A Wash & Wear Summer

vintage 1960 photo woman and man

Life was a colorful, carefree wash n’ wear world

Summertime and the living was easy especially in the post war world of wash n’ wear clothing.

Summer and synthetics was a match made in chemical lab heaven.

The easy care revolution in textiles was always in full display at my suburban summertime family barbecues.

 

synthetics fashion 60s SWScan02268

The World is Yours….especially in these Arnel Triacetate separates just right for the perfect couple. What says down home gingham better then ahhhh…..Arnel!

It was always fun to see my usually serious relatives suddenly seasonally transformed, parading around in their color-fast, color-fun, wash n’ wear summertime attire.

It was nothing short of a tribute to post-war possibilities in polyester.

 

vintage illustration suburban barbecue

“Dress Right You Can’t Afford Not To. The good old summer is time for all kinds of weekend fun…including the fun of dressing right for whatever under the sun you’re doing,” begins this 1957 ad. “When you look good, you feel good- sure of yourself.” And in mid century America nothing gave you the smart self confidence like an outfit in smart, wash n’ wear polyester.

As the humidity mounted on the sticky city streets, my small contingency of hot-town-summer-in-the-city relatives was always delighted to be out in the country for their dose of fresh air.

It was the perfect tonic for the exhaust fumes, grit and grime of 1960’s NYC.

Breathing in the fresh suburban air, laced with the fumes from the chemically laden charcoal briquettes emanating from all the other grills of ex-urbanite- neighbors up and down the block, stimulated a suburban sized appetite

vintage fashions 1960s synthetics men dacron and women

Go casual or dress up in carefree colorful wash n wear Dacron

 

synthetics fashion stripes 1960s SWScan02268

Two’s Company in wrinkle-shy smart woven cotton Dacron

In the summer of 1961 despite the Berlin crisis looming in the air and the possible threat of thermonuclear war, folks demeanor at my big family barbecue were as trouble-free as their Dacron separates.

No longer weighed down with winter’s worries, uncles aunts and cousins appeared buoyant in a way I never saw all winter.

It was if by shucking their winter wools and gabardines for the, wrinkle free ease of 100% Acrilan, they were ridding themselves of a seasons worth of heavy burdens.

In fact the only wrinkles present at these gatherings were on the heavily lined faces of my sun worshiping relatives.

Cool Daddy-O-in Drip Dry Dacron

Mens bermuda shorts 1950s

Bermuda shorts in racy Rayon -Dacron texture you’d swear was linen! Frosty Cool, they wont crush or muss!

First sightings of our Uncles hairy legs and knobby knees poking out from baggy Bermuda shorts, brought on uncontrollable giggles for my brother and me.

Drip dry dashing in their 100% Acrilan sports shirts, they were a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns in the easy care, luxury  acrylic fabric.

Men’s winter bellies that had been neatly contained by worsted wool suit jackets were now bursting free in their clingy Ban-Lon shirts

Figure flattering Ban-Lon was the wonder material favored by  folks everywhere. The figure revealing fabric was a type of NyLON developed and patented by the laboratories of Joseph BANcraft & Sons.

vintage mens fashions Acrilan short shirt Ads 1956

Acrilan was was an acrylic fibre developed by Chemstrand. “Luxury’s yours in wash n’ wear shirts of 100% Acrilan.The texture must be touched to believe. “They’re soft and warm as a harem girls kiss” exclaims the copy in the 1956 ad on the right. Wear ’em, wash ’em, they don’t stretch or shrink. “Best of all they completely frustrate moths and mildew- completely satisfy men.” Vintage Acrilan Ads 1956

 

Vintage Fashion Ban-Lon Ads 1960

Ban Lon- He’ll love you for it…give him one of these exciting Ban-Lon beauties. “Believe us he’ll be your baby in Ban-Lon, claims the copy in this 1960 (R) ad. “Despite its luxurious look, it can well stand up to his manhandling! It’s shrink-proof. mildew-proof, and moth proof!”

