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History of Clothing Material

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What is Clothing?

Wearing clothes is a human characteristic which is used to protect our bodies. Primitive humans used to cover their bodies with the leaves of trees, woven grass, and the skin of dead animals. The first material reported that is used for clothing is the fibres that are naturally obtained from both plants and animals. The fibres include cotton, flax, wool, leather, silk, etc. Flax seeds were used initially as plant fibres for the extraction of fibres.

China is the first reported country to start silk production, from the cocoon of the domesticated silkworm. The clothing and textiles used then evolved with time and culture. The diverse types of fibres have their history of origin, like, cotton was cultivated in the Indus River Valley around 3,000 BC. Wool was first woven in Egypt around 4,000 BC. Nylon was discovered in the year 1935.

Who Invented Clothes?

The first humans according to anthropologists to make clothing were Neanderthal men, who survived from about 200,000 B.C.E. to about 30,000 B.C.E. The temperature during that period was extreme and this created a series of ice ages throughout some regions of Europe and Asia. Some groups of researchers used genetic methods to estimate the year of origin of cloth. They showed that cloth originated between 114,000 and 30,000 years ago. Archaeologists reported the clothing material used initially consisted of fur, leather, leaves, or grass.

Clothing Material

The clothing material can range from grasses and furs to exotic materials. The people of the Arctic Circle are reported to prepare their clothes from their furs and skins, while other cultures have replaced leather and skins with the cloth. Cloth can be either woven or knitted, from natural, cellulose, or synthetic fibres.

Humans have shown tremendous creativity in designing clothing solutions to meet the problems of environmental hazards or the usage of clothes as protective gear. Some examples include space suits, air-conditioned clothing, swimsuits, bee-keeper's protective clothing, leathers for bikers, and high-visibility clothing. The clothing materials are mainly made from synthetic fibres, extracted from petrochemicals, which are not biodegradable. Nylon is a thermoplastic silky material that was discovered as a synthetic replacement for silk. Polyesters are naturally occurring chemicals and synthetics while spandex is popularly known for its extraordinary elastiity which makes them stronger than rubber.

Types of Clothes Material

There are different types of clothes materials, some examples are discussed below.


The most common clothing materials are Linen, Cotton, Denim, Leather, and Fur. Cotton is a soft plant fibre, derived from the genus Gossypium. The plant fibre obtained is made of cellulose and plant proteins. Mexico is the largest producer of cotton, followed by Africa and Australia. Cotton has now become an integral part of our daily lives. It can be used in making denim for jeans, or terry cloth for manufacturing absorbent towels. Cotton is also used in making coffee filters, tents used for hiking, and fishing nets.


Next comes the linen, which is obtained from the fibres of the flax plant, it is known for its strength and absorptive power. Ukraine and parts of western Europe are reported to produce the best quality linen. Linen can be used for making products like aprons, towels, bags, chair covers, and summer garments.


Polyesters are made of polymers and substances like cutin obtained from plants and synthetics like polybutyrate are found in this kind of fabric. Synthetic polyesters are mostly non-biodegradable. The main importance of polyesters is their use in clothing. Polyester is widely used for apparel, home products, jackets, hats, and bedsheets.


Silk is a natural clothing fabric type, which is also a plant fibre, that is woven to manufacture textiles. Silk is composed of a protein called fibroin that is produced by insect larvae. One of the unique features of silk is the presence of prismoid-like structures on its surface, which helps in the reflection of light and hence makes the cloth made from silk glossy and colourful.


Viscose is made from cellulose extracted from bamboo or trees. Viscose is popular for its silk-like qualities. Wool, on the other hand, is a traditional fibre, used particularly in colder regions. It is made from a global herd of sheep. Wool is used for manufacturing garments and carpets. Some less common clothing materials are Acetate, Cupro, Flannel, and Rayon.

Importance of Clothes

Clothing is one of the most important characteristics of humans. The role of wearing cloth is imperative. Different fabrics or clothing materials are used for making different kinds of clothes. For instance, woollen clothes are used to protect us from cold weather. Raincoats protect us from rain. Cotton clothes are light, so they are preferred during the summer. The different types of clothes worn also signify religion, culture, and tradition. Clothes protect our body from the harmful effects of the UV rays from Sunlight. UV rays can cause skin cancer. The clothes act as a hygienic barrier against infections and toxic materials.

Interesting Facts

China is the largest producer of clothes, accounting for 65% of the world's clothes. The natural fibres obtained from both plants and animal sources were first used for clothing. The natural fibres include cotton, flax, wool, and leather.

Key Features of History of Clothing Material

  • Neanderthal men, who survived from about 200,000 B.C.E. to about 30,000 B.C.E, were reported first to invent cloth.

  • Clothing is a human characteristic that can insulate us against cold or hot weather conditions. It also provides a hygienic barrier and keeps us protected from infectious and toxic materials. Clothing can prevent us from injury and discomfort.

  • Cotton is reported to be the most popular material in the world. It is a natural fabric that is soft and fluffy.

  • Ginning is the process of extraction of cotton fibre from the seeds of the cotton plant. The obtained fibre is then spun into cloth, after which it is either woven or knitted.

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FAQs on History of Clothing Material

1. What is fibre?

Fibre can be defined as a strand that is used to produce the yarn. 

2. What are clothing dyes?

The clothing dyes can be natural or synthetic. Natural dyes are derived from non-animal sources like roots, berries, bark, leaves, and microorganisms like fungi. Synthetic dyes are made from petrochemicals in the lab.

3. What is weaving?

Weaving is the process of preparing a fabric by intercalating the threads. The lengthwise yarns are known as warp while the crosswise yarns are called filling.