The high cost of cheap fashion

I’m currently reading a fascinating e-book on history of the garment industry in the US and how it has virtually disappeared. The reason? The quest for cheap, disposable fashion.

Now, the ship has sailed on the garment manufacturing industry in the US. The genie is out of the bottle. Lost jobs and shuttered factories are not coming back.

Cheap labour in China and other offshore countries has made US manufacturing too expensive. Labour constitutes 40-60% of the cost of the garment. Clothing today is essentially still hand made. Automation has not made significant impacts into the garment industry.

Offshore production has enabled the $9.99 t-shirt and the $19.99 skirt. Are these prices that we really should be paying?

The result is that we are consumers of disposable clothes. People buy, and expect to throw out, clothes in the same season. Cheap prices make this an achievable approach.

The problem is that we have lost all craftsmanship and quality in the process. Paper thin t-shirts might be $5 or $10, with hanging threads and hems that are falling apart – so why are you buying them? You are perpetuating this industry at the price of quality.

You buy 10 of these t-shirts in a year when you could have purchased a quality silk shirt for about the equivalent investment.

The next time you’re tempted to buy a ridiculously low priced clothing item, stop and think about the impact of your decision. Consider instead purchasing quality clothing of natural fibers, with lining and finishing, proper hems, blind-stitching and details… and consider keeping this item for several years. The net cost will be the same over time, but you will have supported a return to quality fashion.

If this subject has piqued your interest, check out “Over-Dressed the shockingly high cost of cheap fashion” by Elizabeth L. Cline. It’s a fascinating look at the history of clothing in the 20th century.

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