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Summer Sweater Challenge: Yep, This is Made From Seaweed

The sweater without the swelter.
October 12, 2023
By Kate Benz

The Sweater Without The Swelter

Introducing the 1st blog in my 3-part blog series about how to style, wear, and put your Summer Sweater to the test.

This blog is about challenging the quality of my Summer Sweater: Can it keep me cool while I hike to higher elevations? Can it keep me warm during an early morning kayak around the lake? I want to prove this sweater’s mettle!

Ethically Made SeaCell Sweaters

Okay, here’s the thing: I have found that there’s nothing as soft on the skin as natural fibers. Cotton, linen, silk…but seaweed? I know, I didn’t believe it either. It just sounds, well, weird. But there’s something deliciously luxurious about wearing something the ocean produces naturally... even though this seaweed is farmed.

The thing I like most about this sweater? You can have your cake and eat it, too. The SeaCell fibers feel like silk but aren’t delicate like silk.

It’s strong, like polyester, without the synthetic makeup of polyester. Basically, it’s a sweater without the swelter. Which is important to me, living here in the mountainous boondocks.

At high altitudes, I’m learning, that Mother Nature’s mood swings mean weather that changes on a dime, sometimes hour by hour. We can go from 48 and chilly in the morning, spiking to 84 by noon, and settle down around 65 by dinner.

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I Told My Oliver Charles Sweater To Take A Hike

I heard the elk bugling this morning. It took me a minute to realize what it was. Most people around here have seen them in the wilds, but I haven’t. Not yet. But today, I heard them. I think I know whereabouts they were, so I figure I’ll hike up there, and see what I can see.

To get to the other side of the mountain takes me 40-ish minutes of huffing and puffing as I increase in elevation by about 500 feet. A real thigh burner.

Breathable, comfortable clothing is key to avoiding passing out among the wild raspberry bushes and waking up to a mountain lion licking your toes.

Right now, it’s a beautiful, late summer day: 85 degrees and a handful of abstract clouds floating overhead. The breeze is light and cool. Inviting. I throw on my sweater and then hesitate. Am I really going to wear a sweater on a hike? A black sweater on a hot, sunny day? I’m tempted to throw it off, to change the jist of this blog.

Maybe a nice photo of me wearing it while sipping a beverage on the patio would do. But since this is a Sweater Field Test, I figure I might as well test it in the field. I assemble my outfit and put the sweater back on. The medium I ordered, sizing up for a slightly looser fit, is long, so I give it a nice French tuck because vanity never takes a vacation.

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SeaCell Sweater Review: Breathability And Comfort During Intense Hikes

Right off the bat, I notice how, well, breezy this sweater is. It’s airy. Substantial, but light. Insulating without being suffocating. The softly textured knit actually feels cool against my skin, despite the dark color and long sleeve. But this is the easy part: downhill. Our mailbox is 1.5 miles away, and I need to drop off a letter before I turn around and start my climb.

The ascent to my next destination is a long, steep one. No plateaus. Nothing but up, up, up. I’m ten steps in and already starting to sweat. Despite making this trek countless times, it remains the thigh burner it always was. But even as I’m sweating, I’m staying comfortable. I’ve pushed up the sleeves just because, but remarkably, I’m not overheating. I’m kinda shocked it’s performing this well.

About halfway up, a dark cloud appears. The air cools, and the sun disappears. I pull my sleeves down and continue on, shifting into high gear since a lollygag may ensure I get drenched. The sweating continues due to the nature of my climb, but I can feel the moisture wicking away from my skin.

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By the time I reach the top, 6,600 feet elevation, the gray cloud is pushing south, and the sun has reemerged. The sky is richly saturated, blue. But no elk. I’ll admit to you, but no one else that I assumed they’d be waiting there, in a cinematic pose just for me.

But they’ve moved on. It does nothing to dampen the view, though. The peace. The quiet. I keep my sleeves down, enjoying the added protection from the sun. Then I say a quick prayer of thanks because this… this is heaven.

Chameleon Clothing

Okay, so one of the things I’m loving about this sweater is how well it plays with the rest of my wardrobe. My goal these days: how many looks can I get out of one piece of clothing? Can I get it to vibe casual cool one day, and with a pair of heels the next? Because I’m over the impulse buy.

The see it, want it, snag it days lead to closet clutter and countless bags of clothing getting lugged to Goodwill. I need clothes that act as a chameleon: able to blend in with everything else instead of standing out like a sore thumb.

So today, I decided to get in my closet and play with my Oliver Charles sweater. To see how many outfits I could tease out of it.

