Spandex is immortal. I know it. I speak from a place of wisdom, from the Planet of the Unitarded. (For earthlings unfamiliar with this futuristic state of mind, think of the tortuous medieval costume once known as a pee-prohibitor.) With that image in mind, let us argue the contrary to prove the point. – by April Lamm

If spandex were mortal, it would be in mounds at those musty depositories of the unwanted: Humana, Salvation Army, Goodwill. But contrary to what you might imagine, spandex is conspicuously missing from most of these shops. Of late, in order to cope with the discrepancy between my personal addiction to more and the world’s crisis of less, I began to do what I did so often in the 80s: thrift. After much field research, I’ve come to the conclusion that every lycra-legged lady out there is hogging their old spandex. Give ‘em up, I say, I want some hand-me-down spandex! Vintage!

Sure, it’s chemical, artificial, made mostly of polyurethane, which is something you put on floors to make them shiny. It wraps the hard-bodied bottoms of superheroes galore, but its also highly flammable. Let’s face it. Shopping for pants is a form of mental torture. The bottom is an elastic that expands with the increasingly eroded resistance to every cookie that crosses your path. Our nether regions are non-heroic.
Historically, the original era of spandex culminated with the original era of disco, that is, the era when we used to dance … a lot. In the 70s, Patricia Fields claims to have invented the modern day legging as we know and love it today. And while it might have been Jane Fonda who transformed the verb »workout« into a noun in 1982, contrary to my memory, Fonda was not wearing the shiny spandex, but rather a dull striped cottony variation. The disco roller rink muse Olivia Newton John wore it as part of her bad girl gear in the culminating scene of Grease back in 1978. In her black shiny spandex, she morphed from a conservative Pink Lady into a slinky one dipped in ink. That’s how she got her guy.

There’s just something irresistible about a material that is simultaneously historic and of the hereafter. And it is one of the few items where you can reliably order a generic subjective S-M-L-XL. Spandex is, or so I learned, a material that stretches 500 times its »relaxed state.« 

My personal spandex collection was once reserved for my annual dance recital. In my jazz flats, leggings and matching spandex silver sequined bandeau, I performed on a stage for a crowd of 50 mothers, and came as close as I’ll ever come to Madonna. Earth, Wind, and Fire and … spandex, immortal. Since the discovery of sugar, no better material has ever been found.   ◊

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