Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Not All Polyester Is Evil, Part II

Last time your fabric junkie (me) talked about polyester, that much-maligned, often justly, fabric whose use became common about the mid 60s, and really hit stride starting in the early 70s. We showed some classic, upscale examples of designer poly-knit pieces, but today we have some everyday pieces; some designer items that are, shall we say, a bit more “70’s trendy”; and some uses that had been primarily the domain of fabrics such as silk, rayon, acetate, and nylon.

1970’s polyester lent itself incredibly well to the wild prints, bright (some would say “loud”) colors, and outlandish styles of the 70s. The skirts of maxi dresses draped nicely when done in a good poly knit, wide collars laid softly on the bodice, and screen prints took well to poly knits. Polyester can be knitted into textures such as linen, crepe, jacquard, and fine sweater-style weaves; these can add a lot of interest to a piece. Here are some that exemplify the era of 70’s polyester, some for better, and some for worse. And be sure to check out our note of interest at the bottom!

Mid-range makers such as R & K (the label for “the girl who knows clothes”) used a lot of poly knits and some woven polys, but often “dressed” them up with an interesting weave and/or design elements or embellishments. This pastel green knit dress is a good example, with a linen texture and beautiful lace appliqu├ęs:

R & K dress from My Vintage Cocktail

Not only do these two knit dresses feature big collars, but both have zip fronts and fabulous prints, and are in desirable large sizes:

Atomic-print dress sold recently at Catseye Vintage

Screen-printed dress available from My Vintage Cocktail

And it seems that their well-known designers fell into following the trends with these dresses, as many designers did. Not that they aren’t nice, but we would expect more drama and originality from these labels! (But these are two opportunities to pick up desirable labels at fantastic prices.)

Alfred Shaheen maxi dress and jacket from Glamour Girl Vintage

While this dress is a surprising treat from a generally conservative label:

Gay Gibson maxi dress at Alley Cats Vintage

The 70’s also ushered in the widespread use of polyester in lingerie, a trend that continues today. Woven poly can mimic rayon or silk satin, as well as different types of silk, and taffeta. It gave a new dimension to traditional lingerie!

Watch for more fabric discussions from The Fabric Junkie! In the meantime, here our our final poly pieces, epitomizing what most people think of when they think of 60’s and 70’s polyester.

This dress has it all: brown and orange colorway; two, not one, crazy prints; tie collar… a quintessential 1970's polyester knit dress:

Two-tone brown poly dress at Alley Cats Vintage

And these butt-ugly 100% poly wide ties (though we think the one on the right is pretty cool, it’s pretty awful, too), infamously unique to the era:
Coming eventually to My Vintage Cocktail

We'll also leave you with this interesting note: Singer/musician Jackson Browne and his pal David Lindley, on tour this summer and fall, have created a campaign, "Show Me the Polyester," which encourages fans to submit photos of themselves wearing polyester. The best dressed (or worst, depending on your POV) wins a trip and two front-row seats to see the duo's September 14 concert at New York's Beacon Theatre. Who woulda thunk?

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