How Designers Have Used Plastics in Fashion – Vogue.com

Though plastics and other synthetics are often maligned today, for most of their existences these man-made materials have been associated with progress. Elsa Schiaparelli was an early adopter, using plastic zippers for decorative effect in the early 1930s. As the decade drew to a close and New York prepared to host its World’s Fair, Vogue asked nine industrial designers to design “fashions of the future.” Egmont Arens proposed a “bride in glass” (her “silk” dress made of glass yarns). Now, 80 years later, Craig Green has envisioned a “man made of glass” for his Fall 2019 collection. Green’s approach is conceptual rather than literal, as Arens’s was, but as always, there were utilitarian aspects built into his collection. Some of his models wore protective nylon rain veils; others donned synthetic ensembles in jelly-bean colors whose practical aspects were overshadowed by their decorative, feminine qualities.

Egmont Arens’s “bride in glass” of 1939; Craig Green’s “man made of glass,” Fall 2019

Transparent materials like plastic have often been used to communicate futurism—think Paco Rabanne’s Space Age dresses. Decades later, Gianni Versace played with their peek-a-boo aspects. More in tune with today’s eco-consciousness is the use of upcycled plastics. Martin Margiela was way ahead of this trend when he turned a plastic shopping bag into a top in one of his early collections; a cash-strapped Alexander McQueen included a plastic-wrap dress in his Spring 1995 collection. Green forged another route: The designer applied traditional homey techniques like crochet and ruching usually used in womenswear to contemporary materials and forward-looking silhouettes that looked anything but throwaway.

Inspired by Green’s fantastic plastics, we take a look back at synthetics in fashion.

Jewelry

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