Common clothing materials include:
Less common clothing materials include:
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 zippers fail).
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.
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 hems.
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 a used 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 grunge
Mainstream Western or international styles
International standard business attire -- global in influence, just as business functions globally.
- 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.
History of clothing
Prior to the invention of clothing, mankind existed in a state of nudity.
The earliest clothing probably consisted of fur, 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.
Mark Stone, an anthropologist at the Max Planck Institute
for Evolutionary Anthropology, has conducted a genetic analysis
of human body lice that shows they first evolved only 72,000
42,000 years ago. Since most humans have very sparse body hair, body lice require clothing to survive, so this suggests a surprisingly recent date for the invention of clothing. Its invention may have coincided with the spread of modern Homo sapiens from the warm climate of Africa, thought to have begun between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago.
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 lavishly.
Before the invention of the powered loom, weaving remained a labor-intensive process. Weavers had to harvest fibers, clean, spin, and weave them. When using cloth for clothing, people used every scrap of it.
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 Javaese 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.
Modern European 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 to current 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, and 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.