Thoughts: Overdressed (book)

This week was Yom Kippur so, not a lot of crafting, rather a lot of reading.  My book: Overdressed:  The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.

Cline’s book is a quick read and seriously thought provoking.  My mind was sent on many tangents and I’m still thinking over many points.  Overall, she covers the progression of the fashion industry over time, touching on its early years but focusing mainly on the past 20 and the advent of ‘fast fashion’.  Until about 15 years ago, stores would have several seasonal changes; now, stores like H&M, Target and Forever 21 introduce new clothes almost weekly and for crazy cheap.  How do they do that?  How does the manufacturing work?  How does the design work?  What about quality?  That’s what this book is about.

Click the link above for the full gist of the book but my scattered thoughts about the book are as follows:

1)  A lot of this book was a big affirmation of things I suspected were going on – to wit, quality of clothing, including midline-to-more-expensive clothing is absolutely in the crapper.  I still marvel at the crappy quality of my ordered-online North Face $250 winter coat.  I can sew better than this.  Threads hanging off, feathers coming out*.  And it’s not even that warm.  Made in China with a big pay out to the folks at North Face. The loser in all this?  Me.  Why bother buying anything ‘nice’ anymore when you can get the equivalent for $30 at Daffy’s?  That’s a big issue right there.

2)  I am tired of buying unlined stuff, especially ‘nicer’ pants.  Also – mid price range wool?  Largely gone.  It’s all wool/poly because it’s cheap.  Cline makes the point that you won’t find french seams or really any nice seaming done anymore because it takes time.  There’s no room to let anything out and sergers reign supreme sometimes where they really shouldn’t.  Interesting.

3)  The environmental cost of creating so many disposable garments (they fall apart as they are made so cheaply) as well as using so many plastic based fabrics is pretty monumental.

4) It would not – and should not – cost the consumer ANY more for the products to be made by people making a sustainable wage.  The companies moved from U.S. manufacturing to save money and have saved SO much and yet – despite all their ‘sustainability’ and ‘ethics’ – most companies are not paying their workers enough to feed themselves much less house or clothe themselves.  It’s really disgusting.

5) I can’t imagine China calling the U.S. on its debt anytime soon because if we were to stop buying from them due to not being able to service our debt at all, their economy would tank itself.

6) Donating to Good Will and thinking someone needs your worn out clothing (which most of recently made clothing IS worn out beyond re-wear as it’s been made so cheaply) is a pipe dream.  A huge portion is deemed unusable and is landfilled.  Own that. Ouch.

I’m not sure what the answer is.  But it did make me WANT to own nicer clothing which sounds almost impossible to find unless you go VERY expensive or handmade.  But still – clothing that is handled with care, that fits me and that is nicely made would be fantastic. Which mostly means I’ll be making it myself.  Cline says thrift is getting harder – most stuff is now worn out H&M, etc. which wasn’t designed to last more than a few wearings to begin with.

Which brings me to:

7)  Are we on the right track?  Am I?  Looking in the mirror, I am an acquirer, an accumulator of stash and stuff.  Stuff I may never use.  Waste.  My 350 sq. ft. apartment limits me but it is like any abode – a fishbowl that fills up with stuff to fill the space one has.  Look at any popular blog out there and that blogger is likely cranking out an outfit per week, a quilt per week, something volume-y per week.  It begs the question.  Do we WANT to live this way?  I mean, yes, it is satisfying to produce and complete projects but to what end?   At what point are we just creating things that we never fully use?  Don’t we and our planet deserve better?  Would we all be better slowing down and making a few things – *needed* things with exquisite care and then reveling in those things and not immediately moving on to the *next* thing?

This is sort of a vague review but suffice it to say, this book IS thought provoking and I give it a strong rec.  If you DO read, please give me your thoughts.  I have read so many interesting reviews of the book – everyone seems effected in a different way by it.  In that regard, Cline has done a bang up job.  If it were me, I couldn’t have asked for anything more!

* I actually MAILED the coat back to North Face for fixing; they sent it back (with the threads STILL hanging off it) and said they saw nothing wrong with the quality.  ‘Nuff said.


2 thoughts on “Thoughts: Overdressed (book)

  1. Sylvia

    Wonderful summary, Alex! I get so depressed thinking of sweat shops all over the world and how the situation isn’t going to change overnight. The first time I ever walked into an H&M, shortly after moving to NYC, I turned to my friend and joked “It smells like children’s tears in here.” And I still think about that whenever I walk past, and it’s really not funny. It’s also interesting how easy it is to forget those children and men and women suffering all over the world to make these products when you’re in need of an emergency pair of flats.

    It is extremely heartening, though, that the handmade, locally grown, back to the earth movement seems to be picking up steam all over the country. Websites like Etsy make it easy and affordable to pick out things for yourself made with care.

    I’ve been trying to buy quality, handmade (when possible) goods that will last me a lifetime, instead of running into H&M on my lunch break. I feel a lot better about my “stuff,” like it’ll really serve me well and be with me for life. And there’s a lot less of it these days. It all started with my brown leather purse that I bought just before I moved to NYC. Exquisite quality, expensive even at a discount at Nordstrom Rack. I have used it every day since and it hasn’t changed at all except for that time when I put a bottle of kombucha in there and commuted home and well, you know the rest of the story. I look at that purse and it makes me happy to know that there were four other purses I didn’t buy because I never got tired of this one, and it hasn’t worn out yet.

  2. Alexandra Post author

    Thank you for YOUR comment. I admit to falling off the wagon at times at buying cheap but the less-stuff thing started for me years ago and has definitely stuck. The tiny NYC apartment helps in that area b/c where can you even keep everything?!

    I actually think it is hard to get anything of quality these days in the mid-price range. It’s a DRAG. Even $200 items are made poorly – very sad. I am doing more and more thrift as ‘at least it isn’t something NEW to the world’ and oftentimes I find more things made in America and made well. The Made in America ship seems to largely have sailed in 2013 but I’m still pleasantly surprised at times… that said, it’s often on thrifted stuff. Let sigh.


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