if I wanted to have a catalog of fabrics covering most clothing, how big would it be?

there are lots of different clothing items being manufactured today. Let’s assume that each item is manufactured of one type of fabric (at least in my wardrobe I don’t see much stuff with multiple types). Ignoring color differences, how many fabric samples would we need to have in a fabrics catalog to capture the “majority” of garment products out there? (I cannot qualify “majority” any further because I don’t know anything about the shape of the underlying distribution)

Another way of asking the same question would be, how many types of fabric (excluding color differences) get manufactured in large quantities today?

A related question. Do actual clothing manufacturers have their own ad hoc fabric catalog of this sort lying around in their office for use when making decisions about creation of new products for which fabric will need to be ordered? Or how do the professionals deal with the task of “visualizing the properties of the fabric” which simple humans like myself usually accomplish at the store via the sense of touch?

How finely do you want to divide it, and by what criteria? You could say that the types of fabric are cotton, wool, polyester, etc., or you could say that the types of fabric are knit, woven, felted, etc., or you could categorize things by their print or the lack thereof, or by the thickness of the thread or yarn used to make them, and so on. And all of those categories can be subdivided further: Wool can be from a variety of different sheep, or goats, or alpacas, and there are many different sorts of weave where the weft goes over and under various numbers of strands of warp, and so on.

Chronos, well, you are (hopefully) the expert, so you tell me :slight_smile:

Note the emphasis on popularity. If it so happens that there are 1000 types of cotton fabric out there but only 10 actually account for 95% of all cotton garments produced, that in itself would be a very interesting tidbit to know. It also would make those hypothetical 10 to be prime candidates for such a catalog.

I know only enough to know the extent of my ignorance. But that still leaves the question of how finely you want to divide it. I could say, for instance, that two types of cloth make up the vast majority of all clothing: Those made from natural fibers and those made from synthetic fibers (it’s only the majority, not all, because some clothes aren’t made from fibers at all). But I suspect that that would fall short of the answer you’re looking for.

For that matter, what does “most” mean? What does “clothing” mean? Are we talking most units sold at retail, or are we looking at most dollars spent, including hand woven cloth used for couture? Outer gear (like winter coats), or only dresses, shirts and pants?

I think the easiest, and shortest, list is the types of fibers used in most retail clothing. Pretty short list:

Cotton
Rayon
Nylon
Polyester
Acrylic
Olefin
Inego (corn)
Silk
Spandex
Polar fleece
Wool
Linen
Ramie
Hemp
Flax
Bamboo

That covers, I’m sure but have no cite, 98+% of the clothing you’ll find at mass retail.

If you want to look at named fabrics made with those fibers, you’d be looking at subcategories under Cotton, like “Denim, Twill, Broadcloth,” based on weave and thickness or “Calico, Plaid, Print, Stripe” based on dying/printing.

perhaps it would be best to define a “type of fabric” the way the pros define it.

Well, so anybody knows how they do it? If a factory is selling some fabric, how do they describe it to the potential customers? How do potential customers tell that the fabric A from factory F1 is basically same thing as fabric B from factory F2 when they are comparison shopping?

WRT how to define popularity, let’s define it by the square foot or by the number of items sold. That should screen out the crocodile skin and similar rarities and keep us solidly on track analyzing the mass market apparel industry.

I’m still not sure what you’re asking.

If I were creating an article of clothing for manufacture, I’d first determine what properties the garment/fabric would need, then figure out what fabrics met those criteria. For example, if I was making a tailored jacket, I would want a fabric that was sturdy, non- or minimal stretch, closely woven, etc. I might decide that I wanted to make it of wool gabardine. If I didn’t have a manufacturer in mind, I might go on-line to a site like this and reject all blends. Choosing from the wool options (and knowing that the higher prices generally mean higher quality) I’d select the fabric and make a sample. When satisfied with the sample, I’d be ready to go into production.

