Is the noun "clothes" in Swedish handled the same as in English, in the sense that there is commonly no use for the singular form of the word?
That is, in English, to "clothe" is a verb but even a single article (such as a dress or a jumper) when generically referred to (such as when rumpled up on a floor) it instead gets called "clothes", and is effectively pluralized.
So, would it follow that there is only effective use of the words "kläder" and "kläderna"?
...or can there also be "kläd", "kläden", etc, as there are with other Swedish nouns?
There's klädesplagg, meaning essentially "article of clothing", which is in active use. But it's as you say otherwise - you just use kläder normally. If you're just going to put a t-shirt on, for instance, you typically say that rather than clothes.
Do you have any tips on how to associate "clothes" with "kläder"? I keep confusing kläder for klänning
I think of it like this: In English, "Clad" is a (somewhat old-fashioned) term describing the general style of dress. e.g., "clad in uniform" or "skyclad" (the latter meaning "naked"; clad in nothing at all). So, kläder = the clothes that one wears, regardless of what articles they actually are. By contrast, I think of "klänning" as associated with the term "dressing gown". That is, "klänning" = a particular item of clothing that one wears to "dress up" in.
I am a native English speaker and I haven't learned enough yet to know whether any of these associations are "correct" according to etymology, but that's just how I keep the two words straight, in my own mind.