What is the Best Fabric for Swimwear? Explained

What is the Best Fabric for Swimwear? Explained

The summer is fast approaching, and if you are like most people, one of your plans for the season includes spending time at the pool. If that's true, this blog post is for you! We will discuss what fabric to choose when purchasing swimwear so that it lasts longer. 

Fabric choice is an important consideration when deciding what to wear for your next trip to the beach. For example, swimwear made of polyester can be uncomfortable and ride up in unexpected ways, but cotton swimsuits are often just as unflattering. 

The best fabric for swimwear depends on personal preference, but some easy guidelines will help you find the right material for your body type.

Swimwear can be a tricky thing to buy, especially when you have so many options for fabric. So what is the best fabric for swimwear? Let's find out! 

There are many options to choose from. What is the best fabric for swimwear? The answer depends on what you are looking for in your suit. Do you want it to be super lightweight, or do you need something more durable? 

Swimwear is the perfect summer outfit. However, you need to make sure that it's durable enough for being in the water and out of water. That's why it's important to know what the best fabric for swimwear is. There are many options available on the market today, including cotton, nylon, spandex, polyester, lycra and more!

This blog post will look at some of the most popular fabrics and their pros and cons. We'll also go over what factors you should consider in deciding which fabric is right for your needs. 

Fabrics like nylon and spandex are often used in swimsuits because they're stretchy and lightweight, but they don't last as long as other materials such as cotton or wool do. 

Cotton suits tend to absorb water faster than others, but it has natural UV protection that spandex doesn't offer (which means less sunscreen). 

Your options include polyester-spandex blend or nylon tricot with lycra spandex. Polyester has high elasticity, making it stretchy and comfortable without losing its shape after being worn repeatedly. 

Nylon tricot also has a high elasticity but doesn't have as much give as polyester does, making it better suited to those who require more support in their garments, such as pregnant women or those recovering from surgery.

What is the best fabric for swimwear? That depends on your personal preference. If you're looking for a suit that will last longer and be durable, then polyester or nylon are great fabrics to choose from. 

However, if you want something more comfortable and soft against your skin, then a Lycra mix of spandex might be better suited for you. 

It's important to note that no matter what type of material you go with, it's always good to pick out a suit that has been treated with UV protection, as this will ensure it doesn't fade in colour too quickly after being worn outside in the sun.

Let's get started!

What Is The Best Swimsuit Fabric?

If you are looking for fabric for your swimwear, you must know the fabric types and what fabric will be best for your swimsuit. This article will cover the swimsuit fabric, types to make a swimsuit and qualities. 

Keep in mind no fabric is better than another, but just the attributes of the fabrics make them the best fabric for different uses. Not only has that, but the quality of the fabric also kept it apart from others. 

Let's discuss different options for swim fabrics and their various characteristics. Then, selecting the suitable swimsuit material for your needs makes your purchase more convenient. 

Swimwear fabrics are quick-drying, colourfast, and have a certain amount of stretch. Most swimsuit material is intended to stretch to fit all those elegant curves and allow for a comfortable and safe swim. 

The best swimsuit fabric holds its shape when wet and dry quickly. Almost every type of swimwear fabric has elastane fibres to make the fabric the best fabric for swimsuits.

Elastane is a perfect synthetic fibre with elastic qualities blended with other synthetic fibres to provide a comfortable stretch. It was developed in the 1960s in the fashion industry. 

The blend is different based on the manufacturer and the desired qualities of the fabric, but generally, it is made with around 10%-20% elastane to 80%-90% other fibre. 

Elastane is the other name for Lycra or Spandex. Lycra, Spandex, and elastane are the same thing, so don't get hung up on the branding.

What Kind Of Fabric For Bathing Suits?

When we’re choosing the ideal fabric for bathing suits, we need to consider….

  • Durability
  • UV Resistance
  • ​Stretch
  • Opacity
  • ​Feel
  • Drying time
  • ​Ease of Care
  • Chlorine Resistance

And even more importantly…

1. Control 

It takes a very body confident woman indeed to be able to hit the beach without feeling just a little bit vulnerable in her bathing suit

After all, it’s probably as close to being naked in public as most of us ever get. 

Choosing a fabric with just the right amount of control – or in other words, one that isn’t going to get so saggy and baggy as you swim that it puts your modesty at risk- can make all the difference in how we look – and feel – in a bathing suit.

2. Fiber Content 

There's a time and a place for natural fibres, but your swimsuit isn't it. 

