Clothing refers to coverings for the torso and limbs as well as coverings for the hands, feet and head. The term clothing refers to garments used to protect the wearer against strong sunlight, extreme heat or cold, and precipitation, among others. Mountain climbers, for instance, wear high-tech outerwear to avoid frostbite and over-exposure. Although the main purpose of clothes is to protect the human body, they are also used to represent cultural and social ideas, and religious beliefs. People may dress differently according to changes in occasion, climate or mood. While certain pieces of clothing are sometimes regard as a status symbol, others are considered a symbol of low rank.
Fashion trends have varied due to different factors. In the past, for instance, wars brought about some changes in styles. During World War II, for instance, tailors were forced to cut down on the amount of cloth they used to make garments. As a consequence, pleated shirts and trousers were replaced by close-fitting and tubular clothing. A new type of close-fitting blazer especially designed for soldiers led to a new tendency towards sports wear that required less cloth. Economic conditions have also been influential in the history of clothing. For example, in the middle of the 17th Century Mazarino imposed a law that prohibited the use of laces and embroidery, since these used gold and he wanted to prevent this material from being exported.
Social changes also transformed the industry of fashion design. By way of illustration, during the French Revolution knee-length pants were substituted for full-length trousers. It is also important to point out those changes introduced by religion. Headscarves and veils covering people’s head or face, for instance, became modish among women in France during the 13th Century due to the influence of Christianity. Other influential factors in changing fashion were cultural movements related to literature, art and theatre. Greek tunics, for example, were much the vogue after David painted some neoclassical canvasses.
According to its function, clothing can be made of different materials. Garments that are used to protect the body from cold weather may be made of wool, while those devised to be used during summer will most probably be made of cotton or silk. The most common clothing materials are cotton, flax, wool, hemp, gabardine, silk, Lycra, and synthetic fibers. Fur and leather are also commonly used, although they are frequently faked in order to avoid the killing of animals. Other materials that are not so frequent but which are also used to make clothing are jute, rubber, rayon and bamboo.
Closely connected to clothing is fashion design, the applied art dedicated to the design of clothing and lifestyle accessories created within the cultural and social influences of a specific time. According to the season– autom/winter or spring/summer –clothing changes both in shape and material. There are three different types of fashion design: Haute Couture, Mass Market and Designer Label. Haute Couture is the design that predominated until 1950, and was characterized by made-to-measure or tailor-made clothing. Mass Market, on the contrary, is a type of fashion made for a larger number of customers. It is characterized by ready-to-wear clothes and standard sizes. In Mass Market, cheap materials are creatively used to produce affordable fashion. Designer Label is a type of design differentiated for the exclusivity of its designs, which are made in small quantities to guarantee uniqueness. Since Designer Label clothing is brought out in small quantities, its cost is rather high. Although it is not made for individual customers, great care is taken in the choice and cut of fabrics.
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