sequins before plastic: a fashion history lesson, and a citrus fruit

Among the things I find incredibly bizarre are...

buddha's hand citron...and the fact that before plastic, aside from understandable materials like gold and other metals, sequins were made with gelatin. That's right. GELATIN. (Whut?)

french gelatin sequinAbove, vintage French gelatin dangling sequins

So yeah. Bizarre. Thank you, internet. This website says gelatin sequin production began in the 1940s, but this Jeanne Paquin dress from 1925 begs to differ (click it. So pretty), so I am totally unclear.

In any case, gelatin was found to melt under heat or moisture, so its use in sequins was discontinued, and gelatin sequins are now fashion relics.

However! Algy Leiberman, whom I will subsequently refer to as The Sequin Man, because he had a sequin factory (hello, dream job filled with shiny things!), was determined to find a solution that would ensure a) his livelihood as The Sequin Man and b) the happiness of women everywhere who love shiny things too much.

Along came Eastman Kodak, of camera film fame. SHOCK AND AWE, the acetate used to produce photographic film also made pretty good sequins, too. The Sequin Man had Kodak produce acetate for his factory so he could make acetate sequins for magpies, and by magpies, I mean people like me. The new sequins were super shiny thanks to the silver plating, and they were more durable than the gelatin ones. The Sequin Man saw what he had made and behold! it was very good.

But not good enough. Though more durable than gelatin, acetate sequins were still prone to heat- and moisture-damage. Luckily, in the early 1950s, DuPont (later responsible for Kevlar) invented Mylar, a polyester film that The Sequin Man then used to sandwich his sequins, resulting in an extra-shiny, totally washable sequin. He sold his business in 1999.

Today, sequins are made out of polyester, PVC, or vinyl.

And as I sit here tacking more sequins onto my fake Chanel shirt, all I can think is... BIZARRE, and thank you, Sequin Man, for not giving up on sequins and for making my life shiny and happy. I'll take three, please.

3.1 Phillip Lim sequined tuxedo cardigan
Above, Sequined Tuxedo Cardigan by 3.1 Phillip Lim, $895 at Neiman Marcus

[Sources: here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Apparently the main source for this post (on Vintage Shopping Guide) was posted on December 30th of 2009, which would explain why my earlier attempts to write this post were totally unfruitful. Once again, thank you, internet.]
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