What is the Clothing Industry?

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  • Written By: Janis Adams
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 22 December 2019
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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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Post 4

@bythewell - Clothing is one of those things that I think I would be way too self conscious to make for myself. I'd always be worried it would fall apart or look funny at the back or something like that.

I do wish that the clothing industry would standardize clothing sizes though. Ladies clothing in particular is ridiculously difficult to size because every store takes a different angle.

Post 3

@irontoenail - You don't have to travel to get clothes like that. There are plenty of people online who will make custom clothes for you. It's not quite the same experience but it's as close as you can get without paying for a local tailor, who is likely to charge hundreds of dollars for even simple garments.

Another option is to get wholesale clothing, which I've found online fairly often being sold in small or single amounts and just customize it yourself. It's not that difficult to learn how to let out cuffs or put in tucks if you don't want to learn how to make clothes from scratch.

Post 2

If you are interested in clothes and like the idea of having custom made garments the way they used to have in the old days, there are a lot of places where you can still get this done for very reasonable prices. I lived in West Africa for a while and pretty much every town had a dozen or so tailors, and the better ones could just copy a photograph of a piece of clothing and make almost anything you might want.

The same went for things made out of leather like shoes and bags. Their fashion industry is all based around clothes made by hand the old fashioned way and it's perfect for visitors because they know for sure that they are getting clothes made by a person who is getting paid for their labor.

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