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Does Polyester Stretch: Answered & Explained

Have you ever been in a situation where you wish your shirt was a few inches bigger so you can close the buttons without feeling like it’s going to burst any minute? A size up is too baggy, and a size down won’t even close, so what can we do? In a situation like this, the best solution would be to choose a shirt made from a stretchy fabric. Now it would be useful to know the qualities of different fabrics and which one has the ability to stretch. So, does polyester stretch?

Polyester does not stretch due to its non-elastic fibers. However, there are some ways to stretch polyester which are pretty common such as: knitting it, combining it with another fabric that possesses stretching characteristics to create a blend, or mixing it with spandex for comfortable stretchy clothing.

What is Polyester?

Polyester is a manmade fabric that is synthesized from petroleum, and yes, it is basically plastic that goes through a complicated chemical process to be made into a fiber. Depending on the type the manufacturers want, polyester fabrics can be woven on their own, making 100% polyester, or mixed with other fabrics and made into a blend. This process is very cost-effective compared to harvesting and manufacturing natural fibers. That is why polyester is used worldwide in the fashion industry as well as making household items and industrial products.

How is it made?

Mainly polyester can be made in two ways, from scratch or by recycling plastic. The latter is eco-friendlier because you reduce the amount of plastic that pollutes the planet, making it a more sustainable way of producing polyester.

What does polyester feel like on the skin?

The feel of polyester usually depends on the type of blend. 100% polyester, for example, is very soft and is often referred to as decorative silk. However, some blends are not as soft and can be irritating to the skin. Also, keep in mind that it does not absorb water, and this can be a problem in a warmer climate. It is best if you try the clothes on before you buy them.

 Is Polyester Stretchy?

Well, by default, 100% polyester does not stretch. However, it depends on the structure of the material. Two ways to make polyester more elastic and flexible are by knitting the yarn into fabric and crimping the fibers. This might sound confusing but imagine this, the polyester rope does not stretch at all, but if a fisherman ties that rope into a fishnet, it becomes stretchy. So, to make things simple, remember that the production of the fabric is what determines the ability to stretch, not the actual fiber origin.

What kind of polyester blends exists?

Most polyester blends are created for a specific reason, and all of them have different qualities. For example, the most common one is the poly-cotton blend which is, as the name suggests, made from polyester and cotton. Manufacturers call this blend the best of both worlds because garments made from this type of fabric are soft and breathable from cotton and extremely durable, thanks to polyester. Remember that this type of material is not very stretchy despite the cotton added in the mix, but it is wrinkle-resistant and soft to the touch.

If you want to make polyester very stretchy, then spandex is the way to go. Simply finding a 10% spandex mixed with polyester will make the fabric almost double its size when stretched out. This makes it perfect for active wear because the spandex hugs your body, and the polyester helps to keep you dry during your workout.

Another popular one is the tri-blend, made from polyester, cotton, and rayon. Cotton gives softness, polyester gives strength, and rayon adds breathability. Rayon is a semi-synthetic fiber that is made from natural sources like cellulose and man-made materials. This is a superior polyester blend that makes very comfortable and durable clothing.

Will polyester stretch over time?

Polyester fibers, as we mentioned, are basically plastic, so unless they are melted, they will not change shape. Their inelastic nature is the reason they are being added to other blends, such as cotton, in order to keep the shape of the fabric. Getting polyester wet may change its shape a little, but it is still hydrophobic, meaning it will not absorb the water.

How does polyester hold up in the dryer?

Polyester clothes tends to not stretch/shrink in the dryer. However, other materials like cotton do, so be careful when you are washing and drying them as they can be more sensitive. Polyester clothing does melt at very high temperatures though, so keep that in mind. If you don’t have a dryer, don’t stress, polyester drip dries very fast, especially if it is a polyester shirt.

Should I wear polyester?

The is nothing wrong with wearing polyester clothes, however, there are some cons that might make you think twice. The fabric is not very breathable on its own, and it can be more expensive than others because of its costly manufacturing process. Also polyester is not environmentally friendly because it is not biodegradable and causes pollution.

On the bright side, polyester is wrinkle-resistant, harder to stain, easy to blend with other fabrics, and dries very fast. It can also be made by recycling old fabrics making it more sustainable.


The short answer is that polyester fibers do not stretch because basically they are made from plastic, even knitted polyester fabric is just a bit stretchy. However, manufacturers have found a way around it by adding different fibers to the mix. Blends of fibers are used worldwide in different industries because they can be made to fit the needs of the manufacturers. For example, cotton adds softness, spandex adds stretchiness, and rayon allows for breathability, mix and match and you have yourself the fabric you desire. We hope that this article helped you understand that polyester is very versatile and not all fabrics are created equally.

Further Reading

You can carry on and read more blogs about the differences between polyester and cotton. There’s also a blog that answers if poplin wrinkles.

Another guide shows you how to shrink leather gloves.