4
$\begingroup$

In a world deprived of organics but rich in metals, can we use them to make clothes?

I am not interested in the weight since this world is low g anyway, so heavy clothes are still ok; thermal insulation is also not relevant for my settings. Can we make normal-looking clothes based on fibers or similar based on current technologies? Or are we limited to more traditional chain-like clothes?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ When it comes to these things we typically pursue comfort, durability, etc. which is probably why that sort of clothing was never particularly popular (this is not counting silver and gold threaded clothes for nobility, etc.). Also, historically, metal had other uses, and was typically quite expensive. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM May 21 '16 at 16:10
2
$\begingroup$

To make modern clothing you need cloth, dye, thread, and a needle that can pull your thread.

You can easily buy very fine metal cloth on industrial supply websites.

http://www.mcmaster.com/#wire-cloth/=12ij4m8
http://www.mcmaster.com/#wire-cloth/=12ij4xm

I know from experience that wire cloth cuts just fine with ordinary sewing scissors, although it does wear them out. Tin snips are a bit better for that job.
Dye for metal is also easy to get.
https://steelfxpatinas.com/shop/metal-dyes/8-oz-metal-solvent-dye/
Very fine stainless steel wire to use as thread is readily available on industrial supply websites.
http://www.mcmaster.com/#stainless-steel-wire/=12ij75d
Fine steel wire would work fine with an ordinary manual sewing needle.

So the answer is yes, I could go out tomorrow and sew a stainless steel shirt if I wanted and was willing to spend a few hundred dollars. And I could do it without having to invent any new technology. But I'm not sure I would ever want to because it would be pretty itchy and uncomfortable.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

No problem. There is more than one industry that uses clothes made of metal thread. Engineers use coats made of metal thread to protect from microwaves during test. They just look like a shiny silver cloth. They aren't even that heavy. They do however wear out fairly quickly.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

there is a simple obvious solution for metal clothing.

Chainmail

enter image description here

  • Real chain-mail is resistant to any form of deterioration that normal clothes are not, they are also slash and stab resistant and with the advent of modern alloys, it's possible for it to be bullet-resistant.
  • A shirt with enough coverage and ring strength to actually be useful protection would weigh about 50-70 pounds depending on the size of the wearer and the material (lighter metals that provided similar protection, such as titanium, would be more expensive). This wouldn't just be a clothing choice, it would speak at length about your physical strength and stamina.

All that said, it has several downsides as an everyday clothing material:

  • Chainmail is fairly expensive from a ''thread count'' perspective. Some of the fastest machines that make chain mail only do 260 rings per minute; for thicker patterns like one-into-8, 260 rings isn't even a square foot. It's even more expensive to pay someone a living wage to make the stuff by hand.
  • Most mail patterns are very see through compared to cloth, so a culture that uses it would need to have a lesser attitude on nudity.
  • Mail constantly grabs and pulls on body hair. People who wore it as armor typically started with a thick quilted turtleneck undershirt for a bit of padding as well as to prevent being slowly plucked from neck to foot. A full body shavedown or wax would be an alternate option (and many people, men and women, already subject themselves to this) but head hair would either have to be short or well-restrained.
  • Mail has effectively zero insulating or windbreaking capacity. Thus this plan only works if the area you are talking about is a hot area, like a desert or mesa.
  • Rust can be a problem even with modern stainless alloys. Don't count on the long-term durability of chain being a selling point.
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I'd imagine that chain mail directly against your skin in a hot climate could also be quite painful, as anyone who has touched metal on a hot day could tell you. $\endgroup$ – IndigoFenix May 22 '16 at 9:34
  • $\begingroup$ @IndigoFenix that is true with any and all forms of metal clothes, it would be irrelevant to point it out. $\endgroup$ – TrEs-2b May 22 '16 at 16:16
2
$\begingroup$

Its going to chaff something fierce. Assuming its a soft metal, or more precisely a mallible one (say copper), you can turn it into something like magnet wire and weave it. You'd just need to work with very fine 'thread', and I suspect it would be stiffer and scratchier than traditional materials

Using a 'composite' of such materials and more traditional fabric like 'zari' fabric might be an option as well, using a weave of metallic thread and regular thread to get a little more flex and softness.

You might also experiment with 'surface' oxidation on purpose for colours.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Many metals are ductile enough to be drawn out into long fibres relatively easily. gold thread has been used throughout history and copper and steel wool are comonly used as abrasives.

Rather more to the point though is the question of how life in general survives in a world with few organic compounds eg what do the native organisms do for food ? This is probably a more urgent consideration than clothing especially if thermal insulation is not required.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Copper is probably a bad idea from a durability standpoint, as it work-hardens and breaks when flexed sharply. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast May 21 '16 at 20:52
1
$\begingroup$

A newsreel from the 1930s. Has a dress made of glass fibers, and one made of aluminum.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9eAiy0IGBI

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.