Choosing Swimsuit Material: The Best Swimsuit Fabric, For You

Choosing Swimsuit Material: The Best Swimsuit Fabric, For You

Swimsuits are a part of our summertime beauty. But, which swimsuit fabric is the best? When it comes to material, there are many options. However, the most popular choices for women's bathing suits are spandex and nylon. 

These materials offer comfort and durability that will last all summer long! There are other options as well - you can choose from cotton, polyester or even silk! Read on to find out more about your different choices when considering the swimsuit fabric.

What is the best swimsuit fabric for you? It depends on what you are looking for. If you want something that will last a long time, then polyester is your best option. This material also has UV protection to help protect against sunburns and skin cancer. 

However, if you're more interested in comfort, then spandex or nylon would be better choices because they stretch with your body shape, so it feels like wearing nothing at all! 

Choosing the best swimsuit fabric for your needs can be tricky, but fortunately, we're here to help!  This blog post will cover all of the different types of swimsuit materials and how they work. 

We'll also teach you how to care for your suit, so it lasts longer and doesn't lose its shape. So stay tuned- this is going to be a great blog post about choosing swimsuit material!

Do you find yourself in need of a new swimsuit? If so, the material matters. Different fabrics have different qualities and benefits. The best fabric for you is one that suits your lifestyle and preferences. 

This article will discuss the pros and cons of various materials to help you make an informed decision when choosing what type of suit to buy next summer!

We all know how difficult it can be to find the best swimsuit fabric for you. Some people prefer speedos, while others enjoy wearing a one-piece with shorts on the bottom. 

No matter what your preference is, there are some important factors that you should consider before making your purchase. 

For example, many swimmers wear suits made from polyester because they offer more elasticity than other fabrics and are less likely to shrink or fade in colour when exposed to chlorine water. 

If you would like something softer than polyester but still want durability, then try out spandex! This material will stretch with your body and won't lose its shape over time as cotton does.

Most people who go to the beach look for ways to protect themselves from the sun. The best way of doing this is by wearing a swimsuit that has UPF 50+ protection, but there are also other factors that you should consider when buying one. 

There are many different types of swimsuit fabric, and you must choose one based on your needs. 

For example, if you're looking for something quick-drying, then Lycra might be perfect for you, while someone else may want something more luxurious like silk or cashmere (depending on what they can afford).

Let's get started!

What Material Are Swimsuits Made Of?

1. Natural Fabrics

Before the invention of synthetic fibres or stretchy Lycra, swimsuits were made from natural fibres. Weirdly enough, wool was one of the most popular. The thinking behind the use of wool is that it has a certain amount of elasticity to be knitted into close-fitting swimwear.

Wool was also readily available and affordable, meaning swimmers could knit their swimming costumes. In addition, there were knitting patterns in fashion magazines to enable them to do this. 

It was slightly bizarre from a modern-day perspective, but it was all they had back in the days before Spandex and Lycra. One of the leading names in swimwear today, Speedo, started as a knitting factory making socks.

Like most natural fibres, wool tends to soak up water. This causes it to expand, become heavy and stretch out of shape. None of which are endearing qualities when it comes to bathing suits.

With the recent push for more sustainable options, wool and polycotton blends slowly make their way back into swimwear. 

There's still a long way to go before natural fabrics can come close to the superior swimming experience offered by synthetic materials. Until then, natural fibres will continue to be ruled out when choosing suitable fabrics for swimwear.

The change from natural to synthetic fibres is all down to the introduction of Lycra back in the 1950s. As a result, swim-orientated garment design was revolutionized. It is leading to groundbreaking progress in the development of swimwear.

Synthetic Fabrics

The list of synthetic fibres and blends of fibres is endless for suitable fabrics for swimwear. Synthetic materials are brimming with the essential qualities today's swimwear needs to perform in competitive sports and fashion arenas.

Topping the choice of suitable fabrics is polyester. A fabric with built-in resistance to chlorine and sunlight, it’s both easy to care for and durable. When blended with the stretch of elastane, the inherent qualities of polyester make it the perfect option for swimwear.

There are different combinations of polyester-elastane blends. Some fabrics will contain more polyester, others more elastane. The result is the same, though. A fully functional, resilient piece of clothing designed to be a hit in the pool or by the beach.

