Human Factors as Applied in Apparel Design
Apparel is a term most often used by the industry that manufactures clothing products and refers to a body covering typically made from textiles. Apparel is also a person’s most personal, intimate environment (Watkins 1994). Manufactured apparel is typically cut-and-sewn or tailored. The two-dimensional textile is “sculpted” to conform to the body by cutting it into shapes and adhering the pieces together with thread stitching. For example, the upper body garment is often a tubular shape that encompasses the torso with openings for the neck and arms. Tubular shapes, called sleeves, may be stitched into the armhole openings. The apparel designer must understand the intricate workings of the apparel-body interface including the physical dimensions of the body and the garment, and how the garment provides a mini-environment for the body. Designing apparel with a human factors perspective means that the designer considers the wearer’s physical, psychological, and social needs. These needs form the basis for selecting the components of an apparel design including shapes, materials, and details such as fasteners. By combining components that address human factors needs, the designer can enhance comfort, safety, and performance. Apparel design fields range from fashion design to protective clothing design with fields that combine fashion and function. Most fashion designers focus on visual elements of apparel and the physical functioning of the apparel on the body is not a major consideration. Some fields of apparel design, such as athletic wear, place the primary emphasis on designing to enhance physical performance. However, athletic apparel companies also consider the image the product projects. Protective clothing design focuses on the safety of the wearer. New paradigms in apparel design education emphasize research-based design that incorporates human factors as a major focus of the design activity in all fields, fashion to function. An apparel design incorporates visual elements such as color and surface decoration, materials such as textiles, fasteners, and trims, and the form or shape of the garment. Psychological and social needs are often
addressed with visual elements of the design, while material elements and shape are developed to meet the wearer’s physical needs. Apparel designers who incorporate human factors in their design process consider all physical elements of an apparel design that affect the person’s comfort, safety, and performance including size and fit of a garment, tactile comfort, visibility, auditory limitations, and thermal balance.