Cloth in Boys' Clothing


Figure 1.--Aristocratic boys in the 16th and 17th centuries dressed in elaborate clothes made from rich fabrics often heavily beautifully woven and worn with lace and ruffled fittings. Here is a good example. We have not identified this portrait, but the boy looks Spanish to us. It was probably painted in the late 17th or early 18th centuries. At the time boys essentialy wore the same styles as their fathers, only done in a smaller size.

The information on cloth does not relate specifcally to boys clothing. An understanding of cloth and textiles, however, is important in assessing clothing developments. As a result, some basic information is provided on fibers, cloth, fabrics, dyes, and textiles. Most clothes are made by fibers bound togeter. Fibers are thread-like strands of a substance such as cotton, wool, or various synthetic material. Today blended fibers are often used mixing both natuaral and synthetic materials. Fibers must go through several steps to clean and strighten them before they can be made into cloth. Spinning is the final step. Spinning turns the fibers into yarn by twisting and pulling at the same time. Twisting holds the fibers together. Most fabrics are made by either knitting or weaving. The colors of clothes have been put in fabrics through several methods. Yarns can be dyed and used to weave or knit a pattern. Fabric can also be dyed a solid color after it is knitted or woven. Colorful designs can also be printed on fabrics after they have been knitted or woven. Clothing can be made from a dizzening number of fabrics, each with their own distinctive history. Some of the most useful fabrics for children have been various forms of cottin and wool fabric, but more luxrious fabrics like velvet have also been used. Modern children's clothing relies heavily on blends including synthetic fibers.

Fibers

Most clothes are made by fibers bound togeter. Fibers are thread-like strands of a substance such as cotton, wool, or various synthetic material. Today blended fibers are often used mixing both natuaral and synthetic materials.

Spinning Yarns

Fibers must go through several steps to clean and strighten them before they can be made into cloth. Spinning is the final step. Spinning turns the fibers into yarn by twisting and pulling at the same time. Twisting holds the fibers together. The reader might try untwisting a piece of yarn to see how easily it pulls apart. Yarns can be as thick as rope or as thin as hair. The first primitive forms of yarn were probably be maid when early man braided animal fur or twisted plant fibers together. For thousands of years, people spun fiber in the same way, using a spinning wheel. Because people had to make all their own cloth, spinning was very important to them. For hundreds of years, spinning was on of the few tasks where women could sit down and relax a little while working. Often women brought their spinning wheels when visitins neighboring women. They could sit and talk for hours during the long hours that it took to spin yarn.

Making Fabrics

Most fabrics are made by either knitting or weaving.

Knitting

Knitting involves a person or machine looping yarn together to make fabric. One long string of yarn can be knitted into a piece of fabric or garment.

Weaving

Weaving utilizes a machine called a loom to interlace pieces of yarn in cross hatching patterns. Modern weaving follows the same primitive priciples first practiced by primitive weavers. The first form weaving, which is still practiced in parts of South America and Asia, was probably back-strap weaving. The weaver, usually a woman, ties one end of the yarn to a strap on her back. She tied the other end to a post or tree. Holding another length of yarn in her hands, she interlaves this yarn in and out of the long strands between her and the tree. These pieces of cloth are not very wide, but they can be long. The pieces are sewn together to make a wider piece.

The industrial revolution

Weaving changed dramatically in the 18th century. For thousands of years most cloth was made painstakingly in people's homes or small shops. This began to channge in the 18th century and even more profoundly in the 19th century with profound social consequences. New inventions such as steam powered machines made in much cheaper and faster to produce goods in factories or mills as weaving factories were often called. Common people who once might have been able to afford one or two suits in their entire lives, now might have entire wardrobes. Mills converted from water power to stream power. The increases in productivity were startling. Inventions in the textile industry made it possible to make cloth much faster by machine than ever was possible by hand. Women and even children, started spending most of their day away from home working in factories. People not only left home to work, but they moved from rural areas to crowd in cities. The mechanization of textile production was the first step in the industrial revolution. This mechanization allowed people to get more good for lower prices. Workers including children were paid very low wages and factory owners kept most of the profits to build vast fortunes. Child labor became ahuge problem, sometimes working 16 hours a day in textile factories.

Sewing

Sewing garments was hand work until Singer invented the mechanical sewing machine in 1851. The productivity of seastresses was significantly increased and the cost of garments declined. By the 1870s well made ready made garments were available at low cost. The well taailored clothing that is commonly worn by the 1870s stands in sharp contrast to the poorly fitted clothing comingly worn as late as the 1850s and 60s. By the end of the century even families of modest means could afford their own hom sewing machine.

Colors and Patterns

Dyeing and Printing

The colors of clothes have been put in fabrics through several methods. Yarns can be dyed and used to weave or knit a pattern. Fabric can also be dyed a solid color after it is knitted or woven. Colorful designs can also be printed on fabrics after they have been knitted or woven. Looms and knitting machines can be programmed to make different patterns in fabric. In fact a weaving loom invented by the Frenchman Joseph Marie Jacquard used puched cards to control weaving patterns.

Dyes

Dyes for thousands of years were obtained from natural sources. Some of the major sources of dyes were: berries, flowers, bark, roots, beetles, shellfish, minerals, and even urine. One of the most important dyeing ingredient was human ingredient. Big chamber pots would be put around villages to collect it. The urine caused the color to penetrate into the fiber so that it stayed permanently colored. After the urine-treated cloth was dyed, it was washed, beaten, rinsed, and laid out in the grass to dry under the sun. The finished cloth was clean and safe to wear.

Dyes varied greatly in cost and use.
Blue: Blue was one of the least expensive and easiest dyes to produce.
Red:
Green:
Indigo: Indigo dye was first used for denim in 1860. Indigo is one of the oldest dyes and made from fermented leaves of Indigofera plants which are native to China and India. A synthetic Indigo was introduced in 1897.
Khaki: The khakis that American boys have worn since the 1950s originated in 1846 when Sir Harry Lumsden, commanding an English troop in Punjab, India traded in his bright white trousers for light-weight pajama bottoms to find relief from the heat. To disguise them he colored them to blend with the local terrain using mazari, a native plant. This was the birth of khaki, the Hindu word for "dust". Sir Harry soon realized that the new Khaki pants were more suitable in battle than the white pants, and red tunic. European military tactics were changing. Blending in was a definiye advantage. Khaki is a color, but is now synonymous with a military twill pant. Khaki went from India to the Kaffir War in South Africa in 1851, and then after the Sudan Wars and Afghan Campaign of 1878 it was adopted in 1884 as the official uniform. The same year Khaki-color dye was patented. It soon was adopted by other armies including the American for the Spanish-American War in 1898.
Yellow: One of the most sought-after colors was gold, because only the rich could afford the real thing. Bright yellow dyes to make fibers look like gold were made from crocuses.
Purple: One of the rarest colors was purple. It was expensive and time consuming to produce. It could only be made from one species of shellfish. As a result, it was often worn exclusively for royalty.

Synthetic dyes were not developed until the late 19th century. German scientists lead the world in the development of synthetic dyes.

Fabrics

Clothing can be made from a dizzening number of fabrics, each with their own distinctive history. Some of the most useful fabrics for children have been various forms of cottin and wool fabric, but more luxrious fabrics like velver have also been used. Modern children's clothing relies heavily on blends including synthetic fibers.






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Created: August 12, 1999
Last updated: 4:14 AM 2/29/2008