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Perhaps just an issue for women ... The wearing of cotton vs. synthetics such as polyester, nylon, acetate blends

Updated on December 3, 2014

Early fabrics

My subtitle of 'early fabrics' might indicate to some that I plan to discuss those from early civilizations. I do not, however, and will start with those in my early life which may seem archaic to some. Those who have read my hubs can guess an approximate age but, actually, I was born in 1935. I have lived through so many changes that, when comparing how it was then to now, I can only shake my head in wonderment.

I was born on a farm without any utilities, including electricity, running water, gas heat, or telephone. I was the youngest ... two sisters and six brothers. When I was very young, I wore cotton overalls like my brothers did. We had little actual cash and that was saved to buy additional acreage or updated farm equipment when needed and to send my oldest siblings to college. I started school in first grade at an unusual age because I was able to read and write. It was a one room school, with first through eighth grades, and that's when I had to wear dresses.

My first dress was made from cotton flour sack material. My mother was an excellent seamstress and made the dress and other items after washing the flour sacks. Most of the sacks had attractive patterns ... I think my first dress had pink flowers ... pink was her favorite color. Undoubtedly, flour companies realized that women used the fabric and kept that in mind when purchasing the sacking.


My next blouses

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My mother bought a parachute

While I was still attending the country school, without running water or other conveniences, my mother bought a parachute. I don't remember where she found it, if there was an ad in the newspaper or somewhere else, if it was sold by the government or a private company, or if it was new or used. All I remember for sure was that there were yards and yards of thin white silk flowing about the living room and many yards of cord. The cord was very useful but the fabric itself was extremely difficult to sew using our White treadle machine. I don't remember what items were fashioned from the silk but do remember a couple of blouses. Although attractive to look at, they were not comfortable, hot in the summer and cold in the winter.

For my high school graduation picture, I wore a yellow moire dress. Moire was often called 'watered silk' because of a wavy waterfall appearance. The dress fabric was not light and filmy but had a much heavier texture and feel. It was comfortable to wear but expensive.

About different fabrics

About the same time, acetate became a commonly used fabric as did rayon. Both are called man-made or synthetic although rayon, for example, uses plant cellulose like the fibrous strips from the underside of tree bark. For this reason, rayon is considered neither synthetic nor natural. Rayon can be dyed into really magnificent colors, making it popular with the fashion industry. Polyester, a petroleum-based synthetic, also can be dyed with gorgeous results. I prefer using petroleum in my car to wearing it in any form.

Issues with particular fabrics

When I began working, most clothing for women was made of nylon, wool, rayon, polyester, and acetate blends. Linen was also available but one can have issues with appearance and presentation. Dry cleaning is often recommended for woolens so that is an additional expense. Some people have issues with wool ... too warm to wear in many environments and too rough for the skin. Cashmere is easier to wear but, again, expensive.

Generally, like everyone else at that time, I purchased dresses, skirts, and blouses made of polyester. After all, it was considered wash and wear. Eventually, I noticed that in an air conditioned environment, I was cold and clammy even with a sweater on. Of course, when I went outside, I was extremely hot and clammy. Thinking that cotton undergarments next to my skin would alleviate the problem, I searched for some but soon learned that they were made of nylon which resulted in the same clamminess as polyester.


Children's clothes

When my children were babies, I found out how difficult it was to find cotton clothing for them. The cotton items were very expensive when I could find them. As a result, I made many of their clothes from cotton fabric I purchased. If I was unable to tolerate synthetics, perhaps my children should not wear them either was my thought. Now, kid's clothes can be easily found in a variety of fabrics.

Cotton is my favorite material

I mentioned above that nylon, polyester, and rayon have wonderfully dyed colors. We all have heard that, but dyes work beautifully with cotton too. My pictures do not do justice to the fabric colors. These are all 100% cotton.

Beautifully colored cotton garments

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A great short-sleeve shirt that I wear

Example of a beautifully colored shirt by Erika
Example of a beautifully colored shirt by Erika | Source

I purchased the colorful shirt above, black background, to wear with specific skirts and pants. It is a cotton/rayon blend but cannot remember the ratio and the tag was cut off. It is quite comfortable in both warm and cool temperatures.

Final comments: I am so very pleased that, as a consumer, I have so many more clothing choices!

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    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

      This is a very interesting article about various fabrics. I was amazed that your mother actually bought a parachute for its fabric. Back in the '80s, clothing made from parachute-type fabric was popular, and I owned several outfits made with the stuff. It was lightweight for summer, but that didn't keep it from being hot to wear.

      Like you, I prefer cotton clothing. Since retirement I practically live in well-broken-in cotton knit tee shirts and cotton pants (long in winter, cropped in summer) or well-worn and much-laundered soft denim jeans. Even my undergarments are, for the most part, made of cotton knit for comfort. (That last may be too much information!)

      I still own some nicer clothing, mostly cotton blends, to wear when necessary, but it spends most of its time in the closet. My philosophy about comfortable clothing stems from wearing uncomfortable "dress-for-success" suits, hosiery and high heels for decades during my career in the public marketplace. Two things that no longer demand my fealty since I retired are: uncomfortable apparel and an alarm clock! Even though I stay busy, I'm enjoying my retirement.

      Voted Up++

      Jaye