The Ultimate Guide to Activewear Fabrics

The Ultimate Guide to Activewear Fabrics

Activewear fabrics play a crucial role in providing comfort, performance, and style during workouts. In this ultimate guide, we will explore different types of activewear fabrics, their benefits, and how to choose the right fabric for different activities. We will also discuss caring for activewear fabrics to ensure their longevity. Here are the key takeaways from this guide:

Key Takeaways

  • Choosing the right activewear fabric is essential for optimal performance and comfort during workouts.
  • Moisture-wicking fabrics offer the benefit of keeping you dry and comfortable by drawing sweat away from the skin.
  • Compression fabrics provide support and improve blood circulation, aiding in faster muscle recovery.
  • Polyester is a versatile fabric commonly used in activewear due to its durability and moisture-wicking properties.
  • Cotton-blend fabrics offer a comfortable and breathable option for low-intensity workouts.

Understanding Activewear Fabrics

Choosing the Right Fabric for Your Workout

When it comes to choosing the right fabric for your workout, there are a few key factors to consider. First and foremost, you want a fabric that is moisture-wicking. This means it will pull sweat away from your body and help keep you dry and comfortable during your workout. Look for fabrics like polyester or nylon, which are known for their moisture-wicking properties.

Another important factor to consider is breathability. You want a fabric that allows air to flow through and helps regulate your body temperature. Fabrics like bamboo or mesh are great options for breathability.

Additionally, durability is key. You want a fabric that can withstand the rigors of your workout routine and hold up well over time. Fabrics like Cordura or nylon are known for their durability.

Lastly, consider the stretch of the fabric. You want a fabric that allows for a full range of motion and flexibility. Fabrics like spandex or elastane are known for their stretchiness.

In summary, when choosing the right fabric for your workout, look for moisture-wicking, breathable, durable, and stretchy fabrics to ensure optimal comfort and performance.

The Benefits of Moisture-Wicking Fabrics

Moisture-wicking fabrics are a game-changer when it comes to gym tops. These fabrics are designed to quickly absorb and disperse sweat, keeping you dry and comfortable during your workout. Brands like Nike have trademarked their own technologies, such as Dri-Fit, which uses high-performance microfiber construction to support the body's natural cooling system. Lululemon's Metal Vent tech features smart sweat- and odor-resistant features knitted into the fabric. These moisture-wicking fabrics not only keep you dry but also help regulate your body temperature, allowing you to perform at your best.

Exploring the World of Compression Fabrics

Compression fabrics are designed to provide a snug and supportive fit, helping to improve blood circulation and reduce muscle fatigue during workouts. These fabrics are made from a blend of high-quality materials that offer excellent stretch and recovery properties. They are perfect for high-intensity activities such as running, weightlifting, and CrossFit. Compression fabrics also have moisture-wicking capabilities, keeping you dry and comfortable even in a fast-paced world. If you prefer a slightly compressive fit, choose items made from our Italian lycra.

Popular Activewear Fabrics

The Versatility of Polyester

Polyester is a common plastic derived from petroleum with a wide application that includes and extends beyond the fashion industry. It’s the most used fibre in the world, with polyethylene terephthalate (PET) being the most commonly used variety of polyester in clothing. The majority of polyesters are not biodegradable, meaning that the polyester fabric shirt you bought last season will not decompose for 20 years at best and 200 years at worst, depending on conditions. What’s more, polyester is partly derived from petroleum—and the oil manufacturing industry is the world’s largest polluter. In the past few years, the sustainable fashion sphere has been introduced to recycled PET. Recycled PET is usually made from recycled plastic bottles. Buying recycled PET means you’re minimising waste and cutting out the fossil fuel industry, but it doesn’t erase the issue of microplastic pollution.

The Comfort of Cotton-Blend Fabrics

Cotton is a soft, light, and breathable fabric that is often associated with quality clothing. It is commonly found in wardrobe staples such as jeans and t-shirts. Cotton is entirely biodegradable when not blended with synthetic fibers, making it an environmentally friendly choice. However, conventional cotton is an extremely thirsty crop and is often associated with the use of insecticides and child labor. The process of turning cotton balls into cloth involves various chemical processes for treating, dyeing, printing, and finishing. Organic cotton addresses many of the problems of conventional cotton as it is grown without the use of pesticides and genetically modified seeds. It is important to choose brands that are transparent about their cultivation and processing practices to ensure a more sustainable choice.

