Nylon and polyester spandex fabrics have come to prominence in the last several decades as the premier fabrics for athletic wear, uniforms, swimwear, and workout clothing.
Spandex fabric - also known as elastane or Lycra - is a modern synthetic fiber known for its exceptional elasticity, hence its prevalence in athletic attire as well as in apparel designed for comfort or to flatter the figure. The material is extremely comfortable, lightweight, supple and dyes easily. It is a key stretchy fabric in active-wear garments and in an ever growing array of other stylish attire, such as dancewear and club wear.
Spandex was developed in 1959 by DuPont scientist Joseph Shivers, the culmination of nearly a decade of research. The material is a long-chain synthetic polymeric fiber, consisting of a rubbery segment for stretch and recovery as well as a rigid segment for strength and durability. Spandex is always blended with another fiber such as cotton or linen, and does not lose integrity with exposure to lotions or the body's natural oils, unlike rubber thread.
Its generic "spandex" name is a clever (reverse) word play on the fact that the fabric is rather uniquely "ex-pandable", and thus ideal for a range of active lifestyle garments and applications. DuPont's brand of spandex, Lycra, began its foray into the fashion world during the 1960's in women's pantyhose and undergarments. The material was soon cropping up elsewhere, though, in uniforms, swimwear and athletic attire. Spandex leggings were all the rage in aerobics classes throughout the 1980's, and many entertainers began incorporating the material into their stage costumes. Spandex remains widely used for a multitude of applications, ranging from traditional uses in clothing to practical bedding and automotive paneling. Spandex is a truly remarkable textile that has altered the form and function of fashion.