Stretch fabric is a term that refers to synthetic fabrics which stretch in all four directions. This is in contrast to normal fabrics that will often stretch to a small extent, although only in two directions.
Stretch fabrics evolved from the scientific effort to make fibres using neoprene. From this research, in 1958 commercial stretch fabrics ('elastomerics') such as spandex or elastane (widely branded as 'Lycra') were brought to the market.
Stretch fabrics simplify the construction of clothing. First used in swimsuits and women's bras, fashion designers began using them as early as the mid-1980s. They entered the mainstream market in the early 1990s, and are widely used in sportswear.
- American Spandex Company website, fabric supplier