The Best Fabric for Swimwear: The Ultimate Guide 

by Stanley


Whether you are looking for swimwear to sell or buy, it is important to have all the information necessary before making your decision. There are only a few options for swimwear fabric.

This is because swimwear requires certain qualities to function better. Only a few materials can meet these demands. Let’s dive in and find out which fabric for swimwear will best suit your store or closet. Read on.  

What Material Is Bathing Suit Made Of?

Fabric for swimwear

Unlike other types of clothing, swimwear material is limited to a few fabric types. Why is that so? The perfect bathing suit has to be stretchy, dry quickly, and fit the body perfectly. For these reasons, only a few fabrics are suited for the job.

Nylon, lycra, and polyester are the main options for making swimwear. Although they have different properties, they all cater to what a swimsuit should be like.

Other materials can also be used for making swimwear, but they are less popular than the ones mentioned. Additionally, natural fabrics are included, even though they do not offer much in the production of swimwear. 

Types of Fabric for Swimwear



Polyester is a popular choice of fabric for swimwear. It has somewhat similar properties to nylon, except that it is more durable. A blend of polyester and spandex is a suitable match for the perfect swimsuit.

Polyester is resistant to chlorine and UV rays. However, since it is not as elastic, a blend with spandex contributes to its elasticity. So you get both elasticity and durability. Most competitive swimmers choose this blend for their swimming gear.

Additionally, there are other blends with different materials available for polyester. On the market, you will also find different types of polyester swimwear. Since each manufacturer has their method, the bathing suits will have different percentages of polyester, spandex, and any other additional material.

The differences in quality come from the filament used to create the material. A thinner filament will result in a smooth feel, while a thicker one will be course. 


  • Durability – polyester guarantees longevity to the swimmer. It is a sturdy fabric; it holds its shape for a longer period. 
  • Soft – modern polyester has become soft compared to its predecessors. Although it’s not as soft as nylon, it has a good feel and appearance. 
  • Printing – you can print on polyester without worrying about fading over time. The material holds the prints permanently, making it a good fit for branding and creating brand awareness. Sublimation dyes are the best for polyester. 
  • Holds Color – you can customize polyester swimwear with different colors. It holds the color permanently even when exposed to UV rays and chlorine. 
  • Cost – even with its superior qualities, polyester is quite affordable. 
  • Pilling resistant – pilling is when a fabric forms a fluff ball on its surface. It is usually a nuisance for swimwear as the balls form on the armpits or at the crotch. Polyester guarantees a smooth swimming experience with no pills. 
  • Quick drying – the fabric dries fast after use, so you don’t walk around carrying extra water weight. 


  • Elasticity – polyester is not as stretchy as other swimwear fabrics. If it is not blended with spandex, it might be uncomfortable to use. Additionally, due to its non-elastic trait, they might come in a smaller size, or better yet, you will have to choose a bigger size for it to fit well. 



The swimwear industry is dominated by nylon (polyamide). The material is smooth, comfortable, and fitting, making it a go-to for most designers when creating bathing suits. It is also a preferred option, especially for female swimmers. 

Because nylon swimwear is mostly in solid colors, it is easy to distinguish it from others. Nylon blends well with spandex, producing a durable and elastic product. Spandex is very stretchy, and when combined with other fabrics, it gives a nice touch to the overall product.

To provide the extra elastic strength required, most nylon swimwear contains 20% spandex. However, nylon is not easily printable. This is a setback for this fabric.


  • Durability – nylon is a strong fabric that can persevere in various conditions. Although it is not the best in tensile strength, it will serve you well for a long time. 
  • Cost – nylon has a reasonable price, but it is a bit more costly than polyester. 
  • Soft – its softness is among the reason for its popularity. It has a very nice feel and looks luring in more buyers. 
  • Color – it is mostly in solid colors. Nylon is the best option for those who prefer a calm and non-dramatic look. It can also be customized with prints, but it is not as long-lasting. 
  • Quick drying – nylon dries up very fast since it repels water.


