compulsive shopping

I Can’t Stop Buying White Linen Things

Mmmm … white linen. Photo: winnond/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Welcome to our new recurring feature, I Can’t Stop Buying, where we talk to people who can’t stop buying very particular things. For our first installment, writer Brenda Cullerton — who’s been coveting, wearing, and sleeping between white linen for over 45 years — on her favorite finds.

First, a preface about how to wear white linen properly. It was the Italians who taught me to never wear linen that’s been ironed. (Linen looks terrible when it’s been ironed.) And it was the Brits who taught me to never sleep in linen that’s been ironed. (It’s less soft.) I was 19 the first time I bought linen at a French flea market — it was 20 francs for a set of beautifully hand-embroidered sheets. A friend washed them for me and laid them out on the lawn in the sun to dry, and the grass bleached them back to white. I think it’s the memory of that first experience that turned linen into a lifetime habit.

I’m obsessed with linen bedding because I never sleep. I’m a total insomniac, so the bed has become a very important object in my life. Linen breathes — it’s light, but sturdy; it doesn’t stick to the skin. And it’s nice to know you’re tossing and turning in something that’s been around longer than you have. I mean, they buried the Pharaohs in linen! Bed Bath and Beyond, believe it or not, is a very good source for sleeping linen, like this Wamsutta Vintage Linen Duvet Cover — though it’s closer to beige than white. A thing I love about sleeping in linen under a quilt is, you don’t need a second sheet — all you need is the bottom sheet and the duvet cover. For something much more expensive, there’s this linens line by the ex-wife of Julian Schnabel, Olatz. She has a website and a store, and sometimes I go to the site and lick the windows on the computer. Joke! This sheet of hers is customizable, and available in linen and cotton. And it’s only $700 a sheet.

Parachute makes a perfect (much cheaper) white-linen sheet.

For clothes, when I’m feeling extravagant, Eskandar. You can find it at Bergdorf Goodman. I’ve been buying it for 25 years. The shirts — and oh my god, the pants are fabulous. They have an elasticized waist, and they have a real weight to them — though they don’t ever feel like they’re heavy on. And they last forever.

For less-extravagant white linen, I turn to J.Crew. They make a good basic white-linen shirt.

Unfortunately this is sold out, but here are a few more basic white shirts from H&M, Everlane, and Gap.

And I love, love wearing an L.L. Bean men’s linen shirt in a small. They have a nice, solid weave, and they’re indestructible.

These Sferra napkins are gorgeous, and machine-washable. In all-white, or a mix and match of the colors.

A brand-new discovery that I’m enraptured with for clothes is Vestiaire, a luxury resale website — they sell curated vintage at much lower prices. I’ve been buying these old Ukrainian linen dresses that I used to be able to get on the Lower East Side when it was all Ukrainians — they’re all out of business now. There are these fabulous two women who sell vintage Ukrainian linen dresses, like this one, which feels fabulous on and also features embroidery — which is very trendy, I’ve heard.

And then there’s the Linen Shed! They have really great pajamas and summer loungewear, like this stonewashed pair with mother-of-pearl buttons.

There is something magical about dyed linen, too — the way it absorbs color. Good linen takes to dye brilliantly. I used to do a lot of that: I’d dump old sheets and nightgowns into buckets of boiling water and bright fuchsia, or emerald green, or even cobalt dye — I use them as tablecloths, or cut them up and stitch them into pants. I use Rit dye, which is the most famous dye from the 1920s.

This is currently unavailable, but here is a long-sleeved option and here is a nice v-neck tee option.

Unfortunately these are sold out, but here is another more straight-legged option.

This is currently unavailable from Need Supply, but you can buy it from the source here.

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I Can’t Stop Buying White Linen Things