Clothing has been around for so long, it’s almost like a second skin. Little thought is given to what life was like without it and how it made its way from a comfort item in the winter to an extravagant industry in the modern day. Not to mention, the origin of clothing and its purpose itself is something that varies from country to country, performing various social, cultural, religious and even gender roles.
Therefore, the exhaustive history of clothing is difficult to trace, but there are several important milestones humanity has achieved in its regard nonetheless.
Several researchers and historians have attempted to answer the question of why human beings choose to wear clothes, using various social, psychological, and anthropological views to frame their answers. The most obvious response came from European thinkers who suggested that clothing served three purposes – bodily protection, modesty, and decoration. These answers reflect blatantly across all cultures, be it in historic or modern times.
The migration of human beings from West Africa to colder climates nearly 50,000-100,000 years ago necessitated a need for human beings to develop clothing, some archaeologists suggest. Others claim that the presence of body lice in human genetic analyses indicates that lice would have needed something tougher than “sparse” human hair to sustain themselves. Regardless of its origin, most researchers agree that fur, leaves, bones, and grass were among the first to constitute clothing.
Clothing As A Symbol
It might not come as a surprise to anyone that clothing soon began taking its own distinct shapes and forms across class, caste, race, gender, and nationality. In Rome, for instance, the color purple was used only in garments made for the aristocracy. In Japan, those of a higher class – especially women – wore more clothing as a representation of their status and wealth. Garments in India were made from cotton, silk, leather, and muslin into tunics, skirts, and elaborately cut kurtas worn by royalty, both the Mughals and otherwise.
Industrialization and westernization, however, made the variety in clothing more uniform and accessible to all, due to mass production. As the change in clothing emerged in the West, so did fashion trends. Tight corsets became popular in Italy, and then France, before going out of fashion towards the end of the Victorian era, whereas Egyptian women’s clothing was baggier. Gender norms in Europe called for male clothing to be more “sober” and simplistic, devoid of color. When Queen Victoria wore white for her wedding, it was the first time wedding dresses were made in white. These were some of the observed trends across countries, back when mass production was still not very popular.
Evolution Of Clothing
Clothing was not just a by-product of geography or popular textiles, however. It was also a result of culture. In the 1920s, women’s movements across the United States of America led to the “flapper” – which was a term used for women who wore short skirts, bob haircuts, and engaged in behavior that was considered unacceptable for women at the time. Here, clothes were more than garments for protection – they were a rebellion against a patriarchal system.
In the 19th century, Charles Frederick Worth set up the first fashion house where artists and laborers came together to make garments that Worth recommended for people at the time. This shift in Paris began giving rise to the fashion industry, which emerged in the clothing industry.
From necessity to luxury, clothing today has evolved from many changes, be it economic, political, social or cultural. The effects of colonization and Westernization, art and media, and breakthroughs in design have all lead to the growth of a very vast and diverse industry. Clothing has birthed scope for jewelry, make-up and shoes and even expanded the field of journalism, with many fashion magazines that have taken shape since.
The impact of clothing is no less than awe-inspiring, seeing how humanity went from a single idea to stay warm to billions and billions of eclectic garments around the world as an expression of personality and the self. After all, we owe at least a chunk of our individualism to the birth of clothing.
Read Also: Wardrobe Essentials For Women.