There are so many benefits to using spandex in kids' clothing that I almost don't know where to start. Spandex moves and stretches, recovers its shape, is easy to wash, and very fast-drying. No wonder 80% of clothing in the US has some spandex.
From underwear to swimwear, spandex makes our apparel fit and function like no other fiber does. These properties help explain why spandex is projected to reach $10 Billion in sales by 2022. And why nearly every apparel product we purchase has some amount of spandex.
What is Spandex?
So what is spandex? Technically, spandex is a synthetic fiber which is 85% polyurethane. Anyone who would like to understand the incredibly complex chemical composition and production methods involved, can read about how spandex is made.
The rest of us just need to know that spandex is the generic name for a bizarrely stretchy fiber that has the additional property of returning to its original shape. The name itself is an anagram of the word expands.
Spandex - A Little History
Spandex was developed by a scientist named Joseph Shivers, PhD (of course!). Dr. Shivers worked at DuPont and during the 1940's he was looking for an alternative to rubber for use in women's girdles. This search was driven by large price fluctuations and scarcity during World War II. Ten years of research and development finally led to success in 1959. DuPont decided to name their brand of spandex Lycra®.
In many countries, especially in Europe, spandex is known by other names, such as elastane. Girdles were going out of fashion by the time spandex came along, but resourceful and creative apparel folks found many uses for the stretchy new fiber. Pantyhose and stocking manufacturers were among the first to put spandex to use.
Leggings quickly followed, along with swimwear, underwear, athletic wear. These days most of use can't even remember a time when our waistbands didn't forgive an extra order of french fries, and our pants bagged at the knees by lunchtime.
Spandex is never used alone - it's always combined with other fibers as an enhancement. This way the benefits of the paired fabric shine through. For example, the softness and comfort of cotton, or the wicking properties of nylon.
Advantages of Spandex for Kids' UnderwearToday spandex is everywhere. This speaks to the numerous and varied advantages.
StretchSpandex fibers stretch to over 8 times their original length.
RecoverySpandex fibers recover - a fancy term that means they go back to their original shape and length.
StrengthSpandex fibers are strong compared to rubber.
DurabilitySpandex fibers are very durable, and are especially resistant to breakdown due to exposure to body oils, lotions, and sweat.
Fast DryingSpandex dries quickly.
Abrasion ResistantSpandex fibers are extremely resistant to the abrasion of daily use. Although some fibers spandex is combined with may show pilling, the spandex itself will should not pill.
LightweightAdding spandex to a garment does not add significant weight, especially at the low percentages typical of most common blends.
ComfortSpandex fibers are soft and smooth, and their elastic characteristic make them supple and flexible. Clothing made with spandex should be comfortable for most kids with sensitive skin.
Spandex pairs with nearly any other fiber. You can find spandex paired with cotton, modal, nylon, polyester, silk, wool.
You can even find spandex in blends such as Lucky and Me's super soft cotton/modal/spandex. The elastic properties of spandex enhance nearly any fabric composition.
Spandex Easy Care Guide
You should always follow the care instructions on the garment label. However, here are some sensible tips on caring for spandex clothing.
Do not use chlorine bleach. Bleach will degrade the spandex, and shorten the life of your garment. You can use bleach substitutes, such as OxiClean.
Wash dark or bright colors in cold water first. Wash spandex garments in cold or warm water (unless it's the first time - see above!)
Don't use the dryer for shapewear and other constructed undergarments. These should be dried flat, and reshaped if necessary.
It's ok to use the dryer for other garments with spandex. Many sites say don't dry spandex, and it's possible the life of your garment will be shortened slightly - but how many of us can line dry or dry flat every pair of underwear, or all our athletic wear, not to mention our kids' clothes?
Don't dry clean spandex unless the care instructions specifically tell you to. You might see this on a dress, or maybe a jacket.
Avoid ironing spandex. If you really must, be sure to turn the garment inside-out so you're ironing on the wrong side of the fabric. Don't leave the iron on the fabric for any longer then necessary - you may find yourself with a mark on your garment.
Spandex in Kids' Clothing
Spandex has so many advantages, and it's such an easy fiber to care for, it's no wonder so many children's garments have at least a small amount. Check out the labels on your clothing, and your little ones'. I'm sure you'll find this little fiber is doing its part to keep your kids comfy and looking good all day long.
Click below for a complete list of Lucky and Me products made with spandex for boys and girls.
By Liz Smith. Liz has worked across the globe for many of the world's best known apparel brands, including Justice, Chico's, Victoria's Secret, and Hanes. She has worked closely with dozens of factories in more than 20 countries to ensure that production is of the highest standard. Liz has managed all aspects of garment production, from design through fabric development to sewing and merchandising - so she knows what it takes to make high-quality apparel. Liz is thrilled to share her knowledge about clothes to help discerning customers choose the finest products.