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History of Clothes
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, and boots) and head (hats, caps). People almost 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. Every article of clothing also carries a cultural and social meaning. Human beings are the only mammals known to wear clothing, with the exception of human pets clothed by their owners.
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.
21st Century Clothing
Western fashion has, to a certain extent, become international fashion, as Western media and styles penetrate 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 silk kimonos on special occasions. Items of Western dress may also be worn or accessorized in distinctive, non-Western ways.
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.
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. For now, the date of the origin of clothing remains unresolved.
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.
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.
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