Does this scenario sound familiar to you? You have just washed a brand new or nearly new garment only to find out a seam has unraveled, a hole has appeared (and not one meant as ironic style), the garment has faded, or it has shrunk enough to fit a small child. This has happened to me far too many times yet I am still a willing victim of what has commonly become known as "Fast Fashion".
As a part of my shopping ban month of February, I decided it was time for me to read a book that was highly recommended on the clothing manufacturing/fashion industry. My goal was to return to the consumer world better informed when it came to my clothing choices and my money. I was lucky that Over-dressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L Cline happened to be on the shelf in my local library right at the time I was ready to jump in.
Ms. Cline's well researched book gave me insight into clothing manufacturing around the world. Clothing used to be something acquired as needed to provide covering and warmth. Now it is a source of entertainment. Where our grandparent's and great-grandparent's entire wardrobes fit in a small armoire or a couple of drawers, we now see new homes built with closets that rival the size of a large bedroom. An industry that used to offer 2 to 4 collections a year now offers on average 26 with some retailers receiving new styles daily. While yes this all adds to a lot of excess, the bigger issue is that the manufacturing has become truly shoddy; the people employed in the industry all over the world are underpaid, poorly treated or both; and the environmental impacts of this "fast fashion" industry are enormous. According to the EPA. "every year, Americans throw away 12.7 tons,
or 68 pounds of textiles per person" (page 122). That number did stop me in my tracks when I considered in my process of minimizing how much clothing I have decluttered because it had worn out well before it should have.
While I was hoping the final chapter of this book would say ~ these are the five manufacturers/designers who make high value goods at a reasonable price and treat their employees and the environment well ~ she did not. I did come away with some retailers I will not be patronizing any more, however, I will have to use the information provided in the book to tweeze out who I think is worthy of my clothing dollars. One thing is for certain, the next time I see a great sale on cheap clothes, I will not be easily swayed to pick up more t-shirts that I do not need just because they are a bargain. I will put careful thought into the fabric, the construction, the country of origin, and the reputation of the retailer before making a purchase. Maybe it is time for me to dust off the sewing skills that I let fall by the wayside years ago. Regardless my selection of clothing will be much more mindful going forward and that is really the point after all.