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The First Time Mankind Ever Dressed: History of Clothing and textiles

Updated on July 26, 2017

Thank you Lord for we discovered fabric. It is a basic human inclination to cover oneself; and in the days when human life was wrought with peril and uncertainty, the lack of clothing was yet another calamity. We have gone from being unclothed, to semi-clothed to completely clothed, the cycle of events purely dictated by compulsion and driven by invention, now we have gone to being semi-clothed again ironically purely by choice, which is an entirely new argument altogether invoking questions on the values of today. We are here to discuss the earlier sequence of events, so that the next time we don something special, we sympathise with those who did without clothing, may their souls rest in peace and appreciate those who decided they have had enough of the ‘uncovered’ circumstances.

Textile; definition;

Do we even know what textile is? The definition is highly informative. Textiles, defined as felt or spun fibers made into yarn and subsequently netted, looped, knit or woven to make fabrics. The difference between the felt and spun fibres;

  • felt fibres are produced by matting, condensing and pressing woolen fibres
  •  whereas spun fibres are produced by twisting together plant, animal or synthetic fibres.

Clothing; when did we first start?

There is discord among various scientific research and groups about the actual time when people actually started clothing themselves. Some scientists believe it was around 650,000 years ago that people first started to clothe. Other believe on the basis of the birth of the body louse which may have been transferred from the head louse and lives in clothes that it can be about 107,000 years ago. The oldest possible sample of fabric which the scientists have in their possession dates to the Neolithic ages also referred to as the late Stone Age. These ages persisted approximately 50,000 years ago.

The cut and styling of the first ever dress; Conclusions drawn

As the equipment to style the cloth in the desired fashion had not yet been discovered, the fashion trend of those times must have been simple and uncomplicated entailing mere draping and holding the cloth together by reasonable means. Theories suggesting possible texture of the first ever dress is discussed under the headings of the oldest preserved textile and first technique of felt.

Some Facts About The Oldest Preserved Textile

The fragment is from Funnel Beaker culture at Rmiz-Kremela I, Central Moravia, CzechRepublic. The culture existed from 4000 B.C. to 2900 B.C. in North and Central Europe. Several techniques including X-ray microanalysis and microscopic study were applied by the scientists to identify the fiber content, elemental composition, or other observable information. Observations were

  • the fibers used were of plant origin
  • the fibers themselves do not contain any sulphur, which would have been the case had they been wool.


The fragment was woven from flax fibers. A plant of the Linum species, which has a single, slender stalk, about a foot and a half high, with blue flowers Flax is grown both for its seeds and for its fibers. Various parts of the plant have been used to make fabric, dye, paper, medicines, fishing nets, hair gels, and soap. The fabric which results from weaving the flax fibres is linen. Luxurious and light, it was most popular in ancient Egypt among the rich and poor alike.

Journey in time to the present array of fabrics

As the times progressed, so did the methods and techniques people applied in the production of textile.

  1. The very first technique: Felt

As opposed to the popular belief that the first textile was animal skin sewn together, scientists believe that the first textile was probably felt. While some types of felt are very soft, some are tough enough to form construction materials. People must have relied on this technique for hundreds of years as the next technique in line is researched to have come into being a long time after the alleged first instance of clothing.

  1. Evolved and improved: Sewing

Possible sewing needles have been dated to around 40,000 years ago. The earliest definite identifiable examples of needles originate from the Solutrean culture residing in France from 19000 B.C to 15000 B.C. The civilization was famous for their tool making skills and had made ground breaking advancements in this field.

  1. Further advancement: Weaving

The earliest evidence of weaving comes from impressions of textiles on little pieces of hard clay, dating from 27,000 years ago and found in Dolni Vestonice in the Czech Republic.

Statuettes of women predated around 25,000 years ago were discovered draped in dresses. The statuettes from Western Europe wore basket hats or caps, belts at the waist, and a strap of cloth that wrapped around the body right above the chest. Eastern European figurines wore belts, hung low on the hips and sometimes string skirts.

And so we have developed dozens of weaving methods and materials resulting in the various fabrics we enjoy flaunting today. Introduction of automated means has made the process more efficient and cheap.

Fabrics And Material Used By Major Ancient Civilizations

Ancient Egypt:

The ancient Egyptian grew flax on the banks of the river in Neolithic ages in around 5500 B.C. and wove linen. The evidence of wool production is scanty.

Ancient China:

The remains of a cocoon of a domesticated silkworm dated to around 5000 B.C., form earliest evidence of silk production in China.

Ancient Japan

The ancient Japanese wore cloths which were sewn together evidenced from the discovery of bone needles and used indigenous available material like hemp for cloth making.

Ancient India

The inhabitants of Indus valley civilization used cotton for the production of cloth from as early as 5000 B.C to 4000 B.C.

As the world trade grew, each of people took advantage of the alien materials and skills of the other. The silks, velvets, chiffons and the like are all a gift of the hardworking man of yesterday.


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