Materials like polyester and nylon are common in contemporary fashion, often appearing in foundation garments, closet staples and athletic attire.
Although both fabrics are strong and flexible, their features and uses differ. Learn about the differences and similarities between nylon vs. polyester clothing to select the right garments for your wardrobe.
Comparison of Nylon vs. Polyester Clothing
Nylon clothing first appeared in the 1930s, when the smooth-textured fabric became a popular substitute for silk. Its sleek, lustrous texture makes it particularly suitable for stockings and lingerie. To this day, nylon remains a perennial favorite for hosiery. Blouses, dresses, lingerie and undergarments have long used nylon. It also features in swimsuits and activewear.
Manufacturers developed polyester in the 1940s. The use of these manmade fabrics became widespread in the 1970s due to their vivid colors and wrinkle-free texture. Polyester is easier to dye than nylon, so you can find it in a wide range of bold or subtle hues that don't fade. These days, softer, more versatile polyester fabrics and blends appear in everyday staples like t-shirts, leggings and loungewear. Coats, fleece jackets and shoes often employ polyester as well.
Performance Features of Nylon and Polyester
Both nylon and polyester have performance features that make them useful materials for outdoor gear and athletic attire. The contrasting strengths of these two fabrics mean that clothing manufacturers often use them together. Other synthetic fabrics like spandex can also enhance stretchability, which is especially valuable for activewear and lounge clothing.
Nylon's elasticity and moisture-absorbing properties lend functionality. Sports apparel often features nylon mesh to help keep players cool during strenuous activities. On the other hand, polyester is a practical choice because it blocks harmful UV light and repels water. Wearing gear made from polyester can protect you from the elements if you are playing golf or tennis outdoors.
Care for Nylon vs. Polyester Clothes
Caring for nylon vs. polyester clothing tends to be simple either way. You can machine-wash nylon fabric and tumble it on low heat to dry. Nylon does not retain scents or stain easily, making it a great material for office attire and athletic gear. However, it is more prone to pilling, which can affect the appearance of nylon clothes over time. Washing nylon garments inside-out or placing your clothes in a mesh laundry bag may help reduce pilling. A fabric shaver can gently remove pills when they arise.
Caring for polyester is even more straightforward. You can use a standard washer and dryer to clean polyester garments. The water-resistant properties mean these fabrics have excellent color-fastness and should remain vibrant through many washes. Polyester clothes dry fast and don't become misshapen or wrinkly after drying. Because they can absorb oils, some polyester fabrics may develop odors over time.
Trends in Synthetic Fabrics for Fashion
Current fashion trends use synthetic fabrics, including nylon and polyester, in new and refreshing ways. Athleisure styles and the luxury sportswear aesthetic rely on attractive, functional materials that suit both daily wear and practical use. These clothes look as stylish on the tennis court or at the gym as they do on the street.
Synthetic fabrics can adapt to the whims and micro-trends of today's fashion world. Nylon can mimic the properties of luxurious materials like tulle or satin. Furthermore, manufacturers can dye polyester in countless hues, including saturated bright shades and jewel tones. You can rock an elegant all-white or all-black ensemble or experiment with vibrant color combinations.
Durability of Nylon vs. Polyester
Nylon is incredibly durable and resistant to most forms of physical wear and tear. Overall, it's a stronger material than polyester, as well as being resilient to chemicals and oils. The flexibility of nylon means it stretches and moves with you without losing its original shape.
Polyester has superior heat resistance and does not degrade at high temperatures. UV light and water also do not damage the polyester fabric. Clothing made from polyester tends to maintain its appearance well, even when exposed to the elements.
Cost of Nylon vs. Polyester Clothing
Manufacturing nylon is more expensive than making polyester, so nylon clothing tends to cost more. Creating polyester requires less energy, and using recycled materials like plastic bottles can further reduce prices. The use of polyester can make garments more affordable without sacrificing style or functionality.
Comfort and Synthetic Fabrics
Many people enjoy the luxurious, silky texture of nylon. Clothes made from nylon are often lightweight and soft. They drape well and offer a glamorous sheen. Although it lacks breathability, the moisture-managing properties of nylon fabric can help you stay cool and dry.
Polyester fabrics from decades past were often stiff and rough. However, modern polyester can be smooth and comfortable, similar to the texture of natural fabrics like cotton. Polyester is not as flexible as nylon. Because of its poor breathability, polyester activewear often has features like mesh inserts to improve airflow.
Environmental Impacts of Nylon and Polyester
Synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester are petroleum products. Sustainably using these materials can be a challenge. Both fabrics lack biodegradability, and the manufacturing process can be wasteful. Buying high-quality items and wearing them for many years can reduce your impact as a consumer.
In addition, recycling can make the use of polyester more eco-friendly. It's possible to recycle fabric scraps as well as create new polyester from recycled plastics. These innovations help reduce the environmental impact of synthetic clothing.
Choosing Between Nylon vs. Polyester Clothing
Nylon is an excellent choice if you need a lightweight, flexible material with a silk-like finish. For items that must be water-proof or UV-resistant, seek out polyester. Blended fabrics incorporating polyester or nylon can make practical yet stylish garments you can enjoy while lounging, socializing with friends or playing sports.
At inPhorm, we use quality materials, including recycled polyester and nylon, to create pieces that balance comfort and functionality with a commitment to sustainability. Check out our collection of eco-chic activewear and learn about the benefits of nylon vs. polyester clothing.