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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Are We Truly Overdressed?

Someone I know recommended a book to me recently, and I thought, why not? The book is titled Overdressed, and it's written by Elizabeth Cline. What an eye opener! Living in North Carolina, where the demise of the textile industry is big news, I had no idea what an impact it was to the garment industry when everything moved overseas. Brace yourself, this blog might cause you to think....

The book itself is heavy on statistics, and makes cost of living comparisons to various pivotal points in US history, but it's a surprisingly easy read. It focuses on the way our shopping habits have changed through the years, the easy ready-to-wear impact on our closets, our belief that we are overpaying for fashion but purchasing more, and the sheer volume of clothes imported into the US for purchase. Now, I've always been a shopper who values shopping local, but I had no idea how much shopping and manufacturing locally means to the economy and the environment.

One of the things the book focuses on is a lost art - sewing. I love my tailor, and utilize his services frequently for myself and my clients. It makes good or medium quality clothing stretch far longer, even with repeated washing and wearing. We all have our favorites, right? Hand in hand with the lost art of sewing is our tendency to toss and buy new shoes when the heels wear down or they become scuffed. I remember polishing shoes - not because we were poor, but because we liked the shoes and wanted to keep them for as long as possible. And quite frankly, breaking in new shoes is sometimes painful and we wanted to put that off for as long as possible.

Another thing the book points out is that our shopping habits have not only increased the number of clothing coming into the country, but also where it's made, the lowest minimum quantity a manufacturing facility will take, and what happened to the LA and NYC garment districts. It's not pretty, and the numbers are staggering. Some designers bring in new styles every other week, which doesn't lend itself to quality clothes or unique design. Crazy, huh?

That fact inspired me to take a walk through a local department store to see if I could find any clothes made in the US. Surprisingly, I found some, but the cost of the clothing was higher, and I had to look closely at different pieces of clothing to determine if they were all made in the US. The book states the higher price is due to hand-sewing the finer points of the goods and the quality of the fabric used. Which is nice - no one wants a flimsy, unlined article of clothing that only lasts through one or two washes before starting to unravel. Some of the countries designers are using are China, Indonesia, the Phillippines, Jordan, India, Vietnam, and Bangladesh, which I thought was part of India, but maybe I'm wrong.

All in all, it's an interesting read. As a wardrobe consultant, it's obviously nice that consumers are used to shopping all the time, want to have the next big trend, and will wait until things go on sale because it tends to happen more quickly and their dollars go further. I also wait for things to go on sale before buying, just from a smart shopping standpoint, and I understand when new shipments are coming and what to look for. The unfortunate side affect, besides the economic and environmental ones the book points out, is that we require bigger closets and tend to have so much to wear that we can't wear it all. That's my first task when working with new clients - going through their closet to see what they wear, what they haven't worn, and what doesn't fit anymore. It's an incredibly great feeling to consign clothing or donate it, and to find 'lost' space in your closet. According to Cline, the not so funny result of finding lost space, is our desire to fill it with new clothing.

It was a great read, and I recommend it if you are looking for something new and different. The one take-away I had that I always encourage is shopping locally for quality basics. What do you think? Does it matter if all our clothes are made in other countries? Does the quality of your clothing matter to you?

1 comment :

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