Clothes are one of the basic necessities of a human being. Clothing selection is dependent on desires and requirements of an individual. Buying a certain piece of garment can be influenced by many factors like need, aesthetics, and comfort. Whether the reason for wearing a certain garment is due to basic necessity, to impress someone, or to protect, comfort is a must. With the progress of science, there is a big improvement in the quality of life, which has increased the expectations of users in terms of comfort in clothing, with respect to the activities they are involved in, and the ever-changing environment.
These demands have led researchers to explore the science behind clothing comfort and find out what parameters are involved when it comes to achieving the comfort fit. Generally, clothing depends on age, health, environment, weather, occasion, social status, economic background, profession, religion, and territory broadly. Judging comfort is a matter of great complexity, because what is comfortable to one may or may not be comfortable to another.
This makes it difficult to define clothing comfort. In simple words, clothing comfort is a state of mind when it is at its lowest. According to Prof. Lubos Hes, author of Thermal comfort properties of textile fabrics in wet state, "Comfort is defined as the absence of perceived pain and discomfort". Clothing comfort is a state of satisfaction indicating physiological, psychological, and physical balance among the person.
There are two main factors that determine comfort clothing: External factors like the environmental temperature, moisture, wind, cultural and social influences which affect the comfort in clothing; Internal factors such as an individuals metabolic rate, level of activities, economic and health position, social experiences, and psychological situations are instrumental in establishing the level of comfort in clothing.
From all the above content it can be said, in a nutshell clothing comfort is a result of a network of different physiological, psychological, and sensorial activities and feelings. For instance, a bed sheet is more comfortable when the atmospheric temperature is between 20-25°C, any rise or fall in it, will cause a certain amount of discomfort. Hence, a human body reacts to any rise or fall in temperature and other environmental factors that cause discomfort and thermo physiological comfort is vital for being comfortable in a piece of garment.
Thermo physiology involves the movement of heat and moisture through a fabric. When the weather is cold, a human body looses heat to keep it warm, and which is why we cover our body with a layer of clothes, while in summer wearing light clothes, enables the body to reduce the heat. To maintain the thermal balance, body losses heat through four main mechanisms: conduction, convection, radiation, and evaporation. Fabrics need to be able to protect from wind and water, ensure moisture permeability, and insulate in order to provide thermal comfort.
Another element that is responsible for clothing comfort is the psychological situation of an individual. There can be innumerable psychological aspects that are responsible for clothing discomfort. However, according to Prof. Lubos Hes's studies, the following components have a lasting effect:
1. Economical aspects - resources, technology of objects manufactured, skills, political system
2. Historical aspects - using products made of natural materials, tradition, lifestyle, fashion
3. Cultural aspects - religion, habit, customs
4. Social aspects - age, qualification, social status or rank in the class
5. Individual & Group aspects - effects of fashion, trends, styles, colors, personal preferences
Since psychological factors can include many more attributes, it becomes extremely difficult to quantify and objectify as to what kind of clothing or what kind will not be comfortable to people.
The very instant one wears a garment, sensorial factors start acting and defining the comfort level of a fabric. The feel of a fabric on the skin is of utmost importance. Purchase decisions of people highly rely on the touch and feel of the fabric. The tips of ones finger are enough to feel the softness, smoothness, and elasticity, warm or cool feeling, thickness, transparency, wrinkle behavior, bending rigidity, and hand fullness of a fabric.
There are a few sensorial discomforts that can be vividly identified. Increased fabric hairiness causes a ticklish feeling, prickle caused due to a rough and stiff fabric, wet cling of a garment caused due to stickiness of sweat residue on skin, and warmth of a cloth are main reason for creating clothing discomfort. Same fabrics when treated in different ways give different degree of warmth. For instance, a cotton sheet is cool and repels heat, but a flannelette sheet, made by raising the surface of the same fabric can be comparatively warmer.
With the rise of new technologies and smart demands of consumers, clothing comfort is gaining importance. Consumers want higher quality, added value, and more functional clothes. Fashion trends and couture designer wear also need to go hand in hand with clothing comfort. Lifestyles of consumers have a huge impact on comfort and the kind of clothes they wear.
The new age consumers are more aware and desire clothes that provide comfort in all kinds of activities, they are indulged in. They want garments that are easy to care and are high on comfort. Manufacturers and garment makers need to adapt and meet these demands to keep consumers satisfied and deliver desired outputs.
Hence, understanding the science of clothing comfort can provide solutions to these upcoming challenges and can be of help to develop new products for competing in the consumer market.