The Performance of Nylon

Nylon, the first entirely synthetic fiber, was created during World War II. It starts as a type of plastic derived from coal and crude oil, which undergoes an intensive chemical process to create strong and stretchy fibers. The manufacture of nylon has significant environmental impacts, making it bad news across the board. However, there is an innovative alternative called ECONYL. ECONYL is made from recycled plastic in a closed-loop system, using waste such as industrial plastic, fabric scraps, and fishing nets from oceans. It goes through a six-step regeneration process that uses less water and creates less waste compared to traditional nylon production methods. Our verdict: Avoid traditional nylon and instead opt for ECONYL.

The Breathability of Bamboo

Bamboo fabric is known for its breathability, making it a popular choice for activewear. The fabric is naturally soft and lightweight, allowing for maximum comfort during workouts. It keeps you cool by wicking away moisture and allowing air to circulate, preventing sweat buildup. Bamboo fabric is also hypoallergenic and has antibacterial properties, keeping you fresh and odor-free. Additionally, bamboo is a sustainable and eco-friendly material, as it requires less water and pesticides to grow compared to conventional cotton. With its breathability and sustainability, bamboo fabric is a great option for those looking for both comfort and environmental consciousness in their activewear.

Specialty Activewear Fabrics

The Durability of Cordura

Cordura fabric is known for its exceptional durability, making it a popular choice among athletes and fashion designers. It provides a layer of protection against abrasions, whether you're running on trails or lifting weights. The fabric's strength and resistance to wear and tear ensure that it can withstand even the most rigorous workouts. Cordura fabric is designed to last, allowing you to enjoy your activewear for a long time.

The Stretch of Spandex

Spandex is a versatile fabric that offers exceptional stretch and flexibility. It is commonly used in activewear due to its ability to conform to the body and provide a comfortable fit. The stretch of spandex allows for a wide range of motion, making it ideal for activities that require flexibility and movement, such as yoga, Pilates, and dance. This fabric also provides excellent support and compression, helping to improve muscle recovery and reduce fatigue. Additionally, spandex is moisture-wicking, which means it helps to keep you dry and comfortable during intense workouts. With its stretchy and supportive properties, spandex is a popular choice for activewear.

The Softness of Modal

Modal is a type of man-made cellulosic fiber derived from wood pulp, usually from beech trees. It is breathable and silky smooth to the touch, making it a popular choice in the manufacture of activewear and underwear. Modal is around 50% more water-absorbent per unit volume than cotton, and it is designed to absorb dye and stay color-fast when washed in warm water. It is also technically biodegradable and can be recycled. One of the best-known producers of Modal is the Austrian company Lenzing AG, which markets its version under the name TENCEL Modal. TENCEL Modal is protected by a global certification system and is more sustainable in its production process. When choosing Modal activewear, it is important to choose brands with transparent production processes to ensure ethical choices.

The Eco-Friendliness of Recycled Fabrics

Recycled fabrics are a sustainable choice for activewear, contributing to the reduction of waste and the conservation of resources. These fabrics are made from materials such as plastic water bottles, waste fabric, and fishing nets, which are collected and regenerated into new yarns. By choosing activewear made from recycled fabrics, you can help minimize the environmental impact of your clothing choices.

One example of a recycled fabric is Eco-Active, which is constructed from recycled plastics including plastic water bottles. This fabric is not only eco-friendly but also buttery soft, super smooth, and luxurious. It offers enough stretch for all types of movement and is quick-drying, breathable, and moisture-wicking, keeping you dry and comfortable during your workouts.

Another option is Green Soul, made from 100% Regenerated fibre. This fabric is supportive, flattering, and technical, making it perfect for high-intensity workouts. It has a beautiful textured finish and is lightweight, compressive, and squat-proof. Choosing Green Soul fabric is a sustainable choice that aligns with your values.

When considering activewear fabrics, prioritize those made from recycled materials to reduce your environmental footprint and support a more sustainable future.

