Clothing (also known as clothes, apparel and attire) is items worn on the body. Clothing is typically made of fabrics or textiles but over time has included garments made from animal skin or other thin sheets of materials put together. The wearing of clothing is mostly restricted to human beings and is a feature of all human societies. The amount and type of clothing worn depends on gender, body type, social, and geographic considerations.
There is no easy way to determine when clothing was first developed. Estimates by various experts have ranged from 40,000 to 3 million years ago. Some more recent studies involving the evolution of body lice have implied a more recent development with some indicating a development of around 170,000 years ago and others indicating as little as 40,000. No single estimate is widely accepted.
Clothing performs a range of social and cultural functions, such as individual, occupational and gender differentiation, and social status. In many societies, norms about clothing reflect standards of modesty, religion, gender, and social status. Clothing may also function as adornment and an expression of personal taste or style.
In Western societies, skirts, dresses, and high-heeled shoes are usually seen as women's clothing, while neckties are usually seen as men's clothing. Trousers were once seen as exclusively men's clothing, but can nowadays be worn by both genders. Men's clothes are often more practical (that is, they can function well under a wide variety of situations), but a wider range of clothing styles are available for women. Men are typically allowed to bare their chests in a greater variety of public places. It is generally common for a woman to wear clothing perceived as masculine, while the opposite is seen as unusual.
In some societies, clothing may be used to indicate rank or status. In ancient Rome, for example, only senators could wear garments dyed with Tyrian purple. In traditional Hawaiian society, only high-ranking chiefs could wear feather cloaks and palaoa, or carved whale teeth. In China, before establishment of the republic, only the emperor could wear yellow. History provides many examples of elaborate sumptuary laws that regulated what people could wear. In societies without such laws, which includes most modern societies, social status is instead signaled by the purchase of rare or luxury items that are limited by cost to those with wealth or status. In addition, peer pressure influences clothing choice.
Clothing appears in numerous contexts in the Bible; the most prominent passages are: the story of Adam and Eve who made coverings for themselves out of fig leaves, Joseph's cloak, Judah and Tamar, Mordecai and Esther. Furthermore, the priests officiating in the Temple in Jerusalem had very specific garments, the lack of which made one liable to death.
Another approach involves measuring, cutting, and sewing the cloth by hand or with a sewing machine. Clothing can be cut from a sewing pattern and adjusted by a tailor to the wearer's measurements. An adjustable sewing mannequin or dress form is used to create form-fitting clothing. If the fabric is expensive, the tailor tries to use every bit of the cloth rectangle in constructing the clothing; perhaps cutting triangular pieces from one corner of the cloth, and adding them elsewhere as gussets. Traditional European patterns for men's shirts and women's chemises take this approach. These remnants can also be reused to make patchwork hats, vests, and skirts.
Coalitions of NGOs, designers (including Katharine Hamnett, American Apparel, Veja, Quiksilver, eVocal, and Edun) and campaign groups like the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) and the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights as well as textile and clothing trade unions have sought to improve these conditions as much as possible by sponsoring awareness-raising events, which draw the attention of both the media and the general public to the workers.