Dressing for less – but are we paying the price As we fill our closets with bargain fashion finds, the environment suffers and U.S. jobs are lost, reveals new book
15:26 GMT, 12 June 2012
Though Americans are keeping their clothing budgets to a minimum these days, the contents of women's closets are more generous than ever according to one fashion enthusiast.
Author Elizabeth L. Cline was at one time as guilty as the next New York woman of stockpiling with hoards of cheaply-made clothing from the likes of Zara, H&M and Forever 21.
But now she has penned a book about how bulk manufacturing is not only degrading our wardrobes but damaging the environment and a once thriving garment industry.
Cheap n' cheerful: Mass-produced fashion available at stores like Forever 21, H&M and Zara is damaging the environment and society according to one author
The Brooklyn resident began her investigation when she realised one day that her wardrobe was filled with dresses and shirts that lasted no more than two months and ten pairs of the same $7 Kmart canvas flats.
Americans these days, she discovered, spend a meagre $1,700 on their wardrobes annually per household and yet have far more items in the cupboard than in the past.
In contrast, the average middle class woman in 1929 owned just nine outfits.
In Overdressed: The High Price of Fast Fashion, the author argues that modern day high fashion for low cost has transformed clothing into disposable goods rather than items we keep and wear multiple times.
Understandably with shops like Target and Urban outfitters churning out the latest, transient trends at cut price costs, it is tempting to nip to the nearest main street and indulge in a few new items.
Revealing: Elizabeth L. Cline's book about cheap fashion
Zara for one get new merchandise in every two weeks so there is always something new on the racks worth a perusal.
But cheap polyester has now become the world's predominant fiber in order to keep up with the supply and demand of the cheap fashion juggernaut.
According to Ms Cline, because of modern-day shopping habits, 'we're buying so much clothing that world fiber use has risen from 10 million tons in 1950 to 82 million tons today,' which has obvious environmental consequences.
Especially when the textiles are such low quality or a blend of materials that are un-recyclable.
Most of these clothes are made in China by low cost workers while the CEOs of the company's for whom they labour most likely strut around in the very best, high end designer threads.
Trade deals of the 1990s, Ms Cline explains, mean that China produces 90per cent of all house slippers, but more importantly, 50per cent of dresses.
As a result, New York's Historic Garment District, the neighbourhood that was once a thriving and bustling hub of the city, is almost dormant as barely anything is manufactured there any more.
While some people are turning to their own skills to mend quality items rather than face the alternative of wasting money on poor quality clothing that will fall apart quickly, the author makes the argument for going full DIY.
Why not, she asks, but a Singer sewing machine, pick up some patterns and learn to make our own clothes
Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion will be released on June 14th