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adequate clothing | criteria | basket | cost

Adequate clothing - criteria

Clothing protects the human body against various types of weather. As none of the adults in the sixteen households hold a job, there is no need to take into account suitable work or safety clothing. The clothes included in the basket must, above all else, be multifunctional, i.e. they must be suitable for doing shopping, for wearing about the house, for visiting relatives and friends, for going out, for attending school or youth camp, etc. In other words, the focus is mainly on informal dress. However, if people are to meet expectations associated with their social status, they must occasionally dress more formally, e.g. for receptions, weddings, job interviews or funerals. In the context of a minimum budget, we opt for fashion-proof formal clothing that will last for several years.

In addition to offering protection, clothing also provides people with an identity. It expresses to which group people do or do not belong, as well as their personal values. In other words, clothes make the man. As such, clothes are a reflection of individuals’ self-perception. If we translate this function into a concrete budget, we find that, even on a minimum income, people must be able to choose their own clothing and they should not be dependent upon the range on offer in one particular shop, or upon what is available at end-of-season sales, or be compelled to wear second-hand clothes received from others.

Besides offering protection and expressing a certain identity, clothes must of course be functional, i.e. they must be well adapted to various tasks and purposes. Considering the characteristics of various types of fibre (Imtho, 2008, Hutter, 2008), we recommend cotton for most items of clothing, as it is easily washable at a high temperature, pleasant to wear and comparatively cheap. Even more appropriate are items made of a blend of cotton and polyester, as this is more resistant to wear and loss of shape. For the same reasons, the preferred summer jersey is likewise made of cotton or a mixture of cotton and polyester. Winter sweaters should preferably be made of acrylic fibre. And a combination of wool and acrylic fibre is considered ideal for evening wear.

Items of clothing that are intended to provide protection against the elements (raincoats, winter clothes) must be of a suitable quality, i.e. they must be wind and waterproof, and made of a breathing fabric. Likewise, shoes must be of a good quality in order to avoid certain health problems, to the knees or ankles for example.

There are no prevailing standards regarding the number of items of clothing that an individual requires. We therefore drew instead on standards of hygiene as well as on practical considerations. However, when these were presented to people who are accustomed to having at their disposal only a modest budget for clothing, it emerged there was a broad consensus that a purely functional perspective was too narrow. Clothing is part of one’s personal identity, and by always wearing the same clothes one is quickly given a label. Especially women and children seemed very sensitive to this aspect. Therefore, the number of skirts and dresses, as well as the number of items of children’s clothing, was increased.

As regards the lifespan of clothing, due account must be taken of children’s growth on the one hand and wear and tear on the other. Obviously, then, the lifespan of children’s and youngsters’ clothing is a lot shorter than that of adults. For the former, we took into account a standard period of twelve months. Items of clothing that can be worn slightly oversized (e.g. a coat, underwear, pyjamas) were considered to have a lifespan of two years. The lifespan of adult clothing depends first and foremost on wear and tear. As a choice was made for comparatively strong fibres, the lifespan was increased by between twenty-four and thirty-six months, depending on the frequency with which the items are worn.




K.H.Kempen Vlaamse overheid CSB ULG