Clothes are items made out of cloth or leather which are worn by sentient creatures to protect them from the elements, from damage, and to cover themselves. Articles of clothing work similarly to armor, but are distinguished by the fact that they are owned by your dwarves, and wear out over time. Technically, clothing is simply armor with an armor level of 0. In particular, boots (low or high) are armor, and not clothing.
In theory, clothing provides less protection against attacks than "real" armor, but some players claim that leather cloaks and hoods offer significant protection from attacks. Also, there have been humorous bugs in the past where animal teeth were not hard enough to bite through silk shirts and artifact glass serrated disks could not pierce goblin clothes.
Currently clothing provides no protection from cold environments, but adult dwarves get bad thoughts if they are naked, or wearing tattered clothes. Babies do not wear clothes, but all adult and child dwarves will claim and wear clothing automatically. Dwarves may incur several different clothing-related bad thoughts from:
- Total nudity
- Missing upper body covering (shirt, vest, dress, robe, cloak, or coat)
- Missing lower body covering (trousers or skirts)
- Missing footwear (shoes, sandals, or socks)
- Wearing tattered clothing (items with "X" or "XX" wear, but not "x" wear)
- Clothing rots away while worn
Dwarfs will replace degraded clothing themselves, if appropriate clothing is available in the fortress. supporting bay12 forum post
Clothing thoughts are quite strong, and they stack with each other. Tantrum spirals are likely unless you produce sufficient footwear, upper-, and lower-body-covering items. Thankfully, armor can also prevent most negative thoughts, making a citizen-militia somewhat more advantageous.
Clothes are considered finished goods, and may be stored in bins. Dwarves will store their personal clothing in their rooms, either directly on the floor, or in cabinets. Due to a bugVerify, dwarves will rarely relinquish their tattered clothing, instead accumulating a large collection of worn clothes in their rooms.
While in a (non-refuse) stockpile (or a dwarf's personal quarters), clothing is usually safe from being damaged, but as soon as a dwarf puts on an item of clothing it begins to degrade, and will wear out eventually. Clothing that is owned but which is not being worn and not in a dwarf's quarters will eventually revert to unowned status, eligible to be picked up by some desperate, rag-clad (or unclad) boor. Clothing which is in a refuse stockpile degrades very quickly, which helps lower the number of in-game items by destroying old clothing that won't see further use; one way to take advantage of this is designating a garbage dump activity zone over a refuse stockpile, and then marking all the discarded clothing for dumping.
Because of the multiple quality modifiers that apply to finished clothing, clothes can be quite useful as a trade good. Even tattered clothing can fetch a fair price, and your dwarves will ensure there is no shortage of supply. To maximize value, use a custom stockpile to collect high-quality dyed cloth and link it to a clothier's workshop producing dresses or robes.
Clothing and armor all have a size associated with them, and equipment made for one size of creature cannot be worn by larger or smaller creatures. For dwarves, this applies to clothes and armor worn by humans and trolls (which will appear to be "large"(*) as well as kobolds (which will appear to be "small"); goblins and elves are the same size as dwarves, so their clothing and armor can be equipped rather than being limited to melting (in the case of metal armor) or using as trade goods (especially once decorated).
Any clothing/armor that isn't small or large is one-size-fits-all, and can be worn by any dwarf, from the smallest child to the biggest adult.
- (*) With one exception: Items made from leather from large rats will appear as "large rat leather ______". Human-sized gloves made from large rat leather would be "large large rat leather gloves." (There are no "rats" that provide leather, so while confusing, this is definitive.)
 Uniforms and clothing thoughts
Currently armor is just as effective at keeping your dwarves happy as normal clothing, and have the advantages of not being subject to wear, in addition to affording better protection. If you tell your militia-dwarves to replace normal clothes with their uniform, make sure you have armor to spare when conscripting
cannon fodder legendary cheese makers, as they'll happily strip naked even if you don't have a uniform waiting for them.
If you find it easier to produce plenty of armor instead of clothing, you can also group all your civilian dwarves into squads and assign them a uniform covering the basics. This not only ensures you don't have to offer them replacement clothes, but also ensures your entire population is at least slightly better protected. Having everybody grouped up into squads also might come in handy
if when something nasty shows up in the midst of your civilians while your soldiers are busy elsewhere.
- Dwarves drop worn clothing wherever they happen to be when they decide to pick up replacements. These discarded clothes can interfere with stockpiles, workshops, build orders, etc.Bug:6048, and are owned items so they can't be easily moved.Bug:4403 Dwarves will return later to collect the clothing, which can be particularly dangerous around traps, battlefields and minecart tracks.
- Dwarves amass a large collection of discarded clothing in their rooms, filling all cabinets and covering every available tile. DFHack provides a "clean-owned" command to help clean up the clutter.
 The great sock obsession
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This was the beginning of the dwarven obsession with socks. Long ago, socks were plentiful in dwarven kingdoms across the land, and the bearded ones paid little heed to what adorned their feet. But after the proud citadel of Nogrithog destroyed itself in a terrible civil war over a dispute concerning sock shortages, the production of which they were completely and utterly ignorant, the entire dwarf race everywhere in the universe vowed to never let this happen again. Dwarves made sure to stockpile woolen, silken, and even cloth footwear against the unthinkable happening ever again. Children were frightened with the story of the Great Sock War even before they stopped suckling at their mothers' breasts to indoctrinate them in proper sock hoarding behavior, and to get unruly children to behave: "If you don't stop pulling Catten's braids, Sibrek, all the socks will disappear!"
So great is the dwarves' fear of a sock shortage that they will sacrifice their own well-being and even their very lives to make sure that not a single sock will go overlooked. It is unknown how dwarves everywhere could possibly know how one dwarven civilization in a remote and utterly unimportant continent on a forgotten minor world destroyed itself. Most believe that this is once more the touch of Armok on their sodden, constantly intoxicated brains.