Closet stuffed with shoes? Drawers overflowing with socks and undies? The next time you’re tempted to pull that cute must-have dress or sweater off the rack and rush to the cashier with credit card in hand, you might instead reach for a copy of Overdressed and peruse some of the more disquieting facts and figures about the bargain-priced clothing that passes for fashion in today’s market.
According to journalist and reformed fashionista Elizabeth L. Cline, today’s fast-fashion trend, which delivers shipments of new styles to stores like H&M and Forever 21 with dizzying regularity, has a dark downside. Cline offers up a panoply of data to support her claim that this emphasis on cheap excess wastes resources and threatens the health and even lives of workers in countries vying for orders from top retailers. The recent collapse of a Bangladesh garment factory that killed more than 1,100 people is just one in a similar string of tragic incidents. Closer to home, our almost insatiable appetite for inexpensive clothing goods is helping torpedo the nation’s economy. In 1990 for example, the U.S. produced fifty percent of the clothing Americans purchase; today it’s down to two percent. Buy American, anyone?
Clothes are made to be disposable and consumers are conditioned to think that’s okay. Is it? That’s the question Cline asked after making an impulse buy of seven pairs of identical canvas slip-ons that had been marked down to $7 a pair and began falling apart within a few weeks. Her answer is no. Instead of buying into the disposal clothing trend, she urges us to turn to “slow fashion” and its mantra of make, alter and mend. Rather than shop on whim, Cline suggests that consumers buy with intention. Rather than bend to the dictates of retailers who want you to buy cheap and buy often, think for yourself. You’ll be better dressed and won’t end up looking like everyone else on the street.