One of the oldest textiles in the world, linen originated in Egypt over 4,000 years ago. It is made by spinning the long fibers of the flax plant into linen thread, and can be very fine or very coarse depending on its intended use. Dyeing linen was a labor-intensive process, so it was most often worn in its natural state of white, and has been used throughout history as a religious symbol of everlasting life and purity.
In ancient Egypt linen was associated with wealth and status, and was used in the burial rituals and mummification process of kings and pharaohs. Due to the strength of the fibers and linen’s natural antimicrobial properties, Egyptian tomb artifacts uncovered in modern times remain perfectly intact. During the Roman Empire and into the Middle Ages linen was used as a soft base layer between the skin and itchy wool garments, from which the word lingerie derives.
Phoenician merchant fleets spread the use of linen throughout the Mediterranean and British Isles, where in the twelfth century a systemized method of production emerged. Today, linen is prized for its lightweight breathability and is especially popular in warm weather climates.