This is a bit of a long one as it covers everything from how clothes work to related features like tailoring, so strap in!
If you've ever looked at the Project Zomboid wiki, you'll notice how wack some of the choices the developers have made. It is understandable that the game breaks realism in some areas to ensure clothing balance, but sometimes this 'balance' is quite poor...
...For example, the Police Trooper Pants offers no defense of any kind while the Police Deputy Pants offer 10% scratch resistance. Mind you that they are almost identical in all other stats. The Ghillie Suit Pants offers 10% bite defense and 20% scratch defense with a hefty movement speed debuff, while Denim Jeans offer the same protection with a much smaller movement debuff. Why is the more rare, more hard-to-acquire equipment actively worse compared to what you can get out of a zombie or two? I could go on for hours comparing pants but I think you get my point. What should be rare, end-game equipment is quickly discarded as it's simply much worse compared to your ordinary gear. So what's the solution?
First of all, we need to establish a few key ideas for the rest to make sense.
Almost every piece of clothing has a few stats, even if very minor. Of course, this excludes things like jewelry and other minor vanity items. A basic shirt might provide 2-5% scratch protection and 1-2% bite protection, but it'll provide some protection nonetheless. Mind you, this isn't the only stat that clothing can have. Some clothes might also provide bonuses like increased movement speed and reduced stamina usage. This is again a vanilla feature that vanilla Sneakers have, but they're not used anywhere else.
If a part of your body has 65% protection, it becomes immune to scratches. At 75%, that part of the body becomes immune to lacerations and at 100%, it becomes immune to all damage to the body. Mind you this doesn't apply to natural damage, things like breaking glass with bare hands. This only applies to zombie attacks. This might sound overpowered, until you consider...
Zombie attacks still damage your clothes. This is actually a vanilla feature, where the protection goes down as clothing becomes more and more damaged. This means that, while a properly-dressed survivor might be able to shrug off an attempt bite or two, eventually their equipment will get damaged enough to leave them vulnerable. This also ties in nicely to the extension of the sewing mechanic we'll get onto shortly.
Now that we've got some basic ideas down, let's begin.
Every piece of clothing you put on will incerase your bulkiness depending on how heavy those clothes are. Of course, rarer pieces of clothes will have more benefits and less drawbacks at the cost of higher upkeep. We'll get to that in a minute.
First of all, the positives. Being bulky means that you're somewhat more likely to push zombies down. Your pushes are slower since but they have more force behind them simply because you're heavier.
And for the negatives? Well, almost everything movement related, especially things that the current system doesn't cover. For example, imagine a scenario where two people are vaulting over a fence. One of them is wearing sports gear and a light satchel, while the other is dressed in many layers of bulky clothing, from a bulletproof vest to a firefighter's uniform. If both of them fall at the same time, which do you think is likely to get up first? You would think the person in the sports gear would, but Zombid says ''Nope! They both get up at the same time.'' and so they do.
This stat would have an effect on most everything related to movement. You would take more stamina to sprint per tile with bulky clothing compared to going light, so on. The core idea here is that you're effectively trading movement speed for toughness. This makes armoring up less of a dice-roll compared to the current system.
This system also ties into current vanilla systems. Strength affects how much being bulky affects you as stronger people can simply walk around comfortably with more gear on, while Fitness affects the aftermentioned stamina loss.
Let's visit the other end of the spectrum.
Clothing items like Sports Shorts and related gear make you more agile. This has the opposite effects of wearing heavier, bulkier clothing. You get up faster, you perform certain actions faster, you move in combat faster, so on.
In exchange, however, you are much less protected. Remember, outfits like the firefighter's might be bulky and heavy, but they also offer a great deal of protection compared to what is just sports gear.
Agility vs Armor
These features create some distinct gameplay styles. A player might choose to put on as many layers as possible for the protection or they might choose to put on very little for the extra agility. If we take this idea to it's logical conclusion, we might need to make a few additions to the game. At one hand, extremely bulky but very protective gear like riot gear. In the other, things like running sets that you can wear on the under layer that make you more agile,
In a recent development blog, the developers mentioned;
And to be honest, I love this idea and I want to build on it. So, let me introduce you to...
This will exist alongside the current basic tailoring system, though being able to reinforce clothing definitely needs to be moved to the sewing machine. While you can repair basic apparel using just a needle and some thread, you will need a sewing machine for anything more complex. Things like sports gear, non-standard apparel like high-visibility vests and ghillie suits, and overall anything more end-game will require a powered sewing machine to repair. This is a somewhat mid-to-end-game goal, essentially being a better way to repair and reinforce clothing in the mid-game, while filling the role upkeep for high-tier gear in the end-game.