Bed LinensThe origin of bed linen goes back a long way. The earliest humans would have simply used straw mats for sleeping, possibly with animal furs for warmth and a degree of comfort. In some countries the hammock became commonplace, removing some of the need for bedding if the temperature was warm enough. For the rest of us the history of bed linen pretty much follows the history of fabric weaving.
When buying, make sure you buy the right size set; standard bed sizes vary, especially between countries.
MaterialsSome of the earliest bed sheets were made of linen, hence the term bed linen or simply linens; the term linens is used today to describe any items of fabric used on the bed, regardless of material. The term thus includes sheets, pillow cases, duvet cases, etc. Linen is one of the world's earliest textiles and is made from woven flax and was especially popular with the ancient Egyptians. Traditional linens were white in colour but today you can buy almost any colour, pattern or design.
Bed "linens" are on sale today in a wide variety of natural fabrics. Cotton - especially Egyptian cotton - is a very popular choice with silk being a high end luxury item. Actual traditional linen bedding is fairly rare these days, partly because the fabric has become relatively expensive.
There are also bedsheets etc made from man made fibres. These tend to be affordable and easy to care for but have rather fallen out of popularity, although polyester blended with cotton is still common. Some man made fabrics are so cheap to make that hotels can use them for disposable bedding rather than wash and reuse sheets.
For the ultimate in luxury I'd always choose a natural silk set if money were no object.