Sly Spandex

Peggy - Scipio, Indiana
Entered on March 18, 2009
Age Group: 50 - 65
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

Sly Spandex

I stack my slacks in my closet. By colors: black, navy, khaki, green and some others. There are old ones and a few new ones, but the whole lot is much smaller now. Smaller because some were hauled off a while back not as a humanitarian effort really, mostly just to help my own health.

I depend on my clothes to protect and flatter me but also to warn me. Zippers and buttons especially. When they don’t meet, I do something, sometimes. Suck in for starters, cut back and workout if I’m really worried. Anything to get them back together again. But these days, clothing is not so telling. It is just too comfortable. And that’s why my closet is thinner.

Do you know what your clothing contains? There’s an invisible ingredient lurking in most clothing stores that’s hindering our nation’s health. It’s not a major player: not cotton, polyester, or rayon. Nor is its percentage taking over. But 2% means a lot when the 2% allows stretch to 3%, 5% or maybe more. I’m speaking of Spandex. Lovely Spandex. Most times it’s only 2% leaving 98% of something else. But don’t be deceived by the numbers. Nor the flex in the seat of your pants.

I used to be indifferent to fabric content. Spandex, after all, brings a great deal of comfort to clothing. It gives; gives where needed, when needed–after a big meal or 24/7. The danger lies in what’s it’s taking away.

Back when spandex started appearing in fabrics, we still had choices–and body awareness. (1) Take the pure route or (2) add a bit of comfort with a blend. The second seemed like a good idea for even the slimmest. Who doesn’t like to breath when they sit down?

But eventually, for me, a day of reckoning arrived. I’d vowed for years to never buy bigger than my high school size. It worked through child 1, 2, and 3. About the time of child 4, spandex was born and (vow still in place) all seemed well. Four children and three decades later, I was still size 12 with only an occasional dressing room downer. But I started noticing something. Shopping for all cotton, more often than not, the items never made it to the checkout. What was happening? Size 12 is size 12 is size 12, right?

When a garment has spandex, your normal size is not your normal size. Spandex on your thighs and around your waist does not tell truths about body weight, up or down.

Why not just depend on scales? We know about those. Five pounds higher one day, two pounds less the next. Clothing is a much more reliable indicator–but only without sly spandex.

The clothing industry probably won’t be quick to extract spandex from the fabric mix. Good or bad, if it sells it’s likely to stay. A good fit in your expected size? That’s hard to leave hanging. But it seems to me that spandex relinquishes some responsibility for weight gains because it hides them as they happen.

Comfort? I’d rather split my seams than stretch them.