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When did acrylic become popular?

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Vintage Fashion - Ask Questions Get Answers' started by GreenVioletVintage, Sep 1, 2009.

  1. GreenVioletVintage

    GreenVioletVintage Registered Guest

    I found a bunch of cute cardigans at the thrift store today (gearing up for fall!) and they all have labels that proudly proclaim "100% acrylic". I'm guessing this is because, at the time, it was super exciting that sweaters could be made out of something machine washable. When did this happen? I'm guessing 70s from the styles of the sweaters. The sweaters are nothing special, I just thought it was too funny that everyone was super excited about material we now think of as cheap and am curious what ya'll know about this. Here is an example, I found quite a few like this but only came home with the orange one cause I liked the color:

  2. coffeegrl

    coffeegrl Registered Guest

    Just on what I Can see of the top I'm thinking late 70s early 80s - the made in tiwan makes me think early 80s - but experts will be along soon :)
  3. GreenVioletVintage

    GreenVioletVintage Registered Guest

    Thanks!! I'm really just wondering about acrylic in general- when was it big and when did it win out over natural fibers like cotton and wool? I was just surprised by the amount of acrylic I saw at the thrift store today!
  4. Catbooks1940s

    Catbooks1940s Trade Member

    started in the late 60s, became a big thing in the 70s, and then tapered off in the 80s.

    heh heh, i even had one that not only proudly proclaimed 100% acrylic, but 100% *virgin* acrylic :hysterical:

    most of them were made in taiwan or korea.
  5. vintagebaubles

    vintagebaubles Administrator Staff Member

    Ha--"virgin acrylic"! Isn't that kind of like the birthday card that says "I was going to buy you a sweater, but couldn't stand that all those little polyesters had to be killed?"

    Wasn't acrylic like the next big fad once the orlon-sweater fad wore out? Which would have been toward the middle to end of the 60s. I think it was around earlier, but got very big, as Joan says, into the 70s.
  6. Catbooks1940s

    Catbooks1940s Trade Member


    anne, yes, it was right after orlon was big. i forgot about that! after banlon too. that was a huge fad.
  7. GreenVioletVintage

    GreenVioletVintage Registered Guest

    Oh! Thanks for all the info everyone! All I could find on the interwebs was that acrylic was first produced in the 50s by DuPont. Isn't it funny how things change.... soon acrylic will be back! Acrylic leggings maybe? ha!
  8. Laura

    Laura Alumni

    I'm not sure if it's truly virgin acrylic or if it's just imitating wool labels (you know, "virgin wool"). It could be a true statement - they might reprocess acrylic fiber for use in new garments. I know they reprocess wool, which is the difference between 100% wool and 100% virgin wool. I think other fibers are reprocessed as well, but I couldn't name them off the top of my head.

    I googled it but couldn't find anything.
  9. Midge

    Midge Trade Member

    @Anne - you remind me of my uncle who said, on seeing my 100% percent plastic faux-croc handbag "oh dear, a lot of polyesters must have died for that bag!" :bouncy:

    When I look at old sewing magazines like Burda, there's almost nothing funnier than the ads for all these "modern" super-duper synthetic fabrics - there really was a time when they were considered to be the best there is - or at least that's what they tried to tell people.

  10. Catbooks1940s

    Catbooks1940s Trade Member

    laura, i think both. they were trying to imitate to make it sound better than it was, and it was a true statement. well yeah, of course it was true because NO ONE reused acrylic, especially when it was a new thing :lol:
  11. The Vintage Merchant

    The Vintage Merchant Administrator Staff Member

    the man-made fabrics were especially popular and particularly desired by generation(s) of women who were tired of pressing (untreated) natural fiber clothing.

    ugh! i remember my mom pressed EVERYTHING when we were kids ~ and it took her forever and everyday seemed like. when "nice" polyesters, acrylics, nylons came along, she was a VERY happy woman. (which in turn made us ALL happier!! lol ) so yes, they WERE desirable, and marketed to a very receptive audience.

    she still ironed, but not nearly as much as she did before.
  12. vintagebaubles

    vintagebaubles Administrator Staff Member

    Of course, one of the wonderful things about acrylic was that it could mimic wool but was washable....

    I think a lot of folks think of the 1960's & 70's synthetics, especially polyester, as being that cheap double-knit stuff that when you bent your knee and then straightened it, you had saggy knee bags in your slacks. Or that spongy stuff--yuk! But even back then, there were some lovely polyester fabrics--silky single-knit jerseys, woven polys that looked like shantung silk, nice-quality jacquard knits... Being a fabric junkie, I have a saying, "Not all polyester is evil." It gave the then-recent legions of working women a way to have a career wardrobe and not spend all their time washing and ironing, as Mary alludes to. Of course, today's polys can parade as silk and be believable, but even back then, there were nice ones.
  13. The Vintage Merchant

    The Vintage Merchant Administrator Staff Member

    of course iron an acrylic and melt it. but the idea was wash and wear.

    heh heh.

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