 Cool, Colorful  and Carefree

vintage womens fashion dresses 1960s

Live easy…look breezy in cool carefree uncrushable Dacron in these patio perfect 1961 dresses

 

Vintage women's fashion dresses 1961 Sears catalog

Polyesters you’ll love to live in! Bared and beautiful, Bouffant beats the heat with little straps that expose you to enjoy balmy suburban breeze. Fashioned in lustrous wash n’ wear Dacron . Vintage women’s fashion 1961 Sears catalog

Women’s winter weary bosoms, revealed in sporty little perma-prest sundresses seemed to be coming out of hibernation in an exuberant display of deeply tanned decolletage.

 

Vintage Womens Fashion ad Ship 'n Shore 1962

Perfect for the patio- these Ship ‘n Shore separates are wild about color. “Cool as as a breeze. And they go to any lengths to please!” Kinda like most mid century women!

The gals were comfortably fun-loving casual in their Ship n Shore drip dry patio pants, peddle pushers and capris.

Their color-happy, easy-wear Celanese separates were vibrant in sun coral, refreshing in turquoise and electric in jubilee orange, colors that seemed to match their enticing fruit colors-for-warm-weather-wear lips.

Vintage womens summer fashions 1960s

Celanese Fortrel makes the scene (L) Vintage Catalina sportswear ad 1962 (R) Vintage Sears catalog 1961

Vintage womens summer fashion catalog ads Sears 1961

Patios and polyester were made for one another in vibrant refreshing colors Vintage catalog ads Sears 1961

Whether Antron, Acrylon or Dacron it was a veritable sea of drip dry, and wrinkle free, a wash n’ wear tribute to post-war man’s progress over nature, a cornucopia of the space age convenience of miracle man-made fabrics.

The real miracle was that there wasn’t a natural fabric among them. What a tribute to the great outdoors.

Because these new miracle man-made fibers were totally synthesized from chemicals found in the oil industry, there was enough petroleum in the clothes to ignite barbeques up and down the block.

Poke up a fire and relax while supper grills to a turn. Just don’t stand too close to the fire; nothing acts as an accelerant better than polyester.

vintage picture 1960s men in sportshirts

These Dacron shirts make a man feel debonair. They’re designed to lounge in whether your brand of relaxation is a soft EZ chair or a turn on the golf links. Casual when it comes to taking care of, Dacron takes care of itself. Mens Dacron Sportshirts 1961 Sears Catalog

While the men huddled ‘round the smoky Weber grill, hotly debating whether Roger Maris would break Babe Ruth’s Home runs this season, the wives held their own smoky gab fest.

Engulfed in a plume of hazy blue cigarette smoke the normally harried housewives were as relaxed as their free and easy care fabrics.

 

More time to Play in Polyester

vintage ads washing machne and womens fashion

You look your best…work much less in Dacron and cotton for automatic wash n’ wear. Before this revolution in textiles a homemaker might spend up to 20 hours a weeks ironing clothes, tablecloths and bed linens made of natural fibers.

Thanks to the magic of modern chemistry we were into the new wonderful world of synthetic fabrics and the American housewife was the happy recipient of these new discoveries

In the easy does it, no fuss no muss, new and improved push button post war world, the miracle that could only happen in the wonderful world of wash n wear was a godsend to the housewife. No more long hot summer hours spent ironing out wrinkled linens or creased cottons. Here were clothes that practically care for themselves.

Yes there was a new way to live…and it was easy.

Better Living Through Chemistry

 

vintage illustration man and chemicals

Vintage advertisement Union Carbide 1949

For years the wizards of chemistry had been working tirelessly in their labs concocting chemically made fibers that challenged natures best in wear and appearance

Far from being scorned as they are now, chemically made fibers were considered a key to better living.

How Can You Resist

vintage womens fashion Synthetic fabrics

Vintage ad Vicara Fiber Division Virginia-Carolina Chemical Corp. 1954 “Perfect for springtime sweaters”

Contemporary fabrics like Celanese Acetate were perfect for the new busy mid-century American Housewife. “She needed a special kind of clothes for her busy, rewarding life,” readers were told in one ad touting the fabric. “Whether as den mother, eagle eye supermarket shopper or decorating wiz it was a fast paced life.”

Polyester made good on its promise to lighten Moms load.

