Guide to Swimsuit and Bikini Materials and Fabrics

Swimwear and bikinis are the most basic types of clothing there are by nature. Mission accomplished if you feel good wearing it and there are no wardrobe malfunctions. But swimwear has a hidden layer of complexity because it walks a fine line between fashion and utility. A top-notch swimsuit must be stretchable, resilient to water, and durable in addition to having a stunning appearance. Knowing your options is important whether you’re looking for fabric to make your swimsuit or purchase a new one. Here is your guide to swimsuit and bikini fabrics. Read on!

What Material Are Swimsuits Made Of?

Fashion bamboo bag and sunglass, straw hat, and swimsuit. Flat lay, top view. Summer Vacation concept

Natural Fabrics

Before the development of flexible Lycra or synthetic fibers, swimsuits were made of natural fibers. Oddly enough, one of the most frequently used materials was wool. According to the theory, wool is used because it can be knitted into swimwear with a particular level of flexibility. Wool was also affordable and widely available, enabling swimmers to knit their swimming costumes. They could also do this because fashion magazines contained knitting patterns.

Like most natural fibers, wool has the propensity to absorb moisture. As a result, it grows bigger, weighs more, and stretches out of shape. None of these help bathing suits stand out as particularly cute. Due to the recent push for more environmentally friendly solutions, wool and polycotton blends have been making a cautious comeback in swimwear. There is still a long way to go before natural fabrics can match the fantastic swimming experience offered by synthetic materials. Up until then, natural fibers will still be overlooked when choosing fabrics for swimwear.

The transition from natural to synthetic fibers was only made possible by the development of Lycra in the 1950s. The design of swimwear underwent a revolution as a result. It is allowing for revolutionary improvements in swimwear design.

Synthetic Fabrics

Synthetic and blended fibers can be used to make swimwear. Synthetic materials are widely used in fashion, sports, and modern swimwear. Polyester is a popular clothing material. It’s a chlorine- and UV-resistant fabric. Polyester is perfect for swimwear when combined with elastane’s stretch. Polyester-elastane blends can be made in many ways. Some fabrics have more polyester than elastane. Same result. Long-lasting, useful beach or pool wear.

Other than polyester, elastane can be combined with other materials. For example, elastane and nylon can be combined to create a swimwear fabric using Spandex or Lycra as an example. Nylon is less resistant to UV rays and can be damaged by chlorine. However, it’s still a good alternative to a piece of clothing made of polyester if you’re looking for a one-season fashion swimsuit. 

Less common but equally cozy is a knit fabric made of polycotton and spandex. This option combines the polycotton look and feel with the stretch needed for swimwear. There are some disadvantages to it. For instance, the amount of natural fiber it contains affects how quickly it dries and how quickly it fades. Despite this, and depending on the polyester-to-cotton ratio, this fabric might still prove to be a reliable and useful choice.

Two Major Fabric Options

Stylish bikini and beach accessories on the sand, flat lay

Whether you’re looking for a fabric for your swimwear line or a future purchase, it’s helpful to be aware of your options. It should be noted that no fabric is better than another, but rather that each has particular qualities that make them more suitable for specific uses. The standard of your provider is also important.

Nylon Blends

On the market, nylon blends are used to make the majority of swimwear for women. It is so because it is soft and comfortable. It stretches easily and tightly encircles your body. Polyamide (PA), another name for nylon but essentially the same substance, is also used. Additionally, the term “nylon” is used to describe several distinct Polyamides. Nylons shouldn’t be printed on because the ink will bleed and the results will be pixelated.


  • Feel: Very soft
  • Stretch: Very Good
  • Durability: Good
  • Dry: Quick
  • Printable: No
  • UV resistance: Sometimes
  • Chlorine resistance: Rare
  • Repels water: Yes
  • Care: Hand-Wash, Hang to Dry

Polyester Blends

Most commonly, polyester blends are found in competitive swimwear. While remaining soft and sturdy, it is resistant to UV and chlorine. The benefit of color absorption is another benefit of polyester blends. When you dye and print it, the results come out vivid and distinct.


  • Feel: Soft
  • Stretch: Good
  • Durability: Very Good
  • Dry: Quicker
  • Printable: Yes
  • UV resistance: Yes
  • Chlorine resistance: Yes
  • Repels water: Yes
  • Care: Hand-Wash, Hang to Dry

Best Swimsuit Materials

Stylish blue bikini and sunglasses on yellow background, flat layPolyester

Due to its soft fabric and exceptional durability, polyester is one of the materials that are most frequently used to make clothing. Because of how quickly it dries and how long it lasts, especially for competitive swimming, it’s a great option for swimwear. Due to its built-in UV protection and ability to withstand frequent exposure to chlorine, this fabric is a wise choice for any item that will likely be worn by the pool or on the beach.


Nylon, also known as polyamide, dries quickly and is water-resistant. It is typically found in stylish swimwear and is incredibly cozy and flattering to wear. The fabric has a pleasing appearance and feels because it is soft and has a light glossy sheen. When combined with elastane, the fabric can also be figure-hugging and help hide body bulk. As a result, it has grown in popularity as a fabric for beachwear, pools, and swimming costumes.


Elastane was developed for use in clothing in the late 1950s. It is a common term for clothing made of elastic by brands like Lycra and Spandex. Elastane is an entirely synthetic polyurethane material. Although it was initially created to replace rubber, it has a wide variety of industrial applications, including heat and shock insulation. Elastane can be added to natural fibers or combined with synthetic fabrics to give clothing a comfortable stretch. Its stretchiness makes it an ideal fabric for swimsuits as well.


