Natural vs. Synthetic Fibers
Clothing is made from fibers. Up until 1935, all fibers used were either plant or animal based like cotton, linen, silk, and wool. In 1935, DuPont invented nylon which quickly replaced silk stockings and shortly after that, synthetic fabrics were made to be used for the garment industry. All clothing in the United States has a fiber content label on it that will tell you what percentage of the garment is made from each type of fiber. Reading this label gives you very important information on how to care for your clothing, and gives you a pretty good idea how the garment will wear.
Natural fibers, obviously, are the fibers that are created from plant or animal sources. They typically allow your skin to breathe better and are considered to be more comfortable, especially in very warm climates. Their major drawback is that they have a tendency to wrinkle badly or shrink when they are washed. Most natural fiber fabrics will shrink when exposed to very hot water and high heat drying methods.
The most common Natural Fibers used in clothing:
Synthetic fibers have the luxury of being more resilient, longer lasting, and have less of a tendency to wrinkle. Each synthetic fabric has specific care instructions that you must follow in order not to ruin the fabric. Some synthetic fibers will melt when exposed to heat, like a hot dryer or hot iron.
Some of the most common Synthetic Fibers used in clothing:
However, many synthetic fibers are not as comfortable to wear, causing the garment industry to experiment with combining the best of both. Natural/synthetic blends combine the best of the natural and synthetic fibers, creating fabrics that resist staining, are comfortable, have a little "give" to them, and don't wrinkle as much as natural fiber clothing does.
Taking care of your garments means understanding what your garment is made of and learn the best way to care for that fabric.