Over-Dressed-The Shockingly High Cost Of Cheap Fashion

Here is a piece that I have been working on for a while. I read this book in March and given the news coming out of Bangladesh, I wish everyone could read it. 

As someone long interested in design and fashion, I put Elizabeth L. Cline’s Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost Of Cheap Fashion on my “have to read” list just after its publication in June of 2012. Once in my hands, I could not put it down. Cline gave words to impressions that my heart suspected. When I was happily getting good deals for clothes at TJ Maxx or Target, my head ignored my heart’s vague discomfort. I didn’t care to think or know about what was behind those dramatically low prices.

Cline clarifies how those good deals were not only bad for me but for a lot of other people—and our earth.

Beginning about 1990, retailers began playing a sort of “Race To The Bottom” game. Retailers began moving their garment manufacturing mostly to China where workers were plentiful and wages were low. Manufacturing costs were so low that those retailers then had a marked competitive edge over domestic made goods.

Within about ten years, garment manufacturing in the United States essentially shut down. All the equipment was sold to companies mostly in China.

 Retailers were able to dramatically change how consumers shopped. Consumers began expecting low prices while accepting low quality. 
Wall-Mart, Target, H and M, Forever 21, Ross, TJ Maxx and the like cleverly trained us to look for “what a great deal” rather than “what a beautiful and well made garment that I will want to wear for years.”

The change in mindset included no longer fitting or altering garments. It is just easier to throw away than to repair or alter.  And throw away we do. There has been such a fluctuation in the used market of clothing that The Salvation Army and other thrifts can only used 20% of what is given to them. Much of what is donated is in too bad of shape for even the third world and is sold to second parties to turn them into rags. Five percent is not even fit for rags; about 41 million tons–is destined for landfills.

There has be a small glimmer of light. In recent years, manufacturing in China became more expensive. Smaller countries just don’t have the people or the set up to handle the massive undertaking involved in garment manufacturing. Thus a small number of companies have resorted to making some of their designs back in the old U.S. of A. Carol Kane is one example.

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What Am I Going To Do?

I am lucky with one aspect. I was born in 1950 and remember a good product and not getting too much of that product. In lieu of that, my Mother taught me to sew.  Those skills have not been forgotten or neglected. I have made a few things the last couple of years. I think I will be making a few more.

Two years ago the movement “The Great American Apparel Diet” was born.  The rules are very simple. Do not buy any new clothes for a year. I have taken this pledge, which started April 12th. So I have only been on this for a week. There are a few exceptions that I have made.

I can buy material (after I have used the stashed stuff) and any notions needed to finish these pieces. You don’t have to, but I am not buying shoes or bags for a year—with the exception of black flats (one weakness that I’m not going to give up).

I will keep updates on this blog. Refashioning is a new trend and I have plenty of stuff to refashion.I will also feature Michelle’s refashioning. She went to the thrift and bought quite a few promising outfits. I can’t wait to see what she turns them into.

Taking The Pledge With Me

When I vacationed in Florida, I loaned my book to my oldest daughter. When I returned, she decided to take the pledge with me. I have shown her a few things about sewing over the years and she has already completed a dress. Thank goodness for texting with photos. We re-cut a pattern using our IPhones and the dress fits her beautifully. Michelle has a closet full of thrifted articles that she is going to refashion and that will be an interesting thing to watch.

Some Good Links

The Great American Apparel Diet’s websiteThis project began in’09. I feel that it is a pledge that anyone can take at any time. Mine started April 12th, so I am only three weeks into it.

The ReFashionista Blog-Jillian Owens thrifts outfits and remakes them into chic and wearable fashion. It is full of inspiration.

The Good Guide-find products based on science and ethics. Clothing companies are also listed here based on their human relations. 

An Interview with Elizabeth L. Cline by NPR’s On Point  last June when her book was released. 

That is it for this time. I have just finished a sweater using stashed yarn that I can’t wait to get on here. Oh yes, I am not buying any new yarn for year also. So everything I feature, will be out of my (massive) stash of yarn. It just gives me more money to spend on nail polish!

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