Textile Intelligence: Qiana

July 8, 2011 § 22 Comments

Harper's Bazaar July 1974 Qiana Sweater Set

As colors, patterns and silhouettes come and go, so too do textiles. Cotton, silk and wool have endured, but other blends and synthetics proved not to be as timeless. One of those textiles that did not make its way into our current wardrobes is Qiana. I’d seen it in many fashion magazine ads from the 1970s, which you’ll find below.

According to this piece in a 1968 issue of Time Magazine, Qiana was introduced by Du Pont that same year. After 20 years, and $75 million dollars (almost $485m in today’s dollars) spent on developing it, this revolutionary synthetic textile was released.

Boasting qualities that are superior to the most luxurious silk fabrics, Qiana gives all the appearance of silk—from the luster of its surface yarn to its light weight, drape and color. Added to this, exotic sounding Qiana—a computerized combination of random letters—is a practical drip-dry wonder that can be machine-washed and still resist wrinkles. (Time, 7/5/68)

Looking at the ads below, it’s evident that Qiana’s disco-era arrival was timely. It had a silkier look than matte-jersey and could even be used for heavier knits (see sweater set above). Du Pont enlisted American designer Charles Kleibacker, a master of bias cut fashions, to create a Qiana collection for them, in order to promote their newest product. One of his Qiana gowns is shown at the bottom of the images. It actually looks quite beautiful.

There’s little information on the web as to when or why Qiana’s production was halted, but I did find some less than rose-colored memories of wearing or trying to sew this fabric. It seems it was slippery and not very breathable, but preferable to other polyester fabrics of the time. Instead of continuing to produce Qiana, Du Pont now uses the term as as part of their technical vernacular.

As an aside, it’s also interesting to note that prior to the 1980s, clothing brand and department stores listed the fabrication and the price of the clothing in their ads. Were consumers at that time more knowledgeable about or concerned with quality? During the economic boom of the 80s, much of the copy for fashion ads began to disappear, and they became more image-heavy and aspirational. By removing the price and fabric information, the new ads took on a mysterious and alluring quality that their predecessors lacked. Of course, I tend to think something was lost in the process.

Harper's Bazaar July 1972

Harper's Bazaar January 1973

Harper's Bazaar January 1973

Harper's Bazaar June 1974

Harper's Bazaar July 1974

Charles Kleibacker Qiana dress

About these ads

§ 22 Responses to Textile Intelligence: Qiana

  • Consumers don’t seem to be as interested in the fiber content of their clothing nowadays, but perhaps that’s because we simply aren’t exposed to it as people were in the past.

    I’ve often wondered how much of the ad bills were paid by the fiber and fabric makers, as opposed to the manufacturers of the clothing.

  • Jen S. says:

    This is a really fascinating post. I learned so much. Also, I would like to wear that red/pink dress.

  • J says:

    Love this post! I’ve handled a few of Kleibacker’s Qiana garments. I think for its time it was a fabulous synthetic, it behaved almost exactly like silk but never wrinkled. One big issue however was that it was almost impossible to sew. Charles Kleibacker’s sewer, Carmen Munoz, recounted that the needles on the machine could not really penetrate the fabric, often breaking the needles and making it a very expensive process. So, I imagine that stopped its success.

    Another anecdote: Geoffrey Beene was asked to develop the fiber as well and sent the yarn to a very adept silk weaver in France. He had them develop some yardage in Qiana that apparently was far superior in quality and hand feel to silk. The only problem was that the process ended up being far more expensive than actual silk.

  • Qiana says:

    I’ve spent my entire life trying to explain to people the origins of my first name. So happy to find this and share it with all of the people who questioned my mother’s sanity for giving me a name that began with a ‘q’ that was not followed by a ‘u.’

    • Jessica Gold says:

      Qiana: That’s really incredible and I’m so glad you found my blog! Did your mom enjoy fashion/textiles?

      • Qiana says:

        I hi!!! Me too!! My name is Qiana! It’s really an African cloth still used in Africa! People always changed the spelling of my name! I’m 30 years old still to this day people ask me why is the “q” followed by a U and I’ve been explaining this for years! My mother named me Qiana she she owned this fabric and was in love with the smooth texture and elegant exotic look it has! Love this fabric! It’s beautiful!

  • Lynn says:

    Actually, I made my prom gown out of it, with no problems sewing in ’71. Maybe it was a higher quality. I loved the feel and drape.

