Swimsuit Fabric Properties and Types

Wearing comfortable swimwear can give you the self-assurance you need to make the most of the season. Most swimwear fabrics have a degree of stretch so they can be worn comfortably and safely in the water.

The material should also retain its shape when wet and dry fast, which is why elastane fibers are present in nearly all swimwear fabrics.

Swimsuit Fabrics Throughout History

The history of swimsuit fabrics dates as far back as the early centuries. Before the invention of synthetic fabrics, the first swimming fabrics were made from natural fibers.

Until the early 1900s, there was no such thing as a swimsuit. And in the late 19th century, people who went swimming used bathing costumes that included voluminous bloomers and overblouses, stockings, and shoes.

Many ladies hid their faces and heads because society stigmatized women who tanned, although they effectively hid the wearer’s anatomy. The fashion for and social acceptance of swimming suits underwent radical shifts during the subsequent decades.

The switch from natural to synthetic fibers began in the late 1950s when Lycra was invented. And over time, more synthetic swimsuit fabrics gained ground as they offered a greater swimming experience for wearers. These fibers were used to make a wider range of attractive swimwear. 

Unique Swimsuit Fabric Properties

Certain characteristics of swimsuit fabrics distinguish them as suitable for use in the manufacture of swimwear. A few examples of these characteristics include;

  • Stretch

Given its primary function, swimsuits are elastic and have a lot of negative ease, allowing your body to move freely and comfortably.

One can choose between two-way stretch and four-way stretch swimwear fabrics since they are frequently used interchangeably. Comparatively, fabrics with four-way stretch can be stretched in crosswise and vertical directions.

  • Durability

Swimsuit fabric also has the unique quality of being very long-lasting. Fabrics designed specifically for swimwear are more resistant to the types of wear and tear common to other fabrics. 

It can withstand harsh sunlight, sand from the beach, pool chlorine, etc. 

  • Elastic recovery

If your fabric doesn’t recover well, it won’t be able to stretch and return to its normal size and shape without becoming permanently deformed.

Because of this, swimsuit fabrics have an elastane content of 8-10% to guarantee good elastic recovery.

  • Great drying capacity 

No one enjoys being cold and uncomfortable when wearing a wet swimsuit. Fabrics that dry rapidly and don’t trap water are crucial for swimwear.

  • Ability to retain its form when wet.

Swimwear is designed to retain its form and fit even when wet. They are water resistant, so the cloth retains its shape no matter how wet it gets.

The compression fit of some swimwear helps to maintain the shape of the wearer’s body. The fabric’s density and the knit’s tightness also contribute to the compression fit. 

  • Comfort

The ideal swimwear material would be one that would stretch with your body, and it should be comfortable to wear without causing any chafing or friction. It’s ideal for this sort of swimsuit to be made of a soft, breathable fabric.

Popular Swimsuit Fabric Types

Nylon Spandex Swimsuit
82% Nylon / 18% Spandex Swinsuit

You can find swimsuits in a variety of popular fabrics, including:

  • Nylon

Nylon is a common choice for swimsuits since it is a synthetic fabric that works well when combined with other materials, such as spandex, to create swimwear for both men and women.

It’s most commonly used to make high-end swimsuits because of its plush texture and alluring shine. Additionally, the fact that the fabric is resilient and elastic is a plus.

This swimwear material has the potential to lose its color in water and is easily damaged by both pool chlorine and sunlight. But aside from that, it’s a great material for swimwear because it’s lightweight, dries quickly, and is resistant to water.

  • Elastane

To a large extent, swimsuits are constructed from elastane. The fabric is made from a 100% Lycra or Spandex material and can produce fitting swimsuits alone or by combining them with synthetic or natural fibers.

Elastane fabric’s moisture-wicking, flexible, and exceptionally stretchy qualities make it ideal for swimwear.

However, while elastane swimsuits are stylish, they are not environmentally friendly and can be fairly pricey.

  • Scuba Fabric

Scuba fabric is a double-knit material with a lot of elasticity that is sometimes mistaken for neoprene because of its appearance and texture, which are similar to neoprene. But, it lacks that material’s insulating foam layer on the inside.

The fabric, which is constructed similarly to Ponte knit, is highly stiff and is typically used to add structure to clothes.

It’s long-lasting, doesn’t wrinkle, and is completely opaque.

  • Polyester

Polyester is another option for swimsuit fabrics. And adding a little spandex to the mix yields the ideal fabric for figure-fitting swimsuits.

Polyester is resistant to water, ultraviolet light, and chlorine. The fabric doesn’t lose its form or color in the water and doesn’t fade easily.