Choosing the Right Activewear Fabric for Different Activities

Running and Jogging

Running and jogging are popular forms of cardiovascular exercise that can help improve endurance, burn calories, and strengthen muscles. When it comes to choosing activewear fabrics for running and jogging, it's important to consider factors such as breathability, moisture-wicking properties, and comfort. Activewear fabrics that are commonly used for running and jogging include polyester, nylon, and bamboo. These fabrics offer lightweight and breathable options that can keep you cool and dry during your workouts. Additionally, fabrics with moisture-wicking properties can help draw sweat away from the body, preventing discomfort and chafing. It's also important to choose fabrics that provide the right amount of stretch and flexibility for ease of movement. Compression fabrics, such as spandex, can provide support and improve blood circulation, which can aid in muscle recovery and reduce muscle fatigue. Overall, choosing the right activewear fabric for running and jogging can enhance your performance and make your workouts more enjoyable.

Yoga and Pilates

When it comes to yoga and Pilates, choosing the right activewear fabric is essential for comfort and performance. Breathability is key to keep you cool and dry during your practice, so look for fabrics that have moisture-wicking properties. Flexibility is also important to allow for a full range of motion, so opt for fabrics that have a good amount of stretch. Additionally, comfort is crucial for long sessions on the mat, so choose fabrics that feel soft against the skin. Here are some popular activewear fabrics that are suitable for yoga and Pilates:

  • Polyester: Known for its versatility, polyester is lightweight, durable, and quick-drying.
  • Nylon: Nylon is a performance fabric that offers excellent stretch and recovery.
  • Bamboo: Bamboo fabric is breathable, hypoallergenic, and has natural antimicrobial properties.
  • Modal: Modal is a soft and smooth fabric that offers great drape and comfort.

When shopping for yoga and Pilates activewear, keep these fabric options in mind to ensure you have the best experience during your practice.

Weightlifting and CrossFit

When it comes to weightlifting and CrossFit, choosing the right activewear fabric is crucial for optimal performance and comfort. One important factor to consider is the fabric's ability to shift moisture away from the body, keeping you dry and cool during intense workouts. Look for fabrics that are moisture-wicking and have quick-drying properties.

In addition to moisture-wicking, it's also important to choose a fabric that provides stretch and allows for a full range of motion. Fabrics like spandex and nylon are known for their excellent stretch and flexibility, making them ideal for weightlifting and CrossFit.

Another important consideration is the fabric's durability. Weightlifting and CrossFit can be tough on clothing, so opt for fabrics like Cordura that are known for their strength and resistance to wear and tear.

Lastly, comfort is key when it comes to activewear for weightlifting and CrossFit. Look for fabrics that are soft and gentle on the skin, such as modal. These fabrics provide a comfortable and luxurious feel, even during intense workouts.

Remember, choosing the right activewear fabric can greatly enhance your performance and overall workout experience. Take the time to find fabrics that meet your specific needs and preferences.

Cycling and Spin Classes

When it comes to cycling and spin classes, comfort is key. You want to stay comfortable throughout your workout to maximize your performance. One important factor to consider is the fabric of your activewear. Look for fabrics that are moisture-wicking and breathable to keep you cool and dry during intense workouts. Additionally, choose fabrics that have a good amount of stretch to allow for freedom of movement. Another important feature to look for is a compressive fit, which can help improve blood circulation and reduce muscle fatigue. Lastly, don't forget to wear sunscreen and protect yourself from the sun's harmful rays.

Caring for Activewear Fabrics

Washing and Drying Tips

When it comes to caring for your activewear fabrics, proper washing and drying techniques are essential. Here are some tips to keep your activewear in top condition:

  • Wash your activewear in cold water to prevent shrinkage and preserve the fabric's elasticity.
  • Use a gentle detergent that is specifically formulated for activewear to remove sweat, odor, and bacteria.
  • Avoid using fabric softeners as they can leave a residue on the fabric and reduce its moisture-wicking properties.
  • Turn your activewear inside out before washing to protect any delicate details or prints.
  • Air dry your activewear whenever possible to prevent damage from high heat.
  • If using a dryer, use a low heat setting or a tumble dry option with no heat.
  • Avoid ironing your activewear as high heat can damage the fabric.

Remember, proper care will help extend the lifespan of your activewear and keep it looking and performing its best.

