The Elves in my world are plant-like in nature and have the ability to morph and change their skin and body structure as they desire. As a result, Elves can essentially grow their own clothes, by creating a layer of thick bark or create tiny strands of fiber and weaving them into a thread.

Appearance wise, it would mimic clothes, but it would act similar to hair, allowing the elves to sense things, but not feel pain if it was damaged.

I was wondering if there would be any significant advantage in wearing clothes like humans instead of growing their own clothes?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yes, of course, multiple advantages, I could fill pages with them which means finding them is easy, but all of them should relevant in certain situations. If you want to turn this into an answerable question, you have to go into detail: where do you see an issue in your world/story? Maybe someone will have a solution on how to solve your problems (perhaps using both, regular clothing and your variant) $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Oct 1, 2019 at 8:10

3 Answers 3


Fashion is the engine that drove the industrial revolution.

It is quite simply the fastest changing desire that stretches and pushes the industrial, scientific, and and economic capabilities of a people.

You could get a similar effect by having accouterments likes hammers, staves, houses, etc.. but these change over the course of decades, where as clothes can be more reasonably changed on short time scales. The rich could reasonably do this daily, or every few weeks/months. The poor are generally forced to update every 2 or 3 years. Clothes wear out faster than most things.

Without Fashion your people will either be quite drab, or find alternate outlets such as music, painting, or massive amounts of jewellery to express themselves.

Either way it will likely have a negative impact on your peoples productivity as the tools, and means of production for clothes are similar for many other useful things: bags, sails, tents, and armour. More so with industrialisation like the similarity between the early manual machines for spinning yarn, and potters wheels. Where as painting, music, and jewellery have much fewer such translations.


Humans have moles, scars, freckles, discolourations, rashes, etc... all over their skins. While your elven race seems to have some conscious control over their skins they too will be afflicted by defects. Defects that can cause them ridicule, or worse expose an actual weakness. They will even pay for their own mistakes. What five year old doesn't want a unicorn on their shoulder, that they still want when they are 35?

Simply to avoid embarrassment and/or questions later in life, many elves would wear clothes, even if their skin were flawless.

The society might even evolve to prize flawless skin in a partner. After all, it is a loud declaration of an elf who takes care of themselves. To take care of themselves, clothing to prevent flaws is a no brainer.


A king wears a crown not because they like wearing a metal collar above their ears.

They were it to signal to all around them that they are in charge. Similarly your elves will have need of such symbols.

You could get away with beads, jewels, staves, etc... for some jobs, but most jobs have limitations. A doctor needs both hands for surgery, a cook needs something that won't fall into the food, etc...

The most energy efficient and practical tool for signalling is often a garment of some sort, as it provides a large signal (it covers the whole body) while also not requiring to be held. It provides some modicum of protection from the dangers of the job, while also staying firmly attached to the wearer.


The problem with growing your own cover, be it a fur or a bark, is that is gets specialized to counter the challenges of the environment where you live: if you are a seal in the North Sea it will protect you from the cold and wet marine environment, if you are a cork oak it will protect you from the frequent fires, and so on.

But take a seal and put it in a fire, or take a cork oak and soak it into the North Sea, and they will both die.

Clothes instead can be adapted to the environment: a wet suit will do in the North Sea, and a fireproof suit will do in the fire.

If your elves are plant like also in that they have roots, then I don't think they are going to travel that much, thus clothes might not bring significant advantages. If instead they can travel, clothes can provide additional adaptability.

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    $\begingroup$ The elves are similar to the Sylvari from Guild Wars 2. Appearance wise, they are basically a human, but with smooth light green skin (like the green layer under bark). Or you could think of them as human sized Ents from Lord of the Rings. $\endgroup$
    – Shadowzee
    Oct 1, 2019 at 6:07

Worn Clothes are items that can be taken off, shared, sold, repaired and reused

Having grown clothes means they are attached to your body. That means that if you grow a shirt, you can't easily take off that shirt and hand it to someone else. It means you can't sell your clothes if they get too big (or if there is a market for second-hand clothing). it means you can't easily repair it if it gets dirty or damaged, because you need to be present to do so. It means that if you wear a specific shirt today, and you want to wear a sweater tomorrow, you can't easily wear the same shirt the next day.

In the end, worn clothes provide flexibility: unless your species can grow entirely new clothes in minutes, you can't easily replace grown clothes.

Grown clothes cost extra energy to grow.

Grown clothes means your body needs to somehow grow each individual hair to the right length. This takes energy. Growing a tuxedo worth of clothes would probably cost a lot of energy. That's energy you can't spend doing other stuff, or energy that needs to be additionally harvested from whatever it is your elves eat.


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