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Choosing Swimsuit Fabric

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Is Swimwear Fabric Important?

Selecting the best swimsuit material for training or competition swimsuit suit can be tricky. Even after you’ve refined your search to a high quality swimsuit brand, such as Kiefer, Speedo, Arena, or Dolfin, many more considerations still need to be made. Will you choose a solid color or a print? Despite the variety in the fitness swimwear and competitive swimwear market, one basic decision needs to be made before you proceed – choosing the fabric of your swimsuit. Selecting the proper swimsuit material is very important and should reflect your goals for your swimwear: are you looking for the best fit, durability, stretch – or all of the above? Your choice of fabric for your swimsuit is vital to meeting your expectations.

Types of Swimwear Fabric:

Swimmers, let’s start with the basics and discuss suit construction and intended uses.

Lycra Swimwear

Lycra swimwear is the long reigning swimwear industry standard, featuring a soft and comfortable fabric with excellent stretch. Lycra swimwear is available in the greatest variety of colors and print styles. Lycra fabric (also known as Spandex or Elastane) is a term commonly used to describe material made from a blend of Spandex fibers and other fibers. Spandex (an anagram of the word “expands”) is an elastic polyurethane fiber, invented in 1959 by DuPont chemists. Generally speaking, Lycra suits do not have the longest lifespan. Frequent swimmers generally see up to six months of suit life, depending on Lycra quality. A newer variation of Lycra. known to the swimsuit industry as Xtra Life Lycra, provides additional durability and suit life and is reported to be up to 10 times more durable than less sophisticated or less engineered Spandex fabric.

Polyester Swimwear Material

Polyester swimsuit material provides an excellent alternative to Lycra, lasting through years of steady use if cared for properly. And even improperly I might add – I still wear one of my poly suits from college and it gets thrown wet into bags and forgotten all the time! Solid polyester suits are not as comfortable as Lycra swimwear; poly material is less soft and lacks lacks Lycra’s expansive stretch. However, you will absolutely get your money’s worth from Polyester swimwear since it is (in many respects) totally bombproof! Polyester appears under many different names in the competitive and fitness swimwear market: Speedo Endurance, TYR Durafast, and Dolfin Chloroban are all 100% polyester fabric. Chloroban has the additional benefits of being long lasting, comfortable, stretchy, and even has a 50+ Ultraviolet Protection Factor rating.

Nylon Swimwear

Nylon fibers make up the majority of most non-polyester swimwear, whether blended with Lycra, or used on its own in 100% Nylon swimwear. Even though Nylon is lightweight, it remains one of the strongest manufactured fibers and offers a smooth fit. Nylon absorbs little water and dries very quickly. Some drawbacks to Nylon are its reduced ability to hold color and its lack of elasticity. Looking for a great drag suit to add to your workout or swim meet warmup? Consider Nylon.

Swimsuit Fabric & Pricing

Polyester swimwear is generally more expensive than the mid-priced Lycra swimsuits and lower-priced Nylon swimwear.

Other Blended Fabric Swimwear

Some blended fabrics, such as Poly PBT and XLA, are newer to the swimwear market and endeavor to offer the best of both worlds – combining features that maximize both comfort and durability.

Poly PBT Swimwear

PBT Polyester is another more recent addition to the swimsuit fabric world, and is found in both competitive swimwear and fitness swimwear. PBT, or polybutylene terephthalate, has excellent stretch and elasticity; additionally, PBT is also quick-drying and has low-water absorbency.

Current examples of Poly PBT swimwear are Kiefer’s Aqualast Polyester/PBT blend.  It offers stretch, comfort, and last-ability. TYR promotes Durafast boasting a life 20 times longer than traditional swimwear and more recently Durafast Elite. Durafast Elite is chlorine proof, color fast, durable, flexible, comfortable and offers 300+ hours of use. Both suits are blends of Polyester and Polyester PBT. Speedo’s PBT swimwear fabric is known as Endurance Plus and Endurance Lite, and touts chlorine-resistance, color retention, stretchability, comfortable fabric blend of PBT and Polyester.

XLA Swimwear

Kiefer swimwear is also available in XLA fabric, a blend of nylon and XLA fibers that offers enhanced chlorine-resistance, excellent 2 way stretch, and the durability to be machine washed and dried.

Swimmers, choose your swimsuit material carefully!

Ultimately, it’s your choice.

There are plenty of excellent suit options for swimmers, so think about about your goals. Will your suit be logging long daily pool yardage – or just weekly recreational use? For hours upon hours of use, you want a suit that is comfortable and doesn’t require monthly – blends or polyester suits are likely your best bet. For those looking for a suit to use once a week, you’re likely to be quite content in a Lycra suit.

All set? Now make your choice and just add water…

Looking for more advice? Read our advice on swimsuit back styles & check out our competitive swimsuit sizing guide.

