Swimwear Fabrics

Since the woollen and jersey bathers of the early days, swimwear fabrics have become very lightweight, durable, and attractive due to the continuous development of thinner micro fibre swimwear fabrics.

What to look out for when buying swimwear?

When shopping for bathing suits, choose a swimwear fabric that best suits your needs and keep the following in mind:

Practical considerations for swimwear fabrics:
  • Lightweight (reducing a drag)
  • Non-absorbent (quick drying)
  • Stretchy (allowing for movement)
  • UV blocking (preventing sun burn)
  • Breathable (allowing for perspiration)
  • Insulation (preventing body heat loss)
  • Colour-proof (non-fading)
  • Durable (resistant to the elements and keeping its shape)
  • Supporting (mainly when being active in the water)


Aesthetical considerations for swimwear fabrics:

  • Stylish and form-fitting (for a slimmer appearance)
  • Attractive patterns and colours (to be fashionable)

Here is a list of the most commonly used swimwear fabrics, and their pros and cons:

- Nylon: Because of its strength nylon is by far the most popular swimwear fabric. Swimwear made out of nylon is very lightweight and dry fast, which makes it ideal for aquatic use. The disadvantage is that nylon isn’t a very durable fabric when exposed to chemicals and the sun for a long period of time, so your swimwear fabric deteriorates over time.

- Spandex/Lycra:
Nearly all swimwear fabric has a percentage of spandex (tradename Lycra) in the fabric because of its elasticity. The synthetic fabric spandex adapts your swimwear to your body shape and can make you look slimmer. However, the fabric isn’t very comfortable and breaks down in chlorine over time, so it is most commonly blended with nylon fabric when used for swimwear.

- Polyester:
Not as strong or light as nylon fabric, polyester fabric is less commonly used for swimwear but still very popular due to the fact that the fabric is more chlorine-proof, doesn’t fade as fast and keeps its colour better.

- Cotton:
You rarely come across 100% cotton swimwear anymore because the fabric is too absorbent and gets damaged by chlorine. Some swimwear fabric is made out of a mix of polyester or spandex fabrics added to a cotton blend.

- Inner mesh:
Instead of swimwear with a spandex or other synthetic lining, a mesh lining is often used in swimwear fabrics because it is less bulky while still keeping its insulation.

Swimwear Shack tips:

1. For swimwear fabric that doesn’t deteriorate after use in swimming pools, choose a chlorine-proof or chlorine-resistant fabric (close to 100% polyester), with a small percentage of elastane. Swimwear made out of polyester fabric is more colour-proof and not prone to fading. The drawback is that chlorine-proof swimwear fabrics can feel tight, as they are less flexible.

2. If you want more stretchy swimwear, you should choose a fabric with a higher spandex content (like Lycra), which has more elastane fibre in it, and is an excellent fabric for use in fresh and salt water.

3. Always make sure to follow the fabric care instructions on the label inside your swimwear, as all swimwear should be washed separately, carefully and after every use!

For more tips on buying swimwear, see also: Swimwear FAQs