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.
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.
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.