Chemistry and Fashion

Chemistry and Fashion

Fashion design deals with colors and textures. Though fashion designers stay away from hard core chemistry, chemistry in fashion is important in dealing with the different combination of colors. Furthermore, the types of fabrics and color matching to the fabrics needs to be known and therefore chemistry helps.

Chemistry and fashion are not usually talked about in the same table. But interestingly enough, chemistry in clothing is absolutely essential for making clothes and enhancing their affordability, versatility, comfortability and creativity. For the creation of fashion pieces, several types of chemistry are responsible. eg. polymer, inorganic and organic chemistry. Chemistry is actually everywhere!

Chemicals are also used to treat textiles; a process especially important to Australians is the manufacturing process that includes titanium dioxide particles to create textiles that provide ultraviolet protection.

When we buy clothes do we pay enough attention to what they are made of or where they are produced? As a designer we should not forget about that.

Here we are bringing together different subject areas (Biotechnology, Chemical laboratory, Fashion designing, Industrial fabrics, Economics, Agriculture technician, Trade & marketing). It focus on three outcomes:

  1. The Chemical composition and properties of different textile fibres.
  2. Traditions related to textile fabrics in the whole world
  3. The Social, Economic and Environmental impact of the textile industry:

Here are some chemical culprits and their alternatives to pick so that fashion becomes sustainable and better for our health and for the people associated with making our clothes:

Conventional Cotton (Non-Organic)

Conventionally grown cotton, being a chemical-intensive crop, accounts for 25% of the insecticides used worldwide. Residue from these poisons are washed away from soil and into the fibers. Even the smallest dose of pesticide exposure causes brain, fetal damage, and sterility in humans.

Unlike organic cotton, some toxic chemicals are also used in processing conventional cotton. Silicone waxes, petroleum scours, heavy metals, softeners, flame retardants, formaldehyde and ammonia are such chemicals.

Instead, choose organic:

The organic fabrics are not only better for your body, the organic cotton conserves our biodiversity.

The growing and harvesting of organic cotton also uses a staggering 71% less water and 62% less energy than conventional cotton which makes it the more environmentally-friendly choice.

Synthetic and Performance Fabrics

You will be amazed to know that your skin works day and night to keep you healthy by discharging up to 1 pound of toxins per day. Synthetic fibers like nylon, polyester, acrylic, acetate or triacetate actually restrict these toxin release. So, don’t be fooled by popular marketing terms like “sweat-wicking” or “performance fabrics”.

These fancy claims actually equate to a high synthetic fiber content which suffocates your skin. Wearing synthetic fabrics can cause anything from headaches and nausea to skin rashes and respiratory problems which is severely damaging our health.

Instead we may, choose natural materials:

Unlike synthetics, matural materials like organic cotton, linen, silk, wool and hemp allow the body to breath, detox and regulate body temperature properly which is very beneficial to keep in good health.

Natural fibers are also naturally biodegradable and can be composted, while synthetics don’t break down and can live in landfills for hundreds of years causing the environment to damage.

Brand New Clothes & Wrinkle-Free Fabrics

New clothes are the popular for their bright, crisply pressed and new look appeal. Most of these materials are made using many hazardous chemicals.

Here we are mentioning some toxic materials or chemicals,,,,

What Toxic Chemicals are Used in Clothing are mentioned below:

1) Benzidine

2) Alkylphenols

3) Brominated and Chlorinated Flame retardants

4) Azo dyes

5) Organotin compounds

6) Perfluarinated chemicals

7) PBSE’s and the other flame retardants

8) Soil resistant finishes .

For knowing more about restricted chemicals in clothing, you can visit ZDHC MRSL V2.0.

Fashion with chemistry the possibilities are endless; dyes and pigments responsible for shining or opaque colored threads, socks that moisturize, sports clothes that deodorize and garments that kill bacteria. And it is not just the clothes, chemists are continuously working to come up with new chemicals.Some of the chemicals which are broadly used in textile such as:-

Name of Some Chemicals:

  • Enzyme
  • Acetic Acid
  • Detergent
  • Anti static agent
  • Bleaching powder
  • Sodium hyposulfite
  • Caustic Soda
  • Soda Ash
  • Sodium Bicarbonate
  • Potassium permanganate
  • Cationic / nonionic Flax softener
  • Micro Emulsion Silicon
  • Salt (sodium chloride)
  • Buffer
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Stabilizer
  • Fixing agent
  • Catanizer
  • Optical Brightner
  • Resin

Apart from gaining the knowledge of fashion, it is now the duty of a fashion designer to keep in mind about the chemicals used in their designed dresses to help creating a sustainable fashion world.

Nazmin Akter Shaila
Department of Textile Fashion and Design,                                                                  Bangladesh University of Textiles,

You can also read another of our premium article on Fashion in the 21st century here!