What Is Rayon? Here's Everything You Need to Know

Model wearing Rayon boxers

Negative Underwear

Rayon is the mystery flavor of fabrics: It’s enticing, but it’s difficult to place a finger on what, exactly, it is. The fabric can take on characteristics of other materials, including the fluidity of silk, the density of wool, and the ease of cotton. It can be used to fabricate just about any garment, from button-down shirts to lingerie to silky midi skirts, and exudes a casual but put-together air, simultaneously.

Rayon is an extremely versatile, semi-synthetic fabric. It’s comprised of fibers from regenerated cellulose that are typically derived from the wood pulp of eucalyptus trees, bamboo, soy, or cotton. The fibers are treated with a specific process that involves chemicals and water, and the result is a slinky, soft, and flexible fabric. Rayon is an umbrella term—viscose, or Art Silk, lyocell, acetate, and modal are all iterations of Rayon. You may unknowingly already have some rayon in your wardrobe: You likely have activewear in your rotation that’s cut from viscose—it’s breathable and absorbs moisture. Lyocell often moonlights as denim.

To maintain the quality of your rayon pieces, it's best to hand wash them. If that isn't an option for you, put them in a mesh bag and wash in cold water on delicate with a low spin cycle. Try to avoid drying these items in the dryer, and instead hang them to dry.

It’s important to note that rayon can be made sustainably—but a lot of rayon isn’t, and the creation process can be quite harsh on the environment—again, it’s made using chemicals and involves a lot of factory processing. When choosing a rayon piece, look for an eco-friendly label whenever possible.

Rayon is seasonless, perfect for layering, and, due to its versatility, can be worn anywhere. It’s one of very few fabrics that can be worn everywhere from the gym to black tie events.

Now that you’re versed in the language of rayon, here are a few pieces that we recommend.

The Giselle
Ceffinn The Giselle $460.00

This collared, ribbed metallic finish midi-dress is perfect for fall. It could be vintage, but it’s still very modern. Pair it with knee-high boots and a leather handbag. Wear this piece to work or to dinner—it’s gorgeous and timeless.

Side Slit Slip Skirt
Vince Side Slit Slip Skirt $295.00

Wear this tangerine acetate skirt with a striped Breton shirt for a cool, comfortable look that you can wear anywhere. For fall, wear it with a T-shirt and a tweed jacket.

Flare Skirt
Adam Lippes Flare Skirt $690.00

We have our eyes on this striped rayon skirt, to be worn with a modal-blend fitted denim jacket and simple flip flops (spring is only five months away, after all). And because we’re impatient, we see this outfit working for fall with a pair of modal and cashmere tights and knee-high leather boots.

Green Recycled Polyester Unitard
Girlfriend Collective Green Recycled Polyester Unitard $80.00

For activewear, pay a nod to Cher Horowitz in this recycled viscose jumper. We love the kiwi tone.

Whipped Boxer
Negative Underwear Whipped Boxer $50.00

When at home, we’re never not in loungewear. The whipped modal boxers by Negative Underwear are so comfortable, and they’re cute enough to wear around your significant other, without looking like you’re trying too hard. They have an entire modal lounge collection. Each piece is super comfortable, in thanks to rayon, and also stylish. These pajamas are also, you guessed it, modal—so they’re incredibly soft and perfect for hanging out at home in.

There you have it—you can dress in layers of rayon from head to toe, day and night. Keep your eyes peeled for rayon and its pen names. You’ll see that it’s everywhere and may be the key ingredient in some of your most beloved pieces.

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