What Are Performance Fabrics, Anyway?



Considering that until fairly recently, my gym uniform of choice was a pair of cotton leggings and a ratty T-shirt, it's pretty ironic that I am now extremely picky about the clothes I wear while working out. But as I've started to invest in my activewear wardrobe over the past couple of years, I've noticed that details I previously overlooked really do make a world of difference in how I feel while I sweat. Namely, that fabric can make or break a workout.

Elasticity, moisture control—there are a few elements most of us now expect from our performance-wear. But I didn't realize just how complicated it is to address these needs until I spoke with Christina DiBernardo, the creative director and head of design behind JoyLab, our amazing (and I do mean amazing) activewear collection with Target. 

"I think there is a beauty in that activewear in general is so comfortable, people don’t even realize or perhaps they take for granted what goes into it, creating and engineering it to feel so comfortable and un-obstructive," she says. "There are endless combinations of fibers, yarns, finishes, and elastanes (spandex) that we can use to create materials with virtually the same fiber contents." Basically, everything from yarn size to the tension of the fabric knitting can make a huge impact on how your activewear feels during a workout.

The good news is that you don't have to be an expert on fabric proportions or stitch sizing to shop smarter. Keep reading for three essential tips you should keep in mind—as well as a glossary of terms you should definitely look out for.