Comfort, Appearance and Durability of Fabrics

Last Updated on 31/12/2020

Comfort, Appearance and Durability of Fabrics

R.S. Balakumar
Associate Professor
Dept of Fashion Design & Arts
Hindustan University, Chennai, India


Comfortable, appearance and durable of fabrics are the most important characteristics. The term ‘Comfort‘ is being mentioned as “the absence of unpleasantness” or” a natural state compared to more active state of pleasure.” The most important factor affecting comfort in clothing is the movement of heat and water vapor through garment. There are two factors which keep the human being more comfortable.

Comfort wear
Fig: Comfort wear

Physical and Psychological Aspects
Comfort is always depend on physiological effects of such climatic variables of temperature, relative humidity and air movement of a body situated in a particular condition and also clothing factors, particularly fabric geometry, pore volume and enclosed air content etc.

Physical Aspects
The physical factors determining the comfort performance of textiles. Particularly the heat transfer between man and his environment, together with movement of moisture for insensible heat transfer, constitutes a major comfort – maintaining mechanism. Comfort involves a complex combination of properties.

Both subjective and physical. The movement of heat, moisture and air through a fabric are the major factors governing comfort: but some of the subjective factors such as size, fit and aesthetic behavior (softness, handle and drape) obviously are very important. In addition, other factors such as the generation of static electricity and the control of noise are closely connected with apparel use.

Thermal Properties and Comfort of Fabrics
Body temperature is the most critical factor in deciding comfort. Heat is gained by the body from the solar energy, by internal metabolism by physical exercise or by involuntary contraction of skeletal muscles in shivering, Heat loss, by conduction. Convection or radiation depends partly on the temperature gradient between the skin and environment, and this gradient is modified by varying the skin temperature.

Blood flow near the body surface controls the skin temperature. Excessive heat may be dissipated rapidly by vaporization of by body water, the body being used as a source of latent heat for the purpose; a clothing system that hinders free evaporation to any appreciable extent will thus be uncomfortable. On the other hand, undesirable heat loss can be prevented by increasing the thermal resistance and a low resistance will again result in discomfort for the wearer.

In the nude human body, an envelope of warm air moves by convection in the upward direction around the body surface and facilitates heat exchange, by convection or evaporation with surrounding environment. The presence of clothing interferes with the freedom of this process and thus modifies the amount of rate of heat loss in a complex manner. The ambient air temperature is the dominant influence in determining the skin temperature. At a low temperature, clothing is essential for the regulatory process because the body does not have the ability to continue to compensate for heat loss under these conditions.

Heat Transfer
The resistance that a fabric offers to the movement of heat through it is obviously of critical importance to its thermal comfort. The thermal resistance to transfer of heat from the body to the surrounding air is the sum of three parameters:

  1. Thermal resistance to transfer of heat from the surface of the material,
  2. Thermal resistance of the clothing material.
  3. Thermal resistance of the air inter-layer.

The first two factors are taken into account for the movement of air through the material. The third factor controls the rate of filtration of air through the clothing assembly for a given wind speed.

The heat transfer through a fabric is complex phenomenon affected by a number of factors. The three factors for the normal fabric appearance are:

  1. Thickness
  2. Enclosed still air and
  3. External air movement.

For a fixed weight thermal insulation increases with thickness (with increased enclosed air) whereas the property decreases with increase in weight (i.e., decrease in-enclosed air) if the thickness is maintained constant. The entrapped air is the most significant factor in determining thermal insulation.

Distinguished micro layers (those between contacting surfaces of the material) and macro layers (between non- contacting surfaces) of air enclosed within assembly shows that increase in either of these can increase thermal insulation. It appears that both thickness and entrapped air play a part in determining thermal insulation.

One of the major functions of clothing is to project the wearer against extremes of environmental temperature, from the excessive ambient heat as well as cold.

Moisture Permeability
The second important property of fabric, from a comfort point of view, is the way in which it allows water to pass through. This process can take place in both the liquid and vapor from of water, and the difference is an important one. If water evaporated at the skin and passes as vapor through the fabric (or to lesser extent, if it is transmitted to the surface by movement within fibres) the pores of the fabric remain free.

