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Sewciety Fabric Blog

What is Stretch Denim: A Brief Introduction

A close-up of blue stretch denim fabric

Table of Contents

Stretch denim fabric: what is it?

Spandex, elastane, and other synthetic fibres are mixed into denim to create stretch denim material. Due to the addition of this synthetic fibre, the fabric has a stretch that allows it to stretch, mould to your body, and provide you with comfort as you move in a pair of stretch denim jeans. Denim that is stretchy is typically made up of 98% cotton and 2% elastane or spandex.

With cotton, you can expect durability and strength, and with elastane, you can expect elasticity. It is important to note that stretch denim is available in different levels of stretch, from low stretch to super stretch. 

How is Stretch Denim used?

A variety of clothes are made with stretch denim, such as stretch denim jeans, jackets, skirts, shorts, and dresses. A variety of accessories, such as handbags and hats, are also made from this material.

In recent years, stretch denim fabrics have gained popularity as consumers seek more flexible and comfortable clothing.

Woman doing a backwards bridge movement with one leg in the air, wearing all denim in front of a grey background

Stretch fabric can be used to create a wide range of easy-to-move-items of clothing

Does Stretch Denim feel like regular denim?

There are two primary types of denim: stretch denim and non-stretch denim. The stretch denim fabric is usually made with spandex or elastane, which provides a bit of flexibility. It makes them more comfortable to wear and allows them to move more freely. 

On the other hand, non-stretch types of denim are not made with stretchy materials. Their stiffness makes them less comfortable to wear, but they often maintain their shape better over time in a pair of regular jeans.

Stretch Denim: Advantages, Disadvantages, & Characteristics

It is common for stretch jeans to be made of a combination of cotton, polyester, and spandex. In contrast, non-stretch suits have a rigid feel and limited movement, while stretch suits are very comfortable.

Below are some of the common advantages and disadvantages of stretch denim when being used to create jeans or other items of clothing:

 

X

Softness and comfort

Can loosen after multiple washes

Conform to the shape of the wearer's body

May be too tight for some uses

Can be worn in a variety of settings

Loses some of the original grained texture

 

Stretch denim comes in various types

We have compiled a list of some of the most popular stretch denim variations below:

  • 100% cotton denim fabric
     

A traditional choice in denim production is 100% cotton denim. It is important to note that this fabric will always stretch out after a couple of times of wearing. A cotton thread will naturally stretch when worn and will never return to its original length. When they are washed and dried, they will shrink back, but once they have been worn they will stretch out again.

  • 98/2 stretch denim fabric
     

Cotton is the predominant fabric used in the design of this style of denim. Nevertheless, it contains a small amount of elastane or lycra to provide a slight stretch. The fabric of these garments will stretch out over time, so opt for a smaller size for a snug fit. Elastane in this denim fabric is sensitive to heat, so do not wash it at high temperatures.

  • 4-way stretch denim fabric
     

This type of denim is constructed from a fabric that is able to stretch in four directions. Fabrication of this type helps to maintain the shape of the clothing so that it is both comfortable and flattering to wear. As part of most modern designs, elastane or lycra is included in the polyester blend, which also contributes to the subtle stretch and overall shape.

How long does Stretch Denim take to break down & is it eco-friendly?

Unlike other types of denim, stretch denim cannot be biodegraded because durable stretch fibres can only be produced by vulcanizing, a process which alters the molecular structure of the fibres.

Researchers have found that UK landfills receive 350,000 tons of clothing each year, and jeans, due to their elastane and petrochemical content, will take centuries to decompose.

A growing demand for sustainability in the items that consumers purchase has led mills to develop sustainable denim alternatives, resulting in the use of biodegradable denim by brands since 2019. However, these developments come at a higher production cost, which is then passed on to consumers.

A Brief History of Stretch Denim

Levi Strauss created the first modern pair of jeans almost a century ago. Denim pioneer Adriano Goldschmied also popularised a new denim fit in the '80s - the skinny fit made with stretch denim!

 

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