T.J. Maxx and Marshall's are my favorite places to shop. I don't enjoy shopping, but I can handle their easily accessed stores and racks. Their prices are reasonable too. I am not a fashionista, I am not a clotheshorse, but I do okay. For the record, there are stores I will not shop in due to the quality or lack thereof of the clothing they sell: WalMart, H & M, New York and Company, and except for jeans, Old Navy (their Divas often fit me) are stores I don't enter.
I have standards, and I do okay. Or do I?
I spent some time earlier this month reading Overdressed The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, by Elizabeth Cline. Since then, I've spent some time thinking about all I read in the book.
The front cover holds a statement comparing the book to the film, Supersize Me. That turned me off at first because the premise of that movie, a man eats gross amounts of fast food for an extended period of time, was just stupid--I could never get over the hype about that "experiment." But once I got into the book, I was interested in what it had to say about affordable clothing.
It wasn't good news. As Americans, our need for cheap fashion has literally destroyed clothing manufacturing in the US. We buy factory produced, cheaply made and environmentally damaging clothing. Our clothes tend to be disposable and lacking in quality. What once were investment pieces made in the US and worn for years, are now made in foreign lands and worn for a season. There is very little clothing, only 3% of what is sold in the US, actually made in the US.
Now, I tend to take really good care of my clothing and shoes. I wear pieces for more than a season. I can go into my closet and pull out things I'm still fond of that I've owned for years. So I'm good there. But, I never think much about where something is made.
The book talked about the shuttered textiles mills and high unemployment in South Carolina. It detailed what it's like for American companies trying to make clothing in America. Workers here are not always treated well, being paid by the piece and working 10-12 hour days. The picture painted of what the many (thousands of) Chinese factories are like, how other countries are honing in on making clothing for US consumption, and the over all poor and getting poorer quality of said clothing made me twitch. Then, in the past week, a news story about a clothing factory fire in Pakistan killing over 100 people, caught my attention. Cline wrote about such places in her book.
The hard part? What's my next step?
It seems like for all of us who like to tell people how little we paid, there is a group of folks doing the opposite. We cheapies outnumber the folks who spend a bundle, but where are the in-between fashions? And if those are still made abroad only with better materials, who are we really helping when we purchase those? If I learn to sew, which I'd very much like to do, how do I find fabric that is made in the US? Is that easier? I googled American made clothing, and I didn't find much. I did find Karen Kane, whose clothing is feminine and appealing, so I'll be researching that vendor further. Can I make that little work for me? How do I know the workers who made it are paid a living wage?
Obviously this book didn't as much answer questions as it provided me with more.
The contents of my closet are a work in progress.
For more on the book, read this article.