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Basic Information

Linen is a textile made from flax - historically the main alternative to cotton cloth for those parts of the world where cotton was less available. Evidence suggests that it may be amongst the oldest forms of cloth known to mankind, with confirmed evidence in Switzerland in 8000BC and dyed flax fibres found in Georgia dated to ~34000 BC1. In warmer climates linen could be worn as outer clothing, whilst in colder ones it was generally worn as underclothes and all cultures seem to have used it for bedsheets, table cloths and the like. Cotton tends to displace linen where there are similar degrees of access as linen is time consuming - and therefore expensive - to produce. Where linen was worn as underwear, the number of changes that a person owned was an important factor in status and hygiene - outer clothing was expensive, hard to replace and rarely washed so having a layer that could be easily changed and washed was important.

Linen was also preferred for bandaging - whether for medical purposes or embalming. Your classic Egyptian mummy is wrapped in yards and yards of linen bandage … another reason that the process tended to be expensive.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Useful for setting up someone's inventory - one set of outer clothes2, as many sets of linen as you can afford. Fresh linen everyday could well be seen as a sign of the comfortably off to affluent in many historical settings (and to be honest, there are still plenty of people in the world that can't afford to change their underwear every day).
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