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The Role of Clothing in History and Today

May 25, 2008
Clothing essentially protects the naked body from the force of nature. It is also worn for modesty and comfort and the clothing that one wears may reflect one's social status, religion and culture.

Historically, the practical use of clothing is to protect the human body from harmful features of the environment: weather (extreme heat or cold, excessive precipitation and strong sunlight), poisonous chemicals, insects, weapons and other unfavorable substances.

However, the role of clothing has changed throughout the course of history. It is still worn for protection, safety and modesty, yet now there are different types of clothing for different purposes such as air conditioned clothing, swimsuit, diving suit, armour, bee-keeper's costume, high-visibility clothing, motorcycle leathers and space suit.

Modern people may wear a lot of additional accessories and ornamentation together with their clothings. These fashion accessories include articles carried instead of being worn like umbrellas, purses and canes, and items such as hats, scarfs, jewellery and eyeglasses.

The earliest clothing is believed to consist of leaves or grass, leather and fur draped or tied about the body. Later on, skins and leather are replaced with cloth which are knitted, woven or twined from a variety of animal and vegetable fibres.

Difficulty in producing clothing fabrics has inspired Industrial Revolution, and it is one of the industry which is first mechanized. Clothing making since then becomes a lucrative trade and clothing is still one of the most sought after products today. Initially the fabrics produced industrially are simply draped around the body and till this day, people in some countries still wear dhoti, saree, Scottish kilt and Javanese sarong.

Subsequently, these fabrics are refined by European tailors into the popular forms of clothing we know today as shirts, T-shirts, skirts and trousers.

The modern clothing has evolved so much that specialized forms of clothing and materials are being produced for different needs and activities. Jeans is now a globally accepted and preferred casual wear. Special clothing for sports and physical activities are also available which comes in the forms of shorts, T-shirts, trainers, tracksuits, tennis shirts and swimming suits.

Clothing is also one of the forerunner of the world fashion industry. It is common for fashion designer to assemble in major fashion centres such as Milan, London and New York City to showcase their newest inventions. The most suave and attractive models will usually wear the new clothings during fashion shows, and they are looked upon as fashion trendsetters.

The advancements in science and technology have made it possible for the clothing industry to invent better clothing materials than what we traditionally have. The typical materials include natural fibers, which are biodegrable and renewable such as wool, cotton, ramie, silk , fur, leather, denim and flax. Synthetic fibers, made mainly from petrochemicals are being used now because they are more lasting and not biodegrable. Examples of synthetic fibers include Spandex, Polyester, Nylon and lyocell. The availability of both natural and synthetic fibers allows different clothing materials be tailored for people of different occupations and social activities.
About the Author
Martin Brinkmann runs his own Fashion and Clothing blog at Pastry Shoes where he is writing about the latest fashion trends.
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