This enables the movement of air through the fabric to continue and allows the heat insulation value of the air within these pores to be maintained. On the other hand, if skin moisture is transported to the surface in the liquid from by wicking action and only evaporates on reaching the layers at the fabric surface, comfort is reduced in two ways: The sensation of wetness is perceived by the nerve sensors on the skin, so the garment feels clammy and in addition the water filled fabric pores are no longer able to hold dead air pockets so that heat insulating ability is lost and the garment fells cold.

In addition, if garment permits free accesses of liquid water it is uncomfortable in wet weather, where the reverse movement of exterior water towards the skin is experienced. The moisture vapors or lost at either the manufacturing or the finishing stages of the production process.

Factors Affecting Permeability
The movement of water vapor through a fabric depends considerably on the micros pores, nature of the materials, and this movement can hence be modified by any operations that bring about a change in the structure. The effect of fabric properties and of finishing treatment on moisture vapor transport considers briefly the changes brought about by texturing, different yarn twist, blending, mechanical treatment, chemical finishing, fibre properties and garment design.

Permeability and Comfort
Although heat transmission may be critical to survival in cold weather, it is contestable that moisture- vapor transmission is crucial to comfort in both cold and hot weather. Free movement of water to the fabric surface is essential if discomfort due to perspiration causing fabric wetness and leading to freezing in water or clamminess in summer is to be prevented.

Air Permeability
The air permeability of fabric can influence its comfort behavior in the following ways:

1. A material that is permeable to air is also in general likely to be permeable to water, in either vapor or liquid from. Thus the moisture – vapor permeability and the liquid moisture transmission are normally closely related to air permeability.

2. The thermal resistance of a fabric is strongly dependent on the enclosed still air, and this factor is in turn influenced by the fabric structure, as also is the air permeability. A very open cloth can inflict serious wind –chill problem on the wearer in cold climates with a breeze blowing and may thus affect survival chance may be in extreme cases. A highly air- permeable fabric may be sheer or have a very open structure, so that aesthetic factors such as dimensional stability, drape, handle or even skin bitchiness in strong sunlight may result in discomfort of a psychological or physical nature to the wearer.

Size and Fit
An important aspect of comfort, which is not strictly a textiles problem, but rather a clothing one, is size and fit. No matter how well a fabric is engineered to have optimum values of heat, heat water or air transmission, any garment made from it cannot be regarded as comfortable if it does not fit properly.

Two distinct factors are clearly evident in determination of whether the fit of a garment is good. The first on is a subjective one, which depends on whether the wearer achieves psychological satisfaction from the garment. The other factor is physical one and is concerned with the conditions of contact between the fabric and the body.

The body–fitting garments can restrict cardio –vascular flow causing skin abrasion, create unpleasant thermal or moisture conditions, induce irritation or cause any similar aggravations to the wearer in the form discomfort .There should be proper room for the movement of different parts body, particularly arms , front and back of the shoulder joint.

Aesthetic Comfort
In examining the comfort behavior of textiles, it is necessary to include some consideration of factors that are not measured by obvious physical tests and may be subjective in that two people may disagree about the level of comfort of the same fabric. These aesthetic factors include properties such as softness, handle, drape and similar properties and may also include properties such as colour, style, fashion compatibility and other similar characteristics.

The most difficult among these terms, to define, is handling. The act of submitting a fabric to a tactile test between fingers and thumb is a result of stimulus from fabric acting on major sensory centers presumably present in the human hand. Measurement of softness may be regarded as one aspect of handle.

Stiffness can be said to be most influential factor in governing softness. This factor is represented by the density, weave and softness of the fibre. The second of the aesthetic properties to be considered is drape. Weight and softness are the two important factors governing drape.

Static Electricity
A mild current of electricity is produced due to the friction between the garment and the skin of the wearer. This also is a cause of discomfort to the wearer. This is more so in case of garments made using synthetic fibres.

To sum up, the capacity of a fabric to allow the transfer of heat and the flow of air and water are the most important factors which should be taken into consideration by the manufacturers of apparel fabrics to decide whether the fabric will be comfortable to the wearer or not.

While customers buying the ready-made garment, these three elements are considered to be the important namely, comfort, appearance and durability. Comfort can be defined as” the absence of unpleasantness”. The most important factor affecting comfort in the clothing is the movement of heat and water vapor through a garment, there are two factors which heap the modern man comfortable.

Reference book:

  1. Fashion Design Vol-1
  2. Fashion Concepts-Dr. Navneet Kaur
  3. Clothing Technology
  4. Fibre to Fabrics

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