What Is the Clothing Industry?

The clothing industry includes a wide variety of apparel items.
The fashion industry creates ready-to-wear clothing.
Clothing is often custom-made or tailored.
Some clothing companies specialize in workout attire.
Located in the borough of Manhattan, the Garment Center is the focal point of the clothing industry in the United States.
The clothing industry includes a range of independent and high-end retailers.
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  • Written By: Janis Adams
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2014
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The clothing industry, also known as the apparel industry, garment industry, or the fashion industry, began centuries ago in homes around the world. Today, the ready-to-wear clothing industry is a thriving industry that reaches males, females, and people of all ages with garments for all purposes, from the purely practical all the way to haute couture. The clothing industry is fraught with constant competition and largely ruled by ever changing fashion trends.

There was once a time when all stages of making a piece of clothing were done in the home. From the sheering of the sheep to provide wool to the spinning of that same wool to create yarn and thread, which was then crafted into a ruffly hewn garment, all these steps were done by hand. The 1830s in America largely marked the end of the home-spun garment.

Men's clothing, tailored and custom made, marked the first garments in the initial fledgling years of the clothing industry. This then translated into the first foray into ready-to-wear clothing for men. At this time, women were still fashioning their own clothing items.


During the American Civil War, the concentration of the clothing industry had been on the solders' uniforms. Afterward, the focus of the clothing industry for the first time became women's apparel. At this time, clothing production kicked into a higher gear than had ever been seen before. From the end of the war until the early 1900s, clothing production within the United States, and more specifically in New York City, grew exponentially. After this time, however, the production of clothing within the United States faced a steady decline due to the fact that overseas labor proved to be far less expensive. The United States soon found itself an importer rather than an exporter of clothing items.

Within the clothing industry, the United States is the largest importer of clothing and garments. Roughly 97 percent of all clothing purchased within the United States is made outside the country. At least some part of this percentage of garments is created in China, the Philippines, and India.

Located in the borough of Manhattan, the Garment Center is the focal point of the clothing industry in the United States. This area of less than 1 square mile is the epicenter of all clothing design worldwide. Nowhere else is there a more concentrated location of fashion forward thinkers and creators.


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