There are many surviving pieces of clothing from hundreds of years ago, for example, there was a news story about a 500 year old incan girl that was preserved http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2179217/Inca-ice-maiden-frozen-human-sacrifice-infection-lungs.html

There are also a dress found that was 5000 years old that belonged to a mummy http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/02/160218-oldest-dress-egypt-tarkhan-archaeology/

Suppose that thousands of years from now , assuming humans all died , aliens found earth and investigated to find a bunch of fully clothed skeletons. The cloths on the skeletons, unlike the above examples besides being a little dusty, are in such good condition that they could be washed and worn again as if they had just come from the store

The Question

Is clothing that is able to withstand time like in the scenario above possible and if so what would make it possible for clothing to survive for hundreds of years and be able to be worn just like new?


1 Answer 1


Existing synthetic materials used in clothes in our world today are much more resilient to the tests of time than the organic materials of Incan or Ancient Egyptian times. Nylon, for example, takes about 50 years to biodegrade given the proper conditions. Polyester does not biodegrade at all. So in your scenario above where the clothing has been relatively well preserved, I would expect them both to be wearable in hundreds of years.

Admittedly, not all clothes are made of synthetic or polymer materials such as these, so your aliens are likely to find a subset of human attire. And unfortunately that subset would probably be the cheaper end of our clothing selection, as more expensive items still tend to be made of rarer/more labour intensive organic materials which would degrade much faster.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Lycra will last a long time. Imagine what aliens will think of us if all they recover is lycra! $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 1:52

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