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Plastic Fashion Through the Decades

Plastic in fashion?

It’s crazy to think how many garments actually have plastic in them. Throughout the decades, fashion has constantly been changing and plastic was incorporated in to fashion garments as early as the 1950’s, when polyester was being introduced in to men’s suits. There are many reasons as to why polyester began being used in clothing like men’s suits, it increases durability and is breathable and comfortable for consumers to wear.

The timeline of fashion

Since that initial use of polyester being used, the use of plastic in clothing grew bigger and bigger. After brands and consumers were seeing the difference plastic made in the material of clothing, it rapidly increased the use of plastic. More synthetic materials were used to create clothing all over the world, because of it being cheaper to create and could be manufactured at a much faster rate. Little changes were being made, from silk skirts to nylon tulle becoming more and more popular. However, brands and customers didn’t know the full damage of using plastic in clothing and what it was doing to the environment.


Moving on to the 1970s. In the '70s, fashion was all disco and hippie style, flowy flared pants, and platformed shoes - all created with the use of plastic. Platformed shoes specifically used thick pieces of plastic to create that stylish height heel. From the '50s to the '70s, the plastic being used in clothing increased dramatically, with designer brands using plastic in their statement catwalk pieces.

2010 - moving forward

By this era, our community really have realised the damaging effect we were having on the world by using plastic in our clothing. Times are beginning to change and ideas are put in place for the future. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation was put in place in 2017 to eliminate all plastic that we do not need. The foundation aims to ensure all plastic being used can be either recycled, reused, or is compostable. This was an admirable start in the right direction, with many brands wanting to be a part of the foundation to help save the environment, but also to keep their customers happy and moving forward as a brand.

Even fast fashion brands like Zara and H&M are having their say, and moving in the right direction using less or no plastic in clothing. Zara label a specific collection of their clothing Join Life. The Join Life campaign is a new idea, in which products are made from sustainable materials to set Zara and its customers in the right direction of reduced plastic usage.


So we are in the now, and there has been significant change. Nearly all fast fashion brands have begun changing their manufacturing process and are swapping out the plastic for recyclable alternatives. Some brands are even using recycled materials, reducing the plastic waste we have.

It’s so inspiring to see so many fashion houses taking a step and being a leading example in the fashion world to stop using plastic and to help protect the environment. One leading by example is Stella McCartney, by partnering with ‘Parley for the Oceans’, Stella devoted all her future collections to replace the use of the plastic materials and to use Parley materials and recycled polyester. This is a huge step forward in the industry and one that other fashion houses should begin to follow.

Sustainable fashion brands

As everyone is more educated on the effects of how sustainable fashion helps protect the environment, customers’ needs have changed and people want to shop more sustainable. In the recent years, new sustainable fashion brands have become more popular, examples being ‘Theo The Label’ or ‘Reformation’. These brands are specifically targeting sustainable and ethical fashion by recycling plastic waste materials and creating beautiful items of clothing to sell.

It is comforting to see that plastic is slowly being taken out of the fashion industry and recycled alternatives are being used; hopefully in the near future all materials will be fully recyclable or sustainable.


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