Clothing industry

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Clothing industry or garment industry summarizes the types of trade and industry along the production and life chain of clothing and garments, starting with the textile industry (producers of cotton, wool, fur, and synthetic fibre) via fashion industry to fashion retailers up to trade with second-hand clothes and textile recycling. The producing sectors build upon a wealth of clothing technology some of which, like the loom, the cotton gin, and the sewing machine heralded industrialization not only of the previous textile manufacturing practices.


Clothing factory in Montreal, Quebec, in 1941.
Nylon stocking inspection in Malmö, Sweden, in 1954.
Garment factory workers in Bangladesh, in 2013.

By the early 20th century, the industry in the developed world often involved immigrants in "sweat shops", which were usually legal but were sometimes illegally operated. They employed people in crowded conditions, working manual sewing machines, and being paid less than a living wage. This trend worsened due to attempts to protect existing industries which were being challenged by developing countries in South East Asia, the Indian subcontinent and Central America. Although globalization saw the manufacturing largely outsourced to overseas labor markets, there has been a trend for the areas historically associated with the trade to shift focus to the more white collar associated industries of fashion design, fashion modeling and retail. Areas historically involved heavily in the "rag trade" include London and Milan in Europe, and the SoHo district in New York City.

There are considerable overlaps between the terms clothing-/garment-, textile- and fashion industry. The clothing sector is concerned with all types of clothes, from fashion to uniforms, e-textiles and workwear. Textile industry is less concerned with the fashion aspect but produces the fabrics and fibres that are required for tailoring. The fashion industry closely follows - and sets - fashion trends to always supply the latest in non-functional clothing.


The garment industry is a major contributor to the economies of many countries. The industry for Ready Made Garments has been criticized by labor advocates for the use of sweatshops, piece work and child labor.

Working conditions in low-cost countries have received critical media coverage, especially in the aftermath of large scale disasters like the 2013 Savar building collapse or the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

In 2016, the largest apparel exporting nations were China ($161 billion), Bangladesh ($28 billion), Vietnam ($25 billion), India ($18 billion), Hong Kong ($16 billion), Turkey ($15 billion) and Indonesia ($7 billion).[1] By 2025, it is projected that the United States market will be worth $385 billion.[2] It is also projected that the e-commerce revenue will be worth 123 million in the United States by 2022.[3]



See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

United States[edit]

  • Carpenter, Jesse Thomas. Competition and Collective Bargaining in the Needle Trades, 1910-67 (Cornell UP, 1972)
  • Chandler, Alfred The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (Harvard UP, 1977), pp 287, 289, 298, 308-09, 312
  • Cherington, Paul T. The Wool Industry: Commercial Problems of the American Woolen and Worsted Manufacture (1917) online
  • Cole, Arthur H. "A neglected chapter in the history of combinations: The American wool manufacture." Quarterly Journal of Economics 37.3 (1923): 436-475.
  • Copeland, Melvin Thomas. The cotton manufacturing industry of the United States (Harvard UP, 1912) online.
  • Corbin, Harry A. The Men's Clothing Industry: Colonial Times Through Modern Times (New York, 1970)
  • Fraser, Steve. Labor will rule: Sidney Hillman and the rise of American labor (Cornell UP, 1993) head of Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.
  • Godley, Andrew. Jewish immigrant entrepreneurship in New York and London 1880–1914. (Palgrave Macmillan, 2001).
  • Goldstein, Gabriel M. and Elizabeth Greenberg, eds. A Perfect Fit: The Garment Industry and American Jewry (1860-1960) (Texas Tech UP, 2012), heavily illustrated
  • Green, Nancy L. Ready-to-wear and ready-to-work: a century of industry and immigrants in Paris and New York (Duke UP, 1997).
  • Hapke, Laura. Sweatshop: the history of an American idea (Rutgers UP, 2004).
  • Joselit, Jenna Weissman. A Perfect Fit: Clothes, Character, and the Promise of America (2002)
  • Katz, Daniel. All together different: Yiddish socialists, garment workers, and the labor roots of multiculturalism (NYU Press, 2011).
  • Liebhold, Peter, and Harry R. Rubenstein. Between a rock and a hard place: A history of American sweatshops, 1820-present (UCLA Asian American Studies Center, 1999).
  • Nystrom, Paul. The Economics of Fashion (New York, 1928)
  • Parmet, Robert D. The Master of Seventh Avenue The Master of Seventh Avenue David Dubinsky and the American Labor Movement (2012), head of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU)
  • Pastorello, Karen. A power among them: Bessie Abramowitz Hillman and the making of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (U of Illinois Press, 2008).
  • Pope, Eliphalet. The Clothing Industry in New York (U of Missouri, 1905) online
  • Popkin, Martin E. Organization, Management, and Technology in the Manufacture of Men's Clothing (New York, 1929)
  • Seidman, Joel. The Needle Trades (1942)
  • Tyson, Thomas. "Collective bargaining and cost accounting: the case of the US men's clothing industry." Accounting and Business Research 25.97 (1994): 23-38.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Global apparel market size 2012-2025 | Statista". Statista. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  3. ^ "U.S. online apparel and fashion revenue 2022 | Statistic". Statista. Retrieved 2018-02-19.