What is Lycra&Reg;?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

Lycra® is a type of stretch fiber, or spandex, that is a registered trademark of Invista, formerly DuPont. It is the most recognized and popular brand of spandex throughout the world, and many designers and clothing manufacturers use Lycra® in their products. Lycra® is used in fabric blends including cotton, silk, and synthetic fibers.

Many types of swimwear contain Lycra®.
Many types of swimwear contain Lycra®.

Lycra® was first developed by DuPont scientists in 1958 as an alternative to the rubber used in corsets. It consists of polymer chains with rigid and flexible portions, allowing the fiber both to stretch significantly and to retain its shape. Lycra® can be made in different deniers, or widths, suitable for use in a variety of products. The thinnest type, for example, is used in hosiery.

Lycra is commonly used in orthopedic compression garments.
Lycra is commonly used in orthopedic compression garments.

Garments made with Lycra® have a number of advantages besides being able to stretch. Lycra® allows garments to be more lightweight, comfortable, and breathable. It is quick drying and dyes very well, and it is resistant to bacteria, ultraviolet (UV) rays, and chlorine. Static cling and pilling are eliminated in garments with Lycra®. Though stretch fabrics are not as durable as fabrics without spandex, Lycra® is the most durable alternative, offering a great improvement over rubber.

It is quite rare to find undergarments, swimsuits, and athletic apparel made without spandex these days, but Lycra® is used in a much wider range of clothing types. One of its most valuable uses is in orthopedic compression garments. Recently, Indian designer Deepika Govind has updated the traditional sari by using fabrics made with Lycra®. One of the newest innovations in spandex is black Lycra®, used in a new line of La Perla undergarments for women. Black Lycra® is naturally black, making for an extremely intense and uniform black fabric that resists fading.

In China, Lycra® goes beyond fashion into the realm of entertainment. Beginning with a fashion award show in 2001, a series of television shows featuring Lycra® have appeared in mainland China. The latest incarnation is entitled Lycra® My Prince and combines reality television with drama. The stars of the show include the winners from the 2006 reality program Lycra® My Hero. Stores in China sell clothes featured in the television program.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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Discussion Comments


For the people who are saying that they seem to be allergic to Lycra: Lycra contains latex, so if you are sensitive to latex, this isn't the fabric for you.


Lyra does everything it promises and more. I just finished working a 10 hour day, outside, in 108 degree weather and I was surprisingly comfortable. Unfortunately, I too am allergic to this fabric!


I just figured out i have an allergy to lycra. It has taken me five years to pinpoint the allergy. Seems like everything I wear that has it in it irritates my skin. Boo Lycra.


please do not purchase lycra products. This fiber is wholly owned and manufactured by the Koch Brothers, scumbag millionaires who exploit third world nationals, do not pay taxes, and do not contribute in any way to the improvement of life for the average American.

They are completely tied in with the Wall Street thieves who caused the 2008 crash and only get richer and richer.

Please, as well do not purchase and Georgia-Pacific product, to include paper, Brawny paper towels, mardi Gras napkins, Northern or Angel Soft toilet paper. Do the right thing for middle class America - boycott all products of the Koch brothers!


I own underarmer which has lycra and I love it. I can breathe and have all the movement I need,


I have a pair of shoes made with Lycra on the upper part. I have worn them at the most nine times and i can feel on the inside that they are already getting a worn spot from my toes. these were not cheap shoes and they are already going to be trashed. this material is worthless.


Greenweaver- I could not agree with you more. I own some Lycra tops and pants. I love wearing them when I workout. The fabric breathes so I don’t feel as hot as I would with a heavier fabric. I am also very comfortable during my workout.


Great article- I just want to add that I love the feel of Lycra. I have many Lycra Capri pants that I wear in the summer that are so comfortable and lightweight.

The fabric grips my legs and feels like a glove. I also appreciate that the fabric stretches a bit which is probably why it is so comfortable. I love the form-fitting nature of Lycra. It is stylish and comfortable at the same time.

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