Clothing Materials: A History of What Makes Up Your Clothes!
(02) 4365 5529

Have you ever thought about what makes up your favourite shirt? Have you ever wondered the history of the stockings you wear to work? The chances are, you buy things because they look good or feel comfortable, not necessarily because of the material used. There are a number of clothing materials available, from 100% cotton to blends of Cotton and Nylon or Polyester and Fleece. Each item of clothing is designed for a purpose with the right kind of material to serve this purpose!

Common Clothing Materials


Nylon is a family of human made polymers. Nylon is a thermoplastic silky material, which means it can be melt-processed into fibres, films or shapes. It was first used commercially in 1938 in a Nylon bristled toothbrush, followed soon after in 1939 where it was used in women’s stockings. When World War II struck, all Nylon production was given to the military to be used in parachutes construction. Nylon products were found to be quite fragile, and would often rip, creating “Runs” in the material. A solution was proposed to mix Nylon with other existing materials such as cotton, to strengthen the material. 


Polyester is a category of polymers. Polyesters can be made up of naturally occurring chemicals, such as those found in plant cuticles, as well as synthetics. Polyester was discovered in the late 1930s by scientist W. H. Caruthers. At around the same time the discovery of Nylon was made, so Polyester was put on the back burner for a little while. By the late ’70s, polyester was being used to make pantsuits, leisure suits, golf pants and other interesting fashion pieces. Polyester today can be used in manufacturing clothes, home furnishings i.e. bedspreads, sheets, pillows, furniture, carpets, curtains, plastic bottles, high strength ropes, hoses, and sails.


Cotton is a soft fluffy fibre that grows around the seeds of cotton plants. The plants can be found worldwide in the Americas, Africa, Egypt and India. The greatest diversity of wild cotton species is found in Mexico, Australia and Africa. Cotton is mostly spun into yarn or into a soft breathable textile. Cotton is thought to have been used for clothing in prehistoric times. Currently, over 25 million tonnes of Cotton is harvested annually.

Cotton is used to make a number of textile products. Including: absorbent bath towels and robes; denim for jeans, socks, underwear, most T-Shirts and bed sheets!

Check the tag on your clothes. What clothing materials are they made from?