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Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion


I recently boasted, "This jacket cost me ten dollars. It was a steal."
It's a sentiment proudly shared by others while their friends praise with envy at the unbelievable find. But as of late, alluring store signs like BOGO, SALES, DEALS are becoming a common sight that these unbelievable finds don't need to be found; they're the norm. It's how good value is perceived (and marketed) now: cheap prices even if it means shoddy quality - does anyone even know what qualifies as good quality? Long lasting relationships with clothes are gone and replaced by cheap thrills to satiate the latest trend. So cheap, sticker shock isn't just for high prices any more.

Many of my curiosities were exposed in Elizabeth Cline's Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. Things like factory conditions, synthetic fabrics (they're plastic, yikes), and how the hell these companies are making money off low prices. Mind you, I had to wait a few months before a Chapters nearby carried 4 copies of it. Perhaps not many others are interested in the topics covered in the book. Which is ironic because Overdressed is about the current state of clothing consumption something we (most of us) participate in. We consume and wear clothes. It's micro and macro economics. With this economy, some are happy just knowing they can afford to buy clothes and care little how those near impossible prices are made possible.

Author Elizabeth L. Cline
 Just like us, Elizabeth L.Cline is not a 'fashionista' and buys lots for little as her introduction is aptly title Seven Pairs of $7 Shoes. Cline was curious to know more and the result is an in-depth research on what's beyond, behind, and ahead of our society's shopping habits. She's gone as far as traveling to actual factories in China and gasp, learning how to sew. The statistics are shocking. For example, half a million American garment industry jobs were lost between 1996 and 2011 alone; world fiber use was just over 10 million tons in 1950 and now it's 82 million tons, which requires 145 million tons of coal and somewhere between 1.5 trillion and 2 trillion gallons of water to produce; as of 2004, H&M was producing a half a billion garments per year. Job loss, poor working conditions, and environmental pollution all because we, customers, now pledge allegiance to the proverbial $10 jacket.

Dubbed the equivalent of the documentary Fast Food Nation and what it did to the food industry, Overdressed exposes the negative impacts of shopping cheap fashion. After reading Overdressed it made me ask, is it worth it? To buy too-cheap items that are made by overworked, undervalued workers. To buy disposable clothes that's depleting natural resources and contributing to environmental problems such as waste and toxic. We may save lots on cheap clothes but in the grander scale of things, it just isn't worth it.

Photos (from top) via bluecollarcatwalk overdressedthebook

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