History: Origins of Clothes

History Class is in session.

  • The skirt is considered to be the second oldest women’s garment in the world. The first is the loincloth.
  • Before 1850, clothes were only worn for rather commodity rather than fashion and they were all hand stitched.
  • Denim jeans originated in Languedoc-Roussillon, the city of Nîmes, in France. Interestingly, the term denim refers to “de Nîmes,” which means “of Nîmes.” Denim jeans were then imported to California by Levi Strauss to supply gold miners with hard-wearing pants.
  • The two-piece swimsuit, also known as the “bikini,” was invented by French designers Jacques Heim and Louis Réard in 1946, and was first sold in a beach shop in Cannes, France.
  • Initially, both men and women wore togas in Rome, but after the 2nd century BC, respectable women wore stolas and prostitutes were required to wear a toga.
  • The Ancient Greeks exercised naked. In fact, this is where our word “gymnasium” comes from; γυμνός (gymnos) means naked in Ancient and Modern Greek.
  • The five most common clothing materials are linen, cotton, polyester, and rayon.
  • Cotton is the most widely used clothing material, but it only became common in mid-1800s, when Eli Whitney’s cotton gin made it easy to separate the cotton fibers from the seeds.
  • Evidence for the first clothes dates somewhere between 100,000 to 500,000 years ago.
  • The bikini was named after the island Bikini Atoll, where the US military was testing its bombs in World War 2. It was so named because its creator, Louis Réard, believed that the revealing suit would create a shock like that of the atomic bomb.
  • The word ‘jeans’ comes from the cotton pants worn by “Genes,” the local term for Genoan sailors.
  • What Americans consider “tuxedos” are called “dinner jackets” in Great Britain, as the word tuxedo itself refers to the white version of the suit jacket in British English.
  • Dresses and skirts are commonly seen as women’s clothing in the West, but in other parts of the world, men wear them as frequently as women do.
  • The invention of the automobile had a significant influence on women’s fashion. During late 18th century, skirts became shorter only to help women to step into automobiles conveniently.
  • Simple needles made out of animal bone first appeared about 30,000 years ago.
  • Women’s nominal clothing sizes have increased in physical size over the years in a phenomenon known as “vanity sizing.” A size 8 dress with a 32-inch bust in 1967 is now considered a size 0 today.
  • One silk cocoon produces an average of 600 to 900 meters of silk filaments, but it takes four to eight pieces to make one strand of silk thread. In all, it takes about 30,000 silkworms to produce 12 pounds of raw silk.
  • Vintage clothing refers to clothing made between 20 and 100 years ago, and retro refers to recently made clothing that is designed to resemble the style of another period.



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