Lycra is the trademarked brand name for spandex, a synthetic fibre that can be stretched to several times its original size but retain its shape. It has been a staple of the womenswear market for decades, particularly undergarments. It has become a common material found in all types of garments. Its ability to wick away moisture from the body, along with its flexibility, has made it a particularly popular choice for exercise and workout apparel.
Lycra was created by DuPont chemist Joseph Shivers in 1959. It was invented to compete with naturally occurring rubber, which was used in numerous garments throughout the fashion industry and most widely in women's undergarments. Development began during World War II when rubber production was being monopolised for the war, but it was not until over a decade later that large-scale production was possible.
Lycra is the trademark name for the spandex, created by DuPont and subsequently sold to multinational corporation, Invista. Spandex is the generic name for the elastic fibre category, as defined by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. The two terms are often used interchangeably in everyday speech, though there are some minor differences between Lycra and generic spandex..
The chief characteristic of Lycra is its ability to stretch several times its size and return to its original shape. It's also lightweight, durable, easily dyed, and resists pilling and abrasion. It is also naturally moisture wicking, which is the ability to pull moisture away from the wearer's skin to keep her dry; a feature that has now become the basis for an entire segment of modern apparel.
Lycra can be found in every category of the clothing industry from men's and women's wear to the plus-sized market and children's apparel. The largest segment is the workout and exercise market where its combined stretch and moisture wicking makes it a natural choice. It has also remained popular for undergarments for both women and men.
Lycra often is blended with other fabrics, such as cotton, nylon and polyester to give a garment an additional level of comfort. Only a small percentage of Lycra is used---3 to 10 per cent---depending on the item and its use. The practice is so common that most people have Lycra- (or spandex) blended garment in their closet, in the form of jeans, a hoodie or a sweater.