Knit fabrics research question

Since research is such a hot topic (as of yesterday), I thought to throw this one out there. The question is posed by a reporter so no remuneration is possible. The question is:

What percentage of clothing made today contains stretch (lycra/spandex) versus five to ten years ago? I’m trying to figure out what the impact of stretch knit fabrics is on the clothing industry today.

If I were permitted to broaden the question, I’d wonder what the percentage is today versus thirty years ago. Does anyone have any idea how to find the answer to this question? If you can help, you will have my undying gratitude.

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  1. Christine says:

    Interesting question! The first thing I would do would be to ask for a little clarification…does the writer want to know about the increase in use of knit fabrics (i.e., our more casual way of dressing as compared to 30+ years ago)….or the increase in use of lycra/spandex/etc in woven fabrics (i.e., the need for more forgiving fabrics and the wonders of chemistry)? Knit fabrics have been around a whole lot longer than lycra and spandex and they all stretch with or without it. If the question is about lycra and spandex in knit fabrics, I’m thinking swimwear, shapewear, athletic wear….stuff that depends on elasticity.

    I’ll be interested to see how this turns out!

  2. dosfashionistas says:

    We have had stretch knit fabrics a lot longer than we have had Lycra. And Lycra (spandex) is used in woven fabrics as well as knit, giving us the possibility (which we did not have before) of stretch woven fabrics. But both of these were well established even 10 years ago. I think we have seen more use of stretch wovens over the last decade, but I doubt that the use of knits has increased greatly.

    Ten years ago the sportswear company I then worked for offered one group with a stretch woven base fabric per season. Today I would expect the same company might offer one group that did not have stretch. (We did about 8 groups per season.) But this is going to vary with the brand and with current fashions. And with what fashion does with the fabrics available. What impact will it have that very light weight knits are now available, for instance?

    This is a question to ask a working designer who uses both wovens and knits, preferably one who woks for a large label.

  3. I hope that someone will be able to help with this question. The prevalance of stretch in traditional woven fabrics has become a bit of an irritation. There are times when you simply don’t want it, and its getting harder to find. I am curious to see some figures, as it seems as if almost every cotton garment you see now has some amount of stretch to it…jeans…button down shirts…skirts etc. Is this really necessary? I suspect its generally added just to make it wrinkle resistant.

  4. Clarisse says:

    I don’t have the magic number, but my initial research methodology (otherwise known as “digging around”) would include:

    –Looking at annual reports of companies such as DuPont that manufacture branded stretch textiles. Annual reports contain mostly financial information but also contain a lot of marketing verbiage about production numbers, type of production, production growth, etc. Could help point you in the right direction.

    –Scanning literature provided by the trade council that supports this type of synthetic textile, if one exists (I don’t know, like the American councils for cotton, plastics, etc. support their respective products). The number might be found in here, provided as justification for the existence of said council.

    –Reviewing data that tracks other factors and trends leading to the growth in demand for stretch textile technology. For instance, using stretch fabric to compensate for fit (consumer-driven growth of discount and big box stores, upward obesity trends, cost-cutting in domestic and overseas production); lifestyle trends (women’s fitness market segment, growing demand for higher-performance products by amateur and casual athletes, what I once heard someone call “the pajama-fication of America”); introduction of complimentary textile technologies (Coolmax, etc.). Depending on the depth of your research, interesting statistics might be buried in here.

  5. Rocio says:

    It’s difficult to know how much of the elastane/spandex used is specifically brand name “Lycra” (from Invista formerly part of Dupont) specially as these day there are other brands of the fibre :

    Elaspan (also Invista’s)
    ROICA & Dorlastan

  6. Marie-Christine says:

    In a totally unscientific way, I’d also say that the big difference between now and 5 years ago isn’t so much in the knits, as in the much higher proportion of wovens with stretch. It’s probably even more true in France, where a much higher degree of pants tightness is mandatory :-), but still I think that kind of fabric is much more available everywhere.
    Thrity years ago one may wear some t-shirts in some circumstances, but the bulk of wardrobes was woven and not stretch. That is completely untrue today, most clothes have some degree of stretch.

  7. There are indeed other companies who produce Elasthane fibers, only under different names, since “Lycra” belongs to Du Pont. (And those companies are not all recent ones.)

    My personal impression would be that here in Germany it has not much changed over the last five years, 30 years might make more of a difference.

    What I would do for a estimation: I would try to get catalogs from a big mail order company, one from 5 or 30 years ago, the other one from this year. And then just count… that would not be a fun task… but I think those mail order companies are quite representative for the market because they have what people buy most. (Assuming that there is a nation wide popular mail order company that sells clothes.)

  8. Theresa in Tucson says:

    Land’s End and L.L. Bean come to mind for nationwide popular mail order companies. I have bought from both of them for over thirty years and have definitely seen an increase in products containing lycra at least in the women’s clothing. You might ask the catalogs although they might not want to say. Anyone know a Land’s End or L.L. Bean buyer, or someone who does?

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