  • katiedmd says:

    I just made a maxi dress out of some Qiana, and I found it quite pleasant to sew – actually easier than some modern polyester and even rayon jersey. It is a very comfortable dress, and I wish DuPont would bring this back! I’d buy it!!

  • krystalbird says:

    I own a dress made of Qiana, a wonderful little black dress. One could literally throw this dress into a suitcase any old way, & at the end of the trip unpack it completely unwrinkled. I don’t like today’s polyesters next to my skin, finding they make me feel too warm. Qiana didn’t do that. I’d buy Qiana again, looked for it years ago, was disappointed that manufacturers had stopped using it.

    • Dee Nelson says:

      I have 12 pieces of Qiana which have been stored in a sealed box since 1981 when the fabric store, where I worked and taught sewing, closed. If you are willing to sent me your address, I will be happy to send small samples of each piece. There is:
      2 yds light green, 1.5 yds brown, 1 5/8 yds dark brown, 1 3/4 yds melon,
      1 1/3 yds melon;3 yds pale aqua; 1 3/4 yds hunter green; 1yd deep rust,
      1.5 yds lighter rust; 1 1/3 yds light blue; 1 1/3 yds dark turquoise; 1 yd
      light pink; 1 yd med pink.

      I am willing to sell all of the above for $ 5I 0, which will help me pay for all the projects I make for the local nursing homes. I live in a Sun City retirement location in Texas, and, believe me, there are lots of nursing homes just outside of Sun City waiting for us!!!

      My name is Dee Nelson; phone number 512-591-7358; email address
      nd.danddd@gmail.com

      I look forward to hearing from you.

      Have a wonderful holiday!!

      Dee

      • Dee Nelson says:

        If you read my comment above, there is a DEFINITE mistake. It should say “I am willing to sell all of my Qiana for $50, not $510!!!

      • Dee Nelson says:

        If you read my first email, there was a huge error. I would like to sell all my Qiana for $50, not $510!!! I also found two more pieces.

  • I loved Qiana. I took an old dress apart that didn’t fit well any longer, bought 2 different colored prints of Qiana and made 2 dresses that were almost identical to the original. Worth every dollar I spent on this wonderful fabric.

  • Laura C. in Ohio says:

    In the 80’s I loved wearing a dolman sleeve blouse made of Qiana. Want to know if anyone in the industry is still using this great fabric for designs. If so, I would like to know which designers and/or which stores make pieces available in 2012/13. Why can’t I find Qiana today? Did they stop using it and if so, why? Another great similar fabric is Tencel!

  • Gail Janes says:

    I got married in 1978, in a Qiana gown. I had it preserved in the museum box and all, never opened it. This year both my twins got engaged, so I opened it. It fits one of my girls perfectly, however the preserving didn’t work. It has yellowed. Does anyone have ideas on how to get rid of the yellowing?

  • Connie says:

    I,too, have begun researching this wonderful fabric. In the 1970s i was making all of my clothes, usually with Very Easy Vogue patterns. I made several beautiful dresses out of Qiana and never had a bit of trouble sewing them. I always used a ball-point needle, size 11, as recommended, and just sewed away! There has always been a bit of a trick handling any synthetic fiber, but the results with Qiana were well worth the slight effort! Now in my mid sixties, i have been yearning for a comfortable kimono that can just be thrown in a suitcase and come out looking great, as a previous poster mentioned. I never found Qiana too warm like other synthetic fabrics. If anyone has a wild 1920s – 1930s abstract/surrealistic print in Qiana, i would love to try my hand at making that kimono!

  • d singleton says:

    i am working with our local community theatre on a production of dolly partons “9 to 5″.a skirt i hemmed had the tag that it was 100%quina.so i looked it up out of curiosity. how appropriate for using in our show which is set in the 70’s

  • Katicakes says:

    I sewed a dress from Quiana when I was in junior high school, to wear to a concert I was in (playing viola). I think either my mother or my auntie ended up taking it over, though i don’t remember it being the fault of the fabric ;-) which was melon coloured. It was a John Kloss pattern! that was around 1973 or so.

    What a great blog. I studied political science and briefly followed my textile love into textile science but chemistry was my achilles heel. Still, I can’t sleep in a house if I don’t have a sewing machine there, so I guess some things are just in the bones.

  • bookdiva says:

    I had a college roommate whose entire wardrobe was made from qiana. She kept all her clothing in a basket in the corner of our room and washed her clothes out in the sink. Qiana never wrinkled and she always look great.

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