In this era of furnaces, heated office buildings and enclosed automobiles, the usefulness of clothing as a protection to the body is declining. Clothes have always had three functions, applicable to primitive societies as well as to civilized communities. They have served to shield the skin against the weather; they have acted as a badge of rank, signifying the class to which one belongs; they have been employed to stimulate the interest of the opposite sex--taking the place of the bright plumage, ruffs, and colored markings of the animals and birds.
The last function is worthy of a moment's digression. In the last century among western peoples it is the woman who has chiefly exploited sex with her clothes. Prior to the coming of the industrial revolution, and what might be termed the "smokestack" style in men's apparel, the male tended to be as colorful as the female. Indeed George Washington in his silks and satins was perhaps an even more dazzling figure than Martha in hers. Throughout the animal kingdom it is the male who flaunts the shiniest coat, and the same is probably true for most past societies