I mean, yeah, it’s a versatile black sweater, so theoretically, it should play well with everything in my closet, but I figured we could put it to the test.

As I’m writing this (working from a hammock), it is the first day of September. It’s a bright, beautiful day. A crisp blue sky and waves of clouds lounging in the sky. The sun is out, but there’s also a breeze. It’s an in-between day: not quite summer, not quite fall. My eyes landed first on my classic, 501 cutoffs from Levi’s.

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I mean, LOVE! The whole contrast of this outfit: a long sleeve and a pair of cutoffs. It’s kinda unexpected. But this is what keeps life interesting. I went for another French Tuck (just like I did for hiking) for an effortless look and threw on the Birks, a recent gift to my feet after years of stuffing them into higher heels, and love how laid back casual the vibe of this outfit is. Although speaking of high heels… let’s go there.

There are few things I love more than a few extra inches added to my five feet and four and a half inches. Plus, I can’t resist seeing whether we can pull a 180 and see if my Oliver Charles sweater will jive for a swankier occasion off the mountainside.

This is what gets me excited about fashion. Playing… well, dress up. It’s all about experimenting, right? But for me, I want that experimentation to produce multiple outfits that are cohesive, not chaotic. Cue an ensemble consisting of my two favorite colors: black and white.

Truly, my heart sings at the thought of both. Simplify, simplify, simplify, or so said Thoreau as he mellowed out at Walden while the rest of the world chased its tail. I love that word: simplify. Black and white are two of the simplest colors but also create the most beautiful contrast.

So, here’s what I came up with:

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White midi skirt, classic black heel, gorgeously minimal clutch from DeMellier. It’s the kind of outfit you throw on in five minutes but looks like it took you an hour to put together.

Black and white are the perfect blank slates that can either steal the show or quietly disappear into the background if you want something like a pair of statement earrings to take center stage.

Outfits like this are so calming to me.

But since we’re also about to take a swan dive into the fall season, I figured we could try out the sweater with some jeans. I know, super creative. But it just so happens that I recently bought the Le Crop from Sezane and want to see how many outfits I can tease out of them before I decide if they’re worth keeping.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the wide leg, the super high rise, the whole modern boho 70s vibe they’ve got going on. But what’s the point if I can only create like, three outfits out of them that 1) I’ll realistically wear and 2) make me feel cool and confident, not fidgety and out of sorts.

Cue the Oliver Charles sweater for a minimal outfit that’s still totally feminine thanks to the way it tucks beautifully into the Le Crop’s. The black suede bootie pulls the look together and again, is easy and effortless but still has interest.

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Okay, so as I’m looking at this, I’m thinking it’s the perfect foundation for say, a camel colored trench or wool coat and some aviators. Which! Dare I say, the thought of is actually making me excited for fall. Honestly, it’s amazing what happens when one starts dressing appropriately for the weather.

It’s Sink Or Swim With This Seaweed Sweater

I headed down to the water this morning for an early morning kayak. Pactola Lake sits a few miles from our house, accessible to use down a dirt and gravel road. We like to put it in a gulch, a deep valley that sits sandwiched between two pine tree-laced ridges well into the forest.

The water is clear and clean. Whether up close or from a distance, it shimmers in the light as if made of thousands of emeralds and sapphires. I’ve seen mountain lakes before, but none that compare to this one.

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It’s chilly before the sun breaks the horizon. Definitely need a second layer or two. Maybe. But to be honest, I threw my Oliver Charles sweater into the truck thinking, eh, I’d get WAY too toasty wearing it under my denim jacket. I was wrong. It was just, well, perfect.

This is what I love about natural fibers: they keep you cool when it’s warm and warm when it’s cool. Magic. I am cozy and comfortable, not too hot, not too cold.

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I also love the room that sizing up to a medium from my usual small gives me. I don’t feel like I’m restricted or that my sweater is getting too up close and personal. I like the room to breathe without feeling sloppy, something fitted without being tight.

This sweater just moves with me, works with me, doesn’t fight me as I paddle close to the shoreline, where all of the interesting things are: yellow lichen covering a wall of granite, a pine tree growing straight out of a bolder, a rainbow trout skimming just below the surface of the water. Sigh. I’m so comfortable I could fall asleep out here.

Kate Benz is a writer/author, dusty trail explorer, and YouTuber with a passion for WFH (working from a hammock). A lover of natural + sustainable fibers and a joyous embracer of anything that can be worn on #repeat.

If you believe that every good wardrobe starts with owning less and owning better, consider buying yourself an OLIVER CHARLES sweater.
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