Elastane can be blended with other fabrics besides polyester. For example, going by Spandex or Lycra, elastane can be coupled with nylon to create a swimwear fabric. 

Nylon is less UV resistant and can be damaged by chlorine. However, it's still a suitable alternative to a polyester-based garment, especially if you are looking for a one-season fashion swimsuit.

Less popular but just as comfortable is a polycotton-spandex knit fabric. This option combines the look and feel of polycotton with the stretch needed for swimwear.

It comes with some disadvantages. For example, being part-natural fibre affects its ability to dry quickly, and it tends to fade faster. 

Despite this and depending on the ratio of polyester to cotton, this fabric has the potential to be a durable and viable choice.

There Are Two Major Fabric Options

Whether you are looking for a fabric for your swimwear line or your next purchase, it's good to know what the options are. 

Note that no fabric is better than another, but the fabrics have different attributes, making them more suitable for different uses. On top of this, of course, the quality of your supplier makes a difference.

1. Nylon Blends

Nylon blends are what you will come across most in the female swimwear fashion world.

Why?

It is soft and comfortable. It gives a good stretch, and it hugs your body really well.

A typical blend is around 80% nylon and 20% stretchy bit. That bit is called LYCRA® if it's by The LYCRA Company but can also be called spandex (SP) or elastane (EA), depending on where in the world you are and if it's branded or not. 

Same thing. The purpose of this 20% is to provide great elasticity for your bikinis and swimsuits.

Nylon can also go under other names, such as Polyamide (PA), which is essentially the same. In addition, nylon is the group name of some particular Polyamides.

Nylons are not to be printed on, the result is blurry, and the print will bleed.

Characteristics

  • Feel: Very soft
  • Stretch: Very Good
  • Durability: Good
  • Dry: Quick
  • Printable: No
  • UV resistance: Sometimes
  • Chlorine resistance: Rare
  • Repels water: Yes
  • Care: Hand-Wash, Hang to Dry

2. Polyester Blends

You’ll find polyester blends mostly amongst competitive swimwear.

Why?

It is soft yet very strong, and it is chlorine and UV resistant.

Polyester blends also have the benefit of being able to absorb dye. This means that you can dye and print it with rich and crisp results.

Characteristics

  • Feel: Soft
  • Stretch: Good
  • Durability: Very Good
  • Dry: Quicker
  • Printable: Yes
  • UV resistance: Yes
  • Chlorine resistance: Yes
  • Repels water: Yes
  • Care: Hand-Wash, Hang to Dry

Best Swimsuit Materials

1. Polyester

Soft fabric with incredible durability, polyester is one of the most popular fabrics in apparel construction.

Its quick-drying properties and longevity make it a great choice for swimwear, especially for competitive swimming.

With built-in UV resistance and the ability to withstand regular contact with chlorine, this fabric is a top choice for any garment likely to be used on the beach or by the pool.

2. Nylon

Also known as Polyamide, nylon is quick-drying and water-resistant. Found primarily in fashion swimwear, it is incredibly comfortable and flattering to wear.

Soft with a slightly glossy sheen, the fabric looks and feels attractive.

When mixed with elastane, the fabric can be figure-hugging, which can help hide body fullness.

Because of this, it has become a popular material for swimming costumes, pools, and beachwear.

3. Elastane

Elastane was developed for apparel use in the late 1950s. It’s the generic name for the elastic fabric found in brands like Lycra and Spandex. A 100% synthetic material, elastane is polyurethane.

Originally introduced to replace rubber, it also has many industrial applications, including shock and heat insulation.

Elastane can be used with synthetic materials or added to natural fibres to give garments a comfortable stretch. In addition, its elastic properties make it an ideal fabric for swimwear.

4. PBT

Polybutylene Terephthalate, or PBT for short, is a plastic yarn fibre with natural stretch and recovery. PBT is a member of the polyester family of plastics.

Not as stretchy as other polyesters, its texture is stiffer with a light and smooth feel.

Coupled with the slightly duller or matte finish, the material glides through the water. An attribute making it fantastic for competitive sportswear.

5. Cotton

Historically natural fibres like wool or cotton would have been used to make bathing costumes. Think Victorian beach-goers with their full body-covering outfits. However, one of the main problems with natural fibres is water retention. 

