Polyester is a synthetic material that is made from manufactured polymers. In textile manufacturing polyester is popular for its mold and mildew resistance, ease of washing and durability. In its pure form it is commonly also called lycra and spandax. In addition polyester is commonly bended with natural fibers such as wool and cotton to create a more durable, skin-molding, and water resistant fabric.
Created in the 1940s by British scientists, polyester quickly gained popularity as a textile in the early 1950s when people were looking for easier to care for fabrics. This popularity continued on through the late 1970s when polyester quickly fell out of fashion as a standalone textile.
Today polyester is most often used as a fabric additive to impart its durability and performance on other natural fibers. Polyester cotton blends are popular in all articles of clothing including shirts, pants and undergarments. By using small percentages of polyester with natural fibers clothing manufacturers are able to create soft and supple textiles that have many of the pleasing characteristics of natural fibers along with the durable characteristics of the synthetic fiber including wrinkle resistance, durability and antistatic properties.
After falling out of favor as a textile it interesting to note that polyester has found renewed life as a manufacturing material. Most commonly polyester can be found in plastic water bottles.
As a safety note it should be understood that polyester fabric is highly flammable in its pure form. Therefore individuals wearing polyester clothing need to be especially careful around open flames and hot objects such as cigarettes. Polyester is after all a plastic therefore it can catch fire and melt very readily.