Polyester is one of the most widely used fabric types, not just in the United States but all over the world. This synthetic fiber has been around for nearly a century now and continues its hold in mainstream fashion. Its longevity and resistance to damaging factors, along with a host of other qualities, explain why it’s so popular.
What contributes to the popularity of polyester? Is it really suitable for all types of clothes? If not –– what clothes should be made of polyester and why?
If you have any of these questions, prepare to find out some answers. There’s a time and place for everything, even with fabric as widespread as polyester.
Let’s explore this textile a bit more in-depth!
What Is Polyester Clothing?
Polyester is a synthetic material used in all kinds of clothes and fabrics. Like Dacron and Terylene, polyester was created by chemists rather than Mother Nature.
There are different types of polyester, and most are made from a combination of terephthalic acid (PTA) and ethylene glycol. These synthetic polymers are used in the manufacturing process because of their durability and texture.
The most common type of polyester is known as PET, which is short for polyethylene terephthalate. There is also plant-based polyester, which is biodegradable, and PCDT polyester, which is more elastic and resistant to pilling.
Polyester fibers are produced in a lab and strung into strong fabric threads through a process known as polymerization. It is often combined with other fibers, like cotton, to create fabric blends.
Polyester was invented in the UK between the 1920s and 1940s; it was then picked up by American corporations like DuPont during World War II. It was originally used for parachutes before hitting the mainstream market. Polyester’s durability has made it a fan favorite for around 100 years and is still going strong.
What’s So Great About Polyester?
If you don’t already know, there are a lot of benefits to polyester blends as textile materials. Let’s go over some of them to shed light on why it is best suited for certain types of clothes.
Polyester garments are known to be quite lightweight and comfortable. It has a smooth, soft texture similar to microfiber and is unlikely to feel heavy on your skin. It drapes delicately for a lovely impact.
Polyester is resistant to a lot of different types of environmental factors and damages. For example, it has a high flame resistance –– a lot of children’s sleepwear is made of polyester because it is unlikely to catch on fire, though keep in mind that it can still melt. Its synthetic makeup also gives it a resistance to mildew and certain chemicals.
Polyester is also weather and water resistant (though not water-proof, it should be noted). When worn outside, polyester gives the wearer high UV protection where their skin is covered. In addition, many polyester blend fabrics are stain-resistant.
Doesn’t Crease Easily
Clothing that wrinkles easily can be quite a hassle. Ironing is not really on the top of our list for fun weekend activities, and neither is going to the dry cleaner.
With polyester fabric, you don’t have to worry so much. It’s pretty resistant to wrinkles, especially if you fold it straight out of the dryer. This makes it a great low-maintenance material to travel with.
Durable and Reliable
For a material that is so lightweight, polyester is also fortunately quite durable. It is quite elastic and tends to bounce back to its original form even when stretched. Polyester fabric features stable polymers that result in extra strength. This strength makes it a good option for long-term clothes that you want to hang on to.
Polyester is a very versatile fabric. The final products made from the fabric are used to make everything from cushions, upholstery, and other home furnishings to countless types of clothing.
It combines well with other materials, making it a popular choice for fabric blends. Polyester is frequently combined with cotton, as well as Spandex. You can find these combos in T-shirts and a lot of athletic wear. It also holds dyes well, meaning it’s easy to color.
Quick-Drying and Moisture-Wicking
A lot of synthetic fabrics have the ability to wick moisture. That means that the water you produce while sweating will actually be lifted away from your skin and out to the surface of the garment. Polyester fabrics are moisture-wicking and quick drying for this reason.
What Are the Cons of Polyester?
Now that we’ve gone over the many pros of this staple fiber, let’s take a minute to discuss why it may not be suitable for all types of clothing.
The one quality of polyester that needs to be considered is that it isn’t as high in breathability as some natural fibers, such as acrylic or cotton blends.
A couple of steps have been taken to remedy this. One popular solution is to opt for combined fiber blends, such as materials that are half polyester and half cotton. This can give you the benefits of both materials while remedying a lack of breathability.
When you were a kid, did you ever run your socks across the carpet to produce an electrostatic charge? It’s most likely that this rug was made of polyester with high abrasion, as many rugs and carpets are. Polyester is known to hold a static charge. This isn’t a huge issue but can be a bit annoying when you’re not paying attention.
What Types of Clothing Should Polyester Be Used For?
Polyester is an incredibly common material in fashion. In fact, more than half of the clothes in stores around the globe contain polyester. That can make this seem like a pretty straightforward answer. However, there are some things to consider.
Jackets and Outerwear
We have already talked about how polyester isn’t the most breathable fabric. However, that does mean that it can be quite warm and insulating. That’s why a lot of jackets are made of polyester. From parkas to raincoats to windbreakers, polyester is an excellent fabric to keep you warm and cozy against biting winds.
There’s more to polyester that makes it ideal for outerwear. It’s known to be weather resistant; although it isn’t waterproof, some rain will bead on the surface of a polyester coat.
Athletic outerwear also often comes with Spandex or an interior mesh for extra stretch and flexibility. Polyester jackets are great for outdoor exercise, seeing as it is a lightweight material that won’t bog you down. Sporty hoodies and sweatshirts are often made of polyester.
As mentioned, polyester is often used in athletic outerwear because of its weather resistance. However, it’s a popular fabric for all kinds of athletic gear.
Polyester’s natural versatility and elasticity make it a great choice for fleece joggers, relaxed tanks, sports bras, and much, much more. The moisture-wicking capabilities of polyester make it well suited for any activity where you’re bound to sweat a lot.
For extra breathability, polyester is often blended with cotton. Cotton is an extremely breathable fabric made of natural fibers. By combining it with polyester, you can create garments that are lightweight and flexible but also resilient and, ultimately, perfect for hot weather. It’s the best of both worlds when it comes to sporty gear.
Yes, we know –– that sounds like a pretty broad and vague category. Dress clothes can mean anything from dresses and skirts to business casual blouses and button-down shirts. Polyester is well suited for these types of clothes because it holds its shape so well.
That means that pleats, creases, and other kinds of purposeful embellishments can be added to these kinds of garments. It’s also a lightweight material that won’t weigh you down while you attend your fancy event or business dinner.
For a lot of the reasons we’ve discussed, polyester is a wonderful choice for swimwear. A huge benefit that you get from polyester is its moisture-wicking and quick drying abilities. That means that once you hop out of the water and onto your beach towel, you’re not dripping all over the place for a horribly long time. With a bit of sunlight and time, you’ll find yourself dry pretty quickly.
The versatility of polyester also makes it ideal for swimsuits. It can be blended with spandex to create extra stretchy material that hugs your figure comfortably while still allowing plenty of movement. And let’s not forget about the UV protection polyester provides your skin (provided the fabric is treated, of course).
Even though we’ve broken things down a bit more here, it’s fair to say that polyester can be used for a variety of purposes. Swimwear and athletic wear are two of the most common uses, but it’s safe to say you’ve probably had dozens of polyester shirts and pants over the years.
The truth is, it’s a resilient material that’s well suited for all types of clothing. Especially when blended with Spandex or cotton, the types of clothes polyester can be used for are practically endless!