Clothing can absorb too much water causing the swimmer to sink. Or worse, lose their swimsuit as it pulls out of shape and falls off.

These days, cotton and bamboo are used to create retro swimwear reminiscent of by-gone days. These outfits are not designed for regular or competitive swimming; they're more for beach-lounging or relaxing on a deck chair.

What Other Fabrics Can Be Used in Swimwear?

Several activities require swimwear, including scuba diving and swimming. Swimsuits are also used away from the water in sunbathing, beach volleyball, body-building, and beauty contests. 

Let’s take a look at some other fabrics associated with fun both in and out of the water.

1. Neoprene

Neoprene is a synthetic rubber and not technically a fabric. Used for wetsuits, neoprene is the inner layer of insulating foam, keeping divers and surfers warm. Particularly in winter or in seas known to be chilly all year round.

Neoprene is a synthetic rubber that exhibits good stability, remains flexible over varying temperatures and is great for insulation. The benefit of insulation is why it's commonly used for scuba diving suits. 

The fabric is thicker, and methods of stitching are different from 'regular' swimwear fabric. Therefore, if you seek to use this fabric for your brand or products, you might benefit from finding a manufacturer who is already producing scuba/wet suits.

The reason they are called wetsuits is that water is trapped close to the skin. As body heat warms the water, the diver’s body temperature is kept at a comfortable level. One disadvantage with neoprene, the divers’ bodies are always wet.

As a swimsuit material, this constant wetness near the body can be an issue. In addition, in warm weather, the trapped warm air can cause overheating. 

The material can be uncomfortable to wear and difficult to get on and off. Many surfers and divers tend to wear a swimming costume underneath their wetsuits to prevent them from sticking to their skin.

2. Scuba Fabric

Sometimes confused with neoprene, scuba fabric is double-knit with lots of stretches. Like a Ponte knit in construction, the fabric is quite stiff and used to create structure in garments. 

Although it lacks the inner layer of insulating foam, scuba's overall look and feel are similar to neoprene.

Not being as flexible as a polyester-spandex mix, your scuba suit might restrict movement in activities like volleyball. 

But, if a structured wetsuit look is one you are looking for in your swimwear, scuba is the choice for you. Durable, resilient, and fully opaque, it’s a great choice for both style and modesty.

3. Swimwear Lining Fabric

Some swimwear fabrics can sometimes be a little transparent, particularly when they get wet. For this reason, you’ll find a lining is an essential addition. Not only that, but a lining can also make the swimsuit more comfortable to wear.

When choosing a fabric for your lining, make sure to pick one with similar properties to your swimsuit material. 

You need the lining to behave and move in the same way. So ensure it is colourfast, chlorine-resistant, and durable.

An ideal fabric for swimwear lining used a lot in commercial garments is power mesh. This fabric is perfect for body control. 

When cut a little smaller than the swimsuit, it can help to camouflage lumpy love handles.

What Else Look For In Swimwear Materials

The last thing you need in a swimwear fabric is for your bikini or swimming shorts to turn see-through underwater. A fabric that shrinks when wet can also cause a few embarrassing problems.

Choosing a suitable material for swimwear is essential for both modesty and comfort. Here’s a list of characteristics your chosen fabric needs to have to be suitable for swimming costumes.

1. Weight

Most fashion swimwear fabrics range in about 180-200 g/m².

One thing you don’t want in a swimwear fabric is anything too heavy. Lighter fabrics will look and feel like comfortable underwear. Most swim-quality material is made from lightweight synthetic fabrics. An ideal weight would be between 180-200g per square meter of material.

A fabric as light as 150 g/m², like Gemma from Carvico, will feel and look more like lingerie or underwear. However, heavier fabrics at 200-220g/m²+ are often more suited for competition or fall into the category of textured & other fabrics – we'll get into those fabrics later.

2. Colorfast

The last thing you need is the colour from your swimsuit coming out in the pool. So to ensure your fabric is colourfast before diving into the deep end. 

Materials known to fare badly when it comes to colour retention include nylon. Not only does it fade quickly, but any printing or ink on the material is also likely to bleed into the water. 

If you want a logo on your swimming shorts, play it safe and stick to polyester-based fabrics.

