There’s a section on eBay where you can buy an entire wardrobe of linen clothing for under $100. Airy dresses in burnt-orange and poppy-red go for $29.88, or $6.99. There are quite literally pages and pages of cropped, flared pants, which go for $19.50, or $23, or $18.69.
I share this with you now because it’s almost August, it’s hot, my jeans feel like sausage casings, my cotton T-shirts are stained with sweat, and the one dress that felt comfortable to me when the humidity index hit 100 percent has a recent tear near my upper thigh.
Linen, as we learned from my colleague Margaret’s magnum opus on the fabric, is the best solution for dressing comfortably in the heat: It breathes, it dries quickly, and it keeps you cool when you’re decidedly not. As she put it: “It’s nature’s technical apparel.” And, as she wrote, there’s more stylish linen clothing to choose from than ever: Paloma Wool’s pretty linen shift dresses and cropped pants, Blluemade’s light, collared jackets and airy jumpsuits. Trouble is, these things are expensive — even secondhand, a Paloma Wool linen slit skirt is currently selling for $185 on eBay and an off-the-shoulder dress is going for $140.
Which brings me back to my special secret, the online treasure trove that is powering me coolly through to fall: vintage Eileen Fisher. Fisher’s structural linen basics debuted in the 1980s, and she’s been a mainstay since, especially for women in cities. That means there’s a lot of it out there, which in turn means that it’s all priced much lower than it should be on eBay. In sum: The resale site is flush with mint-condition, cheap Eileen Fisher.
Think of what you’d like to own in linen. Pants? Type “Eileen Fisher linen pants.” Twenty-three pages, or roughly 1,104 pairs of pants, will appear. It’s a lot to sort through, but between the rayon mixes and some dowdy gray shorts, you will find pairs that are nearly indistinguishable from the $200 ones sold on Paloma Wool: Many are cropped, wide-legged, and come in 2018’s favorite colors like lavender, avocado-green, and rust-red.
My favorite subset of this category are the sets: inexpensive monochrome shirt-and-pants combos that cheaply create a look embraced by fashion brands like Tom Ford and Balenciaga, Solange, and the Hadids. I bought a green jacket-and-pants duo and have worn it together and in parts at least once a week since (most often on days when the temperature spikes into the 90s) making the price per wear somewhere in the cents at this point. Below, a bevy of affordable Eileen Fisher pants, skirts, and jackets. And when these inevitably sell, you’ll know what to search to find more options: “Eileen Fisher,” “linen,” plus the clothing object of your choice. I don’t see this particular well drying up anytime soon.
These are vintage FLAX by Jeanne Engelhart–another brand with a treasure trove of linen on Ebay.