As elasticated waistlines swell in popularity, is Spandex to blame for the growing obesity epidemic?By Daisy Dumas
Waistlines are expanding - not just those of our bodies, but those of American clothes, too.
Perhaps concomitantly, Spandex has sky-rocketed in popularity over the past decade, more than doubling in proliferation globally since 2000.
According to NPR, the democratic wonder material, invented in the Fifties and popularised in the Seventies, may be contributing to ballooning figures.
Figure hugging: Christie Brinkley may pull it off, but Spandex can look unattractive on the less sleek. Its comfort factor may be adding to the obesity epidemic
Speaking to the radio station, designer George Simonton describes the sharp change in design habits.
'Years ago, when we made a suit or a coat, it was built like a battleship. It was like bulletproof,' says the Simonton Says owner, speaking about starting in the industry in the Sixties.
'Today, it's beautiful clothes but high comfort level... Everything has stretch - pants, skirts, dresses, blouses, knit tops.'
So much so, says NPR, that the American devotion to the stretchy wonder fibre last year saw its inclusion in an extraordinary 80 per cent of the 20.5 billion garments bought last year.
Its explosion, say experts, is partly in response to its rapidly declining cost, which allows designers to take advantage of its comfort level.
A whole lotta Spandex: Spotted on the set of an Andy Milonakis movie in LA - the fabric is as comfy as it is unforgiving
The radio station spoke with women who both applauded its figure-fitting curve-making and criticised it being 'made to accommodate people who are overweight.'
Martha Paschal, 50, is a newcomer to the fabric. She described how she is now able to wear pencil skirts despite her muffin top.
But she is quick to point out that she feels Spandex's effects are perhaps too successful.
'It's dishonest. It lets you get away with wearing things that you probably shouldn't just because it expands to fit. I think it is deceptive.'
Her thoughts are echoed by some industry insiders.
Ed Gribbin from Alvanon, a clothing size and fit consultancy, says 'the product will morph to the body as opposed to limit the body. But are you in fact encouraging people to be bigger?'
He suggests the problem may be far wider reaching: 'A lot of people ask the same question of the industry.'
While he doesn't believe that's the case, he remains open as to its link with obesity, according to the programme.
Speaking about the 'unattractive' ensembles he witnesses at work, Mr Gribbin wonders whether Spandex and its forgiving elasticity is a 'sign of decline of Western civilization? Perhaps.'