Without modern compression clothing material, compression gear wouldn’t be as popular as it is today. Most people, however, have only a cursory understanding of what compression clothing is made of, and how these materials influence the fit and firmness of their garments. While cut and crafting definitely have a part in the process of making pieces that apply the right compression to the right parts of your body, the materials used are at the heart of a compression garment’s effectiveness.
Compression Clothing - Your Wardrobe’s Helper
The idea of compression clothing isn’t new. People have sought ways to look their best for millennia, and that included not just makeup and jewelry, but the adoption of clothing that gave you an aesthetically-pleasing appearance. Before compression gear was available to provide gentle body shaping, men suffering from gynecomastia and individuals across the gender spectrum have used materials to bind their chests, and the use of corsetry made of non-stretchable cloth, bone, and steel have been used by men and women who want a slimmer, flatter profile.
As synthetic materials developed, their use as clothing bridged from everyday wear into the world of sports and fitness. Closer fitting outfits reduced drag and provided a skin-tight comfort bulkier clothing didn’t. As these outfits evolved, driven by research into better compression clothing material, compression gear as we know it came into being. These garments were tight with a purpose, supporting an athlete’s body, reducing recovery times, and looking great in the process.
Modern compression bodysuits, for examples. are used by people in all walks of life. They still offer benefits to athletes who want to recover faster and play at the top of their game, but they also give people the gentle, discreet shaping they need for a more toned and fit appearance. Compression garments sometimes offer muscular support where needed while giving medical-grade compression to treat ailments, such as inoperable hernia support underwear. The science behind firm, consistent support starts with the fabric a garment is made of.
It’s a Material World
Compression gear is made of a blend of materials, like most garments you buy nowadays. These materials are combined in a ratio that gives you a set amount of stretch and resistance to provide compression that moves with you but resists stretching out of shape. The following materials are what modern compression clothing is usually made of:
Nylon - Nylon is a synthetic thermoplastic polymer that does not stretch. It’s smooth, with a silky feel, and when nylon filaments are woven into a material, while the filaments resist stretching, the knit allows for the material itself to have some give based on the looseness and tightness of the knit. That’s why, during World War II, the same material that made stretchy, form-fitting stockings (colloquially called nylons) for women was diverted to the war effort for parachutes, where the weave had less stretch to slow a soldier’s descent. In compression gear, nylon gives blends form-retaining resilience and is used alone to provide non-stretch panels.
Spandex - Spandex is the compression clothing material that provides the stretch. This strong material can be pulled out to five-times its length without snapping, making it perfect for form-fitting clothes. While on its own it does not provide much compression, when blended in a material with nylon, you get a strong, stretchable fabric. As it is usually the lesser amount of the blend, your garment will still have the silky feel of nylon.
Cotton - When you think of what compression clothing is made of, cotton may not immediately come to mind. After all, a large portion of everyday garments use cotton fibers, and they are hardly compression gear. Cotton, however, does stretch well and has a soft, luxurious feel while also wicking moisture away from your body. This makes it a popular choice for lining compression clothing, as well as for concealing medical fabric and providing the look of a regular undershirt.
Magicotton - One of the most innovative materials available, Magicotton, goes beyond providing a lined compression garment to offering a whole new compression clothing material. Magicotton fibers take a core of spandex and nylon, then wraps it in cotton fibers. The result is a single layer of material that retains its form like nylon, stretches like spandex, and breathes like cotton. It’s one of the most exciting developments in compression gear on the market.
Putting it All Together
The perfect materials are chosen based on the construction needs of a garment. These usually fall into four categories:
Stretch - The ability of a garment to stretch properly determines whether it moves with your body, how it moves, and where it resists movement to help control bulges. Some blends are woven in such a way to provide stretching in certain directions, while others can stretch in every direction.
Non-Stretch - Not all compression clothing material is meant to stretch. Some garments may provide maximum compression and body-shaping control through the use of a firm panel that doesn’t allow any give. Once the garment is on, this panel is fixed tight with a zipper or hook-and-eye closure for ultra-firm flattening.
Comfort - While many people love the silky feel of nylon spandex, some people prefer a softer touch. In addition, compression gear only works when people wear it, so design incorporates the materials that offer the best compression and support without uncomfortable confinement.
Layers - Some garments meant to provide additional compression and control will use multiple layers in a compression panel. In these garments, the material not only has to work with your body but with other layers of itself without binding or bunching. To do this, each layer must have an equal amount of stretchiness and slide freely over the layer(s) above or beneath it.
There's a Right Fit for You
With the best materials and superior craftsmanship, compression gear can give you the support you need and the shape you want for years to come. If you have any questions about a particular garment’s make-up or how it will work for you, call us at 1-800-242-4224. Order your compression clothing from underworks today.