Comfort in clothing – Determining the critical factors

Comfort is often considered in relation to a single factor causing discomfort, be it environmental, physical, physiological or perceptual. But rarely does one factor actually fully influence how comfortable an individual feels. Even within the clothing system numerous factors; fit, material, design, etc, can affect an in-dividual’s comfort perception. Currently the understanding of the impact of individual fabric properties on wear comfort is limited. This paper will consider the various interactions that occur within the clothing sys-tem that contribute to wearer comfort. The dynamic interaction of the clothing material with large areas of the skin surface changes the perception of wetness felt by the user. To understand how sensation of wetness per-ception is influenced by textile parameters, a number of textile samples with different thickness, fiber type, and surface texture, were tested. They were evaluated in Static (upper back) and Dynamic (inner forearm) contact with the skin, under both low and high application pressure. Wetness perception and stickiness sensa-tion (tactile cue) were measured with ordinal perception scales and local skin temperature (thermal cue) by thermocouples. Under Static contact, wetness perception in fabrics containing the same amount of moisture per volume was positively related to fabric thickness (r2 = 0.87). Under Dynamic, higher wetness perception was associated with greater stickiness sensation (r2 = 0.68), occurring from differences in fabric surface tex-ture. Under Dynamic fabric thickness did not correlate with wetness perception directly, however when com-bined with stickiness sensation it provided a strong predictive power (r2 = 0.86). In both Static and Dynamic conditions, greater wetness perception (p < 0.05) was observed in High compared with Low pressure condi-tion; interestingly when matching for thickness, fiber type (cotton, polyester) did not affect wetness percep-tion (p > 0.05). Fabric thickness and surface texture properties trigger thermal and tactile inputs, respectively, underpinning skin wetness perception in static and dynamic clothing applications. Additionally, fabric weight and clothing fit could cause changes in fabric-to-skin pressure, which represents another tactile sensory mo-dality contributing to skin wetness perception. Consideration of these factors could aid the design of clothing and fabric products, particularly office and vehicle seating, towards optimising comfort.