Humans often wear articles of clothing (also known as
dress, garments or attire)
on the body . In its broadest sense, clothing includes coverings for the
trunk and limbs as well as coverings for hands (gloves),
boots), and head (hats,
Articles carried rather than worn (like
and umbrellas) normally count as accessories rather than as clothing.
Humans also decorate their bodies with makeup or cosmetics, perfume,
and other ornament; cut, dye, and arrange their head and body hair (hairstyle),
and sometimes their skin (tattoo, scarifications, piercing). All these decorations
contribute to the overall effect and message of clothing, but do not constitute
apparel per se.
People wear clothing for functional and/or social reasons. Clothing protects
the body; it also delivers social messages to other humans.
Function includes protection of the body against strong sunlight, extreme
heat or cold, and precipitation; protection against insects, noxious chemicals,
weapons, contact with abrasive substances -- in sum, against anything that
might injure an unprotected human body. Humans have shown extreme inventiveness
in devising clothing solutions to practical problems.
diving suit, bee-keeper's costume, motorcycle
Social messages sent by clothing, accessories, and decorations can involve
social status, occupation, ethnic and religious affiliation, marital status
and sexual availability, etc. Humans must know the code in order to recognize
the message transmitted. If different groups read the same item of clothing
or decoration with different meanings, the wearer may provoke unanticipated
Social status: in many societies, people of high rank reserve special
items of clothing or decoration for themselves. Only Roman emperors could
wear garments dyed with Tyrian purple; only high-ranking Hawaiian chiefs
could wear feather cloaks and palaoa or carved whale teeth. In other societies,
no laws prohibit lower-status people wearing high status garments, but the
high cost of status garments effectively limits purchase and display. In
current Western society, only the rich can afford
haute couture. The threat of social ostracism
may also limit garment choice.
- Occupation: military, police, firefighters usually wear
uniforms, as do workers in many industries.
School-children often wear
school uniforms, college and university
students wear academic dress. Members of religious orders may wear uniforms
known as "habits". Sometimes a single item of clothing or
a single accessory can declare one's occupation and/or status -- for
example, the high
toque or chef's hat worn by a chief
- Ethnic, political, and religious affiliation: In many regions of
the world, styles in clothing and ornament declare membership in a certain
village, caste, religion, etc. A Scotsman declares his clan with his
tartan; an Orthodox Jew his religion
with his (non-clothing) sidelocks; a French peasant woman her village
with her cap or
- Clothes can also proclaim dissent from cultural norms and mainstream
beliefs, as well as personal independence. In 19th century Europe, artists
and writers lived la vie de Boh
me and dressed to shock: George Sand in men's clothing, female
emancipationists in bloomers, male artists in velvet waistcoats and
gaudy neckcloths. Bohemians, beatniks, hippies, Goths, and punks continued
the ( counter-cultural) tradition in the 20th century West. Now that
haute couture plagiarises street fashion
within a year or so, street fashion may have lost some of its power
to shock, but it still motivates millions trying to look hip and cool.
People such as inventor Dean Kamen or film director Peter Jackson wear
simple functional clothing to distance themselves from the establishment
(and possibly to attract additional attention).
- Marital status: Hindu women, once married, "wear"
sindoor, a red powder, in the parting of their hair; if widowed,
they abandon sindoor and jewelry and wear simple white clothing.
Men and women of the Western world may wear wedding rings to indicate
their marital status.
- Sexual availability: Some clothing indicates the modesty of the
wearer. For example, many Muslim women wear a head or body covering
abaya) that proclaims their status
as respectable women. Other clothing may indicate flirtatious intent.
For example, a Western woman might wear extreme stiletto heels, close-fitting
and body-revealing black or red clothing, exaggerated make-up, flashy
jewelry and perfume to show sexual availability. What constitutes modesty
and allurement varies radically from culture to culture, within different
contexts in the same culture, and over time as different
fashions rise and fall. Moreover, a
person may choose to display a mixed message. For example, a Saudi Arabian
woman may wear an
abaya to proclaim her respectability,
but choose an abaya of luxurious material cut close to the body and
then accessorize with
high heels and a fashionable purse.
All the details proclaim sexual desirability, despite the ostensible
message of respectability. Similarly, a Japanese schoolgirl may wear
the required school uniform in a way (skirt's waistband rolled to shorten
the skirt, long sleeves rolled up) that says "sexy schoolgirl"
rather than "good girl".
Apparel Definition Part 2