A Leather Substitute – DuPont Corfam

DuPont Corfam – The leather substitute

In the mid 1960s, chemical giant DuPont invested millions of pounds in the promotion of Corfam, a synthetic substitute for leather. In the late 1930s researchers at DuPont had discovered a way to make a poromeric imitation leather and had experimented with its possible uses.

One of the most obvious uses was for footwear. Demographic trends were starting to indicate that the global population was increasing at such a rate that there would soon be a demand for footwear from non-animal sources.

DuPont therefore believed the world would welcome the arrival of their hardwearing, breathable patent leather look moisture proof leather material; in fact when the product made its public appearance at the Chicago Shoe Show in the autumn of 1963, it was met with enthusiasm. Corfam was the centrepiece of the DuPont pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair in New York City

Its major advantages over natural leather were its durability and its high gloss finish that could be easily cleaned with a damp cloth. Its disadvantages were its stiffness which did not lessen with wearing, its relative lack of breathability, and easy confusion with non-breathable cheaper products

The company had predicted that by 1984, a quarter of all US shoes would be made from Corfam, but to do that it would first need to carve a niche for itself. If Corfam was to become the new product for shoes, it would need to be used by the manufacturers of women’s shoes.

It soon became clear, however, that the female shoe market was itself divided between comfy, everyday shoes and ‘fashion’ shoes made for special occasions.

For all Corfam’s strengths, it was not as flexible or leather like as ordinary leather, and therefore was not suited for those shoes designed for comfort or everyday use and so they went down the route of the fashion shoe.

What DuPont failed to consider was that a synthetic material called polyvinyl chloride (now known to us as PVC) was fast becoming popular owing to its low manufacturing cost.

Vinyl shoes, which could be coloured or embossed very easily, were perfect for women looking for a pair which may be worn once or twice at special occasions before being set aside, furthermore, the leather industry was keen to dampen the appeal of Corfam by lowering its prices and improving quality. This factor, combined with the growing popularity of vinyl shoes, led to DuPont’s announcement in March 1971 that they were to withdraw Corfam and to being referred to on 11th April 1971 by the New York Time as ‘Du Pont’s $100 million Edsel.’ after which DuPont sold the rights to the product to Poland

Corfam is still used today in some products, an example being certain types of equestrian saddle girth. Corfam shoes are still popular in uniformed professions where shiny shoes are desirable.
Vintage Girl Nicole
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Shoe Size Converter

Please feel free to use the attached shoe size conversion chart to find out your respective US, Euro, and UK shoe size.

Quite frequently I have had to deal with vintage shoes that do not appear to have a recognisable shoe size, or I have come across a pair of pre owned shoes where the size is just not accessible anywhere on the shoe. 

This shoe size chart is only a general measurement guide, each manufacturer uses their own unique shoe lasts to develop and design their shoes and as a result sizing is known to vary slightly from brand to brand. 

To get a better fit, feet are best measured in the afternoon as they tend to be slightly larger later in the day. 

Use a ruler to measure from the centre back of the heel to the end of the longest toe, usually the big toe. 

This chart relates to women’s shoe sizes as at present I deal mainly with women’s clothing. 

Women’s Sizes 


Vintage Girl Nicole

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Long Nails And Vintage Handbags

I love long manicured nails and one of my weekly beauty treatments is a home manicure.

During my relentless searches for vintage handbags and other acquisitions, I am frequently disappointed to find nail scratch marks on the front, along the top and around the clasp of vintage handbags, where they have been grabbed or picked up.

This is mainly a problem for bags made from calf aand other soft leathers; I have not found this to be too much of a problem on patent leather, crocodile and the miriad of faux leathers in existence, although they can also be damaged by scratching if handled aggressively.

Removing or disguising these scratches can be difficult mainly because polish, whilst being a good medium for renovating leather, has a horrible habit of transferring onto other items (remember your lovely socks at school after you polished your Birthday sandals) and the last thing any woman wants is polish smudges on her lovely outfit.

I have currently been using Woly cream polish to polish up marks and scratches on shoes and bags, with good results. Woly make polishes in numerous colours and you can even take your item to the shoe repairer and have them order the colour in, although during my latest shopping expedition, I did manage to find a new brand of non transferable polish and I will write about that at another time after I have put it to the test.

If like me, you love your long nails, you might wish to prevent scratching the leather in the first place and this can be done by simply folding your fingers in and using the pad of the thumb and the knuckle of the forefinger to open your vintage handbag.

When cleaning or moving bags around, wearing a pair of white cosmetic gloves or any plain fabric cotton gloves will go a long way to preventing scratches and will prevent polish and other cleaning materials from getting under your nails thus spoiling your manicure.

Don’t be put off  if you find a bag that you like with a few scratches, then try a bit of Woly polish.  Remember a bag that is 60 plus years old is just as likely to show some wear in just the same way anything that has been around for that length of time will.

Vintage Girl Nicole

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Dating Vintage Handbags – Zips

I have heard and seen comments, suggesting that vintage handbags cannot or do not have plastic or nylon zips and that for a bag to be vintage it should have a brass zip. This is unfounded and in fact many vintage bags do have zips which are not brass.

Zips as we know them have been in existence since 1913 in fact  the idea was first developed and patented by Elias Howe (the inventor of the Sewing Machine) in 1851.

Howe, received a patent in 1851 for an “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure”.   it is believed that because of his success with the sewing machine, he did not try to seriously market his congruous closure thereby missing the recognition that he might otherwise have received.

Plastic or nylon celluloid zips have been around since the 1930s, however they were often unreliable and had frequent breaking issues. The problems with early plastic zips was also compounded by the fact that some of them did not have zip pulls.

Older vintage bags dating from the 1930s through to the 1950s are usually furnished with brass zips, however due the brass shortages caused during  World War Two,  some bags were fitted with nylon zips.

From the 1960s, bags seemed to have a good mixture of both nylon and brass zips; nylon zips becoming more popular, firstly with woven nylon zips introduced in 1963, followed by nylon coil zips in 1968, the latter is still in use today.

 

Vintage Girl Nicole

 

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