It is ideal for creating swimsuits due to its high resilience and the speed with which it dries. That’s why you’ll commonly see it in swimsuits used for swimming competitions.

  • Polybutylene(PBT)

While PBT is a polyester-related synthetic material, it lacks the elasticity of regular polyester fabric.

This fabric is impervious to the damaging effects of sunlight, salt water, and chlorine, making it ideal for use in swimming pools. Because of its quality, it is ideal for use in manufacturing swimwear, especially athletic swimwear.

PBT swimsuit fabrics are stiff but lightweight and silky, with a dull finish that allows them to cut through the water like butter.

  • Neoprene

Neoprene was developed as a synthetic rubber alternative, but its high elasticity, outstanding stability, and excellent insulating quality make it a fantastic swimsuit fabric.

It has a bit more fiber than typical swimsuit fabrics. This, along with its insulating properties, makes it an excellent material for swimwear.

Swimsuit Fabric Production Process

The design process of swimsuits is crucial in the creation of quality swimwear. Comfort, colorfastness, and fabric stretchability are also important considerations for those who design swimwear.

Traditional sketching and computer-aided design (CAD) software are used to make creative styles.

From larger hand-drawn sketches, paper patterns and a muslin sample are made. 

A mannequin is used for the outfit, which is subsequently altered until the designer is satisfied with the result.

Weaving machines take spools of cotton, synthetic thread, or other fabrics specifically designed for use in swimsuits and produce fabric rolls.

Large tanks with agitators receive the rolls, and these tanks are dosed with bleach and dyes at predetermined intervals. And then, when the fabric has been washed and colored, it is dried in machines, rolled up, and put away until it’s required again.

The fabric is drawn across the table while an encoder is programmed with known length measurements to make swimsuits.

The cloth is sliced by electronic blades, which receive instructions from the encoder. And after every inch of the cloth is sliced off the bolt, the pieces are stacked 15 centimeters high.

When finished, the swimsuit components are cut from the fabric rolls using computerized technology. 

What Types of Fabric are used to line a Swimsuit?

Swimsuit Lining
Shell: 80% Nylon 20% Spandex
Lining: 100% Polyester

When referring to swimsuits, the phrase “completely lined” indicates that the entire top, bottom, or one piece includes a layer of fabric hidden beneath the print or color you see.

The major reason is that your swimsuit doesn’t become transparent while wet. This is a crucial aspect of bathing suits; no one wants to buy them only to discover that they need a coverup when they get wet.

Some swimsuit lining fabrics include; 

  • Pure 100% Nylon fabric

The mechanical stretch of pure 100% nylon typically works in both ways, so you can use it to line your swimsuit if you choose a fabric with a 4-way stretch. Also, the fact that it dries rapidly is an added plus. 

  • SP-Ven Lining

This swimsuit lining fabric is a high-quality tricot (a term for the knit’s construction) that is both soft and stretchy in four directions. The swimsuit’s lining is usually made from a lightweight but identical version of its exterior fabric.

  • FabricLA Nylon-Spandex Fabric

High-quality nylon spandex fabric is made from 80% nylon and 20% thick spandex lining fabric, making it extremely breathable, long-lasting, and comfortable to wear.

It can be stretched both transversely and longitudinally. It also has great flexibility and is resistant to sweat.

  • Power Mesh

Whether you’re looking for a one-piece or a two-piece swimsuit with built-in shaping, power mesh is a fantastic lining choice. It’s a great addition to your swimsuit or any other activewear that might use some more structure and mobility.

Although, power mesh may not be as stretchy as your swimsuit material.

  • Any lightweight Swimwear Fabric

In the absence of bulk, lightweight swimsuit fabrics can be used as lining. Typically, they come in monochromatic hues, so you can usually tell if a cloth is meant to be lining or not when you buy it.

What Is The Best Swimsuit Fabric?

The best fabric for swimwear is a polyester/elastane blend. Elastane is the super stretchy fabric better known by the brand names Spandex or Lycra. The fabric hugs the body during swimming, helps to speed up your time, and minimizes the drag on the water. 

Polyester is colorfast, resistant to chlorine, and possesses good moisture-wicking properties, making it a perfect choice. When combined with elastane, polyester and fabrics like nylon have similar qualities. A combination of features of both fabrics contributes greatly to the overall quality of the swimsuit fabric blend. 

Swimsuit fabric has to be comfortable and durable. There are different combinations of polyester-elastane blends; some fabrics will contain more polyester, others more elastane. The result is the same, though.

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