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Are you ruining your life by sleeping in the wrong fabric? Here's what you should choose and why.

Updated on May 13, 2012

Cotton vs Silk - What would you rather sleep in?

Whether you love to wear simple cotton T shirts or exotic silk pajamas, like those in the picture, what you may not know is that your choice of nighttime fabric can make a big difference to your life.

Lack of deep, sound sleep is recognized as a form of torture, but many women have no idea that they are condemning themselves to restless, nights where they just can't get the sound sleep they need, just by choosing nightwear made from the wrong fabric.

Almost all the nightgowns and pajamas available are made from some type of man made fiber, and that means two things.

1. They'll wash well and need little or no ironing.

2. They won't let your body breath, with the result that you'll retain body heat and perspiration.

The result - your nightie may look good, but you won't!

In just a few days the lack of deep sleep with be evident in the texture of your skin and the shadows around your eyes. You'll get tired easily and be more short tempered, and all because you chose man made fiber over something more natural, namely cotton or silk.

Cotton racer back camisole and matching shorts. Photo by Polina Osherov.
Cotton racer back camisole and matching shorts. Photo by Polina Osherov.

Cotton

There are many varieties of cotton, some combined with polyester and some just left relatively coarse. I'm betting you've had the experience of owning something crisp and cotton only to find the crispness gone when the fabric was washed. That's because left to it's own devices cotton is, or at least can be, very very soft. When it's crisp it's often because it has been sprayed with chemicals in manufacture. Washing removes the chemicals.

Cotton comes from the boll of the cotton plant. It's the most common natural fiber in use in the fashion industry. It has been spun into thread, woven into cloth and dyed since before records began, but the Greeks only learned about it around the time of Alexander the Great and cotton didn't become common in the UK until the 15th Century. In contrast the plant was cultivated in the Americas and has been found in Peruvian tombs.

Both silk and cotton are 'natural' fibers which allow the body to breath, an important point when choosing nightwear or lingerie and both can feel wonderful next to the skin, depending on the type of fabric chosen. Cotton mixed with polyester for example can be very crisp, while cotton voile or cotton lawn are luxuriously soft. The same can be said for silk, where silk dupioni has a crisp texture while silk charmeuse is wonderfully soft and light.

Photo by Tracey Prever - 'Marina's Bloomer's' Made to measure from Certain Style
Photo by Tracey Prever - 'Marina's Bloomer's' Made to measure from Certain Style

Practical Cotton

Why we love cotton for everyday

One reasons cotton has become prized as 'practical' fabric is it's reputation as easy care. This is usually the case when the fiber is mixed with polyester to produce polycotton. This light fabric has the ability to resist creasing, and when washed with only medium care doesn't need to be ironed, something which makes it ideal for busy modern households.

Cotton doesn't dye in the same way as silk, so cotton fabrics tend to be plain or printed.

Our particular favorite is eyelet lace made from polycotton, a wonderful practical mix for ice cream colored pajamas of various designs. Those in the picture feature trendy short bloomers,a style which is very much in vogue as a reinvention of the knee length victorian original.

'Bewitching Bride' nightgown form Certain Style. Embroidered cotton voile.
'Bewitching Bride' nightgown form Certain Style. Embroidered cotton voile.

Luxurious Cotton

For Special Occasions

But cotton is more than just the practical fabric we know and love. Cotton can be luxurious. Take a look at this lovely nightgown, designed for a bride. The fabric is cotton voile, not only luxurious to look at it feels wonderful and to add just that touch of titillation, it is also slightly transparent. The nightgown has been designed to provide more than a hint of the body beneath, but with its pleated bodice and front lace panel, this long bridal nightgown is also eminently wearable.

Cotton pajama Camisole top. Flirtini - available from Certain Style. Photo by Polina Osherov
Cotton pajama Camisole top. Flirtini - available from Certain Style. Photo by Polina Osherov

Cotton Lawn

The Most Luxurious of All

Possibly the most luxurious cotton, and the one which feel best next to the skin, is cotton lawn. Nightgowns and pajamas made from cotton lawn have a different feel to silk, the fabric has no sheen and the colors, if there are any, are more likely to be printed than painted. All the same, cotton lawn is a luxury fabric which makes wonderful sleepwear. All the benefits of natural fiber, washable, breathable, cool to wear and soft soft soft against the skin. Lawn can, however be prohibitively expensive, sometimes over $40 a yard, so why do we have this view that silk is the luxury fiber, and cotton is not?

One reason may be simply that cotton is easier to sew.

As any seamstress will tell you, fabric with a sheen tends to be slippery, and slippery fabrics require more care, which means they take more time to produce.

How to Choose - Cotton vs Silk

Cotton Pajamas in fabulous cotton lawn from Certain Style - sizes XS - L
Cotton Pajamas in fabulous cotton lawn from Certain Style - sizes XS - L

So the choice you make, cotton vs, silk is most likely to be made by your preferences as well as you budget. If you enjoy pale colors or subtle patterns, cotton is more likely to be suitable than silk.

If you are looking for breathable fibers - there is nothing to choose between them

If you are looking for bold colors and a soft subtle sheen - it's silk every time

Pale colors or subtle patterns? Cotton is more likely to be suitable than silk.

If you love tiny details or pleats and ruffles just like the picture above - cotton is the obvious choice

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