The Effects of Climate Change on Fashions

Climate change will have a profound effect on clothes and fashion, changing styles, fabrics and laundering, says a University of Maryland expert.

“Remember Jimmy Carter’s sweaters from the 1970s energy crisis? With Seventh Avenue proclaiming that ‘green is the new black,’ we can expect a surge in fashion innovations in response to climate change,” says Jo Paoletti, an American Studies professor at the University of Maryland, and an expert in apparel design and the history of textile and clothing. She has spent more than 25 years researching and writing about clothing in America.

“As the impact of global warming is felt, we can anticipate debates over cotton versus polyester and increasing concern about the water and energy needed to launder clothing,” Paoletti adds. “In the future, smart clothing that monitors and adjusts to body temperature may help us reduce our need for air conditioning and heating.”

Climate change concerns could also affect the frequency of buying new clothes and the size of our wardrobes.

“Shakespeare wrote ‘fashion wears out more apparel than the man,’ and that phrase is even truer today!” says Paoletti. “North Americans buy more clothing than they ‘need’ and thrift shops and charities are swamped with our leftovers.”

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