Because clothing and adornment have such frequent links
with sexual display, humans often develop fetishes. They
may strongly prefer to have sexual relations with other
humans wearing clothing and accessories they consider arousing
or sexy. In Western culture, such fetishes may include extremely
high heels, lace, leather, or military clothing. Other cultures
have different fetishes. For many centuries, Chinese men
desired women with bound feet. The men of Heian Japan lusted
after women with floor-sweeping hair and layers of silk
robes. Fetishes vary as much as
fashion. Sometimes the
clothing itself becomes the object of fetish, such as in
case with used girl panties in Japan.
Common clothing materials include:
Less common clothing materials include:
Reinforcing materials such as wood, bone, plastic and
metal may be used to stiffen garments such as
corsets, bodices, or
Clothing, once manufactured, suffers assault both from
within and from without. The human body inside sheds skin
cells and body oils, and exudes sweat, urine, and feces.
From the outside, sun damage, damp, abrasion, dirt, and
other indignities afflict the garment. Fleas and lice take
up residence in clothing seams. Well-worn clothing, if not
cleaned and re-furbished, will smell, itch, look scruffy,
and lose functionality (as when
buttons fall off and
In some cases, people simply wear a item of clothing
until it falls apart. Cleaning leather presents difficulties;
one cannot wash barkcloth (tapa) without dissolving it.
Owners may patch tears and rips, and brush off surface dirt,
but old leather and bark clothing will always look old.
But most clothing consists of cloth, and most cloth can
laundered) and mended (patching,
darning) (but compare
Humans have developed many specialized methods for laundering,
ranging from the earliest "pound clothes against rocks
in running stream" to the latest in electronic
washing machines and
dry cleaning (dissolving
dirt in solvents other than water).
Mending has become less common in these days of cheap
mass-manufactured clothing -- when labor costs more than
materials, a woman may find it cheaper to buy a new dress
than to mend the old one. But the thrifty still replace
zippers and buttons and sew up ripped
Early 21st-century clothing styles
Western fashion has to a certain extent become international
fashion, as Western media and styles penetrate to all parts
of the world. Very few parts of the world remain where people
do not wear items of cheap mass-produced Western clothing.
Even people in poor countries can afford used clothing from
richer Western countries.
However, people may wear ethnic or
national dress on special
occasions; or if carrying out certain roles or occupations.
For example, most Japanese women have adopted Western-style
dress for daily wear, but will still wear expensive silk
kimonos on special occasions.
Items of Western dress may also appear worn or accessorized
in distinctive, non-Western ways. A Tongan man may combine
T-shirt with a Tongan wrapped
skirt, or tupenu.
Western fashion too does not function monolithically.
It comes in many varieties, from expensive
haute couture to thrift-store
Mainstream Western or international styles
- Clothing of Europe and Russia
Clothing in the Americas
- United States mainstream fashion
For example: bland Sears catalogue fashion, regional
styles such as
preppy or Western wear.
- United States alternative fashion
- These fashions are often associated with fans of
various musical styles.
Clothing in Asia
Clothing in Africa
Clothing in Oceania
Religious habits and special religious clothing
Christian religious dress
Christian monastic habits
Buddhist monastic dress
Orthodox Jewish dress
Hindu religious dress
Muslim religious dress
History of clothing
Prior to the invention of clothing, mankind existed in
a state of nudity.
The earliest clothing probably consisted of
leather, leaves or grass,
draped, wrapped or tied about the body for protection from
the elements. Knowledge of such clothing remains inferential,
since clothing materials deteriorate quickly compared to
stone, bone, shell and metal artifacts. Archeologists have
identified very early sewing needles of bone and ivory,
from about 30,000 B.C., found near Kostenki, Russia in 1988.
Some human cultures, like the various peoples of the
Arctic Circle, until recently made their clothing entirely
of furs and skins, cutting clothing to fit and decorating
Other cultures have supplemented or replaced leather
and skins with cloth: woven, knitted, or twined from various
animal and vegetable fibres. See
Before the invention of the
powered loom, weaving remained a labor-intensive process.
Weavers had to harvest fibres, clean, spin, and weave them.
When using cloth for clothing, people used every scrap of
One approach simply involves draping the cloth. Many
peoples wore, and still wear, garments consisting of rectangles
of cloth wrapped to fit -- for example the Scottish
kilt or the
sarong. Pins or belts hold
the garments in place. The precious cloth remains uncut,
and people of various 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.
fashion treats cloth much
more prodigally, typically cutting in such a way as to leave
various odd-shaped cloth remnants. Industrial sewing operations
sell these as waste; home sewers may turn them into quilts.
In the thousands of years that humans have spent constructing
clothing, they have created an astonishing array of styles,
many of which we can reconstruct from surviving garments,
photos, paintings, mosaics, etc., as well as from written
descriptions. Costume history serves as a source of inspiration
fashion designers, as well
as a topic of professional interest to costumers constructing
for plays, films, television, and historical reenactment.
As technologies change, so will clothing.
Man-made fibers such as nylon, polyester, lycra,
Goretex already account for much of the clothing
market. Many more types of fibers will certainly be
developed, possibly using
nanotechnology. For example, military uniforms may
stiffen when hit by bullets, filter out poisonous chemicals,
and treat wounds.
"Smart" clothing will incorporate electronics.
We will have wearable computers, flexible wearable displays
(leading to fully animated clothing and some forms of
invisibility cloaks), medical sensors, etc.
- Present-day ready-to-wear technologies will presumably
give way to computer-aided custom manufacturing. Harmless
laser beams will measure the customer; computers will
draw up a custom pattern and execute it in the customer's
choice of cloth.