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What’s the Best Swimsuit Fabric in 2023?

What’s the Best Swimsuit Fabric in 2023?

All You Need to Know About Swimsuit Fabric

Swimsuit fabric is a subject of much discussion in the fashion world, but in reality, there are limited options when it comes to choosing the right material. Swimsuit fabrics typically need to be quick-drying, colorfast, and possess a certain level of stretch to provide a comfortable and secure fit. Let’s explore some of the various options available and their distinct characteristics, making it easier for you to select the ideal swimsuit material that suits your needs.

The majority of swimsuit fabrics are designed to stretch and conform to the body’s curves while ensuring a comfortable and safe swimming experience. To achieve these properties, almost all swimwear fabrics incorporate elastane fibers.

Elastane, a synthetic fiber with remarkable elastic qualities, revolutionized the fashion industry after its development in the 1960s. Elastane is commonly known as Lycra or Spandex, and despite different brand names, they are essentially the same material.

To provide a comfortable stretch, elastane is blended with other synthetic fibers. The exact blend ratio may vary depending on the manufacturer and the desired characteristics of the fabric, but typically, it consists of approximately 10% to 20% elastane and 80% to 90% other fibers.

It’s important to note that our discussion of swimwear fabrics is from a designer and manufacturer’s standpoint. If you’re purchasing fabrics for a DIY swimsuit, your perspective might differ, considering factors like cost and printing.


Different Types of Swimsuit Fabrics

Natural Fabrics

Progarments swimwear

1950s Swimwear

Natural fibers, such as cotton and wool, have some drawbacks that make them less suitable for swimwear, especially for swimming purposes. When exposed to water, these fibers tend to lose their shape easily, dry slowly, and retain a significant amount of water, making them heavier and less practical. As a result, they are not the best option for functional swimwear but can still be suitable for lounging and sunbathing, where their retro-style charm can add a touch of the 1950s-1960s or earlier eras.

Fabrics like bamboo and cotton knits and terrys are occasionally used for vintage-inspired swimwear to capture the nostalgic vibe of past decades. However, these materials lack the stretchy quality that modern elastane (developed in the 1960s) provides, limiting their functional use for swimming suits.

In summary, while natural fibers may have a certain aesthetic appeal, they are generally not the ideal choice for swimwear intended for active swimming. If your swimsuit design calls for natural fibers and you have questions or need assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ll be happy to help!

Progarments swimwear

Shown here: Cotton Swimwear Fabric: 95% Cotton, 5% Spandex

Polyester Swimsuit Fabric Blends


Polyester spandex fabric 

Polyester swimwear fabrics, when blended with Lycra (or spandex), offer outstanding durability, making them an excellent choice for functional swimwear. However, it’s essential to note that “stretch polyester” encompasses a vast category with numerous blends from various fabric mills. The percentage of polyester to spandex in each blend can vary.

The quality and characteristics of stretch polyester depend on several factors, including the density of the knit and the softness of the fabric. The filament used in the textile mill to create the fabric plays a significant role. Fabrics with thick filaments might feel coarser, while those with thin and smooth filaments will have a silkier touch. For the best selection, it’s advisable to feel the fabric and evaluate its stretch personally before making a final decision.

When shopping for swimwear blends, you’ll come across terms like “Lycra,” “Spandex,” and “Elastane.” It’s worth noting that Lycra is a brand name and trademark of the DuPont company, while the others are generic terms. Functionally, there’s no noticeable difference between swimwear made with any of these terms or other brand name elastane fibers. However, there is a growing trend of eco-friendly elastane options entering the market.

Progarments swimwear

Shown here: Carvico Vita PL Polyester Swimwear Fabric. 78% Recycled Polyester, 22% Lycra (elastane)

Progarments swimwear

Shown here enlarged: Carvico Vita PL Polyester Swimwear Fabric. 78% Recycled Polyester, 22% Lycra (elastane)

Qualities of Polyester Swimwear Fabric

Polyester offers several advantageous qualities that make it a popular choice for swimwear fabrics:

  1. Durability: Polyester is known for its exceptional durability, maintaining its shape both in and out of the water. It resists pilling, which is particularly important for surf swimwear that comes into frequent contact with surfboards.
  2. Colorfastness: Polyester holds color remarkably well, whether through dyes or prints. This ensures that the vibrant colors of the swimwear remain intact even after exposure to water and sunlight.
  1. Cost-Effectiveness: Polyester is one of the more budget-friendly options for swimwear fabrics, making it accessible for a wide range of consumers.
  1. Look and Feel: While polyester used to be associated with a rough texture, modern polyester fabrics have significantly improved in this regard. They now offer a soft feel, though not quite as soft as nylon.
  1. Digital Print Compatibility: Polyester is ideal for digital printing using sublimation. This printing process results in bright, saturated, clear, and long-lasting colors. Sublimation dyes and machines are specifically designed to work effectively on polyester fabrics.


