20110107 rayon red dress 18
Picture of a rayon velvet acetate evening gown, that belonged to Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962), taken at the Museum of Fashion in Santiago on October 8, 2008. - 


Kai Ryssdal: Commodities have been on an upward tear the past couple of months. Oil, gold, food and grains prices are all higher. As is cotton. Prices have doubled over the last year, which is creating a big opportunity for cheaper synthetic fabrics, like, say, the cloth behind the Hawaiian shirt boom of the 1980s.

Marketplace's Jennifer Collins has more now on the revival of rayon.

Jennifer Collins: Clothing makers and designers like BCBG, LL Bean and Isaac Mizrahi have all started adding more rayon to their lines. Burt Flickinger is with consumer consulting firm Strategic Resource Group.

Burt Flickinger: Rayon's making its way into mid-level fashion because it provides affordable fabric.

Cotton prices have been spiking because of damaged crops and growing demand worldwide. Steven Chercover is a stock analyst with DA Davidson. He says rayon's better known as a fabric of the '70s and '80s.

Steven Chercover: I think I think of "Magnum P.I."

You know, Tom Selleck, his fabulous moustache, those loosely buttoned Hawaiian shirts. But Chercover says rayon's not just a retro thing.

Chercover: There are benefits that cotton doesn't have so I think it's being blended into today's apparel.

Benefits like rayon dries fast and is much cheaper than cotton. Rayon is, by the way, is made out of wood pulp. Its growing popularly is boosting business for some wood products companies that were hit by the housing crisis.

Chercover: It's a windfall for some of the companies whose pulp mills were on the bubble.

But rayon's price has been climbing too. Again, Burt Flickinger:

Flickinger: Even with the rayon substitutes, clothes inflation will be 15 percent during 2011.

That is, until the sales kick in.

I'm Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.