Modal -- a trade name for "high wet modulus" rayon -- developed to have a higher wet strength than regular viscose rayon. Modal fabric feels silky-soft on the skin yet is hard-wearing and colorfast when dyed. This makes it ideal for many garments, and Modal has become a popular fabric for underwear and leisure clothes. Modal was developed in Japan in the 1950s. Lenzing Modal, which is used by top quality labels, is made exclusively in Austria and uses eco-friendly processes throughout production.
How It's Made
A man-made fabric, Modal is spun out of wood pulp from beech tree chips. This natural composition makes it a breathable fabric, suitable for wearing close to the skin. The silky, shiny look of Modal belies the fact that it does not trap perspiration and therefore leaves the skin freer to breathe.
As a Blend
Modal fibers are often blended with cotton for use in clothing. The resulting fabric gives Modal garments a more robust feel and also makes the cotton seem lighter. The mix with cotton, a natural fiber, makes cool and breathable clothes. Cotton-Modal fabrics usually drape well around the body, so clothes made from this blend often have roomy, flowing cuts. Styles is influenced by the fabric, making many Modal tops and dresses even more airy.
Modal and cotton-Modal blend fabrics may be mixed with other fibers, such as spandex, to give stretch. This is ideal for leisure clothing and apparel for activities such as yoga that require stretching -- your clothes stretch comfortably when you do. Although spandex is not breathable, only a small quantity is necessary to give the needed stretch -- 5 to 10 percent -- so it does not affect the overall breathability of a Modal-blend garment. Modal does not trap body heat, so it's comfortable for moderate activity.
Use in Undergarments
Modal fabric is extremely hard-wearing and keeps its shape and finish, even after frequent washing. These properties make it useful as an underwear fabric. Its silky texture also makes it comfortable for close-fitting intimate wear. Modal underwear is also often blended with a stretch fiber, as well as cotton, but it stays breathable. Unlike garments made from synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester, Modal underwear does not trap perspiration and odors. Modal is up to 50 percent more absorbent than cotton, so clothes never feel sweaty and sticky.
Shefali Choudhury is a qualified make-up artist and nail technician, with more than 12 years experience of professional makeup in beauty, film and theater. She graduated in fine art from Central Saint Martins and has been writing professionally since 2007.