Apparel (Garments/Clothing) is
defined, in its broadest sense, as coverings for the torso and limbs as
well as coverings for the hands (gloves), feet (socks, shoes, sandals,
boots) and head (hats, caps). Humans nearly universally wear clothing,
which is also known as dress, garments, attire, or apparel. People wear
clothing for functional as well as for social reasons. Clothing protects
the vulnerable nude human body from the extremes of weather, other
features of our environment, and for safety reasons. But every article
of clothing also carries a cultural and social meaning.
People also decorate their bodies with makeup or cosmetics, perfume, and
other ornamentation; they also cut, dye, and arrange the hair of their
heads, faces, and bodies (see hairstyle), and sometimes also mark their
skin (by tattoos, scarifications, and piercings). All these decorations
contribute to the overall effect and message of clothing, but do not
Articles carried rather than
worn (such as purses, canes, and umbrellas) are normally counted as
fashion accessories rather than as clothing. Jewelry and eyeglasses are
usually counted as accessories as well, even though in common speech
these items are described as being worn rather than carried.
Clothing as functional technology :
The practical function of clothing is to protect the human body from
dangers in the environment: weather (strong sunlight, extreme heat or
cold, and precipitation, for example), insects, noxious chemicals,
weapons, and contact with abrasive substances, and other hazards.
Clothing can protect against many things that might injure the naked
human body. In some cases clothing protects the environment from the
clothing wearer as well (example: medical scrubs).
Humans have shown extreme inventiveness in devising clothing solutions
to practical problems and the distinction between clothing and other
protective equipment is not always clear-cut. See, among others: air
conditioned clothing, armor, diving suit, swimsuit, bee-keeper's
costume, motorcycle leathers, high-visibility clothing, and protective
Clothing as social message :
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 recognise the message transmitted. If different groups read
the same item of clothing or decoration with different meanings, the
wearer may provoke unanticipated responses.
Social status :
In many societies, people of high rank reserve special items of clothing
or decoration for themselves as symbols of their social status. In
ancient times, only Roman senators could wear garments dyed with Tyrian
purple; only high-ranking Hawaiian chiefs could wear feather cloaks and
palaoa or carved whale teeth. In China before the establishment of the
republic, only the emperor could wear yellow. In many cases throughout
history, there have been elaborate systems of sumptuary laws regulating
who could wear what. In other societies (including most modern
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
Military, police, and firefighters usually wear uniforms, as do workers
in many industries. School-children often wear school uniforms, while
college and university students sometimes 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 or rank within a profession — for example, the high toque or
chef's hat worn by a chief cook.
Origin and history of clothing :
According to archaeologists and anthropologists, 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 BC, found near Kostenki, Russia, in 1988.
Ralf Kittler, Manfred Kayser and Mark Stoneking, anthropologists at the
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, have conducted a
genetic analysis of human body lice that indicates that they originated
about 107,000 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.
However, a second group of researchers used similar genetic methods to
estimate that body lice originated about 540,000 years ago (Reed et al.
2004. PLoS Biology 2(11): e340). For now, the date of the origin of
clothing remains unresolved.
Some human cultures, such as the various peoples of the Arctic Circle,
until recently made their clothing entirely of furs and skins, cutting
clothing to fit and decorating lavishly.
Other cultures have supplemented or replaced leather and skins with
cloth: woven, knitted, or twined from various animal and vegetable
fibres. See weaving, knitting, and twining.
Although modern consumers take clothing for granted, making the fabrics
that go into clothing is not easy. One sign of this is that the textile
industry was the first to be mechanized during the Industrial
Revolution; before the invention of the powered loom, textile production
was a tedious and labor-intensive process. Therefore, methods were
developed for making most efficient use of textiles.
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 dhoti for men and the saree for women in the Indian
Sub-continent, the Scottish kilt or the Javanese sarong. The clothes may
simply be tied up, as is the case of the first two garments; or pins or
belts hold the garments in place, as in the case of the latter two. The
precious 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.
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.
Future trends :
As technologies change, so will clothing. Many people, including
futurologists have extrapolated current trends and made the following
Man-made fibers such as nylon, polyester, terylene, terycot, lycra, and
Gore-Tex 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. Clothing may incorporate
wearable computers, flexible wearable displays (possibly leading to
fully animated clothing and some forms of invisibility cloaks), medical
Present-day ready-to-wear technologies will presumably give way to
computer-aided custom manufacturing. Low power laser beams will measure
the customer; computers will draw up a custom pattern and execute it in
the customer's choice of cloth as well as choice of desirable fit.
Clothing industry :
The clothing industry is concentrated outside of western Europe and
America, and garment workers often have to labor under poor conditions.
Coalitions of NGO's, designers (Katharine Hamnett, American Apparel,
Veja, Edun,...) and trade unions like the Clean clothes campaign (CCC)
seek to improve these conditions as much as possible by sponsoring
awareness-raising events, which draw the attention of both the media and
the general public to the workers' conditions.
Sources : Internet
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