Tags

No tags :(

Share it

Have you ever thought about the fact that everything you’re wearing at this moment was made with human hands? Despite all the advances in technology, someone still has to sit down at a machine and make the clothes we wear.

Have you ever tried making a garment from scratch? If so, you know it takes planning and skill. Hence, it should have value. But how often do we think about that when we purchase our clothes? Mostly, we look for the best deal we can find. Getting a deal has bragging rights.

Over the past four decades, fashion has gotten progressively cheaper until it no longer makes financial sense to sew your own clothes. As a result, not many of us know how to do more than sew on a button.

The textile industry in the U.S. is all but non-existent. Why wouldn’t it be? A skirt that costs at least $30 to make in the U.S., not including the fabric, can be made in Asia for as little as $5 including the fabric. Keep in mind a seamstress in the U.S. might be lucky to get $9 an hour. How much would you expect a worker in Asia to get for the same work? Not much, as you might have already guessed.

The story of our addiction to high-volume, low-priced fashion is the subject of a new book I just finished. Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, by Elizabeth Cline, is a wonderful piece of journalism that chronicles the demise of the U.S. textile industry. I could easily verify some of the book’s points by personal experience; after all, the decline happened in my lifetime, starting in the 1970s.

You can’t name a fashion retailer who hasn’t participated in practices that make it impossible for textile workers somewhere to earn a living wage. No matter what they say about social responsibility, all the top names we patronize have their hands in this. What’s more is budget brands have been promoted to appeal to our sense of democracy, so we’re no less culpable as consumers.

This book haunts me and I’ll tell you why. Remember the Slow Clothes Movement I started two summers ago? I challenged myself to go a whole year without buying anything I didn’t make or get secondhand, excluding underwear, shoes and accessories. You may have noticed that I never reported the outcome of that project. Here’s the reason: I couldn’t do it.

A catalog would come in the mail with some spectacular sale and I was instantly rationalizing the need for each new item as a “basic.” If I really liked it, I’d buy it in every color. Like most Americans, I succumb to the idea that more is better. I can’t even estimate how many new things I bought during the Slow Clothes Movement. Sure, I bought my share of vintage and resale items. But that was only part of the story.

Why am I telling you this?

Some of the world’s problems are so enormous it’s pretty hard to make a dent in them. This book convinces me that it’s time to look at how my consumption affects others. I believe I can change the way I look at clothes and ultimately, help improve someone else’s quality of life. Please stick with me on this. I’ll be talking more about this here because it’s on my heart and mind.

What do you think? Are your clothes worth more than you pay for them? Would you be willing to spend more to be more socially and environmentally considerate?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.