3. Composition

When it comes to composition, it will help that you know the properties of the ‘ingredients’. For example, the Spandex/Elastane/LYCRA® gives most of the stretch.

When it comes to swimwear, the best fibre content for your fabric is stretchy synthetic

Created by blending either polyester or nylon with elastane, swimwear fabrics are naturally durable, water-resistant, and quick-drying. A polyester/elastane mix will also give protection from UV rays and be resistant to chlorine.

So, therefore – 80% Nylon and 20% Spandex will be more stretchy than 85% Nylon and 15% Spandex – but note that this largely applies to fabric that comes from the same source/manufacturer; so if you're going to switch between sources, don't go by numbers alone. 

Therefore it’s always a good idea to get swatches or feel the fabric yourself if possible. You can also ask the supplier for more details, as the content description might not give you the full story.

4. Quick-Drying

Particularly important, if you are taking the plunge daily, you need a material to be quick-drying

There's nothing worse than having to carry a soggy swimsuit around with you after your morning swim. However, most synthetic fibres have a water-resistant quality making them ideal for regular-use swimwear. 

They’ll not only dry quickly but can also be rinsed out, dried, and ready for your next trip to the pool in no time.

5. Sustainability

This is a hard box to tick when it comes to swimwear. Of course, the best fabrics are synthetics due to the resilience, durability, and flexibility inherent in the material. But, unfortunately, synthetics are also the least sustainable of all fibres

Many are petroleum-based and rely heavily on fossil fuels. All is not lost, though. By considering recycled materials, you can go a long way to counteracting the environmental impact of your swimsuit.

Traditionally swimwear has used fabrics that are heavy on the environment. However, as consumer awareness and demand has evolved – fabric options have with them.

One of the best is ECONYL® – it is regenerated nylon from pre and post-consumer products.

ECONYL® publicizes their process in four steps:

  1. RescueFinding waste like fishing nets, fabric scraps, carpet flooring and industrial plastic from landfills and oceans worldwide.
  1. RegenerateRegeneration and purification process. They are recycled back to original purity, exactly like a virgin, or new, nylon.
  1. Remake – The nylon is processed into the swimwear yarn
  1. Reimagine – The regenerated yarn is used in new swimwear products until they are no longer useful and can go back into step one: Rescue.

Other examples of recycled swimwear fabrics, such as REPREVE®, make theirs from recycled plastic bottles.

Further shifts in consumer demands will put further pressure on the fabrics suppliers and manufacturers in their methods. As a manufacturer, this is something that we take seriously.

6. Stretch

Swimsuits are designed to be close-fitting. The closer the fit, the less likely they’ll accidentally fall off underwater. To be figure-hugging, the fabric has to be flexible and stretchy. 

Many swimwear is made with negative ease, meaning there isn't much space available when you're wearing it. 

Make sure your fabric has the necessary stretch to accommodate both you and your need to breathe. Try to find fabric with a four-way stretch with at least a 60-70% stretch in any direction.

7. Look and Feel

Swimwear fabric needs to look good and help you feel confident. It should be soft, flexible, and have an attractive design or print. Let's face it; most modern-day swimsuits leave little to the imagination. 

What's on show needs to look fantastic, so you don't feel anxious wearing the garment. The fabric should enhance your assets, not detract from them. Avoid neon colours if you are at all body-conscious.

8. Comfort

An uncomfortable swimming costume is going to hamper your enjoyment severely. As well as your freedom of movement. 

A swimwear fabric needs to be flexible enough to allow your body to move. It also needs to be soft enough to prevent rubbing and chaffing. When it comes to swimwear, the softer the material, the better.

9. Figure-Flattering

Everyone likes to look good at the beach or the side of the pool. Unfortunately, today's swimwear fabrics contain elastane, which is figure-hugging. Able to control and contain those areas of our bodies we'd all rather hide, the best swimwear material will make us look thinner with more of an athletic silhouette.

10. Durability

Swimwear fabric needs to be durable and resilient. It comes into contact with pool chemicals and UV rays, and both can cause degradation. A key element for any fabric used in swimsuits is the ability to resist damage caused by chlorine, sunshine, and other abrasive substances like sea salt.