Polybutylene terephthalate, also known as PBT, is a plastic yarn fiber with built-in stretch and recovery. PBT is a member of the polyester family of plastics. Though it is less elastic than other polyesters, its texture is stronger and lighter in feel. When used in conjunction with a matte or slightly duller finish, the material floats through the water. It has a quality that makes it perfect for sportswear used in competition.


Bathing suits used to be made of natural materials like wool or cotton. Consider the Victorian-era beachgoers who were entirely covered. But one of the biggest problems with natural fibers is water retention. A swimmer could sink if their clothing is overly water-absorbing. Or, even worse, their swimwear deforms and falls off, causing them to lose it. These days, bamboo and cotton are used to create retro swimwear that harkens back to bygone eras. These costumes are less suitable for regular or competitive swimming and more suitable for relaxing on the beach or lounging in a deck chair.

What Other Fabrics Can Be Used in Swimwear?

For several activities, such as swimming and scuba diving, swimwear is necessary. Swimwear is frequently worn for activities like beach volleyball, bodybuilding, and beauty pageants that take place outside of the water. Let’s examine some additional resources about enjoyment on and off the water.


Neoprene is a synthetic rubber that performs well as insulation, is extremely stable, and maintains its flexibility in a variety of temperatures. Due to its benefits, insulation is frequently used in scuba diving gear. Compared to “normal” swimwear fabric, the fabric is thicker and stitched with different techniques. Therefore, if you want to use this fabric for your company’s brand or products, it might be advantageous to find a manufacturer who is already producing scuba/wet suits. Wetsuits get their name from the way that water is constrained close to the skin. While body heat warms the water, the diver’s body temperature is kept at a comfortable level. Neoprene has the disadvantage that divers’ bodies are constantly damp. As a swimsuit material, this pervasive wetness close to the body can be problematic. Hyperthermia may also result from the heated air that is trapped in warm environments. The material might be uncomfortable to wear, and it might be difficult to put on and take off. Many surfers and divers prefer to wear swimming costumes underneath their wetsuits to prevent the wetsuits from sticking to their skin.

Scuba Fabric

Scuba fabric is double-knitted and extremely elastic; occasionally, it’s mistaken for neoprene. The fabric is made to resemble a Ponte weave and is reasonably stiff. It is applied to provide structure to clothing. Scuba lacks an inner layer of insulating foam but has a similar overall appearance and neoprene-like feel. Because a diving suit is less flexible than a polyester-spandex blend, it might restrict movement in sports like volleyball. However, scuba is the best choice if you want your swimwear to have a structured wetsuit style. Because it is strong, sturdy, and opaque, it is a fantastic option for both style and modesty.

Swimwear Lining Fabric

Sometimes, especially after getting wet, some swimwear materials can appear a little translucent. As a result, you’ll find that a liner is an essential addition. A lining can also make wearing the swimsuit more comfortable.

Make sure the fabric you choose for your lining has characteristics similar to those of the swimsuit material. The lining must behave and move similarly. As a result, ensure that it is durable, chlorine-resistant, and colorfast. Swimsuit liners can be made from the popular commercial fabric known as power mesh. This fabric facilitates easy body control. If it is cut just a little bit smaller than the swimsuit, it can help to conceal lumpy love handles.

Characteristics of a Great Swimwear Fabric

Light blue beach ball, toy, starfishes, and swimsuit on the sand, flat lay. Space for text

There are a few qualities you’ll want to make sure the fabric you select has if you want to create a comfortable swimsuit that will last for more than a season or two.


Your swimsuit will probably be worn in situations that normal clothing would never encounter. It must be able to withstand exposure to saltwater, pool chlorine, beach sand abrasion, and scorching sun. This is why it’s crucial to pick a fabric that won’t start to degrade and break down quickly under those circumstances.

Quick Drying

Imagine going swimming and exiting the water with a wet swimsuit; you’ll want your swimsuit to dry as quickly as possible. Nobody wants to remain shivering in a wet bathing suit for too long! Choose a fabric with fibers that dry quickly and don’t retain moisture.


Of course, swimwear needs to be flexible! They are usually made to fit tightly to the skin, meaning the fabric needs to have a good amount of stretch both horizontally and vertically so that you can pull your swimsuit on. Choose a fabric with a 4-way stretch that has at least 50% stretch in all directions for the best results.

Hold Its Shape When Wet

When wet, your swimsuit should maintain its shape and remain tightly fitting. Make sure to choose a fabric that will stay nice and form-fitting no matter how wet it gets because some fabrics tend to hold on to water and lose their shape when soaked.

Elastic Recovery

Selecting a fabric with good elastic recovery is crucial. If your fabric doesn’t recover well from stretching, it will quickly become permanently stretched out and won’t easily return to its original shape. To choose a fabric with excellent elastic recovery, make sure that it contains at least 8% elastane.

Compression Fit

This decision is optional because how your swimsuit fits is very personal. Some people favor swimsuits with a compression fit that accentuates their body’s curves. If that’s the fit you’re going for, you’ll need to take the fabric’s weight and knit strength into account to achieve a compression fit. You can get that tight hold by selecting a fabric with the designation “compression” or by going with a heavier-weight swimsuit fabric.


A part of what makes summer so beautiful is swimwear. But what kind of fabric makes the best bathing suit? When it comes to material, there are many options. You can learn more about the fabrics and materials used in swimsuits and bikinis by reading this guide. If you know what to look for, choosing will be easier for you.