History of Clothing

Clothing evolved over time. History teaches us that as culture, fashion, and wealth evolved, so did clothing. In the Middle East during the late Stone Age, textile extraction and weaving were first practiced. Around 100,000–500,000 years ago, people started dressing in fabric. And the first mention of knitting as a method for making fabric dates back to 6500 BC, and it is still widely used in modern materials. The first type of fabric used to make clothes is natural fibre, which can be found in both plant and animal sources. These include things like cotton, flax, wool, leather, and silk. Flax seed fibres were the first plant fibres to be extracted for use as fibres. The origin of flax fibre dates back 36,000 years.

Between 5000 and 3000 BC, China became the first nation to begin producing silk. At that time, the domesticated silkworm’s cocoon was opened, and silk was extracted before being woven into fabric. Animal skin and plant materials have been used to create a diverse and colourful range of garments and fabrics. As diverse cultures emerged, so did various types of clothing. Different fibre kinds have a history.

Origin of Clothing

It can be studied through the following time period -

Prehistoric Era

Neanderthal man, the earliest known person to produce clothes, lived between approximately 200,000 and 30,000 B.C.E. The temperature of the planet fluctuated drastically at this time, causing a succession of ice ages in northern Europe and Asia, where the Neanderthal man resided. Neanderthals were well adapted to the chilly climate of their day thanks to their compact, muscular physique that kept body heat in. However, their big intellect worked best for them. Neanderthal man acquired the ability to craft simple yet efficient tools out of stone. Neanderthals were skilled hunters who pursued the hairy mammoths, bears, deer, musk oxen, and other species that coexisted with them thanks to tools like spears and axes. The thick, hairy hides of these creatures were eventually used by Neanderthals to keep themselves warm and dry. This discovery led to the invention of clothes.

Although the exact date of the invention of clothing is unknown, anthropologists place it between 100,000 and 500,000 years ago. The first clothing was created from natural materials such as grasses, leaves, bones, and shells, along with animal skin and hair. Although clothing was frequently hung or tied, tiny needles made of animal bone show that leather and fur outfits were sewn at least 30,000 years ago. Cloth-making, which drew on basketry techniques, evolved as one of humankind’s core technologies when settled Neolithic tribes realised the advantages of woven fibres over animal hides.

Palaeolithic Age

The Cro-Magnon man, widely regarded as the next step in human evolution, first appeared around forty thousand years ago and improved Neanderthal clothing. The more intelligent Cro-Magnons discovered how to manufacture fire and prepare food and created finer, more effective tools. Small holes were punched in the animal skins, which were then bound together with concealment string using sharp awls or pointed implements. They most likely created the first coverings for the body, legs, head, and feet in this fashion. The needle was one of the most significant inventions made by the Cro-Magnons. Animal bone shavings were used to make the needles, which featured an eye at one end and a tip at the other. The Cro-Magnon man could sew neatly cut strips of fur into more form-fitting clothing with a needle. According to available evidence, Cro-Magnon people created tight-fitting clothing to keep them warm, including shawls, hoods, and long boots. The animal skin would have at first been stiff since they had not learned how to tan skins to soften them, but with repeated wearings, it would become incredibly soft and comfortable.

The history of textiles goes hand in hand with the history of clothes. To be able to create the materials required for clothes, machines needed to be able to weave, spin, and perform other procedures that humans had to develop. Prior to the invention of sewing machines, almost all clothing was produced locally and by hand; most towns had tailors and seamstresses who could create specific pieces of clothing for customers. After the sewing machine was created, the market for ready-made garments boomed.

Theories Relating to the History of Clothing

We accept the ancient adage “clothes make the man” without really thinking about it. Not only do clothes “make the man,” but they also have an impact on the body and facial features. People use their clothing as a tool for social interaction in the form of symbols. Nonverbal communication is created by this. Undoubtedly, the need for the invention of the numerous types of clothing worn by humanity was influenced by the climate. Clothing that covers almost the entire body originates in the temperate zones. The wearer is shielded from heat, cold, and sandstorms by their clothing.

Clothing is divided into two categories. The modish, the fixed The fixed are essentially unchangeable and not fashion-sensitive, but they vary by locale. The modish type is prevalent in western nations and varies quickly over time in all regions of the world that are susceptible to changes in fashion. There are four main theories about the origin of clothing. They are as follows

The Adornment Theory

It holds that the urge to stand out or achieve dominance—not necessarily of a sexual nature—begins with the wearing of clothing. According to this theory, obvious decoration represents primordial attire. This theory discusses the ornamental qualities of clothing and other looks, as well as alterations made for show, appeal, or artistic expression.

Projection Theory

According to this theory, clothing shields wearers from the elements, wild animals, and even paranormal entities. People from the earliest civilizations are known to have used natural elements like leaves, leather, fur, grass, etc. to cover or protect themselves. This theory suggests that clothes protect humans from the harmful effects of the elements. Example: bullet-proof jackets, space suits, firefighting suits, raincoats, etc.

The Modesty Theory

The Latin word modestus, which means “keeping within measure,” is where the term “modesty” originates. According to a hypothesis that is similar to the Mesopotamian myths about the garden of Eden and even the serpent’s seduction, clothing was first worn to hide the genitalia from feelings of shame, modesty, humiliation, or other types of sexual emotions. Since then, it is considered that body covering has expanded to include a wider range of situations as sexual self-consciousness has gotten more sophisticated.

The Immodesty Theory

It is a theory of sexual attraction. In the beginning, humans wore clothing to draw attention to their private parts (dress is a powerful sexual tool). According to this hypothesis, which was made popular by Westermarck and Havelock Ellis, clothing in the past was meant to be salacious, draw attention to the wearer’s sexual organs and other bodily functions, and generally make them a more attractive target for sex. Indifference is bred by familiarity, whereas interest is bred by concealment, especially false or partial concealment.


Human life is significantly impacted by clothing. One reason is that clothes allow us to express ourselves. Clothes served as a crucial survival mechanism as the earliest people lost their body hair. Over 75,000 years ago, prehistoric people began covering their bodies with clothing. Since then, clothing has always fulfilled the same essential human needs. These demands include modesty and prestige, as well as protection (a bodily need), decoration, and identification (psychological needs), which are social needs.

Updated on: 16-Dec-2022

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