11. Anti-Pilling

For a long-lasting, durable swimsuit, try to pick a fabric that contains anti-pilling properties. Nylon is known to pill over time as it lacks resistance to chlorine damage. The best fabric for resilience to harsh chemicals is polyester. If anti-pilling is important to you, choose a material with polyester content.

12. Ease Of Care

Any time you have a fabric coming into regular contact with harmful chemicals like chlorine, you need to wash it. The great thing about synthetic fibres is they are easy to care for. 

A quick dip in a cool wash, followed by a drip-dry, is all it takes to get the smell of bleach out of your swimwear. So make sure your swimming fabric has a wash-and-go element built in.

13. Cost

Fabric for swimwear can vary in price. The choice is down to your budget, from the inexpensive polyester-based materials to the slightly higher cost of a nylon garment. 

The ideal fabric for your swimwear should be the best quality you can afford. Ensure the material has longevity, and the investment you make in your swimsuit will repay you with a garment that will still look good after multiple swims.

Other Variations Of Swimwear Fabrics

1. Textured

As the swimwear industry further matures and evolves – trends come with it. This results in waves of new types of fabrics being tried and tested on swimwear.

A few years back, there was a trend of brands working with neoprene. This followed off the back of the success of brands such as NLP and Triangl. But if you have a peek today at Triangl, for example, they have shifted to using a lot of velvet. 

However, neoprene bonding is still used; at least to us, this speaks to their identity whilst giving them the room to work with other textured or newer fabrics.

2. Ribbed

Ribbed textures can be made out of a variety of knitted fabrics. You make a ribbed texture by alternating knit and purl stitches – this creates the ridges. The fabric will lie flat but also stretches more in one direction. 

The ribbed used for swimwear is frequently nylon and can be made very compact and tight with less stretch. But, again, different compositions give different looks. 

For example, JL Bristol fabric has a 92%/8% blend and has a more sporty look being so tight. On the other hand, a blend closer to 80/20 will have a more classic fashion look.

3. Velvet

Velvet fabrics are super soft. Hence the use in loungewear and robes. The fabric has cut, evenly distributed threads, which gives it a pile and a distinctive velvet/fur-like feel. A good blend of this can work very well for swimwear, giving it a very luxurious look.

4. Others

Other examples of fabric suitable for swimwear are mesh, corduroy, and some even use cotton blends. However, when it comes to cotton blends, you need to be wary of their durability. Harsh swim environments (sun, salt, sea, chlorine) can have severe effects on it.

That’s a wrap! We have covered the essential things that you need to think about when it comes to choosing swimwear materials

Fabric options, their properties, their characteristics and a good few reasons on why one may be better than the other – for you and your purpose. 

We hope that it's been helpful and assists you in making good choices for your ideal bikinis and swimsuits.

How Much Fabric Is Needed for a Swimsuit?

The amount of fabric needed for a swimsuit depends on the style of suit you are making. However, there are a couple of things to consider when calculating material amounts. 

Do you want to line your swimwear, and do you want a full suit or a two-piece bikini? For this example, let's make a bikini.

Commercial swimwear is made with negative ease, meaning it’s cut smaller than your measurements. This creates the tight-fitting, figure-hugging silhouette swimwear is known for. 

As a rule of thumb, it’s normal for an amount of up to 2 inches to be deducted from your size. This figure will change depending on how tight you want your bikini.

The next thing to do is measure your bust and hips and decide how much coverage you want. For example, do you want a low-cut top with tankini briefs? Or full bust coverage and low cut briefs?

The actual fabric needed will be determined by your measurements, but between ½ to ¾ of a yard in a 60-inch wide fabric should be ample. Remember to purchase the same amount for your lining!

How Much Fabric for a Bathing Suit?

When thinking of bathing suits, the one-piece swimsuit springs to mind. Because more of the body is covered, fabric needs for this option will be slightly higher than for bikinis, tankinis, and briefs.

Bathing suits or one-piece swimsuits are made with negative ease. Measurements for the one-piece option will need to include coverage for your stomach and back. A yard of fabric measuring 60-inches wide should give you enough material for an all-in-one bathing suit.

Conclusion

The best fabric for swimwear is a stretchy synthetic with chlorine and UV resistance. Knowing what to look for will help you choose your fabric with greater confidence.

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