Beaver Hats to Hockey Pads: A Social History of Felt in Canada (redux)

9. American Influence and Affluence

cars, white-goods and poodle skirts…

The felt industry in North America came into its own with the advent and growth of the automobile industry. As a heavy volume buyer with a demand for precise specifications, cars drove the need for standardization in felt manufacturing. Standards were determined and defined by the Society of Automotive Engineering in 1923, and remain the basis for the present-day qualities of industrial felt.

Through the post-war economic boom felt remained a strong component of not only automotive parts but also of other modern conveniences flourishing at the time, especially of home appliances or “white-goods”, so-called for their typical white paint or enamelled finish. Felt filters, gaskets and seals became a staple of the American dream, found in dishwashers and clothes dryers across the nation.

Felt found its way into other domestic markets through women’s magazines full of handy tips and patterns. The circle skirt, a full felt skirt often appliquéd, helped to usher in the new wave of growth and optimism in the US, offering a cheap alternative to the voluminous style of ‘The New Look’ made famous by Christian Dior on the runways of Paris. Cut from a circle of felt with a hole in the middle for the waist, American home-makers inadvertently emulated American industry with this pattern that resembles a giant gasket. KW

US influcence

LEFT: American Felt Company advertisement, 1948; CENTRE: skirt pattern; RIGHT: variations on the felt skirt

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