Sustainability in Polyester Swimwear Fabrics

Polyester has the advantage of being easily recyclable and can be sourced from various materials. When labeled as “post-consumer” recycled, it means the polyester comes from waste materials like plastic bottles, carpets, and other plastic sources. For instance, a fabric claiming to be “100% post-consumer” recycled indicates that all the fabric’s filaments were produced using recycled waste material. This makes it the most eco-friendly option available.

Sustainable swimwear fabrics can be either 100% post-consumer recycled or blended with other materials. To ensure transparency, it is essential to check with the supplier and know exactly what materials are used in the fabric.

Is polyester sustainable? Is polyester eco-friendly?

However, when evaluating the sustainability of polyester, it’s important to consider the context of comparison. Polyester should not be compared directly to natural fibers, as they behave differently when wet. Synthetic fibers, including polyester, do contribute to microplastic pollution and can impact water supplies.

While there are no 100% “sustainable” or entirely eco-friendly synthetic fibers, using recycled polyesters is a more environmentally responsible choice compared to virgin polyester. While the level of sustainability in swimwear fabrics may not be as high as desired, opting for recycled polyesters is a step in the right direction.

For a comprehensive resource on sustainable stretch fabrics, Common Objective offers valuable insights into this subject.

Nylon Swimwear Fabric Blends

Progarments swimwear

Nylon spandex swimsuit fabrics are popular for their softness and glossy sheen. Solid colors dominate the market due to the difficulty of printing on nylon.

Qualities of Nylon Swimwear Fabric:
  1. Durability: Nylon is a strong fiber with good tensile strength, making it suitable for swimwear. However, it degrades more easily under UV (sunlight) exposure and is more prone to pilling compared to polyester.
  1. Colorfastness: Nylon does not retain color as effectively as polyester, which may result in some fading over time.
  1. Cost: Nylon swimwear fabric is generally slightly more expensive than polyester, but prices can vary depending on the specific type.
  1. Look/Feel: Nylon is favored for its soft and luxurious handfeel, making it a popular choice in swimwear. It also offers a wide range of sheen options, adding to its appeal.
  1. Not Suitable for Low-Volume Printing: While some printers can print artwork onto nylon fabrics, it is not intended for sublimation printing. Sublimation on nylon may not be colorfast, wash out quickly, and produce poor definition with vector artwork, making it unsuitable for high-quality swimwear products.
Progarments swimwear

Shown here: Carvico Vita Econyl. 78% Recycled Nylon, 22% Lycra

Progarments swimwear

Shown here: Carvico Vita Econyl Swimsuit Fabric. Close up.

Sustainability in Nylon Fabrics

Nylon recycling is commonly done using “pre-consumer” material, which is somewhat less eco-friendly than post-consumer recycling. Pre-consumer material comes from waste streams that have not yet been used by consumers, making it closer to raw material. However, the source of this material can sometimes be questionable, leading to concerns about greenwashing in recycled products.

Econyl, a recycled nylon swimwear fabric, has gained significant attention for its innovative use of fishing industry waste in its recycled nylon filament. Similarly, other companies are now producing recycled polyester fabric products. While there is some debate about the environmental impact of the recycling process itself, there is no doubt that upcycling plastic waste into the fashion industry is a positive step.

For more information on sustainable swimwear fabrics, you can refer to our article on the subject.


So… What’s the best fabric for swimwear?

The best swimsuit fabric ultimately depends on your specific needs and preferences. For practicality, polyester stands out due to its easy printing capability and durability. Moreover, polyester’s environmental impact can be better managed compared to nylon.

However, nylon still holds an unmatched feel and finish that polyester is gradually approaching. Though polyesters are getting closer in replicating the look and feel of nylon, they are not quite there yet.

If you happen to find a polyester fabric that you love in terms of both appearance and texture, you’ll get the best of both worlds!

At Progarments, we offer a wide range of swimsuit fabrics, and we can work with any material you provide. Feel free to contact us, share details about your business and requirements, and we’ll be more than happy to assist you from there!