Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost Of Cheap Fashion (2012)
Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion (2012)
Rating
3.71 of 5 Votes: 4
ISBN
1591844614 (ISBN13: 9781591844617)
languge
English
genre
publisher
Portfolio Hardcover
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"Clothing companies have enjoyed decades of cheap foreign labor and the resulting profits, but what exactly are the tangible benefits to us, the American consumer? We own more clothes than we can wear, the quality and craftsmanship of our wardrobes are at an all time low, and the U.S. manufacturing base can't compete on wages with the developing world, costing countless domestic jobs." This book was published in 2012 and the paperback edition has an updated Afterward from 2013. It's an incredibly important work that highlights how our buying behavior is negatively impacting our economy and our environment. Elizabeth Cline defines and illustrates the concept of "fast fashion" - cheaply made clothes sold in stores that add new styles daily and sell them for less than what we spend on lunch. It's created an insatiable consumerism for clothing that has become disposable, with styles and trends changing at a faster and faster pace. This endless cycle is creating staggering amounts of textile waste that ends up in landfills - only a small percentage is recycled, reused or repurposed. "Every year, Americans throw away 12.7 million tons, or 68 pounds of textiles per person, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which also estimates that 1.6 million tons of this waste could be recycled or reused." The demand for this endless supply of fast fashion clothing is creating enormous manufacturing economies in poor countries where workers are paid low wages and work in hazardous and dangerous conditions. The big name brands and retailers are making the profits while the factories and workers are pressed to produce more and produce it faster while cutting the costs of what they are producing. "Garment workers overseas are still only earning about 1 percent of the the retail price of the clothing they produce. The reality is that their wages are so low and many U.S. clothiers companies' profits are so high that brands could afford to raise wages significantly without passing the cost on to consumers."All this offshoring has decimated the textile and garment industry here in the U.S. This reminded me so much of the story of "Factory Man" and what offshoring did to the furniture industry. "China's garment industry operates on an intimidating scale. It's several times bigger than any garment industry that's happened anywhere in the world at any point in history. They have more than 40,000 clothing manufacturers and 15 million garment industry jobs. Compare that to the 1.45 million garment and textile industry jobs the United States had at peak employment some 40 years ago." And still more clothing manufacturers are in cheaper places like Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia and India.The book ends on a hopeful note as Cline talks about the "slow fashion" movement that has followed a trajectory similar to the trend of the slow food movement where there is an emphasis on organic products, sustainability, environmental responsibility and supporting local small producers. There are increasing numbers of people who are focused on buying less, investing in quality products, and supporting local designers and small manufacturers. Cline also talks about vintage clothing, thrifting, consignment, clothes swaps, reselling, renting clothes, custom tailoring and other ways of building a wardrobe of quality and unique items. She has compiled a partial list of companies and organizations under Shopping Directory at OverdressedTheBook.com and she tweets regularly about fashion industry news under @ElizabethClineThis book has made a significant impact about how I think about my clothes. I've also started to look at the tags in the things I own. I bought a heavy black cable knit sweater at Ann Taylor last month and was very happy with it. I assumed it was wool - it looked like wool and felt like wool. It turns out to be 40% viscose, 30% nylon and 30% wool. It was made in China. "Slow fashion's strength is in, well, fashion, the clothes we wear to express ourselves. That's where we should be willing to own less and pay more. I always try to remember that the price we pay for things is connected to other people's paychecks, which ultimately comes back to fortify our own communities."This book is a practical and interesting exploration of the global economics of what we wear, where and how we shop, and how much we are willing to pay for things. "Americans spend nearly $360 billion on clothes and shoes every year, and the apparel industry touches so many unexpected aspects of our existence." We all need to be more informed consumers. I highly recommend this book. I found it fascinating and engaging. Makes lots of the same points repeatedly, and doesn't robustly critique the poor conditions many garment workers face. The solution she offers is to sew our own clothes more, hardly helping raise conditions in factories worldwide.But to be fair, I don't think this is her aim, and I really appreciated her drawing from examples of factory fires in history in New York - it seems like conditions have improved in America, and we've outsourced poor conditions to developing countries.
Reviews
fahimsiddiqui
Eye-opening read. Editing is a little sloppy though - both in terms of the writing and typos.
Izzy
Raises a lot of topics that we as American consumers should think about much more carefully.
dasdaveyboy
Closer to 4 and half stars. Definitely an eye-opener and it held my interest throughout.
blnpisser
Could have (and should have) been condensed into a long article.
puentesc
Repetitive. Glad I read this, though - eye opening.
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