The body beautiful never felt the need to be more in
shape than now with the advent of Lycra as a fashion fabric tailored
for all occasions-not just to exercise in.
Try squeezing into skin
tight clothing and one realizes that it isnt exactly an easy
task. Thats what was happening till the late fifties when
people tried to literally worm themselves into restrictive garments
because it was the fashion of the day. Now wouldnt it have
been easier if there had been a stretch fibre like Lycra then?
In 1959, when Lycra was
introduced by Du Pont Company, it was a super stretching spandex
fibre. Today the name Lycra has turned into a generic term for all
stretch fabrics whether silk or cotton. In India, Elyxa is the Indian
brand name for Lycra which is produced by Thapar Du Pont Fibres Ltd.
in the country.
In the 80s, and 90s the
body conscious awareness led to a tremendous increase in the use of
stretch fabrics. Not only are stretch fabrics a must for the
underwear industry but, today, Lycra is used by Marks and Spencers in
tracksuits, by Prosche in car sun roofs, by Yves St. Laurent in
briefs, by Levis and Lee in Jeans and by top fashion designers like
Calvin Klein, Givenchy, Christian Dior, Azzedine Alaia, Donna Karan
and Jean Paul Gaultire.
Fabrics with the use of
Lycra have the ability to stretch five to six times their length and
recover back to their original length. The composition of Lycra is a
manmade elastane fibre which is actually a segmented polyurethane.
Being composed of soft or flexible segments which are bounded
together with a hard or rigid segment, it is this molecular structure
which gives the fibre its ability to stretch and return to its
Lycra moved from the
ladies underwear girdle to the outer wear section rapidly. It was
swim wear and stockings in the 70s and bicycle shorts and aerobic
wear in the 80s. Body hugging garments in the late 80s and 90s have
made stretch fabrics indispensable. Long before Lycra came into the
market, the garment industry relied on rubber for inducing stretch
into the item. But rubber had its disadvantages unlike Lycra. It
could not be dyed easily, it was relatively coarse and heavy and did
not make the garments comfortable. It was wore out faster with
perspiration and body oils.
In the late 40s, the
discovery of Helanca did help because the yarn made from nylon
behaved much better than rubber. It stretched to three times its
relaxed length in heavier weights and four to five times in lighter
weights. Form-fitting garments were now possible. It was the 80s
that brought in varied forms of dressing, both for formal and
informal wear. The sophisticated padded shouldered power dressing
look aimed at the working women and sharply contrasted with the
fitness boom that gripped the world. Young and old everywhere were
followers of the keep-fit cult. It is here that both men and women
and sharply contrasted with the fitness boom that gripped the world.
Young and old everywhere were followers of the keep-fit cult. It is
here that both men and women realized that looking good in fitted
clothes meant having a figure worth showing off and for that one had
to work for it.
With the growing
awareness to fitness and health, exercise clothes also turned into
fashion wear and leotards hitherto used in the gym were suddenly
appearing at cocktail parties. It is now considered good fashion
sense to wear clingly leotards, exercise tights, leggings, footless
tights and even dance wear throughout the day. Stretch fabric had
opened up a whole new market for itself and the possibilities were
One of the first western
wear designers to use stretch was Azzedine Alaia. He used stretch
imaginatively-cutting it cleverly and scanning it perfectly-so that
the fabric highlighted the womans every contour. It was little
wonder therefore that he was called the King of Cling.
Fabrics are in one or
two-way stretch. This means that at times both the warp and weft have
a percentage of the stretch yarn. Lycra is never used in its purest
form but in combination with natural or manmade fibres or blends of
both. In T-shirts it is used at times for the garment as well as the
embellishments like collar and cuffs.
In India, experiments
were made by Lakshmi Mills of Coimbatore and Madura Coats to blend in
a mere four grams of Elyxa in the rubia fabric (2x2) which is popular
for cholis blouses-to enable them to not only fit well but also make
them comfortable so that the blouse moves in the direction of the
Blouses in Elyxa can be
tailored in the conventional way but can be a size smaller so that
they fit perfectly. Other fashion items like dress materials for
salwar kameezes and ethnic wear will give the garments a better fit.
The very restrictive churidars (drainpipe pants) can now turn into a
comfortable fashion item.
Stretch fabric also plays
an important part in childrens wear. With its comfortable
property for stretching, the fabric can last out its life for a much
longer period for childrens wear.
Swim wear in India has
turned into a fashion item with Bata and Proline each bringing out a
range for water sports. Lycra is extremely suitable since its
resistance (to degradation by sunlight, body oils and when treated by
other chemicals like chlorine in swimming pools) is high. Also, it is
abrasion resistant and can safely be washed without loss of shape.
Designers in India are
also excited about the use of Dlyxa for their garments. Designer
James Ferreira has been using stretch fabrics for a long time for his
creations. It is ideal for garments because of its feel and fall. Of
course for a travel wardrobe nothing can touch garments made of
stretch fabrics. they are crease resistant and easy to manage and
ideal to pack in a suitcase, reveals Ferreira-popular Indian designer
who specializes in coordinates and suits. He uses jersey material
for accessories like blouses and skirts. I find that jersey is ideal
for them because they complement the jackets and coats that I create.
Also, the sarong skirts that I have made look best in soft jersey.
The various forms of drapes that are popular in India and Western
garments take on a better shape when they are created in jersey.
It is also believed that
in the case of athletics and sports, a form-fitting garment makes all
the difference in the performance of an athlete. This is because with
fitted garments the muscle temperature increases by as much as two to
three percent. This in turn will help a sportsperson to perform more
efficiently. When muscles are compressed with fitted garments, their
efficiency improves as the physical power and endurance of an athlete
increases. Stretch fabrics negate the effects of heat and cold on the
body thereby helping the body to stay at peak performing level.
The most popular garments
in the 90s are the skin tight leotards in solids or prints-both in
cotton and in silk. These are normally teamed with tube bops or
bustiers which are in vivid colours. Skirts and dresses also are a
favourite. These are either mini or midi and are nearly always form
fitting. Jersey also reacts very well to permanent pleating and has a
remarkable drip dry quality which is easy to maintain.
Fashion now has a new
addition to its favourties. Cotton, silk denim and now jersey. All
fabrics that make life much easier to live in this fast packed world.