A primary function of clothing is to improve the comfort of the wearer by providing protection against the elements. Clothing provides protection from sunburn in warm weather, and protection from frostbite in cold weather.  In addition to comfort and protection, it is often worn so that the wearer can be stylish and trendy.  Clothing also performs a range of social and cultural functions. Clothing can be used to indicate social status and convey individuality or occupation.  In many societies, norms about clothing reflect standards of modesty, religion, gender, and social status.  In many cultures, gender differentiation of clothing is considered appropriate for men and women. The differences are often in regard to styles, colors, and fabrics.  In Western societies, skirts, dresses and high-heeled shoes are usually seen as women's clothing, while neckties are usually seen as men's clothing. Trousers were once seen as exclusively male clothing, but are nowadays worn by both genders.  In some countries the gender divide in regard to fashion has decreased.  The world of clothing is always changing, as new cultural influences meet technological innovations.

Clothing is fiber and textile material worn on the body. Clothes can be made out of natural or synthetic fibers. 

  • Natural Fibers: Plant fiber such as cotton, linen, hemp, etc. Or animal skin and hair such as wool, leather, cashmere, etc.
  • Synthetic Fibers: Lycra, Polyester, Rayon, Acrylic, etc.
    Learn more about fibers used to manufacture clothing.

The amount and type of clothing worn is dependent on physical stature, gender, as well as social and geographic considerations.  Physically, clothing serves many purposes: it can serve as protection from weather, and can enhance safety during hazardous activities such as hiking and cooking. It protects the wearer from rough surfaces, rash-causing plants, insect bites, splinters, thorns and prickles by providing a barrier between the skin and the environment. Clothes can insulate against cold or hot conditions.

Archeologists have identified very early sewing needles made of bone and ivory which were found near Kostenki, Russia in 1988 and are dated to about 30,000 BC.  Dyed flax fibers that could have been used in clothing have been found in a prehistoric cave in the Republic of Georgia that date back to 36,000 BP.

Making fabric by hand is a tedious and labor-intensive process. The textile industry was the first to be mechanized, with the powered loom, during the Industrial Revolution.

Different cultures have evolved various ways of creating clothes out of cloth. One approach simply involves draping the cloth. Examples of garments consisting of rectangles of cloth wrapped to fit include the dhoti for men and the sari for women in the Indian subcontinent, the Scottish kilt and the Javanese sarong. The clothes may simply be tied up, as is the case of the first two garments; or pins or belts are used to hold the garments in place, as in the case of the latter two. The cloth remains uncut, and people of various sizes or the same person at different sizes can wear the garment.

Another approach involves cutting and sewing the cloth, but using every bit of the cloth rectangle in constructing the clothing. The tailor may cut triangular pieces from one corner of the cloth, and then add them elsewhere as gussets. Traditional European patterns for men's shirts and women's chemises take this approach.

Humans have shown extreme inventiveness in devising clothing solutions to environmental hazards. Examples include: space suits, air conditioned clothing, armor, diving suits, swimsuits, bee-keeper gear, motorcycle leathers, high-visibility clothing, and other pieces of protective clothing.

Used, unwearable clothing can be used for quilts, rags, rugs, bandages, and many other household uses.  When you are finished with your clothes, please keep in mind that you should try to help the environment as best you can.  Think about recycling clothing and also think about purchasing product made with natural fiber instead of synthetics.

In some societies, clothing may be used to indicate rank or status. In ancient Rome, for example, only senators could wear garments dyed with Tyrian purple. In traditional Hawaiian society, only high-ranking chiefs could wear feather cloaks and palaoa, or carved whale teeth. Under the Travancore Kingdom of Kerala, (India), lower caste women had to pay a tax for the right to cover their upper body. In China, before establishment of the republic, only the emperor could wear yellow. History provides many examples of elaborate sumptuary laws that regulated what people could wear. In societies without such laws, which includes most modern societies, social status is instead signaled by the purchase of rare or luxury items that are limited by cost to those with wealth or status.

By the early years of the 21st century, western clothing styles had, to some extent, become international styles. This process began hundreds of years earlier, during the periods of European colonialism. The process of cultural dissemination has perpetuated over the centuries as Western media corporations have penetrated markets throughout the world, spreading Western culture and styles. Fast fashion clothing has also become a global phenomenon.

Thank you for taking the time to view this page.  We hope that it has helped you learn a little more than you knew before you started reading.  Please join us in discussions at the Fashion Industry Network so that we can all learn more about clothing, the apparel market, and textiles.  Also, if you have some spare time, please check out our fashion blog so you can see what trendy garments and accessories the celebrities are currently wearing.  In addition to spotting celebs and trend reporting, our blog also provides various posts regarding clothing industry resources and much more.

It may be a good idea for you to also visit the
clothing definitions section to learn more about the varies categories or garments.

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