May 21, 2010
I admit it: I used to own a pair of polyester Levi's (and my walls were purple). I bought them at the thrift store. I never wore them out of the house; OK, maybe once. They were incredibly uncomfortable but they did flatter. I think I sold them on eBay -- for real money too.
Many people find polyester hot. On many levels. The secret is in the petroleum.
So, Cathy was over yesterday and she tried on TED. She liked it.
But she wasn't so excited when I told her it was made of polyester. This despite its fantastic drape:
And flattering cling:
Let's face it: as with so many things petrochemical, we Americans have a love/hate relationship with polyester. It's convenient, easy-care! But it's made from petroleum, the stuff coating the Louisiana coastline as we speak.
I don't think I wore anything but synthetics or synthetic blends growing up. No matter what natural fiber it was masquerading as, it was always polyester or acrylic (another miracle fiber made from petroleum derivatives).
I remember a particular light blue dress shirt (part of our glee club uniform) I owned, made of Qiana. Surely you remember Qiana? Everyone was wearing it in the early Seventies.
Qiana was silky and considered very sensual. I wore it because you could rinse it in the sink and it would dry in an hour and because my mother bought it for me.
It's easy to forget how revolutionary synthetics were in the Sixties and Seventies. Synthetics meant leisure (and leisure suits). They promised no more ironing. Colors that didn't fade. Easy stain removal. Clothing that was indestructible. Probably every polyester garment discarded in the last forty years is still off-gassing in some landfill somewhere.
It wasn't until the Eighties, the waning years of the disco era, that polyester came to be associated with all things cheap. The word synthetic took on a derogatory meaning. Kids, it used to mean progress -- a future full of hope and possibility, slacks "pressed for life!" Vouch for me, middle-agers!
Today, the only synthetics I wear are sports gear made of polyester (and friends) rebranded as "Synchilla," "Microfiber," and "ClimaLite."
Since I started sewing and buying fabric, I've developed a new relationship with synthetics, polyester in particular. It's cheap. It's colorful. I like it. So it doesn't hold a crease easily and it smells bad when you sweat. I'm an American. I want my polyester. And I don't want to pay more than $2/yard for it.
Readers, how do you feel about polyester? Love? Hate? Something in-between?
Do you have any vintage polyester memories you wish to share, any poly-related trauma you'd like to unburden yourself of? You'll feel better, I assure you -- lighter.
Loyal readers, it's time to expose your real synthetic selves!