Wearingclothes is one of the main factors that differentiate us from animals. Humanbeings began wearing clothes more than 170,000 years ago after thesecond-to-the-last-ice age. We may now dress differently depending on the time,the occasions, the environment, as well as based on culture. Throughout recorded history clothing, alongwith food and shelter has been recognized as one of the primary needs of themankind. The average person however is apt to interpret the significance ofclothing solely in terms of physical or utilitarian needs such as the need forprotection against the weather often forget that everyone has a variety ofsocial and emotional needs that also must be met in some way.
Culture andsociety although they exist in the present drive from the past.Inhis longing for adornment, primitive man first decorated his body with thestains of berries and leaves. In his need for protection , he first covered hisbody with leaves – with the fig leaf of popular tradition- and then withknotted grasses and with skins. But it was not long before he discovered thatthese materials which he had been using in their natural state could be mademore durable and convenient by a process of intercrossing or weaving.Hisfirst real garment then was the loin cloth made of coarse fibrous stuff orlinen. Above it was added a girdle or belt, to which was suspended the tail ofsome animal. A custom still prevails among African people.
Clothes are also part of culture and eachculture develops its own fashion of appearance and symbols of agreed meaning. (1) clothes are one of the nonverbalsignals which inevitably transmit social signals, (2) clothes are closelyrelated to self representation and can be used to make a desired impression,(3) clothes are part of culture and each culture develops its own fashion ofappearance and symbols of agreed meaning. Thechoice of clothing is primarily governed with the society and the culture inwhich one lives, the influence of society may be formal such as by rules andregulations and may be informal such as by customs and the fashion. Culturechanges with the change in time and the social situation. In human historydiverse pattern in dress serve to identify the cultural affiliations of groups and individual. Customs of dress varynot only in their social context but in terms of their religious significancesas well. modification of custom and accompanying clothing habits.Cultureconstantly is being modified by development in the technical political andsocial spheres of societies and such changes are reflected visibly in theclothing of the people.
Man has found an infinite number of ways to satisfy hisclothing needs. In different parts of the world an in diff periods of history.Factors that influence the diversity of costume design include the effect ofthe natural environment , the supply of raw materials and the technical skillsof the people and moral standards .
As these cultural differences disappeardress styles also merge into more universal pattern.How clothes communicates culture:Most peopleare likely to focus on verbal expressions and transmissions as the primaryassociation with the communicative process and function. Our personal image,though, also communicates volumes about who we are, what we believe, what weconsider important, and how we want others to view us. we objectify ourselves in order to conveyknowledge of ourselves to others; clothing is one important way of achievingthis transmittal of information . As Keenan observes In his book Dress to impress,”Always and everywhere bodies are impressing themselves on society throughdress.One of thethings that clothing says about us is the identity we have established forourselves . There are at least three levels of identity that clothing canconvey to the observer: (1) personal; (2) cultural; and (3) historical .
Awoman wearing a Hijab, for instance, is identifying herself as an adherent toparticular religious and cultural norms. By negotiating these aspects of ouridentity by what we wear, we can either bring ourselves closer to others (i.e.by identifying ourselves as part of a particular group-through a uniform, forinstance) or distancing ourselves from them. Looking back over the course of human history,one sees how important clothing has been, not only in the process of conveyingimportant information about ourselves and the groups with which we associate,but also in the process of establishing certain cultural and social norms thatprovide both shape and structure to society. The clothes of early human societies seem to have been more functionalthan fashionable, but this fact did not preclude the diffusion of clothesacross human culture as an innovation.
Early human clothing was necessarilyfunctional, permitting hunter-gatherers, for instance, a certain degree ofprotection from the elements while maintaining ease of movement. It seems thatthere was not a great deal of variety or fashion-at least not in terms ofelaboration and adornment– involved in the production of early clothing. The fullexpressive and communicative capacities of clothing had not yet been developedor exploited.
“Clothes,” writes Keenan, “are society’s way ofshowing where we belong in the order of things, our role and position in thesocial pageantry”. This was not always the case; however, the transitionfrom clothing as a purely functional object to one that also had expressive andcommunicative capacities was relatively quick. African and Native Americantribes, for instance, have extensive and rich traditions of elaboratingclothing, especially for ceremonial purposes. The degree and quality ofdecoration, as well as the materials used, signified the wearer’s rank in thesocial order. Eagle feathers and elaborate headdresses, for instance, werereserved for elders and important tribal leaders.
Certain pieces of clothingwere reserved for wear during important ceremonies and rites, and were not partof everyday dress. Such clothing was also believed to be imbued with specialspiritual and protective powers