The use of yoga pants has exploded outside the boundaries of their original intent. We wear them for yoga, hiking, biking, walking, talking, sitting, gardening, working, grocery shopping, and much more. The comfort, flexibility and popularity of these versatile pieces has encouraged the fashion industry to provide choices of length, style, and design creating a dizzying array of options. In turn, fabric composition has become lost in our decision-making process. For those who are looking to bring their active-wear decisions to expert levels, you’ll need to understand the materials used to create active-ware fabrics that result in different levels of support/compression, sweat wicking power, and durability.
Synthetic Polymers — Polyamide and Polyester
Both, polyamide (alternatively called Nylon, a brand name) and polyester are synthetic polymers that were invented in the 20th century as replacement for natural polymers like silk. Designed to have the same strength, soft feel, and durability as silk, these materials were quickly adopted by the fashion and sportswear industries.
Quick Drying — For active-wear use in yoga pants, polyamide/Nylon and polyester are hydrophobic, which means they provide sweat-wicking properties that move water away from the skin to evaporate using body heat. While polyester does a little better than polyamide in this category, both are quick drying and a better choice than cotton.
Soft Against Skin — When deciding between polyamide and polyester, polyamide fabrics tend to have a better feel, because they have softer and more flexible fibers, though they produce more static.
Durability and Strength — Polyamide and polyester are extremely strong materials which make them perfect for active-wear, a.k.a. yoga pants. Both are tear-proof and abrasion-resistant, although some pilling is typical after extensive use. In addition, these synthetic polymers wash and dry easily, retain their shape and color without shrinking or stretching, and are wrinkle resistant. It’s important to note that polyester can be dry-cleaned while polyamide cannot, and it’s best to avoid dry-cleaning for both materials.
Outdoor vs Indoor — While the two synthetic polymers are very close in their characteristics, the two serve you better in different environments. Generally, polyester is preferred over polyamide for harsher outdoor climates, and polyamide is preferred for indoor or mild climates. However, fabric thickness can change this recommendation. If a polyester legging is thinner than a polyamide/Nylon legging, it may be preferred for colder weather.
The Dominant Legging
Taking what you’ve learned so far about polyamide/Nylon and polyester, the Dominant Legging is a top performer. Made from 92% nylon supplex and 8% lycra, this legging provides a smooth finish with a thicker weight fabric. This piece would be great for colder weather activities for that reason. The high waistband and skinny fit provides the health benefits of compression leggings, and stays in place as you go about your workout. How does the fabric of the Dominant Legging provide compression and a “stay-put” fit? This is achieved through the elasticity of the garment.
Elastics — Elastane, Lycra, and Spandex
First, let’s start with a little secret. Elastane, Lycra, and spandex are all the same thing. Yep, you heard it right. Lycra is DuPont’s brand name for their specific version of elastane, and spandex is the term used in North America for what the rest of the world calls elastane. Entering the market in 1962, it immediately became popular for a wide variety of clothing. In 2001, the functionality of compression by elastics became even more popular due to the increased use of compression clothing by professional athletes. Famously, NBA star Allen Iverson scored 51 points for his team on the very first night he wore a compression sleeve on his right arm. The health benefits of compression clothing soon became popular and migrated into shirts, socks, and leggings. Compression leggings are now a common piece of normal attire and have been adopted by the yoga pant community.
The Rajak H Capri is a great example of a legging with compression functionality. With 90% polyester and 10% elastane, it provides medium strength compression with a smooth finish, medium thickness, and bright colors. This high polyester content indicates that is is great for a wide variety of activities like summer backpacking, trips the gym, and coffee with friends.
When considering the elastic ratio of clothing, keep the following in mind. Active-wear such as swimwear can contain as much as 60% elastane fibers, but most yoga pants and leggings will contain 15–8%. In the lower range of elastic content, 10–8%, the piece will provide compression benefits like the Rajak H Capri. The higher the elastane ratio of a particular pair, the more stretch it has. If a pair you’ve got your eye on runs small but has a 15% elastane ratio, you might be able to squeeze into them. However, wearing a size too small is the main culprit for premature fabric failure. Stretching the material beyond its elasticity will cause the fibers to break down and loose their ability to resume it’s original shape.
If more stretch and less compression is desired the Baddah AA Legging is a great middle of the road solution that incorporates all the features of polyester and elastane. With 88% polyester and 12% elastane, this lightweight, stretchy, and soft material is great for year-round use. Popular with runners and yoga enthusiast alike, the bright colors achieved through the use of polyester in the Baddah AA Legging adds a pop of color and personality to your workout and casual wardrobe.
There you have it, the best advice on fabric you can get for choosing your next pair of yoga pants and leggings. Armed with this information, you can shop at an expert level — customizing your personal wardrobe selection with your specific needs in mind.
Looking for some great yoga and active-wear? Check out Aspen and Pine’s curated selection of stylish flexible basics that will keep your wardrobe fresh and functional.