Some Bluster About Deluster


21 Jan

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By Jake Welch
Naomi & Nicole®

Have you ever wondered how those pretty, two-toned designs on bras and shapewear, like those shown in this picture, are created?  Those effects are generated by a process called delustering, a printing process applied during the production of fabric.

When creating pigment prints, fabric mills use liquid chemical solutions or “binder systems” to enable fabrics to hold onto their colors after patterns are printed onto them.  Such “systems” consist of a liquid acrylic, wetting agents, a fabric softener, and a catalyst.  The process is permanent and prevents the color on the fabric from either washing out during laundering, or from rubbing off during the normal course of daily wear.

Delustering is a special fabric-printing method in which a shiny fabric is printed using an acrylic binder system that has no color added to it so that a subtle image is imparted to the fabric.  Since the binder system is opaque, it dulls down the fabric in the places it’s applied.  So, rather than removing the original luster or shine of the fabric as its name might suggest, “delustering” masks the shine by means of the opaque acrylic.

The mechanics of the delustering application are fairly straightforward.  The chemical binder system is applied to the fabric using a roller that’s engraved with the chosen pattern.  The roller is slightly immersed in the binder system, with the excess removed by a straight edge called a doctor blade.  The roller is then pressed against the fabric under pressure, transferring the binder from the roller onto the fabric.  The fabric is then passed through an oven at an appropriate temperature, for an appropriate amount of time, to complete the drying process and cross-link the binder system.

Any pattern or design can be printed on fabrics using this method.  The only limitation is that the pattern must be one that can be conveyed visually in a single tone, since no color is added in the process.

Consumers sometimes wonder whether delustering affects the durability of the garments employing it.  The good news is that, due to the chemicals used, delustering actually has no affect on a fabric’s durability.  There’s also minimal effect on the “hand” or feel of the fabric, or on its stretch and modulus (the strength of stretch’s return after being stretched).

What’s your opinion about deluster prints on intimate apparel?

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The visibility of the deluster effect is determined by the base color of the fabric used and by the original shine, or luster, of the fabric.  Such original luster is, in turn, determined by the characteristics of the yarn used to make the fabric.  So, the same deluster pattern printed on a darkly-shaded fabric will produce a slightly different effect than one printed on a lightly-shaded fabric.  Also, the deluster effect is greatly impacted by the angle at which light strikes the fabric and the angle at which it’s viewed.  Depending on those angles, the effect changes from one that’s very subtle, to one that’s strikingly obvious.  This variation is part of the deluster print’s appeal.

Designers often use the subtle effect of delustering to highlight certain parts of garments.  Shapewear manufacturers, for example, like to use delustered prints to draw attention to control panels, while bra makers often use them to highlight cups.  Some items of intimate apparel, like camisoles, are made entirely of delustered fabric.  And delustered fabrics aren’t confined to the world of foundation garments.  They’re also used to create women’s sleepwear and casual, ready-to-wear tops.

Like all designs, the use of delustered prints in the manufacture of bras and shapewear tends to both ebb and flow.  But the variation in look it delivers seems to ensure it’ll continue to be incorporated into at least some styles indefinitely on into the future.

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CC Image courtesy of jrobertmoore on Flickr / CC BY 2.0

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