However much you wince at the idea of wrapping yourself in synthetics, you’re going to have to get used to the idea – unless you want to walk around the beach with a soggy, saggy bottom, that is. 

Natural fibres may be wonderful and breathable, and all other kinds of good stuff, but synthetics rule the roost when it comes to the bathing suit world.

3. Opacity  

Unless you’re happy to show the whole world what you’ve got, you’ll probably want to make sure your swimsuit fabric is opaque

Test it out by getting a swatch good and wet - stretch it out as much as it’ll go, and then check for transparency. If it’s not as opaque as you’d like, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to rule it out completely – you’ll just have to make sure it’s adequately lined.

4. Print 

Unless you never do more than wiggle your toes in the pool, it's likely your bathing suit is going to get wet. A lot. Add some chlorine and sun into the mix, and you're looking at a big challenge for colour and print. So when choosing swimsuit fabric, look for one that wouldn't leak its colour or lose its pattern.

Swimsuit Fabric Types

Naturally, swimming suits are the very comfortable fabric to wear out there; if you keep your dignity at sea and you look good, think your job is done. Swimwear has a subtle layer of sophistication because of its toes, the line between utility and fashion. 

A well-designed swimsuit should not only look good; it needs a strong, lightweight, and water-resistant fabric. For both men and women, many suites feature a combination of different fabrics - including natural materials and synthetic materials - and each brings different qualities to the table.

1. Nylon Fabric for Swimwear

If you take a swimsuit rack, there is a good chance that it contains nylon. Nylon spandex fabric for swimwear is a lightweight fibre that provides many stretches to expand the moisture, making for quicker drying times. On the flip side, nylon swimwear can shrink or fade after prolonged exposure to the sun.

While it is possible to get straight nylon swimsuits, it is possible to blend with spandex to provide advanced stretching. 

Typical formations will be 80-90% nylon and 10-20% spandex - larger spandex and more body-hugging the swimsuit.

2. Lycra Fabric for Swimwear

We've heard of Lycra and Spandex, but did you know that they're the same thing? Lycra is just a trademark of the brand of spandex produced by Dupont Company - in terms of architecture, and there is no difference between both fabrics. 

As anyone who has ever worn it will know, spandex has excellent potential to advise on large quantities before returning to its original state. 

Usually, spandex is mixed with other fibres to enhance flexibility: when combined with nylon or polyester, it makes swimming with excellent control, stretching, and durability. Just remember that the higher the spandex blend, the more figure-hugging it'll be.

3. Polyester Swimsuit Fabric Blends

Polyester swimwear fabrics, combined with Lycra (or spandex), have a high degree of durability. Stretch polyester, however, is the most common category. 

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different compounds from various fabric mills. For each type, the mixing percentage of poly to spandex will vary to some degree.

Spandex swimsuit lends much modern swimwear, though it is not the only fabric. As part of a combination of materials, soft and flexible spandex enhances the stability of the swimsuit; spandex more with a suit, shaping the body a lot. 

This makes it a vital component in competitive swimwear. Spandex slims the figure, but chlorine takes a toll on its elasticity over time.

The solidity of the knit and the elasticity will vary as well. The main difference in quality is related to the quality of the thread used in the fabric mill to make the fabric. For that reason, you will find a much more comprehensive range of how polyesters look and feel. 

The thick thread will usually be a fabric for a thick feel. A thin, smooth thread will lead to a smooth, silky feel. It is essential that you feel the fabric and stretches it yourself before choosing the last one.

Whether looking at swimwear blends, you'll often see the terms "Lycra," "Spandex," and "Elastane." But, functionally, you won't notice a little difference between swimwear made with any of these three or any of the other brand-name elastane fibres you might find. 

Best Swimwear Fabric for Performance

1. PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate)

Just think of PBT as an improved version of Lycra.

PBT, like Lycra, is a member of the polyester family of plastic fibre. But unlike Lycra, PBT has a matte finish and is not slippery on surfaces. It also stretches but not as much as Lycra.

A bad rep for polyester?

PBT belongs to the family of polyester. Is that a bad thing? Not as such.

Although most people associate polyester with words like uncomfortable and cheap, it has actually come a long way since its birth in 1941, along with science.

PBT, for example, was customized so that it retains its best qualities while improving on its not-so-useful aspects.

PBT possesses remarkable properties that make it the ideal fabric for competitive swimming and other athletic garments.