  • Printing – nylon does not allow much printing, limiting a brand’s marketing methods, especially for upcoming companies. Furthermore, if printing is done, it may reduce the quality of the fabric since it does not hold dye well.
  • UV resistant – nylon is affected by UV rays, and over time, it loses its appeal. 



Lycra is a fabric popularly known as spandex or elastane. Lycra adds a stretchy component to the apparel; the more you use it, the more stretchy the swimwear will be. It is a vital fabric to have in your bathing suit.

Spandex is usually not used alone; it is blended with fabrics such as nylon and polyester to give the apparel a better overall quality. This does not preclude it from being used exclusively. 


  • Elastic – its elasticity makes the swimsuit stretchy and comfortable. It can stretch over 500% and easily bounces back to its original size. It is the most suitable material for any body type and size. 
  • Perfect fit – it slims the figure and hugs the body perfectly. If you wear spandex, you will have a good time swimming without worrying about your body.
  • Pilling – lycra is also resistant to pilling and does not require any ironing. 
  • Soft – it is a very slick material. It is a good fabric for swimwear since it allows one to swim easily without interfering. 
  • Cost – spandex is quite affordable. It costs less than polyester and nylon. 


  • Not chlorine-resistant – although it is a fairly durable, exposure to chlorine damages the material over time. It loses its elastic ability with over-exposure.
  • Allergenic – lycra is made from petrochemical, which may cause allergic reactions in some people. If you have several allergies, ensure to avoid it or go for one which is a blend.



Cotton is not as popular as the other fabrics. It is a natural fabric that holds lots of water and is not stretchable, making natural materials unsuitable for swimwear in general. However, currently, there are many swimwear products that are made with cotton.

To make it possible, cotton has to be blended with other suitable fabrics, such as polyester and spandex. Pure cotton apparel can be used for relaxing on the beach or other activities that do not require wetting it. 


  • Sustainable – being eco-friendly is the major benefit of using cotton as swimwear. It is biodegradable, hence promoting environmental conservancy. 
  • Comfort – although it does not offer much stretching room, cotton is quite a comfortable material. When blended with spandex, it becomes more elastic and suitable for swimming.
  • Customization – it is easier to customize swimwear made from cotton. It permits both dying and printing. 


  • Drying – it is among the poorest swimwear material when it comes to drying. Cotton holds water which takes time to dry.
  • Durability – it loses its shape easily, especially when wet. 



Neoprene is a synthetic rubber used as a fabric for wetsuits and various swimming wear. It is renowned for its insulation properties, among other good qualities. Because it is different from other swimwear fabrics, sewing it is somewhat different and challenging.

If you are looking to invest in neoprene swimwear, it is best to work with a manufacturer who is already producing scuba diving suits. This way, you will be sure to get quality products with good finishes. Also, it is considered among the best fabrics for kids. 


  • Buoyancy – neoprene is naturally buoyant; its structure has air bubbles (microscopic) that make it more buoyant and lighter.
  • Flexible and Durable – neoprene is a very flexible material that is not affected by changes in temperature or climatic conditions. Its strength permits swimmers to use the suit for long periods without any damage. 
  • Safe – it is the best fabric to use for baby swimwear. Neoprene has no latex in it; hence, it eliminates any skin reaction one might get from other materials. It is the best fabric for people with sensitive skin. 
  • Insulation – being a good insulator, it regulates your body temperature, ensuring you don’t get cold. It is one of the reasons scuba divers prefer it to other fabrics. 
  • Quick drying – it dries up fast.


  • Not Breathable – neoprene structure gives it buoyancy and insulation properties. However, it limits its aeration. It can get quite uncomfortable, especially in hot weather. 
  • Wet Body – neoprene wet suits allow water to sip in between the suit and the body. The water helps in insulation. However, the water contributes to it being uncomfortable for divers.

Also, the water on the body can get overheated in extremely hot weather, leading to hyperthermia. 

  • Not Convenient – getting the suit on and off poses a challenge. 



Velvet for swimming? Yes. It sounds absurd, but there is a new trend for velvet in swimwear. Unlike regular velvet, which is made from natural fabrics such as cotton and silk, velvet for swimwear is made from synthetic fabrics such as spandex and nylon.

