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History of clothing and textiles


The study of the history of clothing and textiles traces the availability and use of textiles and other materials and the development of technology for the making of clothing over human history. The wearing of clothing is exclusively a human characteristic and is a feature of most human societies. It is not known when humans began wearing clothes but anthropologists believe that animal skins and vegetation were adapted into coverings as protection from cold, heat and rain, especially as humans migrated to new climates. Clothing and textiles have been important in human history and reflect the materials available to a civilization as well as the technologies that had been mastered. The social significance of the finished product reflects their culture.

Textiles can be felt or spun fibers made into yarn and subsequently netted, looped, knit or woven to make fabrics, which appeared in the Middle East during the late stone age. From the ancient times to the present day, methods of textile production have continually evolved, and the choices of textiles available have influenced how people carried their possessions, clothed themselves, and decorated their surroundings.

Sources available for the study of clothing and textiles include material remains discovered via archaeology; representation of textiles and their manufacture in art; and documents concerning the manufacture, acquisition, use, and trade of fabrics, tools, and finished garments. Scholarship of textile history, especially its earlier stages, is part of material culture studies.

The development of textile and clothing manufacture in prehistory has been the subject of a number of scholarly studies since the late 20th century. These sources have helped to provide a coherent history of these prehistoric developments. Evidence suggests that humans may have begun wearing clothing as far back as 10,000 to 50,000 years ago.



  • Boucher, François. 20,000 Years of Fashion: The history of costume and personal adornment. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1987
  • Jenkins, David, ed.: The Cambridge History of Western Textiles, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003,
  • Payne, Blanche; Winakor, Geitel; Farrell-Beck Jane (1992) The History of Costume, from the Ancient Mesopotamia to the Twentieth Century, 2nd Edn, HarperCollins
  • Piponnier, Françoise, and Perrine Mane; Dress in the Middle Ages; Yale UP; 1997;
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Wikipedia

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