Pros

  • PBT is an extremely strong fibre that can endure and recover from the assault of the sun, chlorine, saltwater, and stretch. So much so that it surpasses nylon (and all other swimsuit fabric) in terms of durability.
  • Unlike spandex, which traps moisture, PBT is highly breathable, making it resistant to humidity and sweat.
  • PBT can withstand UV light, so it's one of the best fabrics for making UV-resistant swimsuits. This also means that it can retain its colour longer and won't easily fade when worn outdoors.

Cons 

  • Other than its steeper price tag, I daresay PBT has no disadvantage. It is tough and rigid in strength and durability, yet so lightweight and soft when worn, making it the perfect fabric for swimming competitions.

Verdict 

If you're a hardcore swimmer and need a swimsuit that ticks off all lightweight, comfortable, and durable criteria, you won't find a better fabric than PBT.

2. Neoprene

Neoprene is technically a synthetic rubber. This means the method of stitching is different from that of a "regular" swimwear fabric.

Pros

  • Excellent insulation: Neoprene's insulating quality is far superior to other fabrics, making it the best fabric choice for making scuba suits. A thickness of 2 to 3 mm is generally best geared towards proper insulation.
  • More buoyant than polyester: Being a rubber, neoprene is technically made with microscopic air bubbles, resulting in a naturally lighter, more buoyant and flexible swimwear. It’s everything a competitive swimmer can ask for.
  • Durable: Like polyester, it is incredibly durable and can withstand a wide variety of damage and temperature. It can also retain its shape well.
  • Latex-free: Polyester (the cheap ones) are often made with latex. Unfortunately, some people are allergic to latex. Neoprene solves this problem by being latex-free.

Cons

  • Neoprene isn't breathable, so only wear it when the temperature requires it. You can, however, still wear a neoprene bikini on a hot summer day. Maybe not a one-piece or wetsuit, though.

Verdict 

Neoprene is the best swimwear fabric if keeping hypothermia at bay is your top priority.

Latex-free, it's also a great alternative if you need high-performance swimwear, but you're allergic to the latex in polyester. Make sure, though, to buy only from brands that specialize in wetsuits/ scuba suits.

Best Swimwear Fabric for Fashion

1. Spandex (Lycra® / Elastane)

We've heard of Lycra, and we've heard of spandex, but did you know that they're actually the same? 

Lycra is simply the trade name for the brand of spandex produced by Dupont Company – in terms of properties; there's zero difference between the two.

As anyone who’s ever worn it will know, spandex has a remarkable capacity to stretch by huge amounts before snapping back into its original form. 

Typically, spandex is blended with other fibres to enhance its flexibility: when combined with either nylon or polyester, it makes for a swimsuit with excellent control, stretch, and durability. 

Just remember that the higher the spandex content, the more figure-hugging it’ll be.

Pros 

  • Think of spandex like a rubber—only more elastic, durable and stronger. If you check your wardrobe and look for anything that stretches, chances are, spandex is part of its composition. It's everywhere.

Cons 

  • However, using 100% spandex on a swimsuit is not a good idea. First, it has a slippery finish, so it tends to glide off on surfaces where you're supposed to stay put and sit—a no-no in the pool.
  • Second, it isn't breathable, so it traps moisture. Trapped moisture increases the risk of yeast infections and skin blistering.
  • Third, it’s sensitive to heat. When machine dried or ironed, spandex puckers permanently. Therefore, you must only hand wash and air dry it.
  • Lastly, a 100% spandex swimsuit can highlight your flaws—flab rolls and cellulite dimples—as it grips your body tightly due to high elasticity.

Verdict 

Spandex is great for adding elasticity to swimsuits. However, DO NOT buy 100% spandex. Not only is it uncomfortable and unflattering, but also dangerous!

2. Nylon (Polyamide)

Nylon is one of the most popular choices for swimwear, and for a good reason. It repels water; it's quick-drying, durable, has excellent stretch, a soft feel, and is easy to care for.

Although it’s possible to find straight-up nylon swimsuits, you’re more likely to find it blended with spandex to give an enhanced stretch. A typical composition will be 80-90% nylon and 10-20% spandex – the greater the proportion of spandex, the more body-hugging the swimsuit.

Pros 

  • It's safe to say that nylon is the most-loved fabric of the fashion industry. And why not? First, nylon hugs the body in a flattering way. It flows over the skin— not grip it as spandex does. It's comfortable too. Not to mention its soft, luxurious finish that almost mimics that of silk.

