[Spandex] quickly became known as a “wonder” fiber — it can stretch more than 100 percent and snap right back to shape. It is estimated that of the 20.5 billion pieces of clothing Americans bought last year, 80 percent of those garments had spandex in them.
And as the waistlines of Americans have expanded, their clothes have been stretching with them — largely thanks to the synthetic fabric.
NPR is doing a series of articles about obesity in America. They’re tackling all the standard culprits: fast food, busy lives, a lack of working out, etc. But they’ve also singled out Spandex as a silent accomplice in America’s obesity problem. Why?
At some point during the past 20 years, Americans decided that comfort was the most important factor when choosing clothing. My evidence? Uggs, Crocs, Juicy Couture velour, flip-flops, sweatpants in public and athletic attire worn as clothing, instead of as athletic attire.
Accuse someone who is wearing one of these items of dressing badly, and the first phrase that they’ll utter in their defense is “But it’s so comfortable.” Ah, comfort, the narcotic that lulls you into believing that nothing else matters.
Who cares if your attire is unfashionable, unprofessional or just plain inappropriate? As long as your comfortable, all other sins should be forgiven. Including some sins that should never be mentioned aloud:
A good example [of a popular product that exists because of Spandex is] PajamaJeans, marketed by Hampton Direct in Vermont. These soft, stretchy pants came out last year and have sold more than 600,000 pairs online and at shops like Sears and Wal-Mart. As far as sizing goes, no one is left out. They fit everyone from petite to plus size.
600,000 women are wearing PajamaJeans? Sharpen my pitchfork and light my torch, because I’m on my way to Vermont. Who’s with me?
Americans like to be comfortable. We like to feel good. But we also like to feel good about ourselves, and nothing makes us feel badly about ourselves like a little weight gain. So if our clothes stretch and expand to accommodate a few pounds here and there, we get to be comfortable while maintaining the illusion that those likely-too small jeans actually fit.
How many times have you heard someone say, “I don’t care what I weigh as long as my clothes fit.”? But thanks to all this stretch, clothing is no longer an accurate barometer of whether you’re gaining, losing or maintaining your weight.
Back in the mid-90s, before they started putting Spandex in everything, jeans were the greatest weight measuring device on Earth. You could gain no more than 2lbs before your jeans would no longer button or became too tight in the thighs when you sat down–that rigid denim was like a NASA-calibrated, fat measuring scale. So either you bought new jeans or you watched what you ate.
Thanks to stretch fabric, I can now gain or lose as much as 8lbs before I start to notice a significant difference in the way my jeans fit. That’s a six-percent change! And thanks to vanity sizing, even though I’ve gained a dozen pounds since college, I still wear the same jeans size. (That’s not even possible!) Spandex and vanity sizing, an unholy marriage pulling the Lycra-added wool over our eyes.
So what is the point of this discussion?
We’ve talked before about weight and clothing size on this blog. And while I don’t think women should be weight obsessed, for reasons of health and fashion you should know when your weight is fluctuating. So if you’re going to use your clothes as a gauge, you cannot buy clothes that are so loaded up with Spandex, Lycra and stretch that they forgive all of your sins. (Except for PajamaJeans, no one can be forgiven for wearing PajamaJeans.)