Storing and Folding Techniques

Properly storing and folding your activewear can help prolong its lifespan and keep it in great condition. Here are some tips:

  • Fabric selection guides: When choosing activewear fabrics, consider factors like moisture-wicking properties, breathability, and durability. Look for fabrics that suit your specific workout needs.
  • Use a drawer or shelf: Store your activewear in a dedicated drawer or on a shelf to keep it organized and easily accessible.
  • Fold neatly: Fold your activewear neatly to prevent wrinkles and creases. This will also save space in your drawer or storage area.
  • Separate by type: Separate your activewear by type (e.g., tops, bottoms, sports bras) to make it easier to find what you need.
  • Avoid hanging: Avoid hanging your activewear, as this can stretch out the fabric and cause it to lose its shape.
  • Keep away from direct sunlight: Store your activewear in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to prevent fading and damage.

Remember, proper storage and folding techniques can help your activewear last longer and maintain its performance qualities.

Avoiding Common Fabric Mistakes

When it comes to choosing activewear fabrics, it's important to consider their sustainability and impact on the environment. Materials like cotton, wood, and oil go through a complex transformation process to become the smooth, soft, and colorful fabrics we wear. This process consumes significant resources, including land, water, and chemicals. It's crucial to be informed about the materials used in your clothes and their environmental impact.

One common misconception is that 'natural' fibers are always more sustainable. However, conventional cotton production, for example, is one of the most environmentally harmful agricultural activities. Brands may claim their clothes are 'all natural,' but that doesn't necessarily mean they prioritize sustainability.

To make more conscious choices, consider materials based on your values. Look for options like organic hemp, linen, and modal, which have lower environmental impacts. Additionally, choose fabrics made from recycled materials, such as polyester derived from post-consumer plastic bottles.

Remember, every material has trade-offs and impacts on the planet. By educating yourself and making informed decisions, you can contribute to a more sustainable and responsible fashion industry.


In conclusion, understanding activewear fabrics is essential for choosing the right fabric for your workout. Moisture-wicking fabrics offer great benefits in terms of keeping you dry and comfortable during intense workouts. Compression fabrics provide support and improve performance. Popular activewear fabrics like polyester, cotton-blend, nylon, and bamboo each have their own unique qualities. Specialty activewear fabrics such as Cordura, spandex, modal, and recycled fabrics offer specific advantages. When choosing activewear fabric for different activities like running, yoga, weightlifting, and cycling, it's important to consider factors like breathability, stretch, durability, and eco-friendliness. Lastly, proper care and maintenance of activewear fabrics through washing, drying, storing, and avoiding common fabric mistakes will help prolong their lifespan. With this ultimate guide, you are now equipped with the knowledge to make informed decisions when it comes to activewear fabrics.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of moisture-wicking fabrics?

Moisture-wicking fabrics help to keep you dry and comfortable during your workout by pulling sweat away from your skin and allowing it to evaporate quickly.

Are bamboo fabrics breathable?

Yes, bamboo fabrics are known for their breathability. They allow air to circulate, keeping you cool and comfortable during your workout.

What is the durability of Cordura fabric?

Cordura fabric is highly durable and resistant to abrasions, tears, and scuffs. It is commonly used in activewear that needs to withstand tough conditions.

What is the stretch of Spandex fabric?

Spandex fabric is known for its exceptional stretch and recovery. It provides freedom of movement and helps the garment maintain its shape.

Is Modal fabric soft?

Yes, Modal fabric is incredibly soft and smooth. It has a luxurious feel against the skin, making it comfortable to wear during workouts.

Are recycled fabrics eco-friendly?

Yes, recycled fabrics are considered eco-friendly as they reduce the need for new raw materials and help divert waste from landfills.

What activewear fabric is best for running and jogging?

For running and jogging, moisture-wicking fabrics like polyester or nylon are recommended to keep you dry and comfortable.

How should I wash and dry activewear fabrics?

It is best to follow the care instructions on the garment's label. In general, activewear fabrics should be washed in cold water and air-dried to maintain their performance properties.

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This article was written by Muhammad Saleem Shahzad, Managing Editor of Fashion and Manufacturing. With more than a decade of experience in the Fashion industry, Muhammad reports on breaking news and provides analysis and commentary on all things related to fashion, clothing and manufacturing.