Other characteristics:

  • Fairly durable (with proper care)
  • Care: Hand wash and air dry for longevity
  • Dries quickly
  • Lightweight and comfortable

For added flexibility, nylon is often blended with spandex with the common ratio of 80-85% nylon and 15-20% spandex. With this ratio, you get the best of both fabrics.

Cons 

Unfortunately, nylon doesn't retain its colour as much as its counterparts (like, say, polyester). When exposed to constant chlorine and saltwater, its colour tends to blur and bleed.

You can, however, slow down this deterioration process by washing your swimsuit with freshwater or a Suit Saver Solution right after swimming.

Verdict 

Nylon and spandex blend is your best bet if you’re going to the beach with the absolute goal of looking impeccable. It will hug your body in the right places and camouflage your problem areas. It’s also comfortable and soft.

Careful with buying them in prints, though. Low-quality nylon will likely blur and bleed after the first wash, so choosing a trusted swimwear brand is the key.

Organic Fabric for Swimwear

The organic fabric is all very well, and wearing it will undoubtedly earn you lots of good karma. It won't, however, make you a very good swimsuit. 

Organic fabrics pride themselves on containing no synthetics. That means no polyester, no nylon, no spandex… the very three things, in fact, that make the best swimsuits. So unless you can't contemplate anything that isn't 100% natural touching your skin, could you not do it?

Hemp Fabric For Swimwear

Don't get me wrong – hemp is a great fabric. It's durable, breathable, has antibacterial qualities, holds the colour like a champ, and its eco-credentials are second to none. However, what it's not is a good choice for swimwear.

Hemp creases quickly and easily, a tendency that, over time, will make the swimsuit lose its shape. A hemp swimsuit isn't built to last – while it might be fine if you never intend actually to swim in it, there are better options available if you do.

Fabric weaves

Do not confuse fabric with fabric weave. Fabric is, well… fabric. But fabric weave simply is the finished texture of the fabric after its yarns are interlaced in a certain way.

Simply put, nylon will always be nylon. However, depending on the various methods of interlacing its yarns, it could give birth to a whole new set of fabric look and finish.

There are hundreds of fabric weaves, but the swimwear industry is channelling its market through the following weaves of fabric.

Note that any type of fabric (nylon, polyester, etc.) can be used for these weaves.

1. Ribbed

To create a ribbed texture and create the ridges, the knit and purl stitches must be alternated. Designers often use nylon for ribbed weave, but polyester also isn't uncommon.

Pros 

The great thing about ribbed fabric is it can resist abrasion and crease-like nobody's business. Hence, it can keep its shape pretty well. It's also soft and comfortable to wear, making it a great weave for swimwear.

Cons 

It could fray easily, so you've got to be careful of where you sit.

2. Velvet

From evening wear, velvet is now beginning to infiltrate the swimwear industry. And it's no wonder. Velvet's finish and super soft texture give a luxurious vibe to both the wearer and the beholder. It's elegant yet effortless.

Cons 

It’s high maintenance. Dry clean is the only best way to wash a velvet and preserve its composition.

3. Mesh

Mesh is see-through, so it's ideal for creating cover-ups as it dries quickly. However, designers are getting creative by integrating mesh with swimwear. They often use mesh to create contrast and interest.

Lace Fabric for Swimwear

If you want to sit poolside sipping a cocktail and being admired, go right ahead and wear a lace swimsuit. If you want to do anything other than lounge around looking pretty, choose something else.

Lace has a delicate, ethereal quality that lends itself beautifully to bridal veils, dresses, and tops. It does not, however, lend itself to swimwear. If you plan on getting your swimsuit wet at some point or another, skip the lace.

4. Crochet

Knits and crochet used to be just a winter fabrics. However, with designers mixing in novelty with their designs, they came up with crochet as a fashion swimsuit. It creates interest and focuses for the eyes.

Knitted Fabric for Swimwear

As a 'knitted fabric' refers to how a piece of fabric is constructed, rather than its fibre content, its suitability for swimwear is a wide-open question. 

If it's a cotton knit, it's not going to be the best choice. But, on the other hand, if it's a blend of polyester and spandex or nylon and spandex, on the other hand, it's an excellent one.

One of the most common types of knit you’re likely to come across in the swimsuit world is tricot, a special type of warp knitting that features vertical ribs on the face and horizontal ribs on the back. 

Tricot is excellent at holding its shape and won't sag or billow; however, often, it is worn. Providing it's made from that holy duo of polyester/ nylon and spandex, it makes a fine bathing suit.

