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Apparel vs. Clothing: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 8, 2023
Apparel refers to clothing, especially formal or fancy clothes. Clothing is a general term for garments worn on the body.

Key Differences

Apparel is often used to refer to items of clothing that are more formal or fashionable. This term can suggest a sense of style and distinction in the clothing choices one makes. Clothing, on the other hand, encompasses all wearables that can cover the body, providing protection and comfort, regardless of style.
While apparel can be synonymous with clothing, it sometimes carries an implication of a particular kind of attire. For example, one might refer to a collection of designer dresses as apparel. In contrast, clothing is a more inclusive term that can refer to anything from a basic t-shirt and jeans to elaborate ceremonial garb.
In the fashion industry, apparel is a term that often refers to the designed and marketed collections found in stores. This term can suggest a certain level of quality and trendiness. Clothing is the more utilitarian term, indicating items intended to be worn; it does not inherently convey the same sense of marketability.
Retailers may use the term apparel to elevate the perceived value of their merchandise. It’s a marketing strategy to associate their products with a higher level of style or luxury. On the other hand, clothing is a straightforward term often used in everyday language to refer to items people wear, without implying any particular style or status.
Apparel might also be used more frequently in the context of industry, trade, and legal discussions, referring to the business and regulation of fashion items. Clothing is a more universal term, used across different contexts, emphasizing functionality and the role of garments in covering the body.

Comparison Chart


Often implies a more formal or stylish connotation
Neutral, includes all types of garments

Usage Context

Common in fashion and retail industry
Used in everyday, general contexts


Used to suggest higher quality or fashion
General term, not typically marketing-driven


Can be seen as a subset of clothing, sometimes more specific
Broad term, encompassing all wearing apparel


Middle English, adopted from Old French ‘apareil’
Old English ‘clāþing’, from ‘clāþ’ meaning cloth

Apparel and Clothing Definitions


The industry related to fashion and garments.
She works in apparel design, creating new fashion lines.


Garments worn to cover the body.
They donated boxes of clothing to the shelter.


Clothing, especially formal or decorative garments.
The gala required evening apparel for all guests.


Articles of dress; wearables.
The cold weather called for warm clothing such as woolen sweaters.


A term often used in retail to categorize clothing.
The apparel section of the department store was on the second floor.


Any covering worn as a garment.
Protective clothing is essential for safety in construction work.


Items worn to cover the body.
The store offered a wide range of outdoor apparel for hikers.


The material used to make garments.
The clothing was made from sustainable fabrics.


Wearable accessories and garments.
His apparel included a leather belt and matching shoes.


The act of wearing garments.
Clothing oneself in layers is wise in cold climates.


Clothing, especially outer garments; attire.


Clothes considered as a group; wearing apparel.


A covering or adornment
Trees with their apparel of foliage.


A covering.


Can apparel and clothing be used interchangeably?

Yes, they can be, although apparel often suggests a sense of style.

Are accessories considered apparel?

Yes, accessories can be included under apparel, especially in a retail context.

What kind of stores sell apparel?

Boutiques, department stores, and fashion retailers sell apparel.

Is clothing always made from cloth?

Mostly, yes, but clothing can also include garments made from other materials like leather.

Does clothing include shoes?

Clothing generally refers to garments, while shoes are often considered separately as footwear.

Is the word clothing singular or plural?

Clothing is an uncountable noun and is generally considered singular.

What does clothing refer to?

Clothing refers to any garments worn on the body for functionality and protection.

Does everyone use apparel in the same way?

No, usage can vary by region and context, with some using it more formally.

What is apparel?

Apparel is a term for clothing, often implying style and fashion.

Is apparel only formal wear?

No, apparel can include any garments, but it often implies fancier attire.

What does 'athletic apparel' mean?

Athletic apparel refers to clothing designed for sports and physical activities.

Do online stores categorize clothing under apparel?

Yes, online stores often categorize all kinds of garments under apparel.

Is the word clothing derived from a specific material?

It’s derived from the Old English word 'clāþ', meaning cloth.

Are there different words for apparel in other languages?

Yes, many languages have their own words for apparel and clothing.

Does the fashion industry prefer apparel or clothing?

The fashion industry often prefers 'apparel' for its stylish connotation.

Can the term apparel be used for casual wear?

Yes, it can be used for all types of garments, including casual wear.

What does 'apparel industry' mean?

It refers to the sector of the economy dedicated to the design, production, and sales of clothing.

How has the meaning of apparel changed over time?

Its meaning has broadened from referring just to naval equipment to all types of clothing.

Can apparel be used in a legal context?

Yes, it's often used in legal contexts relating to the fashion and garment industries.

Is children's wear considered apparel?

Yes, children's wear is a category of apparel.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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