It is considered that people began wearing clothes about 170,000 years ago. The first clothes would have been made from animal skin to protect the body from the elements. As time went by a choice of textiles became available and clothing became a reflection of different cultures.
Clothing can be made from many different types of textiles - cotton, flax, felt, wool, ramie, silk, leather and fur which can be woven, knitted, sewn, netted or looped to make fabric.
In England clothing and fashion has changed over the centuries. During the Middle Ages people wore undergarments made of linen and outer clothing made of heavy wool which were in natural colours. Only the wealthy could afford to wear clothes in bright colours. In Tudor times the wealthy wore garments made from brightly coloured silk and the middle classes wore clothes made from linen and wool. The very poor wore simple woollen clothing. Towards the end of the Tudor period a way to show off wealth was to wear a ruff around the neck. In the 18th century styles varied from elaborate embroidery to plain dresses made of muslin. The poor wore plain and practical clothing. At the end of the 19th century womens dresses became flat at the front with a bustle at the back and fine tailoring became important for wealthy men. Fashion changed significantly during the 20th century, particularly from the 1920s when the corset disappeared, hemlines rose and waistlines dropped. In the 1940s, due to the Second World War, clothing was affected by rationing and new clothes were re-fashioned from old clothes and people would make do and mend.
In present times the British fashion market is a leading industry. The art of creating bespoke handmade clothing remains very popular as a functional, elegant and decorative craft.