Old English claðas "cloths; garments for the body," originally the plural of clað "cloth" (see cloth), which, in 19c., after the sense of "article of clothing" had mostly faded from it, acquired a new plural form, cloths, to distinguish it from this word. Clothes-hanger attested from 1860.
also clothes horse, "upright wooden frame for hanging clothes to dry," 1788, from clothes + horse (n.) in its secondary sense "that upon which something is mounted." Figurative sense of "person whose sole function seems to be to show off clothes" is 1850. Clothes-screen, which had the same literal sense, is attested in the figurative sense from 1830.
"ordinary dress of civil life" (as opposed to military uniform), 1822; in reference to police detectives, it is attested from 1842. Also plainclothes.
"bind with long strips of cloth," late 15c. alteration of Middle English swathlen (c. 1200), probably a frequentative form of Old English swaþian (see swathe). Related: Swaddled; swaddling. Phrase swaddling clothes is from Coverdale (1535) translation of Luke ii.7.
Young children ... are still bandaged in this manner in many parts of Europe to prevent them from using their limbs freely, owing to a fancy that those who are left free in infancy become deformed. [Century Dictionary, 1891]
Wyclif uses swathing-clothes (late 14c.).
1560s, "old clothes, cast-off garments," from French friperie "old clothes, an old clothes shop," from Old French freperie, feuperie "old rags, rubbish, old clothes" (13c.), from frepe, feupe "fringe; rags, old clothes," from Late Latin faluppa "chip, splinter, straw, fiber." The notion is of "things worn down, clothes rubbed to rags." The ironic meaning "finery" (but with overtones of tawdriness) dates from 1630s.