Spandex, Lycra, elastane, elastolefin: They’re all the same stretchy fibre, just different names. And this fibre makes our lives easier. Our clothes are more comfortable, and they move with us. I know that I especially appreciate stretch fibres after a good meal. Spandex expands. What a motto!
If a garment is knitted fabric, it will stretch, regardless of the fibre. Knitting is when the fibres are looped around each other. The fibres can be micro thin, such as in a T-shirt, or thicker, like in bulky hand knitted sweaters. But a knitted garment may stay stretched out, even after washing. Spandex usually allows the garment to return to its original shape and not stay stretched out.
If a garment is made of woven fabric, with the threads running straight over and under each other in two directions, it will only stretch on the bias (slant direction) or if it contains spandex (by any of its names).
The higher the spandex content, the more it will hold you tight. 10% or higher is usually for compression undergarments, like body shapers or old-school girdles. Jeans usually contain from 1 to 2%, just enough to allow ‘give’ when you move.
Don’t use hot water to wash items containing spandex, and don’t dry your spandex-y items in the dryer, or iron them on high. Heat kills the spandex fibres and they will begin to pucker and look very weird.
And that’s about it. Spandex is easy to care for, and easy to wear. It makes your clothes look fitted, even without expensive tailoring. It shows off your shape. It is forgiving of changes in your shape. You can move easily in it, or even sleep. Spandex expands. I love it.