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Spandex (Lycra) Popular fabric for dancewear

Spandex, also known as Lycra, is a man-made stretch fabric. Spandex can stretch up to seven times its original length and recover instantly when tension is released. It is the most complex and expensive of all synthetic fibers to make. It is made up of a long chain polymer called polyurethane, which is produced by reacting a polyester with a diisocyanate. The polymer is converted into a fiber using a dry spinning technique. Spandex is primarily used for fabric. They are useful for a number of reasons. First, they can be stretched seven times its original size. Second, they are lightweight, soft, and smooth. Third, they are easily dyed. Fourth, they are resistant to abrasion and the effects of body oils, perspiration, and detergents. Most importantly they are compatible with other materials so that they can be spun to create other fibers.

“First produced in the early 1950s, spandex was initially developed as a replacement for rubber” . Spandex became the most popular in the 1980s with the beginning of the “biking shorts”. “By the 1980s the apparel industry was using spandex and spandex blends in tights, bodysuits, T-shirts, pants, skirts, and even men’s shirts”.Spandex is still considered as a newer fiber to designers. A few of the first designers and brands to use spandex as its main material are Donna Baran (1948, American), Azzedine Alaia (1980s, French). and Banana Republic.

In the 1980s, French designer Azzedine Alaia (c.1940-) uses spandex and Lycra stretch mix fabrics in his revolutionary formfitting dresses. Azzedine Alaia, known as the Parisian haute couture. His technique of construction is the perfection of the fabric that clings so close to the female silhouette. He created the terms as “second skin”. Thus, his use of spandex materials in his dresses allows him to create the functioning “second skin”. The Parisian haute couture redefined the term haute couture by using spandex material in his collection. This act of defiance interrupted the fashion world and spread through the rest of the world. “His classic designs of the 1980s are also being adapted by designers such as Helmut Lnag, Marc Jacobs, Narciso Rodiguez, Nicolas Ghesquire, and Rei Kawakubo for the likes of Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, and Loewe”

In 1985, American designer Donna Karan (1948-) launched her first collection of spandex and Lycra constructed bodysuits and skirts. Donna Karan was proclaimed as the first American designer to use spandex fabric as a major innovation in a collection. “Karan’s collection was based on the idea that with the right basics, a woman could accomplish anything.” Karan has a passion and sensibility for women and their relationships with their bodies. “It certainly struck a note with her audience at a moment when women were transcending career stereotypes and aiming to shatter the glass ceilings of corporations and politics”. With these “easy seven pieces” designs she states that a woman does not need fashion to be more complicated than her life. Her collection of the basics, bodysuits, and skirts made from spandex still makes sense today as she continues to update her designs.

In 1990s, Banana Republic was the first fashion design company to use spandex as part of their menswear collections. For the longest time, Banana Republic was known as the “safari” brand. However, by the 1990s, the workforce emerged with high demands for comfortable work clothes for men and women. Banana Republic’s first men collection was a combination of “slim-fit with an extra stretch” motifs. These garments include mixes of cotton, wool, spandex and polyester blends. This technique of using spandex as an extra stretch to their garments was quickly adopted by the rest of the fashion world.

Outside of the main fashion design world, of course, spandex is used mostly for sportswear. The invention of the 1980’s “biker shorts” created a fuss and excitement about the sexual, comfort and yet active uses for spandex. Soon, activewear joined the fashion world and fully embraced spandex and it’s stretchy properties.

In the current times, 2019, athleisure has become as popular as ever. We live in the culture that looking fit and being fit is combined into a similar meaning. I mean, even the people who don’t work out love to wear athleisure because it doesn’t just make them look fit, they are also more comfortable. Athleisure is the current new buzz of the fashion industry. One of my favorite athleisure brand is Girlfriend Collective.

Girlfriend Collective is the current Business Insider’s best eco-friendly athleisure brand. They are my most favorite because not only are their products made from recycled trash, they are also decently priced for luxury goods. The company is based in Taiwan, where it is known as the “Garbage Island”. The company gets their materials first from recycled plastic – or Polyethylene Terephthalate, also known as PET. The raw PET chips from the recycling center goes through cycles of wash and dry. They are then sent to silos and are sent to a chine where chips turn to pellets. The pellets are reheated again to make superfine threads that are then made into yarn. The fabric then gets send to the dye house, where they produce environmentally friendly dye process . Their dye mud gets send to a pavement facility, where it’s transformed to be used for paving colorful stones for the country.

Girlfriend’s collective’s main fabric is ECONYL, a fiber made from recycled fishing nets and other wastes. This is the closest material that are originally used in the nylon. The nylon is then spun with various yarns to create their athleisure fabrics of nylon and spandex mixed textiles. Each of their textile machines can only produce about 100 pairs-worth of fabric in a 24-hour period. They have a team of sewers who then sews the pattern pieces into their shops. Each garment is hand-machined sewn with 10-20 pairs of eyes and hands. These luxury and high produced clothing is sold only between $50 - $200 a piece.

Spandex is also popular among athletic dancewear. Dance and performance require the flexible and breathability that spandex textile allows. There are a few dancewear companies around, Discountdancewear, Weissman, Dancewear Solutions etc. These are all dancewear companies that focuses on using spandex and spandex mixed materials for most of their products ranging from undergarments, to dresses, to shoes. The performance industry is very large and upcoming, especially in New York City. Dancewear is whole industry influenced by dancers and fashion influencing the world with its comfort and flexibility. These spandex materials are used across the performing stages around the world. In New York City, on Broadway, Ballets and our favorite leisure pastime of theatre entertainment.

The latest discovery of spandex shows that the future use of spandex includes not only in sportswear and activewear but also in main stream fashion. Spandex can replace the use of a lot of natural fibers such as wool, leather, cotton, and other animal fibers. Spandex can be mixed in with almost all other fibers so less of the natural fibers needs to be used. “For example, scientist have found that by changing the starting prepolymers they can develop fibers which have even better stretching characteristics. Other characteristics can be improved by using different prepolymer ration, better catalyst, and various fillers.” “In addition to spandex fiber improvements, it is likely that advanced fabrics will be produced with incorporate spandex fibers with conventional fibers.” Finally, improvements in manufacturing will also be discovered. These discoveries will focus on producing fibers faster, more efficiently and more sustainably to the environment as a whole.

“Spandex has now been used in an ever-widening array of articles, for woven as well as knits, in amounts from about 3 percent to upwards of 50 percent in combination with other fibers. Amounts would be in the order of:2-10 percent in outerwear; 2-25 percent in underwear (and a similar range in swimwear); 2-40 percent in pantyhose; 10-45 percent in foundation garments; and 35-50 percent in medical hosiery.”

“Spandex.” Fashion Encyclopedia,

“Azzedine AlaÏA - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia.” Fashion Encyclopedia,

“Now You Know: The Evolution of Donna Karan's Seven Easy Pieces.”,,

"Spandex.". “Spandex.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Ed,, 2019,

Humphries, Mary. Fabric Reference. Pearson Prentice Hall, 2009.

Chang, Lulu. “The Best Women's Athleisure Brands to Shop Online.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 15 Jan. 2019,

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