Let’s take a moment to celebrate one of woman’s best friends: nylon. Seventy-five years ago on October 27, 1938, Dr. Wallace Carothers in Wilmington, Delaware announced the release of a new material to the public that would forever change the fashion industry. The synthetic fabric replaced silk in pantyhose providing ladies with garments that were twice as durable at a fraction of the cost. Early demand was so high, women mobbed sales centers to get their hands on the shiny new thing.
To celebrate its 75th anniversary, Hagley Museum and Library exhibits “Science Meets Fashion: Introducing Nylon” now through March 31, 2014. The show traces nylon history—from its beginnings in the hosiery industry and on runways to its post-World War II commercial applications in products like toothbrushes and tennis racquets.
Here, five more things you probably don’t know about nylon:
1) Fresh off the Rack
On October 24, 1939, six department stores in Downtown Wilmington became the first places where the public could purchase nylon stockings. Approximately 4,000 paris were sold in the first three hours.
Five million pairs were sold the first day nylon stockings were available in national stores on May 15, 1940.
3) Sulking Silk
When nylon stockings entered the hosiery industry, it nearly drove silk stocking producers out-of-business with its more durable and less expensive product. Nylon also replaced silk and hemp fabrics for parachutes and military supplies during World War II.
4) Winning Design
The first nylon football pants were worn by Notre Dame players at a game against Army at Yankee Stadium on November 1, 1941. It proved a huge success for the Fighting Irish due to its tear-resistance, lightweight feel, fast drying properties, and easy cleaning.
5) Here Comes the Bride
The first nylon wedding gown was made for Miss Wihelmina Laird (a decedent of DuPont founder E.I. du Pont) who wore the dress on June 20, 1942, when she married David Steward Craven, II. DuPont began marketing nylon wedding dresses in 1946 after World War II and became hugely popular in the 1950s.
Tell us: What’s your favorite nylon product?