“I hate clothes.” I mutter to myself as I go through my shirts yet again. I’m constantly trying to weed out my clothes and other belongings, longing to be minimalist while at the same time collecting my Funko Pop bounty.
You might not be like me in any way. I have never kept an eye on trends; had loads upon loads of clothes and accessories, neither have I ever really been into clothes shopping. Yet between moving (which I will be doing yet again in the coming months), a fluctuating weight and having my audition/acting clothes on standby, you might be like me in that you have more clothes than you usually know what to do with. I don’t really have many bottoms or dresses, but I sure to have a mound of tops. When I go away I usually come back with a top, when I’m at a convention I might grab a top, when my overseas friends or my family go overseas, I get a few more tops again.
To top this problem (pun maybe intended), I know that not just my shirts but all of my clothes are made in different countries, from different material blends and in really haphazard ways (the shirt I’m wearing right now is asymmetrical and not intended to be, but what did I expect for $3?).
One night as I was scanning Pinterest for minimising ideas, I happened to come across this book by Elizabeth L. Cline. Overdressed had a lot of articles written about it, as well as raved reviews, so while I was at the library I rented it out. What I had learned (and trust me, if you thought you knew it all, you will still learn something) has changed how I feel about the clothes I have and how I shop for them.
Clothing Waste Is The Last Unexplored Topic
Like many things in this world, we don’t think about clothing waste. We don’t think of clothing as waste. Only it is. It’s a huge waste and it is damaging our soil, our water and not doing any good in landfill.
Here are some other interesting things to consider about clothing waste:
- Our clothes are made in part with manmade plastic materials such as polyester. In fact, many clothes are now completely made of polyester. To put it as simply as I can, we wear plastic clothes. So while cotton and other natural materials can break down a hell of a lot easier in the ground, plastic materials like polyester, spandex and nylon aren’t.
- Not only is what we throw out a waste, but so much water is wasted to make them as well.
- Oh yeah and, yanno, the whole air pollution thing.
It’s A Group Effort
Think about what you’re wearing right now. If you’re naked.. maybe just think about socks or whatever is around you or think about your clothing, broadly speaking. So many people have had to come together to make it. The textile makers (yeah, remember them?), the designers, the companies that make and source the buttons, the zippers, the cutters, the assemblers, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a worker in New York or one in Los Angeles or Bangladesh, they all deserve to be paid for their work and to have a safe place to do this work. Sadly, the New York textile maker has no work because companies have gone overseas, the Chinese assembler has to meet a 40000+ shirt quota and the Bangladeshi workers can’t even feed themselves. Yet we rely on every single one of them to make our cheap clothes. Fast.
Our Charity “Op” Shops Aren’t Helping Anyone Anymore
Out of everything in Overdressed, I learnt the most when Elizabeth went to one of The Salvation Army’s main stores in New York, where thousands of clothes – even branded clothes in good condition – are thrown away.
We believe that all of the clothes that we donate to any op-shop are taken in and put on the racks for the next person, maybe an individual or family who desperately needs it, to come along and love it, however the truth isn’t so simple. We dump so much of our tattered, weathered, soiled clothing to op shops that there’s no damn way they can sell it to the public. Not only that, but many stores receive so much clothing that it doesn’t even get near the sales floor, instead attempting to find a second life.
Everyone’s In On Fast Fashion- Except Workers, Designers And Consumers
Fashion bloggers make a killing marketing the next Big Trend, thanks to the explosion of YouTube stars and sponsored content on social media. IKEA has designed and sold millions of space-saving products that it’s almost down to a fine art.
Yes, everyone. Oh, except you.. and me. I mean, we win for a millisecond after buying something. If you don’t get buyer’s remorse. Or get a rip in your clothing. Or your wallet. Oh, and most workers definitely aren’t winning. And a lot of designers (no, we’re not talking Karl Lagerfeld or Viv Westwood here) haven’t won jack.
China Is Too Expensive Now
“Made In China” tags have become much of the staple on our clothing as coffee stains on a fresh, white shirt. However, China has made the moolah on our crack habit for cheap clothing that companies have noped out of there pretty fast and are going to poorer countries like Bangladesh and the Dominican Republic.
Clothes Are Pieces Of Art
Remember this part in The Devil Wears Prada?-
Ever since I first saw that scene it has stayed with me, and while reading this book it was constantly playing in my mind. Care, imagination and innovation go into clothes, doesn’t that make it art then? I mean, it doesn’t have to be part of De La Paz’s installation (as seen above), but surely it must mean something more than the just flexible material we hang on our bodies so we don’t freeze our balls or breasticles off.
These are just some of the topics Elizabeth covers in Overdressed. Of course, since the book was written pre-2012 some companies and practices have changed for the better, however it hasn’t changed enough to make Elizabeth’s book a relic of past shitty stuff that’s happened.
By the end, I realised that even though I knew a lot of the info mentioned, I didn’t actually understand the gravity of the situation. But to know is to be proactive, and it has certainly changed my mentality and how I shop for clothes, for shoes, for everything. I might be extremely tight on money, but now I have a new appreciation for smaller companies and the price tag. I’m currently looking at a new pair of jeans and am happy to possibly spend much more than I normally would for not only the quality but the people making them.
Recommended Reading & Links
2017 Ethical Fashion Report that shows the rating for popular brands