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Overdressed: Responsible Shopping in the Age of Cheap Fashion

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion - Elizabeth L. Cline I always admire a book that compels me to action. Some actions -- purge my closets! And think more carefully (although I already due to a point) about acquiring new clothes. And look into tailoring, refashioning existing clothes that just don't work for me. I didn't make any notes below on the chapter "the afterlife of cheap clothes", but it was an eye-opener. I've long known that dumping unused items off at the Salvation Army, etc., is not a solution to too many clothes, bad choices, etc., but this chapter was very illuminating in following the trail of donated clothes through the thrift stores, rag makers, and shipping the discarded clothing to Africa, etc. Overdressed“Many books about fashion begin with an argument for why we should take fashion seriously. I’m going to take a different approach and say that fashion largely deserves its bad reputation. It’s now a powerful, trillion-dollar global industry that has too much influence over our pocketbooks, self-image, and storage spaces. It behaves with embarrassingly little regard for the environment or human rights. It changes the rules of what we’re supposed to wear constantly, and we seem to have lost our sense of self along with changing trends. We oscillate through countless colors, prints, and silhouettes each year. Most of the time we are buying the same basic item of clothing – tank tops and sweaters in the latest color, simple blouses with some added embellishment, jeans in a new fit – over and over again just tweaked slightly with the season’s latest must-have feature. “ p.6“I intentionally avoid buying plastic products such as bottled water because they are oil-dependent and not biodegradable, yet here I was with a closet full of the stuff. [polyester or polyester blend fabrics]. … Polyester now accounts for more than 40% of all fibers produced in the world.” P. 84“As people moved away from making their own clothes, general public knowledge of garment construction faded. Though the connection is not entirely direct, the loss of sewing skills happened in tandem with the public accepting simpler and simpler fashions, until today – where we have collectively accepted the two-panel knit creation that is a T-shirt as fashion. “ p. 87“Fast fashion is known not only for its constant offerings of the latest fads but for being shockingly cheap. These stores [such as H&M and Forever 21] make gobs of money in spite of their low prices, in part because their consumers shop more and buy their clothes for full price. But their true secret is, once again, high volume. They earn their profits the same way that any mammoth discount chain store does: by taking a small sliver of profit on a large amount of goods. “ p. 101“’Clothing is not bad for the environment because it can be reused.’ This is a common public perception. A tremendous amount of clothing is in fact *not* getting recycled but getting trashed, and the environmental impact of *making* clothes is entirely overlooked. Even though plastic can be reused, making it is not environmentally benign. Disturbingly, about half of our wardrobe is now made out of plastic, in the form of polyester. “ p. 123“I’m not the first person to come to this closet crossroads. Many consumers feel that there is something missing in the way they approach clothing, and it leads them to shopping less. For the Uniform Project, a young woman named Sheena Matheiken wore the same dress every day for a year to raise money for charity and as a commentary on consumerism. A similar campaign, called Six Items or Less, challenges consumers to wear only garments (excluding shoes, accessories and underwear) for one month. The Great American Apparel Diet asks participants to pledge not to buy any new clothes for a year in order to answer: “Who are we without something hip and new in our closets?”Most of us can’t imagine clothing ourselves any other way than walking into a store and pulling something off the rack. With shopping cheap out of my life and my bank account hovering near zero, I had to totally rethink my wardrobe. Everyone has a different relationship to shopping, but I can tell you after a year of by-default nonshopping I don’t miss it. I used to always have some new piece of trendy fashion clogging up my closet; now I don’t. But not shopping didn’t make me *love* my clothes. I was still walking around in an unattractive hodge-podge of good “deals.” Not shopping was not a total solution. … The change from store-bought to some other alternative… for me, was a revelation. I’m not sure if I’ll ever make all or most of what I wear – few will – but learning to sew promised to shift the way I thought of clothing.” P. 191“The prospect of people returning to custom and one-of-a-kind clothing makes life after “big fashion” exciting rather than scary. Though not everyone has the patience, time or curiosity to sew, I hope more people sit down and learn basic mending skills and utilize the tailors and seamstresses around them. There are too few opportunities in modern life to actually produce the things we use and to determine the look and function of the clothes we wear. Sewing gives back a feeling of agency and self-sufficiency. It allows you to look under the hood. Sewing gives you all the power of fashion and quality in your hands – and relinquishes nothing to the system. In my experience, it is just satisfying in a way that plucking clothes off a rack in a store never will be.” P. 199“Clothing that is well made is *not cheap.* There, I said it. I’ve had about two years to accept this. Perhaps it will take you less time.” P. 208“But what if more of us thought about clothing in the way people – until very recently – have always thought about it? Clothing is valuable. It should be valued. Cheap clothes not only undermine those who sew, sell, and design them, they’re the pitiful result of decades of price pressure that has erased craftsmanship and splendor of what we wear. Incessant deal hunting has also erased our collective knowledge of what clothing and style could be. I know I will never go back to the way I dressed or shop in the stores where I used to shop. Because when I walk by an H&M or an Old Navy or a Target, I see what once looked like fashion meccas for what they really are: unsightly jumbles of cheap clothes dressed up as good deals. When we can recognize how clothing is put together, what it’s made of, and can visualize the long journey it makes to our closets, it becomes harder to view it as worthless or disposable. Instead, we begin to want to own garments that are unique and made with a level of skill and good materials that cheap fashion simply can’t provide use. If we could only give up our clothing deals and steals, we might just see that there are far more fortifying –not to mention more flattering – ways of getting dressed. “ p. 221