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Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of…

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion (2012)

by Elizabeth L. Cline

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Overdressed takes a comprehensive look at the impacts of disposable fashion throughout the fashion industry, everyone from designer, manufacturer, distributor, on down to the consumer who, in the interests of pursuing the "good deal," buys poor quality, cheaply-made garments with life-cycles measured by how many washings the garment can survive.

Inexpensive fashion is exceptionally wasteful; it is the height of consumerism, and Cline exposes the emerging reality of what happens to discarded clothes. Cline debunks romantic beliefs, i.e., "Every piece of clothing that I donate to a thrift store will find its way to a grateful wearer."

Instead, if a garment is accepted at all, its time on the shelf is tracked. If the merchandise doesn't sell, it's then passed along -- maybe to a textile recycler.

Toward the end of the book, Cline discusses the value of sewing one's own clothes and repurposing. When you make or repurpose your own clothing, no one else will be dressed like you.

Cline also describes an emerging recognition among consumers about the value of ethical fashion, which is characterized by organically-produced fabrics and living wages for factory workers. It makes for hopeful reading that will hopefully be internalized by consumers who change their habits -- but so many of the retailers at my local mall still offer identically-shoddy merchandise.
  Cynthia_Parkhill | Nov 24, 2018 |
"Many books about fashion begin with an argument for why we should take fashion seriously. I'm going to take a different approach and say that fashion largely deserves its bad reputation. It's now a powerful, trillion-dollar global industry that has too much influence over our pocketbooks, self-image, and storage spaces. It behaves with embarrassing little regard for the environment or human rights. It changes the rules of what we're supposed to wear constantly, and we seem to have lost our sense of self along with changing trends."

Overdressed is an eye-opening look at the psychological, societal, and environmental detriments of fast fashion consumerism. According to the book, the average American woman purchases 64 pieces of clothing per year and owns 30 outfits (compared to just 9 in 1930). Sixty-four pieces! That is a mind-boggling statistic, especially when you consider how the average American also throws away 80 pounds of clothing every year. Fast fashion has conditioned consumers to treat clothing as cheap disposables that last only for a season or two before people are onto the next trend. Elizabeth L. Cline advocates ethical, slow fashion instead--in her words, "make, alter, and mend."

"Clothes could have more meaning and longevity if we think less about owning the latest or cheapest thing and develop more of a relationship with the things we wear. Building a wardrobe over time, saving up and investing in well-made pieces, obsessing over the perfect hem, luxuriating in fabrics, and patching and altering our clothes are old-fashioned habits. But they’re also deeply satisfying." ( )
  hianbai | Nov 3, 2018 |
Probably my favorite book of the year (it's March). The research is broad, detailed and complex. Elizabeth Cline offers a number of explanations and ways of looking at the problem of fashion, from the price scrutiny of consumers, changing clothing culture, intellectual property, profit margins of business, and other elements of the global fashion industry. I was constantly engrossed in all of the different ways to think about this issue. She goes right to the sources of trade organizations, U.S., Chinese, Bangladeshi, and Dominican clothiers. She looks at different companies, statements of fashion designers and leaders, and the history of fashion and prices.

If you only want to know how to make your fashion more ethical, try the following suggestions in the book: (0) stop buying fast fashion: Zara/H&M/Old Navy/Forever21 (1) minimize the size of your wardrobe (2) choose high quality items (will experience a lot of wears, reparable, durable, looks good) (3) indicators (but not necessary or sufficient indicators) of fair trade include transparent sourcing, fair trade certifications, low production volumes, slow cycles, prices higher than fast fashion retailers (4) evaluate each garment individually instead of relying on a brands (offerings differ) (5) consider making your own clothes (6) see if you can find vintage clothes (7) repair clothes and shoes (8) only donate clothing that is in good condition and of good quality ( )
  CassandraT | Sep 23, 2018 |
Why I buy most of my clothes from Goodwill ( )
  kemilyh1988 | Jan 16, 2017 |
Eye-opening book. It's an insightful look at the fashion industry beyond just what you thought you knew about sweatshop labor. However the book petered out at the end into personal story and didn't offer any ideas for solutions, action steps to take, or resources to help consumers shape a more responsible fashion industy. ( )
  penguinasana | Nov 21, 2016 |
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To my grandmothers, Routh and Margarett
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In the summer of 2009, I found myself standing in front of a rack of shoes at Kmart in Astor Place in Manhattan.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Evaluates the costs of low-priced clothing while tracing the author's own transformation to a conscientious shopper, a journey during which she visited a garment factory, learned to resole shoes, and shopped for local, sustainable clothing.

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