Polyester: Yesterday’s fabric of the future, today!

by DGO Web Administrator

A few weeks ago, Style Fetish deemed polyester the loser in the duel between synthetics and natural fibers for wet-weather-outdoor wear, but this slick, unnatural wonder-material definitely rules the world of stylish and interesting vintage prints. Garments of polyester made in the late ’60s and ’70s for men and women had trippy, eye-dazzling prints, super-stretchy comfort and literal staying power (the half-life of poly is strong – in a million years, Morlocks will be wearing vintage ’70s shirts).

This material was the perfect blank canvas for brain-melting, psychedelic graphics, photo-prints, geometrics, florals and visually-confusing blends of all of these. From gorgeous to hideous, these shirts are excellent and telling examples of vintage graphic design, visually revealing cultural trends. Futuristic, pre-Tron-looking laser beams, grids, proto-pixels and twisted-perspective geometrics looked from the analog ’70s into the future of computer-generated design and graphics and ’80s science fiction.

Late ’60s and ’70s poly prints also looked to the past, as all fashion eras do – imagery referring to the ’20s and ’30s like cloche-hat-wearing lady faces and mixed florals and geometrics appear in prints in women’s top, jacket and skirt or pants sets.

The realistic photo-print shirts, which are getting particularly hard to find, consisted of collaged images of photographs of almost anything: Paintings of Van Gogh’s and others, brutal Civil War scenes, landscapes and nature scenes, Disney characters, sports scenes, antiquities and more.

Groovy, silky, printed polyester’s underrated relative is polyester double-knit. The modern fashion industry has sneakily gotten around the bad reputation of double-knit as being the fabric worn by frumpy, older female relatives by simply rebranding it as “picot.” Leggings made of it are being sold for lots of money in swank catalogues like Garnet Hill. I love how flattering it is: Cellulite-sealing, lump-skimming, thick and stretchy, usually designed with either a super-high rise or as hip-huggers. If you enjoy vintage clothing, forgo the modern version for the originals. Treat them as a higher-style yoga-pant or a sweatpants alternative.

At least that’s what I tell myself as I luxuriate in my current pair of gold and black patterned Jantzens, worn with Chuck Taylor’s or combat boots and a loose tee.

The material is easy to care for; it’s wrinkle-resistance meant no ironing – it was revolutionary at the time. The easy, synthetic fabrics made with then-contemporary technology became very popular and modern and attractive.

Stains ride on top of this plastic-y material instead of soaking in and tend to come out. Wash your polyester cold, dry low and hang up right away. Poly does tend to hold stink, so treat the armpits by spritzing with OxiClean or stain remover before laundering.

Another reason to wear vintage polyester is for the planet: Wear it to shreds if you can because this stuff isn’t going to decompose by itself. Do it for the Earth, because you’re a bad mamma-jamma and because polyester is far too groovy-looking to leave for the Morlocks or whatever creatures inherit the Earth.

Heather Narwid owns and operates Sideshow Emporium, a vintage and modern clothing store for men and women. Sideshow is located in Durango at 208 County Road 250 (West of Bread and North of Rocky Mountain Pawn at 32nd Street, in with the Vault and Core Value Fitness)and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m. Call her at 739-4646 and ask her anything at [email protected].

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