• Susan Trott

Opacity


Opacity – It’s a measure of how see-thru things are.

Swimsuits get wet. This may seem like a stupid thing to say, but you need to remember this when selecting the colours you want on your swimsuit.

Even wonder why most prints made by the “big” suit makers are predominantly black? It’s because of opacity.

It’s obvious that white and nude are see-thru when wet. What’s not obvious is this happens to florescent colours too, and colours that are light – like pink, blue, yellow, orange.

So how do we prevent these suits from becoming inappropriate?

I have to give credit where credit is due – this was not my idea, in fact it came from a US suit maker who made swimsuits for the US National Team. My husband interviewed her years ago for a story in Synchro Magazine, and we learned some of her tricks. They work wonderfully!

So we do this now: We line specific colours with silver foil fabric, with the foil side away from the body, between the liner and the outside.

Why does this work? Well opacity is actually a measure of how much light passes through something. If we block the light with a reflective surface before it gets all the way through, then the fabric is no longer transparent, but opaque.

Why not use an extra lining, or black? That’s what we used to do – but it does not work. Extra linings of the same colour add more opacity, but do not necessarily prevent transparency. Black does not prevent the outer layers from becoming transparent, and instead shows through the colours making them muddy looking.

So if we put black lining under a white outer fabric, the result is grey when wet. Not what we want.

Adding foiled fabric to a suit adds cost, weight, and resistance though. So to minimize these costs, we use as small a piece of foiled fabric as possible. Usually the foil is cut to precisely the same shape as the colour to “protect”.

This hold true as well, when we want to overlay a light colour on top of a dark colour. A foiled piece of fabric keeps those bright colours popping on the dark background.


So let’s look at a specific example: This design uses red, black and white. In order to keep the which fabric white white, even wet, we cannot put the colour on top of the other colours. Also, used as a base, it will need lining to maintain opacity. The red that goes over the black also needs some help to stay red when wet, otherwise it will become muddy red. So the full front of the suit gets a foiled base to protect the opacity, and the red over the black gets a small liner under it too.

This of course affects the stretch of the suit because foiled spandex doesn't always stretch as well. It also makes the suit heavier in the water to add another layer of fabric. The third drawback is that the suit may hold water -- so boosts out of the water may capture pockets of water inside the suit without draining. This causes drag on the swimmer. Keep these issues in mind when designing your swimmers' suits. If they are advanced swimmers with strong skills, the extra weight, drag, and lack of stretch won't affect them as much as if they are beginners in the sport. The older and more advanced the swimmer, the tighter and more complex they become!


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