History of Textiles and Clothing

The Division of Textiles and Clothing was established in 1974 as an offshoot of the Department of Consumer Sciences. The unit traces its roots to the home economics programs at Berkeley and Davis. When home economics at Berkeley was phased out, two faculty who taught in the textiles and clothing area, Mary Ann Morris and Agnes McClellan, were invited to become part of the expanded program at Davis. At the time, in 1962, little research in textiles was being done at Davis. Therefore, the move required extensive remodeling of the home economics building to accommodate new research needs, including construction of a constant temperature and humidity room so that testing of textiles and other materials could be done under standardized conditions.

In the mid 1960s the Davis program in home economics went through a number of structural changes that resulted in the formation of several new departments, including the Department of Consumer Sciences, under the administration of the associate dean for Family and Consumer Sciences. The Department of Consumer Sciences was composed of faculty from textiles and clothing, consumer foods, and consumer behavior. A few years later, the consumer foods faculty moved to the Department of Food Science, and in 1974 the department was renamed the Division of Textiles and Clothing to reflect the focus of the remaining faculty. By 1977 there was sufficient critical mass in the area of textiles to offer a M.S. in Textiles while Ph.D. degrees were offered through the Agricultural Chemistry graduate group, Ecology and the Independent Ph.D. program. Prior to 1977, students at the master's level could major in Home Economics or Consumer Sciences with a concentration in textiles. In the 1960s and 1970s, faculty research centered primarily in textile science, with a focus on consumer end uses. Research was conducted in the areas of comfort and safety (e.g., air pollution, flame resistance) and the chemistry and physics of natural and synthetic fibers. Hiring of faculty with backgrounds in the social sciences in the late 1970s and early 1980s resulted in expansion of research to include the psychological, social, and cultural aspects of clothing.

Today the unique strength of the textiles program derives from disciplinary expertise in areas ranging from fiber chemistry, polymer science and textile engineering to consumer psychology and cultural studies as well as its interdisciplinary perspective on commodity-relevant issues. Special areas of emphasis and excellence include cotton fiber quality, textile marketing and cultural diversity, biomaterials, natural products, functional textile products for health and safety, and consumer decision making. The division offers the only textiles programs (M.S. in Textiles, and Ph.D. related to either chemistry or engineering aspects of fibers and polymers) in the UC system, While California is the second largest fiber/textile/apparel-producing state in the nation. Our graduates have contributed to many sectors of California’s fiber/textile/apparel industry, the nation’s second largest, including research on many related advanced materials in the public and private organizations as well as education and research at the universities in the U.S. and internationally.

In 2002, UC Davis became a member of the National Textile Center, a research consortium of eight universities. We share human resources, equipment and facilities to produce innovative, collaborative research partnerships to enhance and expand the knowledge base for the continuing viability of the U.S. fiber/textile/fiber products/retail complex. The funded research improves our ability to involve undergraduate student in research, sponsor graduate students, acquire new equipment and sponsor summer research internships for undergraduate students.