ITY Fabric For Swimwear

ITY fabric (the ITY stands for Interlock Twist Yarn, in case you were wondering) is a slinky, flowing fabric that’s formed by knitting stitches on the right side and purling stitches on the wrong side. 

Although it’s not a common choice for swimwear, it’s got the right combo of synthetics (polyester plus spandex in varying proportions) to work.

Cons 

Crochet, regardless of the fabric used, is considerably heavy when wet. This is why it’s perfect as a fashionable swimsuit but shouldn’t be worn for performance swimming.

Which are sustainable?

The problem with most swimwear fabrics (polyester, nylon, spandex) is that they're synthetic. This means they do not decompose and regenerate for the environment. Instead, they go to the landfill. Not to mention the harsh effects they cause before and during production.

Fortunately, fabric brands like ECONYL® and REPREVE® are now taking steps to lessen the fashion industry’s negative impact on the environment.

ECONYL® recycles nylon while REPREVE® creates their swimwear fabric from recycled plastic bottles. It is unclear, however, as to whether all types of plastic gets recycled or just the colourless ones.

Still, it’s an important step towards influencing buyers’ choices and putting pressure on fabrics suppliers who are yet to make an effort.

Nylon Versus Polyester

Most swimsuits are made from blends of either polyester or nylon. Both materials have great properties, but which one steals the crown for the best swimsuit fabric? First, let's see how they stack up in the key stakes.

1. Absorbency 

When it comes to water absorbency, nylon just pips polyester to the post. Ideally, you want a swimsuit that absorbs as little water as possible. 

A fabric that soaks up moisture like a sponge might be best for breathability, but it’ll do nothing but weigh you down after a dip. While polyester is pretty decent at repelling water, nylon is a master at it. The Winner: Nylon.

2. Stretch 

Here again, nylon takes the crown. A nylon swimsuit will hug and stretch around the body much better than polyester, and providing it's accompanied with a little spandex; it'll keep its shape no matter how much it stretches. The Winner: Nylon.

3. Resistance 

Unless you're a very brave soul, you'll likely be wearing your swimsuit when the sun is shining. If you don't want its colour or pattern to fade, you might want to consider a fabric that offers UV resistance

Here, polyester is the winner, offering superior resistance to rays and enhanced chlorine resistance as a little added bonus. The Winner: Polyester.

Can You Use Scuba Fabric For Swimwear?

Before we look at whether you can use scuba fabric for swimwear, a quick explanation of what, exactly, scuba fabric is. 

More often than not, it’s a term that’s used to describe neoprene, a type of synthetic textile that, in recent years, has become as much of a hit in the fashion community as it is in diving circles.

Form-fitting and structured, neoprene has become a popular choice for skirts, dresses, tops… and swimwear. 

Like most synthetics, it’s durable and resilient, meaning it’ll snap back into place regardless of how much it stretches. Its also fully opaque, making it a great option for those looking to preserve as much of their modesty as they can.

Why Is Polyester Swimwear Fabric Best For Swimsuit Fabric? 

The qualities of polyester fabric that are most relevant to swimsuit fabrics are:

Polyester is a highly recommended fabric for swimwear due to its durability. It holds its shape well in and out of the water. In addition, it resists pilling (the little balls of fuzz that can appear in the crotch and armpit areas). 

Polyester also holds colour very well in both dyes and prints. New poly fabrics have improved dramatically and become quite soft, though not quite so as nylon.

Conclusion

The best swimwear fabric is the one that makes the most sense for your needs. For usability, we prefer the ability to light print and durable polyester. I also believe that the environmental impact of polyester can be better controlled than nylon.

However, the feel and finish of nylon are still not the same as polyester. Polyesters are getting popular every year, but there is still little way to match the look and feel of nylon. In addition, 100% Nylon has zero water immersion, which means it will not scale (or swim) on the ground after dipping. 

If you are looking for fabric for a swimsuit, look for a lightweight swimsuit that can meet your needs. 

Don't be tempted to use a cheap fabric- not only can it irritate your skin, and it may tear, run, or tear before you fully wear the suit, making all that hard work you put into its creation count for nothing. 

Read more

What Is the Best Swimsuit Material?

What Is the Best Swimsuit Material?

How to Clean and Care for a Bathing Suit

How to Clean and Care for a Bathing Suit

How Many Swimsuits Do You Have?

How Many Swimsuits Do You Have?