Mephistia's Reviews > Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

Overdressed by Elizabeth L. Cline
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's review
Jun 18, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction

This is a pretty good book for anyone interested in the following:

* Labor rights
* American (domestic) production and manufacturing
* The history of fashion

Cline positions herself as a "fast fashion addict," a term I don't think is necessarily correct in describing her, as she also readily admits that she only purchased "fast fashion" because it was so cheap. That's less a fashion addict and more someone who chases what they believe to be a bargain.

Anyway, that part doesn't matter so much. At some point, Cline came to the realization that clothing today sucks: It's made of cheap fabrics, it's poorly created, and the fashion of the moment seems to change every 2 seconds. Unlike eras past, the 2000's don't have a defining "look", and this is in part due to so-called "fast fashion."

So Cline sets out on a quest to learn what, exactly, fast fashion is, and how we can remedy our shoddy clothing situation. The results of her investigation are fascinating and eye-opening. She explains how cheap fashion can be sold so very, very cheaply, and she explains why name-brand fashion is so incredibly, outrageously expensive and how cheap fashion has actually contributed to the soaring prices of high fashion.

When she discussed the prices, I particularly like that Cline dug up the prices of mid-priced fashion (something that has all but died in modern times) from bygone eras and converted it to today's funds. She does a really great job explaining how clothing used to be a few key pieces meant to last for years and be repaired, reused and refashioned before finally, finally being donated. She also addresses some common misconceptions about clothing being essentially earth friendly because "it's fabric," which ignores the massive blending and usage of petroleum-based fabrics (like polyester, acrylic, nylon, etc)and other man-made fabrics.

This is just a really fascinating book, but the best, the absolute best part, in my opinion, is that Cline offers viable, real-world solutions for how we can change the industry. In case you don't want to read the book, here's how:

* Learn to sew. The art of sewing is being lost in this generation -- go buy a cheap hobbyist machine and take classes at your local JoAnn's or Michael's or whatever craft store you have. Use your newfound ability to sew to alter clothing to fit you better, to build a more personalized style, and to repair and extend the life of the clothing you own.
* Buy ethically-sourced clothing. We keep saying we want manufacturing back in America, but we've driven it offshore with our increasing demands for ever-lower prices. There are factories operating in LA that were paying by the piece finished rather than the required minimum wage (so if you didn't finished enough pieces in an hour, you didn't make minimum wage), and they were still shipping orders overseas because it was cheaper. If we put our money where our mouths are and start buying clothing that is ethically-sourced -- as in, we purchase it from factories who pay their workers a living wage, health benefits, etc., or we purchase it from businesses who do in fact make it in America, then we are speaking with our wallets and taking a stand for value and ethics over savings and convenience.
* Participate in clothing swaps. Instead of going to the store and spending more money on more cheap clothes, go through your closet. Arrange or find a local clothing swap, and bring some clothing that's still in good condition but that you just don't wear anymore.

For that last bit, you're probably thinking why not just donate? Read the book. It addresses that question.


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