Comfort of textiles and garments

Balancing comfort and safety in personal protective clothing

To meet the protective requirements for personal protective clothing (PPC), comfort aspects, critical for the physical and mental state of a person, need to be largely sacrificed. Evaluation of comfort is yet another challenge since it is highly individual and complex, depending on multiple clothing factors and the dynamic body-clothing-environment interactions. To face these challenges, alongside the development of lightweight, multifunctional materials for the next-generation PPC,  effective comfort evaluation protocols are essential.

In creating the next-generation personal protective clothing, finding a balance between the comfort and protection is essential but tricky. There are several interdependent comfort aspects of clothing forming the overall perception: thermal, ergonomic, tactile and psychological. Sweat management is especially challenging in PPC which is typically bulky and made of less permeable, protective outer layers. However, there are promising new materials and wearable systems (like cooling vests, for example) which could eventually lead to an optimized balance between the above mentioned aspects in PPC. Multi-functionality, micro and nanoscale functionalization and smart adaptability of novel textile materials open the path for making lightweight clothing with maximized thermoregulation and protection.

The main techniques to measure wear comfort are through subjective and objective measurements (on textile and clothing level) and computer modeling of the interaction between body, clothing and environment. Since subjective analysis is less reliable than objective, while the latter is sometimes different from the real perception of human comfort, a combination of objective and subjective measuring techniques could be the best approach to model the comfort of textile materials.

This research focuses on combining selected objective and subjective tests to develop a protocol for accurate assessment of clothing comfort. One part of the research is development of materials and wearable systems based on different thermoregulation technologies. As case-studies, user-cases where PPC is worn are taken, including military clothing systems and surgical gowns (disposable and reusable). As a first step towards identifying the user needs, perception and problems in terms of comfort, subjective surveys are implemented. Simultaneously, materials of the current clothing systems and novel fabric/clothing systems that could improve their comfort are collected. The evaluation of the novel systems includes theoretical criteria for selection from a broad range of textile and clothing products, objective tests on fabric level related to comfort, such as water vapor and air permeability standard tests, Sweating Guarded Hot Plate, as well as novel methods like the Fabric Touch Tester (FTT) - a device that has been extensively used by UGent in the past to improve bedding system comfort and sportswear comfort.

Additionally to the comfort-related tests on a fabric level, the novel fabrics need to comply with the standards for the specific PPC use, so that the novel solutions proposed could add the value of enhanced comfort. Prototyping and performing human trials with objective and subjective measurements are crucial for validating the tests on fabric, due to the dynamic interaction of clothing when worn on the body with controlled ambient parameters. The air gaps between layers, the ergonomic impact on clothing, the environment and body conditions, the duration of the wear trial, can largely influence the heat transfer properties of the fabrics and the overall comfort. Objective measurements for this step will include temperature and relative humidity sensors on skin for continuous tracking, infrared camera, and heart rate sensors. The ergonomic and subjective thermal comfort is going to be evaluated with a designed questionnaire  during and after each test.

Fabric touch tester for tactile evaluation (left) – values measured for the surgical gowns, indicating the fabric tactile comfort and thermal conductivity. Wear trials and objective evaluation methods (right).
Fabric touch tester for tactile evaluation (left) – values measured for the surgical gowns, indicating the fabric tactile comfort and thermal conductivity. Wear trials and objective evaluation methods (right).

Further information



For this research topic, CTSE collaborates with a.o. FTI labs (Hogeschool Gent), Universiteit Antwerpen and the Defence Laboratories (Vilvoorde, Belgium).

The project titled “Development and Characterization of Smart Textiles in the field of thermophysiological comfort: Optimization of clothing systems and Identification of the Impact of wearing those clothing systems on the operational capability” HFM20-12, is part of the Defense Science and Technology Research Programme (WTOD 2020).


Prof. dr. ir. Lieva Van Langenhove (