About Emily Milak

Emily Milak is a lifetime competitive swimmer living in Southeastern Wisconsin. Emily is a US National Team champion, NCAA champion, and USMS champion with extensive coaching experience. She is a product development consultant at Kiefer.

Recent Comments (32)

wow that was helpful!!

glad to help – please let me know what other swim topics Kiefer could tackle! thanks

thanks! very informative and helpful.

Thanks so much I can’t wait to start designing my swimwear. This was very helpful.

you’re welcome. Best of luck!

That really helped. I’m much less confused on which swimwear materials are best. As a competitive swimmer who swims five days a week, I think I’ll stick to polyester.

Compressive, long-lasting – polyester swimwear is my favorite – it’s as tough and intrepid as swimmers themselves. thank you!

Looking for the warmest fabric for my kids swimming in winter?? What do
You think would be best?

For a traditional swimsuit, I prefer polyester. I feel like it has a denser, less permeable weave. The density and compression provide me a warmer feel in the water. Depending on their size and needs, you might consider a thermal suit. Thanks for asking and best of luck!

Robin, very informative. Thanks. I competed against Dale and Jack when they were at Yale and I was at West Point. I also swam against Jack in age group AAU a few times (we are the same age). Please give them my best wishes. How are they related to you?

Kerry O’Hara

Hi Kerry, Jack is my father. I’ll let them know you send your best wishes. thanks

How does cost vary based on fabric?

Polyester swimwear is generally more expensive than the mid-priced Lycra swimsuits and lower-priced Nylon swimwear.

So informative. I have found Speedo Endurance to be fantastic. My lycra had a life of 6 months.. and now switching to Endurance, the suits last over a year of intense use, almost daily, no fading or deterioration of fabric.

Which suit provides the most warmth for children aged 2-6. They are very thin and will be swimming and playing along the coast of Oregon and Washington. Thanks for your help.

A thermal swimwear provides the most insulation and warmth; especially for thinner kids enjoying the coastal waters of Oregon and Washington (lucky ducks). Learn more about the options we carry here: Thermal Swimwear.

The link for Thermal Swimwear does not work. Thank you.

Thanks for letting me know: please try this one:

Is a material like Durafast good for open water racing?

Durafast is great for open water racing and training, especially if you like a compressive fit.

Thank you for this info! I really like your site/store!

Thanks so much! I’m doing a science fair project on swim suit materials, and this really helped! Thanks again!

you’re welcome- let use know how your experiment goes!

Wow! Thanks for sharing such a good info!
I’m starting my bikini line and it’s not for swimming performance or competition, but totally for a leisure beach time, focusing on aesthetics and being resistant to salted water (and chlorine). I’m sticking with a blend of 80%Nylon and 20%Lycra. Does that sound like a reasonable choice? Or would it be better to have a 100% Lycra?
And concerning the weight, what weight would be good enough to last for a summer lifetime or two?

I`m also having problems to find a supplier that has the label Lycra on it. They refer to it as Lycra but it ends up being just Spandex, which is the same, but without the Du Pont quality label, right? So, how do I get the Lycra label from my suppliers? Is it something only Du Pont will be able to tell me once I have the fabric and get it checked out by them?

Thank you Robin!

I’d recommend sticking with 80/20, that should give a few summers of weekly wear, for sure. Getting the Lycra label? Let your supplier know that you want DuPont Lycra.

However, i wonder how much of that will matter for the bikini market. But it never hurts to differentiate on quality. best of luck!

…and a last question: If Nylon is not good on holding color on it, and my line has lots of colorful graphic printings with different motifs, wouldn`t it be a problem? Is the printing going to last for a whole summer vacation or two?

oh, and I guess there`s no 100% Lycra, right? As I was reading more about it, Lycra seems to be just the elastic fiber that is blended with other synthetic fiver, correct?

80/20 will be fine for holding color, as long as you have a quality fabric. true- Lycra is part of the mix; there are no 100% Lycra suits. let me know how your suit launch goes!

Hi Robin, I have Four (4) sons they are Pro trainers that swim everyday we need Jammers just for training, whats the easiest/best way to order the GRAB BAG??

Grab bag jammers? I’m glad you asked. no longer carries grab bag, but i saw a great deal on them being offered by one our our new partners:
This option lets you choose your brand and size; perfect for swimmers who just want a great suit for their daily swim.

I’m looking for a material that doesn’t drip much after getting out. It’s for out door hot tubing in very cold weather (below freezing) and the walk from the tub to the house is miserable with the water dripping down my legs. Any suggestions on material?

Unfortunately, varying the material won’t do much to minimize the drip. Bathrobe to the rescue!

I was thinking that a material that didn’t absorb water might help. Similar to Under Armor vs Cotton, but for a swimsuit.

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