While one would think I am going to tell you an amusing anecdote about how I showed up for an event seriously overdressed, sadly no, although that has happened. I read the book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline and it confirmed with facts and figures what I already knew to be true-that the way we view fashion has changed, and while in the past we would invest in core pieces and buy a couple of 'trendy' items, now most people only buy what is on trend. That means that we buy more cheaply made clothing and we get rid of more clothing annually.

This has a two prong effect on the environment: the textile industry is notorious for environmental pollution, especially since most textiles are made in developing countries where there is little to no environmental regulation and most clothes end up in the landfill. It also has a devastating effect on labor, which is being felt even in the United States because so much of our manufacturing has been outsourced, which means jobs have been lost in the United States and labor overseas is underpaid, overworked and working in unsafe conditions. Once again, there is little to no labor regulation for manufacturers to contend with overseas.

Not all the clothing we consume ends up in the landfill, because we are such charitable people, we donate it. Cline states:
"I once thought that for every garment I grew bored of and donated, there was either some poor, shivering person in need of it or a thrifty woman out there thrilled to give it a second life. I've come to call this logic the "clothing deficit myth"...Most Americans are thoroughly convinced there is another person in their direct vicinity who truly needs and wants all of our unwanted clothes. This couldn't be further from the truth" (127).
To visualize how much waste there is Cline points out that the "Quincy Street Salvation Army builds a completed wall made of eighteen tons, or thirty-six bales, of unwanted clothing every three days" (page 126). An average male elephant weighs around six tons....so imagine one, just one, Salvation Army store needs to get rid of three elephants worth of clothes every three days.



That only takes into account the clothes that have been donated. Not all of us take the time to donate our clothes and some of it ends up in the trash.

I could go on and on, but I won't. If you have time read the book, or even this review by Business Week which gives a tasty sample of the book.

Not to be all Chicken Little and cry "the sky is falling, the sky is falling", but the sky is falling. There are many small changes that you can make that will have a large impact.
  • Next time you need clothes look first for something classic and well made that is meant to last.
  • Support local or independent designers 
    • Keep your eyes out because I'll have a post on this in the future.
  • Complement your wardrobe with pops of trendy design. I think the analogy would be you can have ice cream on the side, but you can't live on ice cream (except I don't know who could possibly say such a thing!). 
  • Fix it, zip it, nip it or revamp it before getting rid of an article of clothing. 
    • I'll be having classes starting next month to help you do just that.

Ironically as I am reading how knocking off fashion has created a cesspool of clothes, NPR reports on a book that is stating knockoffs are good for the fashion industry.
 

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