If you are a velvet lover, then you are not left out in the swimwear sector.


  • Soft – velvet is a very smooth fabric. The softness helps swimmers present resistance in the water when used for swimwear.
  • Durability – velvet is extremely durable even when exposed to over-usage, friction, and other conditions. The fibers in their structure can withstand a lot of stress. 
  • Versatile – this is a gem for brands. You can customize the fabric from size, colors, and prints. It is a good option for creating awareness for your brand. 
  • Luxury – it is usually considered a high-end fabric. Many known designers have been using it in their collections. 


  • Quality Concerns – although velvet is a luxurious fabric, you must be cautious when purchasing velvet swimwear. Some velvet has a low quality where the fibers pill or become loose. 
  • Maintenance – velvet easily gets stains. Cleaning and maintaining velvet is challenging but a bit easier if it’s made from natural fabrics. So it poses a challenge to velvet made from fabrics such as polyester.



Polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) is a plastic fiber in the polyester family. It has a natural stretch, almost similar to spandex. Its stretch recovers nicely, so you don’t have to worry about overstretching.

PTB has a higher tensile strength than other polyesters and is also smoother. It has other important properties, such as chlorine and saltwater resistance, etc.


  • Elastic – it has a good stretch, making it a good fabric for swimwear.
  • Chlorine resistant – like other polyesters, PBT is also resistant to chlorine; hence, it is also durable. Additionally, it is resistant to color fading and salt water. 
  • Water repellent – its structure allows it to repel water and dry fast.
  • Soft – it has a smoother feel than polyester. 


  • Cost – it is pretty expensive compared to other swimwear fabrics. Most upcoming brands cannot afford to use PBT for their products. 

Nylon vs. Polyester Swimsuit

Nylon vs. Polyester Swimsuit

In a nutshell, although there are lots of fabrics used for making swimwear, it is clear that the two most preferred fabrics are nylon and polyester. The two have somewhat similar properties with minor differences. They are as follows:

Feature Nylon Polyester 
Durability very strong, resistant to oil, chemical damage, and abrasion.extremely strong, and resistant to stretching, abrasion, and chemicals.
StretchIt stretches Does not stretch 
Chlorine ResistantHas some resistanceIt is resistant to chlorine 
UV Rays ResistantLittle resistanceBetter resistant to UV rays
Customization Limited to solid colorsPermits digital printing
Appearance MatteShiny
Drying TimeQuick drying (normal)Quick drying (faster)

What to Consider When Choosing Swimwear Fabric

What to Consider When Choosing Swimwear Fabric

Before deciding which type of swimwear fabric to sell to your customers, there are some things to consider. These factors will help you know what to sell to your customers or how best to explain the material to them when they inquire about it.

You should be well conversant with what each fabric offers and the best fabric for certain situations. Below are some top factors that will influence your choice of swimwear fabric.


It is vital to know what components are in a product. For instance, most swimwear will either contain a blend of polyester and spandex or nylon and spandex. You should know the properties of each type of fabric so that you know what to expect from the product.

Spandex provides most of the stretchy properties, while the others offer strength and resistance to external conditions. It is also wise to find a supplier that will offer everything in-house. This way, you will know exactly what each piece contains.

The supplier can also provide samples so that you can feel the material firsthand before committing to it. Your customers will appreciate the attention to detail and the vast information you will provide them.


How fast does the fabric fade when exposed to water? The last thing anyone wants is their swimsuit to be transparent in water. It will be an uncomfortable experience that may lead to you losing customers.

Always check the colorfastness of the fabric you are investing in. For instance, nylon is a fabric that is hard to print on. It does not retain the dye after printing; hence, if you plan on selling nylon swimwear, ensure it is solid colors.

You can also go for polyester swimsuits since they retain their color even when exposed to chlorine or hot weather. 


The weight of the bathing suit will also determine if it will sell or not. No one wants to swim in a heavy swimsuit that will hinder their fun. Heavy fabrics are mostly those that absorb water and don’t dry easily.

