This is an article tracing the history of clothing.
“I don’t have anything to wear!” What if it was true! Why do we wear clothes?
When did we start wearing them?
The human race is the only species that covers its body. The practice goes back to the story of Adam and Eve, the first people mentioned in the Bible. The story says that when they disobeyed God by eating the fruit He had told them not to eat, they became ashamed of their naked bodies. They covered them with fig leaves. By hiding their sexual organs, they protected themselves from lustful thoughts.
When the cave man began hunting, he would put an animal skin over his body. It would fool the animals into thinking he was one of them, because he looked and smelled like them. He could get pretty close before they realized they were in danger
If the man was attacked by an animal, its teeth and claws had to penetrate the animal skin before reaching the man’s skin. This protected him from many serious injuries and saved his life. The skins also provided warmth, so mankind was able to survive the Ice Age that lasted from 100,000 to 10,000 BC.
While the men hunted, the women took care of the children. Without radios, TV’s, CD’s, computers and other technologies of today, she would watch the animals and insects that lived around her. She saw how spiders spun webs and birds built nests and imitated them by crossing pieces of twigs, grasses or hair over and under each other. This is called weaving.
By the year 10,000 BC, a small frame to hold the fibers was invented. It was about the size of the looms used to make potholders and could be used to weave small squares. Those squares could then be sewn together with a needle; made of ivory, bird or fish bone, or bamboo, and thread. The thread was made of animal tendons. The first clothing was simply cloth wrapped around the body like a sarong, or slipped over the head.
Men often covered their bodies only from the waist down to about their knee, so their arms and legs were free to do the hard manual labor of farming, fishing, stonecutting and other work. Those clothes were called loincloths.
In the hot climate of Egypt, linen and cotton loincloths and sheathes were worn for over 3,000 years. The material was light in weight and color and comfortable to wear.
But, the land between the two rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, which was called Mesopotamia, was invaded by many tribal people. Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians and Greeks, all changed the fashions of their times.
While the Sumerians wore simple wool tunics, the Babylonians decorated theirs, added fringe and introduced the shawl. Assyrians wore the first armor.
The armor was not full metal suits like we see in movies about knights. It was a leather tunic covered with pieces of iron that overlapped each other like fish scales.
The Assyrians insisted that their women be completely covered with veils to prevent other men from lusting after them. This is still a custom in some Middle Eastern countries among the strict religious sects.
In 600 BC, the Persians, who were great horsemen, wore leather pants while riding. They wore trousers with baggy legs and narrow cuffs that tucked into their shoes. Some even had built in feet. It was the Persians who brought in silk from China.
Silk had been discovered by accident when a Chinese empress dropped a cocoon into water and saw it unravel in a continuous, shiny thread that could be woven. The making of silk was kept secret by the Chinese until people began to smuggle silkworms and silkworm eggs out of the country.
Greeks were the first people to tie ribbon and rope around their waists to show off their body shape. Women also would wrap ribbon under their breasts to hold them up and make small breasts appear larger by crinkling their robes around them. Men wore simple, draped robes.
The last great ancient world empire, Rome, copied much of the Greek culture, including their religion and dress. You can see the similarity in Greek and Roman statutes in museums.
The first man made material was used for clothing in 1953. The Witty Brothers made a suit of polyester. It is made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, washes easily and needs little or no ironing.
Over the centuries many changes in fashion have taken place and designers are always seeking to create something new, but each generation revives some style from past generations with a little different twist.
What will we be wearing in the future? Much depends on our climate. Will it be space suits, or fig leafs?