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.
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.
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
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
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.
Cool, Colorful and Carefree
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Copyright (©) 2014 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved
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.
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
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.
Polyester crossed all economic lines, it was the miracle fabric du jour. So glad you enjoy the blog.