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A skin-tight garment is a garment that is held to the skin usually by elastic tension using some type of stretch fabric. A wide variety of clothing may be made to be skin-tight, and it is common for clothing to be skin-tight for some uses, such as in stockings, bodystockings, swimsuits and women's bras.
The first use of skin-tight clothing was in stockings. The modern stockings became popular in the 1920s with the rise in women's hemlines. They were sheer, first made of silk or rayon (then known as "artificial silk"), and after 1940 of nylon. Nylon stockings were cheap, durable, and sheer compared to their cotton and silk counterparts. These stocking were very popular, and the demand for them has continued, though it has given ground to tights or pantyhose. During the 1960s, improved textile manufacturing processes made pantyhose cheaper, while spandex (or elastane) made them more comfortable and durable, and the miniskirt made the pantyhose a necessity to many women. The popularity of pantyhose grew into a wardrobe staple throughout the 1970s and 1980s. From 1995 there was a steady decline in sales of pantyhose, levelling off in 2006 with American sales less than half of what they had once been.
The development and use of stretch fabrics simplified 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 now widely used in sports clothing.
In athletics and performance applications, skin-tight garments, or 'skin suits', provide protection from injury and scraping while dancing, gymnastics, swimming, cycling, skating, skiing, and running by enhancing muscle support and reducing muscle vibration, lessening wind and friction drag, and it also serves as protection from cuts, stings and abrasion, and as effective protection from UV rays of the sun. These also include other related athletic clothing.
The United States military has also utilized skin-tight bodysuits for use in mission specific environments, for both the benefits listed above, but also because skin-tight garments are not as susceptible to snagging or catching on branches, wires, or other obstructions.
In an individual sense, skin-tight garments are often considered sexy on an attractive body, as they allow the exhibition of the natural curves of the form. People who are on the lookout for a mate often start wearing clothes that are tighter.
Skin-tight garments are fetishized by some people, perhaps on the basis that the garment forms a "second skin" that acts as a fetishistic surrogate for the wearer's own skin. The most common forms of this are spandex fetishism and rubber fetishism, in which the skin-tight material is also shiny.