Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

Elizabeth L. Cline

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 1591846544

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

“Overdressed does for T-shirts and leggings what Fast Food Nation did for burgers and fries.”
—Katha Pollitt
Cheap fashion has fundamentally changed the way most Americans dress. Stores ranging from discounters like Target to traditional chains like JCPenny now offer the newest trends at unprecedentedly low prices. And we have little reason to keep wearing and repairing the clothes we already own when styles change so fast and it’s cheaper to just buy more.
Cline sets out to uncover the true nature of the cheap fashion juggernaut. What are we doing with all these cheap clothes? And more important, what are they doing to us, our society, our environment, and our economic well-being?











designer Tom Ford explained fashion coincidences at a 2005 conference at the University of Southern California called “Ready to Share: Fashion and the Ownership of Creativity.” “The clues to where we are going to be next year are here now,” he said. “And to all good sleuths and people with a certain amount of intuition, they will tend to find the same thing. In order for a design to be successful, it has to be appealing to the mass population.”25 Fast-fashion design teams and buyers can be master

Walmart in a Honduran sweatshop. In the late nineties, more than two dozen American clothing companies were sued for using abusive poverty-wage factories in the U.S. Commonwealth of Saipan, a tiny island between the Philippines and Hawaii, and putting “Made in the U.S.A.” labels on the clothes. The list of Saipan producers included virtually every megabrand and retailer Americans shopped at in the 1990s, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Brooks Brothers, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Dress Barn, Gap,

the 819 miles from Shanghai to Beijing in five hours. Shenzhen’s public transportation is so much more modern than New York’s creaking public transit that one garment factory owner’s only impression of my fair city was, “Your subway system is so old.” Giardina told me that after traveling on China’s high-speed rail, he finds train travel in the United States very frustrating. “It’s embarrassing,” he said. “It’s like I’m on Thomas the Tank.” The first factory I visited in China was located in a

million sewing hobbyists in the United States in 2006, up from 30 million in 2000.5 And the number is growing as more people tap back into the pleasure of making something themselves. To appeal to new hobbyists, sewing machines come automated, computerized, and jam-proof, with magnetic drop-in bobbin functions. Brother sells a Sew Simple Sew Affordable machine. Singer has machines called Simple and Confidence, advertised as “computerized, one-step, push-button fully automatic creative tools.”

walk by an H&M or an Old Navy or a Target, I see what once looked like fashion meccas for what they really are: unsightly jumbles of cheap clothes dressed up as good deals. When we can recognize how clothing is put together, what it’s made of, and can visualize the long journey it makes to our closets, it becomes harder to view it as worthless or disposable. Instead, we begin to want to own garments that are unique and made with a level of skill and good materials that cheap fashion simply can’t

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