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Clothes vs Clothing vs Dress vs Attire vs Apparel vs Raiment

Clothes, clothing, dress, attire, apparel, raiment are comparable when they denote a person’s garments considered collectively.

Clothes and clothing are general words which do not necessarily suggest a wearer or personal owner but sometimes a manufacturer or a merchant.

Dress is used with reference only to a wearer’s outer clothes; it is not only far less inclusive than clothes and clothing but less concrete in its suggestions except when qualified.

Attire usually stresses the appearance or the total impression produced by one’s clothes; it is therefore rarely used with reference to one’s own clothes except in affectation or humorously; when applied to another person’s, it is as a rule qualified.

Apparel (often specifically wearing apparel) carries a weaker suggestion of the effect produced and a stronger implication of a collection or assemblage of clothes than attire, which otherwise it closely resembles in meaning; therefore one says an article of apparel (rather than attire) and the richness of her attire (rather than apparel).

Raiment is a more or less literary term that is nearly as comprehensive as clothes, for it includes everything that is worn for decency, comfort, and adornment and therefore suggests reference to undergarments as well as to outer garments.

When the quality or the texture of the clothing is to be indicated, raiment is the appropriate word.