History of Polyester Fabrics

Polyester is a type of fabric that is made from plastic. It’s cheap, it’s efficient, and it’s quite convenient since it doesn’t wrinkle, even if you wad it into a ball. Although it wasn’t prevalent until the 1960s, polyester’s history is quite an extensive one. 

Early Beginnings

Polyester fabrics got their beginnings back in the mid-1930s when a man by the name of W.H. Carothers, a DuPont employee at the time, discovered that he could create fibers by mixing carboxyl acids and alcohols. Although successful, this project was shelved when Carothers stumbled upon Nylon, another fabric that is still incredibly popular today. In 1939, two British scientists, W.K. Birtwhistle and C.G. Ritchie, picked up where Carothers left off. It wasn’t until 1941 that the very first true polyester fiber, called Terylene, came into existence. The pair continued their work until DuPont bought the rights from them in 1946. Later, DuPont came up with a similar polyester fiber called Dacron.

Advertising Polyester to the Public

Unlike other common fabrics including cotton and wool, polyester was born of scientific research – and it was marketed to reflect that. It was announced to the American public in 1951, and one of the selling points was the fact that it could be worn for 68 days straight without ironing or care and still look fresh. This appealed to women, who were the primary homemakers, and the fabric’s popularity soared. It continued to grow in popularity up until the 1960s, when things took a turn for the worse.

The Polyester Double-Knit Fabric Debacle

As time went on, those who took to polyester in the 50s and early 60s continued to revel in its convenience and cost. However, teens and college kids felt that double-knit polyester fabric felt cheap and uncomfortable, which eventually gave it a negative image. Despite efforts to breathe new life into its popularity, the 1970s brought the end of the polyester era and sales declined sharply. However, in the 1980s, a group of designers including big names like Calvin Klein and Oscar de la Renta decided to help create a line of products made of polyester and polyester blends. This helped shine new light on polyester, and its popularity started to improve once again.

Today’s Polyester

These days, while it’s still possible to find double-knit polyester clothing from many different retailers – especially those who mass-produce discount clothing – technology has improved to the point where polyester has been completely revamped. Now, you can find polyester microfiber that looks and feels just like real silk, and some designers are even recycling plastic bottles into warm, cozy, and incredibly soft fleece that can last for years to come. Polyester isn’t just for clothing, either; in fact, it’s used in home furnishings, carpeting, and even sleeping bags and umbrellas.

Love it or hate it, polyester is here to stay. Although it was once the world’s most popular “miracle fabric”, its popularity waned for decades. Thanks to today’s new technologies and manufacturing processes, though, polyester is now more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing than ever. It’s incorporated into many different fabric blends to provide lightweight comfort and wrinkle protection, too.



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  • Posted On June 03, 2023 by Tony Arioli

    This comment is for the 1-17-23 one by Cecilia Jones: you are absolutely correct – about 30% of the plastic pollution in our oceans come from polyester fibers shed from clothing items. I tried pointing this out to a local woman newspaper reporter back around 2000, and was waved off with a snide dismissive expression on her face.

  • Posted On January 17, 2023 by Cecilia Jones

    Environmental disaster and should be stopped immediately.

  • Posted On December 03, 2022 by Paul Suarez

    Polyester was the best material ever. As a retired Navy man my uniforms were the best looking uniforms aspersions my wife. Easy to wash and maintaining my entire uniforms as well as my civilian clothing. I still have shirts that are over 30 years old that look smart and in style to this day.

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