladies.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2018 at 5:36 am

    Thanks for this info on linen. I just purchased a navy blue linen dress, and was contemplating on whether I should return it… I think I will keep it and wear it to my granddaughters high school graduation tomorrow. It’s suppose to be very warm, but I will be cool in my wrinkled linen!!

  • Reply
    May 29, 2018 at 5:36 am

    I’m in the I Love Linen Camp too. It’s such the perfect material for summer and so much easier when you embrace wrinkles. I laugh and say that I embrace all wrinkles now—on my clothes AND on my face!!!
    You have such a way with words, Brenda!! It’s like reading my favorite book, every time I read your posts!!

  • Reply
    May 29, 2018 at 5:36 am

    I don’t mind the wrinkles but all linen no matter how fine itches me.

  • Reply
    Lee Davison
    May 29, 2018 at 5:37 am

    Love linen and ALL natural fabrics!
    But … I do love it ironed and I don’t mind ironing it before each wearing. Living in Texas means it’s hot and hotter most of the year so linen is perfect for us.
    Your linen blog is interesting for us linen lovin ladies.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2018 at 6:00 am

    Never met a linen garment I didn’t love on first sight.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2018 at 6:04 am

    I linen! So cool and relaxing, it’s going to be hot today and I plan to wear a favorite color big shirt from J Jill with skinny crops. Ahhhh….

  • Reply
    May 29, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Love linen! Absolutely the best for hot and humid weather. That blue dress is absolutely wonderful with your hair.

  • Reply
    Ann Werries
    May 29, 2018 at 10:18 am

    About 5-6 years ago I changed my mind about linen. I live in Tucson AZ which from May –Oct is really really really hot…I finally found the dress that made me like linen—An Eileen fisher shift with some buttons and shirt tail hem in indigo. I love that dress and even commented a few weeks ago about that dress when you were discussing dresses for summer. I think, for me, the key was leaving behind suiting and pants and shorts and embracing dresses or tunics or shirts in linen. I love the feel of linen and I do agree that accessorizing is fun with linen and it does in fact help to take the focus away from the creases. “Make peace with the crease” was what Angie from YLF taught and I did! Love that dress on you–really gonna consider this one for myself!

  • Reply
    May 29, 2018 at 11:09 am

    Love linen! I even enjoy ironing it knowing it won’t last, don’t care! I have a long tunic from La Fée Maraboutée that makes me feel like a million bucks when I wear it… always with a hat, bien certainement.

  • Reply
    Jane Dalea-Kahn
    May 29, 2018 at 11:59 am

    I say linen on the top but never on the bottom. To me all those wrinkles on the bottom aren’t flattering.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    I’m wondering if the “Ink” color tends to teal at all? It kind of looks like it in the photos–I adore the pants your friend Cindy is wearing and notice they also come in Ink.

  • Reply
    Sue Peel
    May 29, 2018 at 3:55 pm

    Brenda, here in Queensland, Australia, I lived in linen dresses for most of our summer. Love them and the wrinkles are not a problem. I would post a photo of them but not sure how to on here. Great post!

  • Reply
    May 29, 2018 at 7:42 pm

    I am a linen girl! Living near Atlanta, we endure summers that are hot and humid. My kids play soccer year round, and I am forever sitting on the sidelines in the unrelenting sun (or the almost freezing damp and cold, but that’s another story!). Alas, the years of sun are starting to take a toll on my skin. I figured out that the best garment to wear these days is my long sleeved white linen big shirt. It’s a Liz Claiborne that I purchased many years ago, and it’s really lovely with white-on-white embroidery along the bottom edge. I can wear a tank top underneath it and still be comfortable in the heat with my arms covered. And, my accessory of choice is a big sun hat! The other soccer moms say I’m glamorous!

  • Reply
    May 29, 2018 at 11:23 pm

    Linen lover here! I have several J.Jill linen dresses that get me through hot inland valley weather in the Bay Area. I gave up on shorts because the skin on my legs has gone to wrinkles, so cool swirling linen dresses or skirts work for me!

  • Reply
    May 30, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    I have a love/hate relationship with linen. It can be utterly gorgeous but sometimes looks old and worn, mostly comfortable but some linen can be scratchy. I prefer white because colored linen, while utterly gorgeous, tends to fade too soon. Faded beige and blue often look fine but other colors like black, plum tend to look shabby too quickly. Pressing is a must for me to add a good shape to the collar and to take out big wrinkles. If it looks too pressed, I lightly spritz with water to let it relax. And yes, accessories are a must with linen — it just needs it! So for me, it’s not an easy care, easy wear item — but I still buy and wear it because when it’s right, it looks and feels fabulous!

  • Reply
    Malone Guthrie
    May 30, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    I too love linen, and I never iron it. BUT what I do is pop it on a hanger and spray with water when I take it off. Give it a gentle pull, and all the wrinkle drop out, all ready to wear next time. For this reason, I think it is great for traveling. Another little tip to avoid feeling like a rag bag is to only wear one piece of linen at a time.

  • Reply
    May 31, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    I love linen. I embrace the wrinkles. There is no fabric more suited to hot, humid temperatures. The texture of linen soothes me. I love linen sheets. My husband thinks they are scratchy. Linen softens with time. It is resilient, sturdy, breathable, warming, cooling, intoxicating, wearable, washable, timeless, and versatile. Linen vs cotton, linen wins every time.

    • Reply
      June 8, 2018 at 12:54 pm

      Vivian! You have sold it! Your descriptive words have me falling more deeply in love with linen. I didn’t know it was possible! Bless you. And linen sheets? Oh my that sounds heavenly!

  • Reply
    cindy hattersley
    June 3, 2018 at 6:10 am

    Brenda thanks for the shout out. I am so honored! I LOVE linen and I love that dress. I have been so tempted to order it in one of the other colors. I love it on you my friend!

    • Reply
      June 8, 2018 at 12:41 pm

      You’re such a sweetheart! You wear linen so well. I’m glad you live in a climate where it’s also so very practical. Win/win. Sending hugs!

  • Reply
    June 5, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    Some linens tend to be scratchy. Is there a way to determine if that scratchy feeling will soften after a few washes? Is there another way to soften the fabric? Is there a manufacturer that you favor over others for the softness of the fabric? I do live linen!!!

    • Reply
      June 8, 2018 at 12:09 pm

      Well, I’d start with the feel test from the start even before purchasing it. Linens do tend to soften up but I truly can’t tell you about ones that I would feel comfortable guaranteeing that it’ll happen. Anyone else have some recommendations?

  • Reply
    Kathleen Adams
    October 25, 2019 at 8:17 am

    I love linen for its naturalness. I would also like to say, I am a natural girl as far as my diet and I try to minimize my exposure to chemicals in general. So, that has led to being careful of what fabrics I put next to my skin, which is essentially a sponge. Cotton, rayon, linen, etc, NEVER polyester! When shopping, the 1st thing I look for is the fabric tag! I asleep prewash any garment before wearing. The chemicals used in manufacturing clothing are pretty bad.

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