Monday, May 14, 2007

Doubleknits -- the So Right, So Wrong, and Right Now

Did you know that the doubleknit technology began with woolens, which had its bloom in the early 1960's? Dresses and suits of wool doubleknit kept their shape, and hung in a very clean line, not wrinkling like some woven knits would. Wool doubleknit became a staple of many couture dresses, like LilliAnn of San Francisco.

LilliAnn Dress and Jacket
LilliAnn Dress and Jacket back

incorporating a wealth of details in the buttons, bound buttonholes, and doubleknit piping and binding.

or in high end department stores, like Butte Knit.

Butte Knit double breasted jacket collar

and never trickled down to the cheap dresses sold at chains such as Sears, or Wards. That, and the lack of moth-proofing, are the reasons we rarely find such clothing in thrift stores.

In the 1960's, a substantial proportion of high fashion dresses, even summer sleeveless, jacketless styles, where constructed from wool doubleknit. So the discriminating shopper looked kindly on the pure polyester doubleknits when they showed up, in such stores as Saks Fith Avenue

It was only in the 1970's that polyester doubleknit was marketed to the masses, who loved its dirt-resistance and no-iron features. And the fabric mills churned out the most improbable fabrics, which excited the minions of the suburbs, and they snatched them up to make their elastic waist pull-on pants.

Much to the disdain of those who wore the woolen double knits. They were aghast at the ugliness that had invaded the chain stores, and were showing up on their mothers and country cousins.

I began this fascination with the ugliness of polyester doubleknit back then. I always wondered "what ARE they thinking?"...yet people actually bought the stuff. And I still can't look away -- like a John Waters movie -- I have this creepy fascination with the visual and social improbability of Polyester Doubleknit, the fabrics that were the staple of the Leisure Suits of the 1970's.

My eyes just want to FIX something so ugly...and I think I've actually managed to do that! The doubleknit stretchiness, so beloved by the burgeoning booties of the boring 'burbs, serves well for skirts. And so now I have a love affair with that vintage polyester doubleknit, and even some of the single needle knits. I add modern lyrca or cotton knit waistbands, and soft flirty modern ruffles, or just plain serged edges. And, sandwiched between those two features, a new vision is born. Suddenly, the UGLY becomes BEAUTIFUL.

Below are some of the textures and contrasts you will find in my line of NBS -- Never Been Sewed -- SKIRTS of vintage virgin polyester.

and I think I've succeeded in banishing the Ugliness of Polyester Doubleknit.

It turns out, all along, they were just Ugly Ducklings!

1 comment:

pagano designworks said...

Oh I LOVE the wool doubleknit items I have found in thrifts! I always buy them when I see them. They look best worn as the set, but that looks so terribly costume-y in real life...