Making clothes more comfortable

WHILE CHOOSING a fabric, fingers may be the best judge of a cloth's quality, but they are not reliable in predicting the cloth's behaviour after it is tailored. Now, a mathematical technique called fuzzy-set theory, may enable textiles to be designed according to predetermined attributes related to comfort and performance over time.

Comfort, or rather discomfort, is largely a tangible response to the feel of the fabric but varies with time and from person to person. Textile engineers need to know how a fabric will behave over time. A fabric may or may not become more comfortable. For instance, wearers who prefer light-weight blazers may find the loss in the weight of wool-fabric uncomfortable. Conversely, some fabrics may grow thicker and some consumers may like it. For this reason, it is difficult to objectively assess the long-term comfort of a fabric on the basis of a single property.

The fuzzy-set theory is ideally suited to taking into account such uncertainties and assesses the comfort behaviour of a cloth with time by evaluating its performance in terms of sets of numerical values.

Using this theory, G H Rong and K Slater of University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, analysed data from two earlier studies. The first study investigated changes over time in a fabric such as softness, thickness, weight and stiffness. The second study assessed the relative importance of comfort-related factors in some garments among female university students.

On the basis of their analysis, Slater and Rong quantified the comfort quality of several fabrics. They obtained a single numerical value that combined the preferences of people for certain kinds of fabric and the response of that fabric to wear, enabling textile designers to make appropriate fabric choices.