What happened to Qiana fabric: A look into its rise and fall in popularity

The Rise of Qiana Fabric

Qiana was a silky nylon fiber developed by DuPont in 1962 and introduced commercially in 1968[1]. It was initially marketed as a luxury fabric for high-end fashions, with DuPont commissioning famous designers like Oscar de la Renta and Emilio Pucci to create one-of-a-kind Qiana gowns[5][7]. An advertising blitz promoted Qiana’s wrinkle-resistant and stain-resistant qualities, and it became seen as a stylish synthetic alternative to silk[4].

By the early 1970s, Qiana was being woven into a wide variety of clothing items like blouses, dresses, lingerie, neckties, shirts, pajamas, and sold by the yard in fabric stores[4][6]. Its smooth, silk-like feel and vibrant colors made it popular for men’s fashion as well, especially brightly-patterned “disco shirts”[1]. To teach home sewers how to work with the tricky fabric, DuPont hired American dress designer Charles Kleibacker to hold traveling sewing clinics around the country in 1971-1972[10].


The Height of Qiana’s Popularity

Qiana saw heavy usage in the mid-1970s, as advertising for it appeared in fashion trade magazines like American Fabrics and Fashions from Spring 1974 through Fall/Winter 1978[2]. Its prominence led some to joke that the fabric itself was Dallas’s top fashion designer, along with other synthetics like Trevira[16]. Qiana’s wrinkle-resistant practicality paired perfectly with 1970s casual styles like polyester pants and open-necked shirts[11].

However, by 1976 no Qiana garments were being featured in Vogue magazine, indicating that high fashion had moved on from the fabric[2]. As disco culture rapidly faded at the end of the 1970s, Qiana’s association with disco fashion caused it to fall out of style seemingly overnight[5]. Consumers increasingly viewed Qiana as cheap and inauthentic next to fine natural fabrics like cotton, wool, and silk[16].

The Decline of Qiana

In the early 1980s, renewed favor for natural fibers over synthetics greatly diminished demand for Qiana[4][15]. It also faced stiff competition from cheaper Asian versions of silk-like nylon[4]. Production of the original Qiana fiber ceased, though DuPont retained the name as a certification mark for quality synthetic fabrics[13]. Vintage 1970s Qiana garments can still be found today in thrift stores and online auction sites, but the fabric itself is no longer manufactured[15].

While Qiana was initially prized for its wrinkle-free, carefree qualities, its lack of durability and difficulty to repair ultimately led to its rapid decline[15]. The story of Qiana reflects the ephemeral nature of fashion trends, as well as American consumers’ cyclical preference for natural vs. synthetic fabrics. Its flashy style epitomized 1970s fashion, but also became inextricably linked to some of the decade’s most ridiculed excess.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qiana
[2] https://dr.lib.iastate.edu/bitstreams/ce0002a2-079c-411d-8455-1e005e9cbb53/download
[3] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/004051757504500201
[4] https://clickamericana.com/topics/beauty-fashion/vintage-qiana-fashions-from-the-1970s
[5] http://heffyscollections.blogspot.com/2008/08/qiana-by-dupont.html
[6] https://openprairie.sdstate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1892&context=extension_circ
[7] https://www.hagley.org/librarynews/museum-collection-introducing-qiana-nylon-couture
[8] https://www.jstor.org/stable/25097227
[9] http://malepatternboldness.blogspot.com/2010/05/polyester-on-parade.html
[10] https://www.hagley.org/librarynews/making-couture-dupont-qiana-dresses-home
[11] https://prospect.org/features/got-seventies/
[12] https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007/0-387-23816-6_21
[13] https://cameo.mfa.org/wiki/Qiana
[14] http://malepatternboldness.blogspot.com/2012/02/ultrasuede-yea-or-nay.html
[15] https://www.worthpoint.com/articles/collectibles/what-is-it-and-whats-it-worth-qiana
[16] https://www.texasmonthly.com/style/dallas-fashion-designers-new-style/
[17] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1970s_in_fashion

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