Clothing and textile history is the study of the evolution, use, and supply of garments throughout human history. Clothing and textiles are a reflection of the technology and materials accessible in various civilizations at various times. Within a society, the diversity and dispersion of textile products show social traditions and culture.
Clothing is a uniquely human trait, and most human communities wear some type of clothing. We don’t know when we started wearing garments, but there are theories as to why.
Clothing is a uniquely human trait that is present in almost all human communities. There has been some debate among scientists about when humans first started wearing clothing, but research on the origin of body lice show it began approximately 170,000 years ago.
Animal skins and foliage were modified into garments as shelter from cold, heat, and rain, according to anthropologists, especially as humans relocated to new regions.
Clothing may have been worn by humans as early as 100,000 to 500,000 years ago, according to evidence. Scientists discovered evidence of garments being created 120,000 years ago in September 2021, according to research findings in Moroccan sediments.
Although they were skin drapes, cave paintings and graphic evidence reveal the existence of clothes within Paleolithic period, some 30,000 years ago. Textile clothing became popular approximately 27,000 years ago, and archeologists have recovered textile remnants dating back to 7000 B.C.
Sewing needles dating back to roughly 40,000 years have been discovered. Dyed flax fibers dating back 36,000 years were discovered in a medieval cave situated at the Republic of Georgia. Venus figurines represented with clothing began to appear in Europe 25,000 years ago.
They wore basket headwear or caps, waist belts, and a cloth strap above the breast. It’s likely that the earliest textiles, as opposed to hides sewed together, was felt.
From prehistory to the early Middle Ages, two primary types of looms dominated textile manufacturing in much of Europe, the Near East, and North Africa. The warp-weighted loom and the two-beam loom are the two types of looms.
Many extremely early pieces in fine condition, as well as textile impressions in clay and graphic renderings, have come from the Middle East, South America, and the arid frontiers of China.
Textile Trading in The Ancient World
The Han Dynasty launched the Silk Road trade route in around 114 B.C. The Silk Road had an important role in the development of China, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, the Indian subcontinent, and Rome, as well as helping to establish the groundwork for the contemporary world.
Ancient Near East
Flax fabrics used to shroud the deceased may be the oldest known woven textiles from the Near East. Flax production has been documented in the Near East since around 8000 BC, although sheep with wooly fleeces rather than hair are not bred until much later.
The growth of the skill of wool spinning in Mesopotamia over time resulted in a wide range of apparel. Men put on tunics with short sleeves with length above the knees, with a belt, towards the end of the third millennium BC and afterward.
The rich usually wore a woolen cloak over the tunics to highlight their status. Women’s dresses came in a wider range of styles, including those either with sleeves or sleeveless, tight or wide cuts, and lengths that did not draw attention to the body.
The “Priest King” is depicted wearing a shawl having floral designs on a statue from the Mohenjo-daro site. Other Dancing Girls sculptures discovered in Mohenjo-daro exclusively depict the donning of bangles or other ornaments. Harappans may have dyed their cloth using natural colors. Indigo plant cultivation was widespread, according to research.
There is evidence that linen cloth was made in Ancient Egypt. The drop spindles, hand-to-hand weaving, and rolling on the thighs were all used to spin yarn, and the yarn was also spliced.
Egyptian males used to wear linen kilts and women wear thin dresses with diverse types of shirts and jackets, mostly of sheer folded cloth, in the mummification funeral tradition.
The oldest known evidence of silk manufacture in China was discovered in Xia, Shanxi, among Yangshao culture sites.
Han Chinese attire, or Hanfu, comprised of a yi, a narrow-cuffed, knee-length garment linked with a sash, and a shang, a narrow, ankle-length skirt paired with a bixi, a piece of fabric that reached the knees, during the Shang Dynasty. The elite wore silk garments in vibrant primary colors.
Some fabric fragments manufactured from bark strands were unearthed around 5,500 years ago.  Hemp fibers were also identified in the Jōmon Period at the Torihama shell pile in Fukui Prefecture. Some ceramic pattern imprints also show beautiful mat designs, demonstrating the weaver’s skills.
People wearing short upper clothing, close-fitting pants, funnel-sleeves, and rope-like belts are seen in Jōmon pottery motifs.
Clothing with embroidered or painted arching designs can also be seen in the depictions. By 300 to 550 AD, silk farming was initiated by the Chinese, but due to the costing of silk, it was only used by upper class people.
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Fabric manufacture was mechanized throughout the industrial revolution, with machinery driven by waterwheels and steam engines. Production evolved from small-scale cottage operations to large-scale assembly-line operations.
Clothing, on the other hand, was still created entirely by hand. Sewing machines were invented in the nineteenth century, and they revolutionized apparel manufacture.
Textiles were created in a variety of ways, not just in factories. Previously, they were only available in regional and national marketplaces. One element that boosted the usage of factories was a substantial shift in transportation across the country.
New developments such as steamboats, canals, and railways reduced shipping costs, causing consumers to purchase less expensive items made elsewhere rather than more expensive goods produced locally. By the 20th century, educational programs about textiles were launched in renowned universities.