This is the first of what I plan to be a series of mini-tutorials on the old fabrics from the 80s, 70s, 60s, 50s and back. If you would like to know more about any particular fabric you are curious about, just write back and will try to help.
Some time ago I had this 1970s jacket somebody liked and bought and they asked what fabric it was made of. I said, crimplene. I received a quizzical look which showed very evidently that this 'crimplene' had never been heard of. Crimplene was one of those fabrics which took the sewing world by storm as housewives found it was so easy to sew (it didn't need zigzag or overlock to keep fraying threads at bay) and it was so easy to wash and so quick to dry. And it needed no ironing whatsoever so you could squash it and sit on it as much as you liked and it simply bounced back in shape. As long as you cold washed it. It came in so many diverse patterns and colours - a revolution. Although invented in the 1950s, it really became popular here during the late 1960s and early 70s. Remember that in the 1970s, most women sewed the clothes they wore and so, quick-fix fabrics were important to have at hand, especially for those not too keen on the nitty gritty of finishing off their sewing projects. Everybody, but everybody wore crimplene, especially as crimplene came also in many thicknesses and weaves, so even men's pants, or shirts or swimming trunks could be made neatly out of it. It was the second major revolution after nylon. And obviously just as dangerously flammable.There was another snag. You had to watch out for snags. Literally. If you sat on a bench which had rough ends, these always stuck to the fabric and pulled threads and you could tell how many times somebody's dress or skirt had been worn by counting the snags and pulled threads on the crimplene dress or skirt. Another problem was that this crimplene was superbly synthetic, and fancy summer dresses, although popular and easy to wear, became hot-houses in the heat and hardly comfortable at all. If you ask your older sisters or mothers about the glory of crimplene, they will tell you more about it. Chances are you won't find many vintage items in crimplene because the textile was so easy to live with that items made out of it were worn over and over again and most generally ended up too unsightly to wear and just go thrown away.... also because the fabric was relatively cheap compared to finer specimens.