Fashion Myth: Polyester and Other Synthetic Fibers Are Cheap and Tacky

I recently read an article on a popular women's lifestyle site that mentioned natural fibers looked better on plus-size women, or any woman, than synthetic fibers. At one time this opinion was a valid one. When synthetic fibers were first used for fabric, the fabrics were stiff and they actually did look very tacky. Clothing looked cheap and uncomfortable. However, that ended not long after Disco died.

Synthetic Fiber is Everywhere!

Many of the garments sold in stores today are made from fabrics constructed from synthetic fibers. Some are 100 percent synthetic or they may be a natural fiber/synthetic fiber blend. You don't believe me? Your pantyhose are Nylon which is a synthetic fiber. Those stretch jeans you are wearing wearing have Spandex or Elastane in them which are synthetic fibers. Your parka, raincoat, trench and any other water-resistant outerwear you own probably is made from some synthetic fiber.

Even Designer Labels Use Synthetic Fibers

This Tracy Reese Silk Dress is made from 100 percent silk -- for the outpart of the garment. This dress is also lined and that lining is 74 percent polyester and 26 percent cotton. This "natural fiber" dress costs $408.00.

These 7 For All Mankind Skinny Jeans are primarily made from a natural fiber. However, skinny jeans require a bit of stretch to them. Denim is a woven fabric, not a knit so there is no stretch. When a woven fabric needs to have stretch added to it, a synthetic fiber known as Spandex is typically woven in to give the needed stretch. What is the fiber composition of these skinny jeans? 92% Cotton/5% Polyester/3% Spandex

This Nine West Tweed Jacket and Black Pant Set is a smart option for work. The pants have a nice drape to them and the jacket is fitted with some cinching at the waist and a slight curve at the hip. The sleeves hang well also. You are probably thinking that a smart suit like this is probably made from wool, silk or cotton. Perhaps it is made from a blend of these fibers. Wrong! This suit is 100 percent polyester.

Last one. I promise. This cute Calvin Klein Jeans Top with cinched bottom screams 100 percent cottony goodness doesn't it? Well you are about 52 to 60 percent correct! The main body of the top is 52 percent cotton and 48 percent Viscose with the cinched, knit bottom comprised of 60 percent cotton and 40 percent Viscose.

Little Tidbits About Viscose

You are probably wondering what Viscose is. Viscose is the contemporary term used for viscose rayon. Rayon kind of has the same bad rep polyester has in where some people believe it creates cheap, tacky fabrics. Viscose is not truly synthetic but it is not entirely natural in the sense that cotton, wool, silk, linen and hemp are. Viscose is made from cellulose that has been doused with caustic chemicals to break it down and then some other chemicals are used to make it stable and thick enough to be made into yarn that can be woven into fabric. -- Whew that was a mouthful! -- For a more detailed explanation about the process of turning cellulose to Viscose read Making Rayon.

Don't Knock Synthetics Because You're Probably Wearing Them Right Now

As you can see from the garment examples I've shown you, synthetic and man-made fibers do make quality clothing. Now there are instances where some natural fibers are far more superior than synthetic fibers -- especially when it comes to wicking wetness away from the body. Don't knock synthetics until you check the care labels on every item of clothing you love to wear. Chances are Polyester, Spandex, Nylon, Acetate or Viscose are somewhere in the fiber content.

For those who are concerned about the environmental impact of using synthetic fibers versus natural fiber check out my article Sustainability in Fashion Requires a Good Mix of Natural, Recycled and Synthetic Fabrics. It is not a black and white issue for the natural versus synthetic argument.

Now lovelies, do you still believe polyester and other synthetics only create tacky fabric that makes tacky clothing?

Main Image: Courtesy of Victoria Secret

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