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What is Elastic?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 21, 2024
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When the word elastic is used as a noun, it refers to a stretchy material or an item made with this pliable substance. Bands made of it are most frequently prepared by weaving together strands of rubber, latex, or other flexible material that can return to its original shape after being stretched or extended. Elastic is most commonly used in clothing, for example, to provide support in undergarments such as girdles or bras.

Elastic is also used to create flexible waistbands. Strips of it are sewn into or onto a piece of fabric larger than the size that is needed. The waistband can then be stretched and the expanse of fabric will move with it, making it easy to slip such clothing on or off.

Arm and leg cuffs can also be made with elastic, and it is used to keep hoods in place rather than using ties. It can also work as a support with strapless tops, dresses, and bras. Other uses for it include cuffs for boots, socks, or gloves in order to keep them snug. Belts too can be made from or with elastic and headbands, wristbands, and hair accessories are often made using this stretchy material.

In home decor, elastic can be used for “skirts” for furniture such as vanities and it is often used to make bed skirts or bed ruffles that can be put on and taken off more easily than tradition styles. Small straps are also made from it that reach beneath the corners of a mattress to hold sheets in place. Stretchy thread, yarn, or cording can be used to make jewelry or to create embellishments for home accessories.

As an adjective, the word is used in reference to people or things that are flexible. An elastic attitude or personality is one of a person who adjusts or adapts well to various circumstances. An elastic policy is one that is moderate rather than rigid and may be applied leniently. Elastic skin is supple and may return to its shape after being stretched, such as when weight is lost after a sudden gain.

The terms elastic and elasticity are also used to describe some areas of economics. Simply put, flexible changes in prices can have an effect on demand for various goods or services. Even where price changes are marginal, demand may increase greatly.

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Discussion Comments
By SarahSon — On Oct 20, 2012

I have used elastic in several home makeover projects. A beautiful piece of fabric and some elastic can be an inexpensive, yet tasteful way to decorate a certain space. I have used this idea more than once to cover up a space or area.

I also like to change my bedding with the seasons and will use a bed ruffle with elastic around it to cover the bottom of my bed. This is another idea that is inexpensive yet adds a classy touch.

One thing I don't like is elastic around the bottom of sweat pants. I like to lounge around the house in comfortable pants, but don't like the elastic around my ankles because it feels too confining.

By sunshined — On Oct 19, 2012

One thing I have noticed as I have aged is that my skin is not nearly as elastic as it used to be. I guess this is part of the normal aging process, but it doesn't mean I have to like it. The more elastic your skin is, the softer and smoother it will be.

I have always taken good care of my skin and applied plenty of moisturizer, but over time everyone begins to lose the elasticity in their skin. Nobody likes to think of getting wrinkles, but losing the elasticity in your skin will eventually lead to that.

By honeybees — On Oct 18, 2012

I like to be around people who are described as having an elastic attitude. I see this the opposite of someone who is set in their ways and doesn't adapt well to change. If you can go through life with an elastic personality and learn to go with the flow, I think that life is a lot more enjoyable and less stressful.

By golf07 — On Oct 18, 2012
What I have found with elastic used in some garments over time is that it stretches and is no longer effective. I have had this happen to skirts and slips that have elastic around the waist.

One of my most embarrassing moments was when the elastic in my slip was too loose and my slip fell to down to the floor. I knew when I put it on that it was too loose, but figured I could get by with wearing it one more time. I won't ever try that again.

When this happens with a skirt, I will put new elastic in the waist. This is a lot cheaper than buying a new skirt and I can add as much as I want so it will stay in place for quite awhile.

By kylee07drg — On Oct 18, 2012

@OeKc05 – I think of hair accessories when I think of elastic, too. I have really long hair, so I keep plenty of elastics on hand.

I have some braided elastic ponytail holders that are both attractive and functional. They are brown, so they fit in with the color of my hair.

If I'm only pulling back part of my hair, I need to loop the elastic around four or five times. If I'm making a full ponytail, I only have to loop it two or three. Like headbands, ponytail holders do loosen up over time, so after a few months of using one, I may have to loop it more than before.

By OeKc05 — On Oct 17, 2012

I have some elastic headbands that are very comfortable. To me, the hard plastic kind are just unbearable. They give me a headache.

However, the elastic kind are loose enough without falling off. They can fit any size head, and they get even looser and more comfortable over time.

I have short strands of hair around my face that are really annoying, but the elastic headband keeps them out of the way when I'm doing chores. This is especially helpful when I'm doing yard work on a windy day.

By seag47 — On Oct 17, 2012

The elastic around the bottom edge of my fitted sheets is very helpful. It makes the sheets stay in place, even when I toss and turn a lot.

Other sheets get all lopsided during the night. It's nice when the sheet that you are lying on stays in place. You can adjust the one on top of you more easily, but if the sheet beneath you gets all out of place, you have to get up and pull it back into position.

By wavy58 — On Oct 16, 2012

I like pants made with elastic to reduce strain on my waistline. Whenever I wear pants that have a button instead of an elastic waistband, they usually cut into my skin and make my abdomen hurt.

Jeans that have some elasticity are great, because they expand with you after you eat or gain a few pounds. Also, if you lose a few, they shrink down with you.

I have stopped buying pants that don't have elastic in the waist. They just make me too miserable, and I either outgrow or get too skinny for them.

By aaaCookie — On Jan 31, 2011

Elastic ribbons and laces can be really useful for a lot of sewing and other craft projects. Often made only partially with elastic, many of them look nice will adding stretch that other ribbons don't, making them good for things which need to be stretch, like waistbands in clothing or in jewelry projects.

By Denha — On Jan 28, 2011

Some people also use elastic as an adjective, to describe something else in terms of its stretch. A fabric, for example, can be described as being very elastic, or not having much elastic at all. While this is not technically correct- you could just as easily merely refer to how much stretch an item has- it has become colloquial to say this.

By anon22617 — On Dec 07, 2008

Thank you! I couldn't find any web sites with info for my project, but this had what i needed.

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