Most natural fabrics fall into this category, making them unsuitable for swimwear. Nylon, spandex, polyester, and PBT are generally lightweight bikini fabric materials. They are resistant to water or repel it, and they dry quickly.

The average weight range of a suitable swimsuit fabric should be 180-200 g/m2. For competitions, it can be up to 220 g/m2. Anything heavier than that is not suitable for swimming. You should always provide such information to clients before they decide. 


A stretchy swimsuit is a perfect choice. If it’s hugging, you won’t have to worry about it falling off while swimming. Make sure the fabric has some space to accommodate body movements but still fits perfectly.

The best flexibility has a minimum of at least 60 or 70%. Anything less than that is not a suitable fabric. Spandex has the best elasticity on the market. Manufacturers mostly blend other fabrics with spandex to ensure their products reach the desired stretchiness needed in the market.

If you are going for polyester swimsuits, ensure they are a blend of spandex as well. Polyester does not have the flexibility needed, so a blend will help. 

Elasticity also contributes to the following:

  • A flattering figure
  • Durability 
  • Appearance
  • Comfort 


Durable fabric is resilient to harsh conditions such as UV rays, exposure to chlorine, climatic conditions, and other chemicals. All of these conditions determine how long your apparel will last. So, always choose a fabric that has some resistance to these conditions.

Polyester and nylon have very good qualities that enable them to resist most, if not all, of these conditions. 


Cost is a crucial factor for any retailer. Your budget will determine which type of fabric you choose. If you are working with a smaller budget, then polyester will be good for you. Nylon is more costly compared to polyester, but both fabrics are good for making swimwear.

The fabric you decide on will also be determined by your brand goals. However, regardless of your choice, you will definitely get value for your money with either nylon blends, polyester blends, or other suitable materials. 


Sustainability is always an important factor to think about. Swimwear fabrics, however, don’t offer a lot of eco-friendly options. While consumers are more conscious of environmental conservation, they will still need swimwear.

So the best route is to work with fabrics that somehow have a lower impact on the ecosystem. Some options in the market are REPREVE and ECONYL. ECONYL is regenerated nylon from either pre- or post-consumer products.

They advertise their products in a series:

  • Rescue – this is the process of finding waste products from the environment. 
  • Regenerate – simply, it is the process of recycling the rescued waste back to its original form. 
  • Remake – it is the processing of the nylon to become fabric. 
  • Reimagine – the fabric is now ready to be made into swimwear. Once they outlive their lives as swimsuits, the process starts again. 

It is a good initiative to ensure that the environment is being cared for. 

FAQs about Fabric for Swimwear

Are Nylon and Polyester Good for Swimwear?

Yes. Nylon is durable and strong, which is a perfect fit for making swimwear. It also has other properties such as softness, appeal, quick drying, and resistance to chemicals and harsh weather.

On the other hand, polyester also offers similar properties as nylon, with some slight differences. Both fabrics are widely used for making swimwear across the globe. 

Where Can I Find Quality but Affordable Swimwear?

From a retailer’s point of view, finding a supplier that will meet both your quality and budget needs is quite challenging. There has to be some compromise on your side as well.

However, the best way to find a supplier suited for you is to work with a sourcing agency. They will do the heavy lifting for you while you focus on marketing your brand. 

What’s the Best Fabric for Swimwear?

There is no absolute answer. The best fabric will depend on your needs. Each fabric will be suitable for certain conditions and needs. The best way to know which suits you better is to understand each material and its properties.

However, nylon is still considered the best in the market, with polyester gaining momentum to catch up to it. 


Selling swimwear has proven to be a profitable business. Swimwear appeals to people of all ages and genders, so you’ll never be short of customers. Choosing the right fabric for your collection does not have to be difficult.

Collaboration is required to find the best supplier for the best products. We are a sourcing firm committed to providing our clients with the best products and services available on the market.

Get a free quote from us to feel confident about the products you’re selling. In just one simple step, you can elevate your brand.

About the Author

stanley nieh ceo


Over 10 years of experience in foreign trade
Helped 2k+ clients improve their eCommerce businesses

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