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Whether you’re taking a dip in the ocean or swimming laps in an Olympic-length swimming pool, you know that the right bathing suit is a necessity. After all, bathing suits are more than just our favorite fun fashion statements; they’re also functional, and when it comes to function, swim fabric makes all the difference.
That’s right, there’s a whole world of swimsuit materials to explore, and they aren’t all created equal. Naturally, you’re probably wondering about the absolute best material for swimwear. You’re in the right place. We’re deep diving into all of the most common swimsuit materials and the factors to consider to choose the best option for you.
Let’s jump right in.
The first thing you need to understand is that there are two primary fiber types:
When it comes to the best material for swimwear, we’ll only be focusing on synthetic fibers. Why? Well, would you want to go for a swim in a wool bikini? It’s true that in the days of old, bathing gowns were made from natural materials like cotton and wool, but as you can expect, these fibers absorb and hold water—not the look (or feel) you want for your tropical vacation.
As the fashion industry grows more sustainable, some designers have begun experimenting again with natural fibers like polycotton blends; however, the technology has yet to live up to consumer expectations. If you do choose swimwear made from natural fibers, plan to spend most of your day tanning and reading by the ocean rather than splashing in the waves.
For now, let’s focus on six popular synthetic materials:
The majority of bathing suits you encounter will be made from a combination of these synthetic materials. Each has its own advantages, so let’s take a closer look.
Elastane makes a big splash in the world of aquatic apparel, but you won’t find it on its own. Rather, it’s blended with other synthetic or even natural fibers. Maybe you can tell from its name but its elasticity makes it a favorite for swimwear designers.1
Nylon also goes by polyamide. It’s one of the most popular synthetic swimwear materials, with the other being polyester. It’s often combined with elastane to create a swim fabric that’s both form-fitting and comfortable.1
Next to nylon, polyester is the other most common synthetic fabric for swimwear. But you should be aware that polyester fabric can vary significantly depending on the type used. In fact, there are hundreds of different polyester fabric blends.2
Polybutylene Terephthalate (say that ten times fast) is a polyester material commonly used in swimwear. It also goes by PBT, for less of a tongue twister. Competitive sportswear is the primary use for this fabric because of how efficiently it moves through water.1
Okay, neoprene isn’t technically a fabric. Rather it’s the inner layer of rubber inside wetsuits that insulates you from cold water.1
Quite similar to neoprene but without that additional insulation,1 scuba fabric is still a high-performing swimwear fabric.
So now you know about some of the most popular swimwear fabrics and their associated pros and cons. To help you choose which is ultimately the best material for swimwear for you, let’s look at some more subjective factors, including:
When you’re considering the technical features of different swimwear materials, it’s easy to forget the fun of fashion. But at the end of the day, style is as important as any other consideration. You want minimalist swimwear that you feel confident in! To that end, blends with elastane are particularly helpful because of its ability to flatter every silhouette.1
When you’re testing different swimsuit types and styles, it’s important to wet the fabric to make sure you’re in the clear (but your swimsuit’s not).1 Generally, swimwear has linings to ensure it’s never transparent.1 Common lining fabrics include:3
When you try a swimsuit on, the lining should be both comfortable and flattering.
Depending on your priorities, comfort could be the biggest non-negotiable on your list. There are several different factors to consider when it comes to comfort:
When you invest in a good piece of swimwear, you want it to last. That’s why durability is so important. Look for colorfast fabrics, especially if your swimwear will be exposed to sunlight and chemicals like chlorine. As a general rule, nylon fabric is more likely to fade than polyester fabrics. Because of the same fabric properties, nylon fabric is also more likely to pill than polyester suits.1
Naturally, cost will come into consideration when you’re purchasing swimwear. As we’ve covered, the different price points of each fabric can vary significantly. It’s tempting to purchase the least expensive option, but consider that your swimwear is an investment. Spend a little more for something you love—something flattering, durable, and timeless.
As we touched on earlier, there’s a growing trend of designers experimenting with natural fibers in swimwear in the name of sustainability. But you don’t need to don a cotton bikini to embrace the principle of sustainability. You can also avoid petroleum-based synthetic fibers or opt for fabrics made from recycled synthetic materials.1
If there were swimsuit material Olympics, you’d be a veritable Michael Phelps with your new aquatic knowledge. Ready to find your perfect fit? Dive into a world of luxury swimwear with Gooseberry. Your next best swimsuit is just a click away.