A Comparison between Apparel and Clothing

Last Updated on August 29, 2023 by Chase Reiner

Apparel and clothing are terms often used interchangeably. “Apparel” encompasses all types of clothing and accessories, while “clothing” refers specifically to garments worn on the body. Both words refer to items worn for personal adornment, with “apparel” being a broader term.

Overview of the Differences Between Apparel and Clothing

DefinitionApparel refers specifically to items worn on the body which can be interchangeable based on the season, mood, or occasion.Clothing, meanwhile, is more general term which includes all types of garments worn on the body, regardless of their function or purpose.
IncludesApparel includes a wider assortment, such as accessories, handbags, footwear, etc., in addition to garments worn directly on the body.Clothing typically only refers to pieces of material intended to be worn on the body like shirts, pants, dresses, etc.
UseThe term apparel is often used in a more professional or industry-based context. Examples include discussing the fashion industry (“apparel industry”) or retail merchandising.Clothing is a more commonplace and everyday term. Generally used when referring to personal items or in casual conversation.
ScopeApparel has a broader meaning, encompassing everything that can be worn on the body, including distinct pieces of clothing and accessories.Clothing has a narrower scope focusing primarily only on garments that are directly worn on the body.
UsageThis term is more commonly used in North America, particularly in the US.‘Clothing’ is universally recognized and used globally.

What is the Definition of Clothing?

The word clothing is commonly used to refer to any material worn on a person’s body. As you might expect, there are several ways of interpreting that definition. One common interpretation defines clothing as any material or device worn on a person’s body for decorative or protective purposes.

Under that interpretation, clothing can include belts and jackets hats, eyeglasses, shoes, underwear, suspenders/braces, earrings, and piercings (including tattooed skin).

Another interpretation defines clothing as any material or device worn on a person’s body for purposes of warmth.

What is an Apparel?

Apparel describes all clothes covering our bodies, including garments, outfits, dresses, clothing items, and ensembles. When describing what apparel means, you might hear people use it interchangeably with clothing.

However, there are differences between the two. For instance, as opposed to just a single piece of clothing (like a shirt or pair of pants), an ensemble is composed of multiple pieces that can be worn together or separately.

An excellent example of an ensemble would be a suit. Suits are often called ensembles because they consist of different parts like pants, jackets, and ties that can be worn at once or separately, depending on your mood.

Another difference between apparel and clothing is in how they’re sold. While most people think about buying individual articles of clothing when they go shopping for themselves or their family members, people think about purchasing apparel when it comes to buying for businesses like restaurants and hotels (which have uniform requirements).

This could include things like aprons, uniforms, or even hats. While there are similarities between apparel and clothing, such as referring to items we wear on our bodies, there are some crucial differences too!

The Difference between Apparel and Clothing

There’s a big difference between clothing and apparel. While clothing covers or protects a person’s body, clothes make up a larger category, including shoes, headgear, belts, bags, and even jewelry.

In recent years, however, clothing has evolved to mean an item of apparel that is considered fashionable or dressy. T-shirts are clothes but not apparel; blazers are garments but not necessarily clothing—they’re both examples of apparel.

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Image Source: styllion .net

Another good example is jeans. When you wear jeans casually, they’re clothes; if you wear them to go out on a date with your significant other instead of regular pants, they can be considered an item of apparel because they have more meaning than just keeping you warm.

The Difference in Terms of Fashion

The terms apparel and clothing are often used interchangeably, but they represent different categories. While clothing represents anything worn to cover up a person’s body (like pants, shirts, coats), apparel refers to items designed for wear on or around your body that function beyond protecting you from exposure.

These items include hats, belts, wristbands, scarves, gloves, or other accessories worn indoors and outdoors. Fashion experts often distinguish between apparel and clothing by focusing on functions.

Is an item worn for decoration only, or does it serve another purpose, such as providing warmth? If it serves another purpose, then it falls into apparel. In general, clothing tends to be more formal than apparel and is usually made of higher-quality materials that last longer than their cheaper counterparts.

For instance, suppose you wear a scarf during cold weather months; it’s probably considered an accessory.

However, if you wore the same scarf all year round because of its style or pattern, it would likely be considered part of your wardrobe since it’s not used for its functional value.

The Differences in Quality

Manufacturing quality: High-quality clothing uses more intricate patterns, stitching, and higher-quality fabrics. In contrast, apparel is produced in large quantities with lower-quality materials.

Quality of stitching: High-end clothing uses more sophisticated techniques than less expensive clothing. Such a product is less likely to fall apart (or unravel) and fits better.

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Image Source: fashionbeans .com

 Style: The style of apparel tends to be a bit more dated than high-end clothing – eternally appropriate but not necessarily trendy or seasonal. It also comes in fewer varieties since it’s meant for mass consumption.

Clothes are often made to order, which means they can be tailored to fit you perfectly and reflect your sense of style.

Durability: Since clothes are made from higher-quality materials, they can withstand wear and tear better than cheaper clothing items. If you plan on wearing an item repeatedly over time, investing in high-end clothes may save you money in the long run.

The Differences in Price

One of many significant differences is in price. Clothing refers to any product worn on or near your body, while apparel is a broader term applied to anything worn on your body, even shoes or hats. That’s right! When you purchase footwear and headwear, you are buying apparel.

The term clothing is usually reserved for items worn against your skin, including shirts, pants, dresses (etc.). Since they don’t meet the requirements of being an article of clothing, they are considered apparel.

It might get a little confusing at times due to individual usage (and misuse), but it makes sense if you think about it for a moment. For example, let’s say you have a pair of sneakers with a t-shirt with jeans. Now ask yourself, is my shirt part of my outfit, or am I wearing it as an accessory?

In most cases, we would say that your shirt is indeed part of your outfit because it is something that covers up other articles of clothing.

It isn’t something worn over the top like jewelry or accessories. Thus, in most cases, when someone asks what we’re wearing, they are referring to our clothes/outfit – not our accessories/apparel.

However, there may be exceptions where someone might wear their hat over their hair, so clarify which one people mean when asking questions about clothes vs. apparel.

The Difference in Material

Apparel is made from synthetic or natural fabrics, while clothing is any fabric used to create a garment. Many people use apparel interchangeably with clothing, but if you’re paying attention to quality, you’ll notice a difference in how each material feels.

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Image Source: quora .com

Natural fabrics such as cotton and wool feel breathable, making them ideal for everyday wear and sports. Synthetic materials like nylon are lighter weight, but they might not be your best choice if you stay in a warm climate or work out because they don’t breathe. Each material has its pros and cons, so make sure you know what kind of clothing you want before choosing an apparel fabric.

The Final Word

While their definitions are a bit different, apparel and clothing have an overlap. Both clothing and apparel can be referred to as clothing (although, in some cases, people use it to refer to either one). The term apparel is used more often than clothing—especially in business. However, you will find both words are used with equal frequency today.



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