A New Way To Live

Vintage womens fashion 1950s Vintage ad Dacron 1953

“There’s a new way to look …a new way to live in Dacron! There’s a new way to live…and its easy! It begins with your discovery of Dacron for modern living clothes that practically care for themselves. You’ll find wrinkle-shedding Dacron alone or blended with other fibers) lets you forget your ironing board…saves you cleaning upkeep ,helps your clothes wear and wear, stay fresh no matter the weather. Look to your stores for a whole new way of fashion a whirl of exciting colors and textures Dacron polyester fiber for you to live in and love. Dacron one of Du Ponts modern living fabrics” Vintage ad 1953

It all began with DuPont’s discovery of Dacron. By 1961, Dacron, the granddaddy of polyester was already a decade old

Dacron was made for modern living. It was the biggest thing to hit the clothing industry since nylon.

It Started with Stockings

Vintage ad DuPonts Nylon

Vintage ad DuPonts Nylon

Dupont started the EZ care revolution with the introduction of nylon in 1939, the first fiber synthesized entirely by chemicals. A replacement for silk, it was wildly popular as nylon stocking and women gobbled them up.

But duty called and nylon was soon drafted by Uncle Sam. Off to war, it was essential for parachutes , tents and airplane tires .

With the war over, the test tube boys knuckled down and got back to work fulfilling their post war promises of a better tomorrow.

In the spring of 1951 DuPont debuted Dacron (polyethylene terephthalate).

 The Dawning of Dacron

Vintage ad Dacron Suits 1957

Vintage ad Dacron Suits 1957

No one was more a devotee of DuPonts miracle man-made fabric than my Dad. He could say so long to seersucker, and summer-weight woolens. When it came to summer suits, Dacron blew them out of the water.

Not only were Dacron Suits cooler,  the pants would keep their creases unless you deliberately removed it with a hot iron.Washed by hand or machine and drip dried, these suits were ready to wear!

Derided as tacky today, polyesters like Dacron were miracle space age wonder.

Nothing announced to the world that you were a man of discerning taste the way a garment of 100% Dacron did.

Synthetics were far from the cheap inexpensive items we associate with them now. In fact the only wrinkle was that the very first Dacron suits were a whopping $95, out of reach for the average Joe.

Wash and Wear to Go Go

laundry Norge 57 SWScan04786 - Copy

This remarkable suit made with Dacron” polyester fiber can be machine washed machine dried and worn immediately. It was the worlds first Automatic Wash n Wear.This modern living innovation, DuPont explained, is made possible by new tailoring techniques, properly made fabrics, and modern home driers.

But in that fast paced, rat race world of mid-century America what business man on the go-go had time to wait for a suit to drip dry?

It wasn’t long before the world’s first Automatic Wash n’ Wear suit debuted.

The benefit of this new wonder was it wasn’t just wash n wear. This suit could be dried and “pressed” ( wrinkles out, crease still in) in your automatic dryer too! The automatic dryer which had only a few years earlier been a luxury was by the mid 1950s a necessity in the suburban home.

In the future, DuPont promised the consumer , you will be able to buy “Automatic Wash n Wear convenience in many other type of clothing.”

The Power of Polyester Unleashed

In another decade the possibilities of polyester would know no bounds. By the 1970s the postwar promises of polyester would be fully realized.

synthetics polyester evolution

The Evolution of Polyester 1956-1971

 

Vintage men and womens fashion polyester 1970s

Polyester was in full swing by the 1970s. Sears catalog 1971

 

 

 

 

 

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4 comments

  1. Saw an old Dupont Documentary movie on the beginning of and how Dacron was made in the factory. Quite amazing chemistry. Thanks for these interesting blogs.

    Like

    • I’m pretty sure you can find some of those old corporate promotional films they made on youtube. They are actually quite fascinating. The very products that we now mock were at one time so miraculous and revolutionary

      Like

  2. jennifer smith

    LOVE LOVE this blog!! Thanks for taking the time to make this–it’s great. I was a kid in the 70s and my parents always wore the polyester clothes on this page. My mom’s “slacks” she wore at work had the crease sewn in. We were pretty lower class, so I always associated polyester with cheap and poor, but I guess it wasn’t always that way.

    Like

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