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

Overdressed by Elizabeth L. Cline
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Sep 10, 2012

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Read in September, 2012

I skimmed parts of this book. It's about the fashion industry and impact of cheap clothing. The author covers some things about sweatshop conditions and low payment of workers worldwide and talks about the dying garment manufacturing industry in the U.S. since most clothing is now made in China or (soon to be) elsewhere. She also talks about the proliferation of chains like Forever 21, H&M, Walmart, Target etc. and that people today expect to buy clothing for very cheap. This has resulted in the death of most traditional department stores. A former clothes junkie herself, the author analyzes how the race to produce cheap clothes (fast fashion) has resulted in poor quality, throwaway garments that are often good for only a season or so (or just a few washings), and the ethos of many that go along with this because they always want to buy the latest thing. Chains like H&M and Forever 21 are constantly changing their stock, and have fewer of each item available to keep shoppers coming in regularly to see what's new. Then shoppers often buy at full price so these chains make a lot of money on volume alone (even though prices are cheap). In contrast she talks about the opposite trend of super expensive designer brands that are far beyond the reach of most people and have no basis in reality to justify their high costs and how shows like "Gossip Girl" get people lusting after them (evidently the top designers make most of their money on their obscenely priced handbags). The author also gives an interesting history of how people used to own very few garments and did most of their own sewing, to growth of department stores after WWII, up to fashionistas and designer envy of today where people own many more clothes than they wear and discard them frequently. (There was also a chapter on what happens to clothing after it is discarded or donated. Organizations like Salvation Army and Goodwill are receiving more clothing than ever and actually only sell a small portion in thrift stores - the rest is sold to recyclers who use some for rag industry, some is recycled and much more is sold in giant compressed blocks and sent to places like Africa.) Overall, you see how wasteful we all have become in this form of consumerism. The author explores alternatives - what is known as the slow fashion movement. Advocates of this encourage people to buy fewer clothes of better quality, emphasizing organic fabrics, individuality, craftmanship and quality. The author also takes up sewing (shockingly, she said she used to just get rid of clothes if a button fell off since she didn't know how to sew one back on - evidently she is not alone since a whole generation has grown up not learning how to sew). She also talks about the value of vintage clothes, recycling and repurposing clothing (redesigning or re-constructing a garment to give it new life). Lots of food for thought in this interesting book. It makes me want to buy a sewing machine.
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