Elastic fibres are insoluble components of the extracellular matrix of dynamic connective tissues such as skin, arteries, lungs and ligaments. They are laid down during development, and comprise a cross-linked elastin core within a template of fibrillin-based microfibrils. Their function is to endow tissues with the property of elastic recoil, and they also regulate the bioavailability of transforming growth factor β. Severe heritable elastic fibre diseases are caused by mutations in elastic fibre components; for example, mutations in elastin cause supravalvular aortic stenosis and autosomal dominant cutis laxa, mutations in fibrillin-1 cause Marfan syndrome and Weill-Marchesani syndrome, and mutations in fibulins-4 and -5 cause autosomal recessive cutis laxa. Acquired elastic fibre defects include dermal elastosis, whereas inflammatory damage to fibres contributes to pathologies such as pulmonary emphysema and vascular disease. This review outlines the latest understanding of the composition and assembly of elastic fibres, and describes elastic fibre diseases and current therapeutic approaches.