I never really cared too much about fabrics until I had to learn about dying them in my Textile Design degree. Polyester and any other man-made fabrics were a pain in the ass to dye. You needed special dyes, special treatments and the smell was actually quite toxic. However, its almost wrinkle free properties, the lovely saturation of colour you could achieve and how cheap it was, made it as enticing as silk.

Now, I know a lot more and recently when I posted a story about this ubiquitous material on my insta, loads of you replied “I didn’t know that” and so here are some things you might consider next time you’re looking at the labels of your clothes. And trust me, you should. Afterall your skin is the largest organ and absorbs like a sponge.

clothes labels polyester cotton textiles

  1. Polyester came about in the 1940s, it was introduced to the public in 1951 as a faster and cheaper way to create textiles. Slowly moving away from cotton, silk and wool garments.
  1. The term ‘polyester’ is a category of polymers produced by mixing ethylene glycol (derived from petroleum) and terephthalic acid. Try that for a tongue twister! It’s basically a type of plastic.
  1. You know that clingy thing that happens in a skirt after you’ve been sitting down for too long? And the static than then ensues your entire body perfectly accentuating your bum (but not in a good way)? Polyester creates static electricity when it rubs up against another piece of synthetic material or another material with an opposite charge. How to get rid of it? Run a metal hanger over the surface of the polyester. This will ground the fabric and remove the charge to prevent cling.
  1. Polyester can withstand a good deal of wear and tear, this is why loads of vintage clothes look pretty well kept even today.

clothes labels understanding polyester

  1. Speaking of vintage, a lot of it is made of polyester and it’s great that so many of us are giving it a new lease of life. Gigi’s Dressing Room in Wandsworth is a treasure trove! Plus, you’ll also find my creations there ;) These include RAW cotton pieces as well as deadstock cotton & polyester mix fabrics.
  1. That’s the thing, not all poly is bad. At least not to me. I think it’s better to keep it out of landfill, and with so much deadstock material out there – it only makes sense to use it.
  1. The dress I'm wearing below used to belong to my mum, and now it hangs with pride in my wardrobe. It’s easily about 40 years old. 100% polyester. And it can be washed in a guppy bag to keep poly fibres from getting into our water stream.

vintage dress vintage fabrics

  1. It’s moisture-resistant, which means it’s an ideal fabric for athletes, however, they will smell. It’s an odour trap!
  1. To be clear, I’m no poly-saint (sounds like some strand of polyamory!) and it’s not about good or bad. It’s about understanding that we have other choices. And believe it or not cotton, is no virgin fabric either.
  1. So, is Viscose a polyester? Nope, not exactly. It’s kind of a half-way house between cotton and polyester. But, we will leave viscose for another post.

There are so many considerations when choosing fabrics for clothes manufacturing and it seems they are all riddled with their own issues. I’m still figuring out my choices, and hopefully this helps make yours a little easier. Or at least, more informed. Where you aware of all these things? Some? None? Tell me in the comments below or DM me on my Insta @carogomez_london


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