The oilskin slickers of yesterday may have stuck and cracked and smelled like bilge, but they heralded a whole new generation of lightweight coated materials. New plastic and vinyl finishes have turned foul-weather apparel, once ugly, heavy and stifling, into lightweight active garments for spring and summer. The fact that they also shine wetly (opposite and following pages) while shedding rain, sea spray or a cutting breeze is part of the charm. The new coatings intensify the colors of fabrics, making the new season's beach jackets and parkas for men and women the brightest ever. Among other shiny virtues, described further on page 58, the new coated fabrics are easy to tailor—as indicated by the oil-slick black beach shirt worn here by Sunny Bippus of Palm Beach.


Chemists have been pulling synthetic coatings for fabric out of test tubes since 1927. But never before has science succeeded in making vinyl- and plastic-coated fabrics so pliable, wearable, flexible, attractive and practical. The new coated-fabric sportswear will not crack, or "crock" (as the experts say of that old alligator effect). It will not harden, peel, mildew, stick, or turn tacky in hot weather. If touched with fire it simply chars at point of contact, being non-combustible. It resists abrasions, snags, tears, scratches and very rough wear. Its properties heighten color, so that the finished garment is the whitest of white, the blackest of black or the wildest of any hue, making it highly visible for fun and safety. It has no unpleasant odor. If there is any drawback it is that coated fabrics at present are not porous. However, they are so lightweight that they do not create an enveloping steam-room discomfort like their predecessors. These lightweight qualities have also made possible better drape and tailoring and therefore more freedom of design. Some of the coated fabrics—those made of polyurethane—can be dry-cleaned, although this is seldom called for. All the coated fabrics can be hand-washed or wiped off with a damp cloth. Some can even be machine-washed.

The sportswear in the color photographs on the previous pages is of fabrics treated with two basic coatings—vinyl and modified urethane. Of these, vinyl is exemplified by General Tire's SeaSkin, made into sportswear by Holt, Knowles, a Miami firm specializing in good-looking boating and beach attire. SeaSkin is one of the strongest fabric constructions on the market, a practically indestructible but soft vinyl bonded to nylon. It can be printed with vinyl ink, which never wears off. Vinyl is also used in White Stag's vinyl-coated yellow-and-orange-striped nylon twill and in Juniorite's vinylized black-and-white-printed cottons. In the bonding process cloth is affixed to vinyl sheeting with heat and pressure. Vinyl creates the brightest and glossiest colors, but as yet cannot be dry-cleaned.

A good example of a modified urethane is that made by Kenyon and called K-Kote. It is found in the jackets by McGregor on the previous pages. This chemical process is one of the most serviceable and expensive of all the coatings—lightweight, tough, washable and dry-cleanable. It is also highly flexible and can be applied to gingham, madras and duck. While the sportswear shown has a high gloss, K-Kote also comes in a wide range of effects, including a natural, untreated-fabric look.

The future of coated fabrics obviously is bright. Other innovations are being planned for fall, among them reversible sportswear made of corduroy and suede cloth laminated to vinyl, as well as heavier coated fabrics. Plastic coatings are not meant or expected to replace old-fashioned wool and other natural cloths. But, used correctly, they expand the range of a sportsman's wardrobe.

WHERE TO BUY: The short-sleeved shirt ($23) worn by Sunny Bippus on the first color page is designed by Bob Beach for Holt, Knowles. On the next two pages, aboard the airboat Marcia Wendell wears White Stag's yellow-and-orange jacket ($13); it is at Garfinckel's, Washington. Sunny's striped parka ($18) is by Her McGregor, at Bonwit Teller, New York. The black belted parka ($42.50) worn by John Stretch is by Holt, Knowles, as is Bill Burlingham's yellow shirt ($32). All the Holt, Knowles merchandise is at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York; The Fair & Foul Weather Shop, Coconut Grove, Fla. The red-white-and-blue-striped parka ($15) worn by Steve Cutter is by McGregor, at Stern's, New York. The assemblage of articles on the last color pages of the story includes a yellow boot ($20) by Golo, at Lord & Taylor, New York; a sou'wester hat ($5) by Holt, Knowles worn with the White Stag jacket described above; and two women's hooded parkas by Juniorite ($11 each at B. Altman, New York).

PHOTOJOHN G. ZIMMERMAN PHOTOJOHN G. ZIMMERMANOn a fast run through the Everglades' river of grass, a group of Palm Beach residents test the wind-and-spray-shedding virtues of summer-weight jackets that glisten with protective coatings. PHOTOJOHN G. ZIMMERMANThe new coated fabrics, shining as wetly as new paint, come in stripes and dots, in crashing colors and subtle shades and are made into everything from sou'wester hats to high boots.

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