There are commonly understood names for fabrics- twill, gabardine, denim, crepe-back satin, dupioni silk, etc. and some can be made from natural fibers, man-made fiber or a blend. Synthetic versions exist for some of the strangest things-- your croc skin bag might actually be a neon pink stretch synthetic.

If you look at the site I’ve referenced, you’ll see at least 6 dozen types of fabric listed for apparel, with more breakdowns within fabric type. Everyone should agree on what denim is, but then you factor in different weights, shades and blends. Just looking at one manufacturer like Levi’s, they must use a couple of dozen different denims just in their jeans.

I think each fabric manufacturer may put out a catalog for wholesalers but I never heard of anyone consolidating them into one huge book.

I’ve seen one or two. They’re usually called fabric or textile thesauruses. They have samples of various fabrics on each page along with its name so you can see how they look and compare to other variants and whatnot. The ones I’ve seen are all old, though. Maybe they don’t make them anymore. I understand comprehensive ones are expensive.

Sandra Battye and Inner Stickler, thanks for your input.

So as per Sandra Battye, I guess one answer is “lots of them”. Dozens of denim, then there will be dozens of sub-types for various other types of fabric.

Here is another related question, sort of in the spirit of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychophysics and also closely adapted to the possible application of such a catalog to retail. If there are so many of these fabric types “as the pros see them”, what about the non-pros? Let’s say if somebody were to give me these dozens of denim samples and tell me to classify them into as many “equivalent” groups as I see fit, how many different types would I, as a non-pro, be able to identify? That, I think, is an interesting question for retail purposes since if the customer cannot really distinguish between two fabrics, in a sense they are equivalent. Unless there is really profound difference in long term utility or TCO in which case customer would need to know and appreciate the difference even if he is unable to tell it by cursory observation.

There’s shades of distinction here, too. An untrained consumer, given samples of two different denims, might not be able to put them into different categories, but might still be able to say that one pair of jeans is more comfortable than another.

Well, you could classify the different types of denim by weight or by thickness or by “feel” (softness, scratchiness) or by degree of stretch or by color or by thread count or by any other criteria you wanted. I would classify them by my sense of touch, since that is my most acute sense. I’d put them in groups by weight, thread count, and thickness. Other people might classify them by sight by dyes and color with little regard to how they feel against the skin.

If you don’t work with fabrics daily, what is most important to you? The way a fabric moves? The way it looks? How long it lasts? Colorfastness? The way it feels? How pretty it is? Really, what your asking for has too many factors to have a simple answer. If you want to try an experiment, go to a local fabric store and look at the bolts of denim. Try to classify them into whatever categories seem most appropriate to you. Now realize that this is one store. In NYC and LA (for example) there are whole DISTRICTS of fabric stores. And those stores carry only a fraction of all the fabrics in the world.

I sympathize with you. When you are buying jeans or dishtowels or underwear or whatever, how do you know that the fabric will last and still look good a year or five years from now? Unfortunately, you have to take your chances. Pay attention to the washing instructions tag in every garment. In general, the heavier the fabric, the longer it will last.

What’s the reason for all of these threads? Are you an undergraduate who needs a project for a class? Are you thinking about starting a software company and looking for something to develop?

“what sort of gadgets can lawyers use in the courtroom? what do they actually use, if anything?”

“if I wanted to have a catalog of fabrics covering most clothing, how big would it be?”

“is there a wiki-meets-youtube website specifically for car repair tutorials?”

“bitching about reports v2.0 - how about a restricted but nicer clone of Crystal Reports?”

That’s certainly the sense I’ve gotten from most of his threads; they seem to center around a basic premise of “I sense that there is an unmet need for product / service X”.

Dewey Finn, you are not first one to be incensed. There is a year-old pit thread on the topic that you should feel free to contribute to.

I am the type of guy who always seeks to learn new things and to fight against ignorance. My own ignorance first and foremost. Does that clear it up?

I’m not incensed; merely curious what you’re up to.

The obvious answer is “Extra Extra Large."