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What Are the Different Types of Clothing Materials?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 21, 2024
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Clothing materials are plentiful, and garments can be made from a single type of material or an assortment. Natural materials include furs, leather, and cotton cloth. Man-made materials include polyester, Nylon®, and Spandex®. Less-common materials include hemp, rubber, and jute. Duct tape and recycled paper have even joined the ever-expanding arena of materials that can be used to make clothing.

Cotton has been used to make textiles for centuries. Denim jeans, which are made from cotton twill, have been produced since the late 1800s, and cotton fabrics continue to be a mainstay when it comes to clothing. A thinner cotton material called seersucker has a bumpy texture that prevents it from hugging the skin when worn. It is primarily used for summer-weight clothing and typically features a striped pattern.

Leather has served as a material for clothing since humanity's earliest days. Made from the top layer of an animal hide, leather can be dyed, cut, and sewn similar to cloth fabric. The advantage in using leather as a material for certain garments is its ability to breathe, its durability, and its resistance to heat and cold. While the top layer of hide is used to produce leather, lower layers are used to produce lesser quality materials, such as suede. Suede is similar to leather in many ways, but it is a less durable and more supple material.

Rubber is used to make a variety of clothing, including dresses, leggings, and bodysuits. Duct tape can even be used to create clothing, with everything from flip-flops to prom dresses being made from the product. A full line of clothing made from hemp is also available, including skirts, cargo shorts, and hoodies.

Corduroy, which is a rigid velvet material, is typically used for making trousers and jackets. Wool fabrics are bulky and retain heat, making them suitable for cold weather apparel. Animal furs, such as rabbit, mink and fox, are also clothing materials that provide warmth for the wearer. Typically, furs used to make clothing are leather with the hair left intact.

Spandex® is a synthetic material known for its superior elasticity qualities. When it is used to make clothing or costumes, it is typically combined with other fibers, such as polyester or cotton. As Spandex's® ability to hug and move with the body, it is often the fabric of choice for competitive swimwear, dance outfits, and wetsuits.

Polyester is a man-made, synthetic material. Clothing materials from polyester offer high color retention, durability, and increased wrinkle resistance as compared to their natural fiber counterparts. The feel of the natural and synthetic fabrics, however, is significantly different and some people may prefer the feel of one type of material over another.

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Discussion Comments
By anon992360 — On Sep 02, 2015

"Fur from minks and other animals can be used as material for clothing."..continue that with, but shouldn't be as it condones and continues the death, suffering, and exploitation of animals, for the sake of profits, fashion, and programming of human minds that torturing, killing and robbing an animal of it's very fur and skin as something 'acceptable' and of 'the norm', not forgetting to mention how such a cruel industry contributes to the pollution and contamination of the environment, and of the 'materials' - animal flesh -fur themselves when laced with toxic chemicals to keep the skins from rotting into a more durable material.

There are many other material alternatives on the market which do not derive from animals; faux leather/pleather, cotton, polyester, tencel, rayon, acrylic, faux suede, microfiber, viscose, etc look it up, check out other alternatives. Thank you for the article. It's worth making people aware of their broader options which most of the time is not usually made well known.

Those which are more ethical, guilt free, without the cruelty of animals involved and also make sure consumers that in the materials your choose and clothing you buy, that you are not contributing to slave/child labor.

By wavy58 — On Nov 15, 2012

@OeKc05 – Terry cloth slippers are nice, too. They keep my feet warm in winter.

My favorite inexpensive clothing material has got to be crushed velvet, though. I see this stuff everywhere, from dollar stores to department stores.

Most of the outfits that I wear to holiday parties are made of crushed velvet. I have a dark red dress of this material, and I can't seem to stop feeling of it while I'm wearing it!

I also have a long velvet blouse with sequins across the neckline. It goes great with black pants, and it is just dressy enough for parties.

By OeKc05 — On Nov 15, 2012

I absolutely love terry cloth material. Usually, you see towels and rags made out of it, but I have seen some items of clothing made of it.

I have a terry cloth bath robe that is so soft and cozy. It helps my hair dry faster, too. I put it on over my pajamas when my hair is wet and it speeds up drying time quite a bit.

By Perdido — On Nov 14, 2012

@myharley – I wish that I could wear wool. It is so warm, but my skin is very sensitive to it.

I itch so much if my skin comes into contact with wool. A couple of times, I've gotten away with wearing a wool sweater on top of a long-sleeved undershirt and a wool skirt with cotton leggings underneath.

However, if the wool protrudes past the underlying protective layer, I will start itching so badly that I will have to remove the sweater or skirt. So, I try to avoid buying anything that is made of wool.

By lighth0se33 — On Nov 13, 2012

Linen is the lowest on my favorite clothing materials list. I had a bad experience with a linen dress I bought a few years ago, and I haven't bought anything made with this material since.

I didn't know that linen would shrink, and I washed and dried the dress. It turned into a small apron! I didn't even think it would be possible for something to shrink so much!

By sunshined — On Nov 13, 2012

How much does it cost to get a fur coat cleaned? Before my grandma passed away she gave me her fur coat. I haven't worn it yet because it needs to be cleaned but I have no idea how much this will cost me.

By myharley — On Nov 13, 2012

I have always loved to wear wool sweaters in the winter. I am usually cold all the time, and there is nothing that keeps me warmer than wool.

One year in college I was sick for about a week and my roommate thought she would help me out and do my laundry for me. She washed my favorite wool sweater and put it in the dryer! She was horrified when she took it out of the dryer and it looked like the perfect size for a toddler. She learned the hard way that wool is one of those clothing materials that you can't put in the dryer or it will shrink dramatically.

By Mykol — On Nov 12, 2012

I have a black leather coat that I have had for years. I wear it often, yet it still looks almost brand new. I like wearing leather for several reasons. First of all, I love the way leather feels. I think it is classy and dressy without being heavy or bulky. I don't mind spending the money to get my leather articles of clothing cleaned properly since they last for such a long time.

By bagley79 — On Nov 12, 2012

Of all the different kinds of fabrics listed I wear more cotton than anything else. I don't work in an office so am able to wear jeans every day of the week. If I had to pick a favorite type of clothing material it would have to be denim.

The thing with denim is you can make it as casual or dressy as you want it to be. When I am at home I usually wear a pair of soft denim jeans that are well worn and casual. If I am going out I might wear a pair of dark blue or black denim with a jacket and heels.

I also like to buy clothing material that is easy to take care of. For me this means throwing it in the washer and dryer and not worrying about taking it to the dry cleaners. I also don't have to iron my denim clothes which is another thing I love about this material.

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