With the growing popularity of undergarments such as Spanx, jeggings and leggings, every wardrobe is sure to have a garment that contains an elastic material. Undergarments, fitness attire and elastic waistbands are a staple in casual clothing collections, but most people have never checked to see exactly what the material is that gives a slender shape, or holds your clothes in place.
In 1959, Joseph C. Shivers, a scientist for DuPont, invented spandex fiber. DuPont chose to name its spandex products Lycra to distinguish it from spandex fibers made by other companies. Spandex is blended with other materials to create garments. It is lighter than rubber, but does not break down from moisture, heat or perspiration. Spandex can stretch up to 600 percent and return to its original shape.
Vinyl is a synthetic, man-made material. It is a type of plastic made from ethylene and chlorine. Vinyl is the more common name of polyvinyl chloride resin (PVC). Stretch vinyl is made of polyvinyl chloride and commonly used for gloves and housewares such as tablecloths.
Nylon, originally a replacement for silk, was developed in the 1930s. Like vinyl, petroleum products were used to develop this fabric. Unlike spandex, nylon is extremely sensitive to heat and not as durable as either spandex or vinyl. Garments usually contain a blend of nylon and another fabric.
Benefits of Elastic Materials
The major benefit of elastic materials such as spandex, vinyl and nylon is their ability to stretch. This stretch is what gives comfort and usually a flattering shape to the figure. Yoga pants, loungewear and even leggings all contain some sort of elastic material and are still popular today.