Until recently, Elizabeth Cline was a typical American
consumer. She'd grown accustomed to shopping at outlet malls,
discount stores like T.J. Maxx, and cheap but trendy retailers like
Forever 21, Target, and H&M. She was buying a new item of
clothing almost every week (the national average is sixty-four per
year) but all she had to show for it was a closet and countless
storage bins packed full of low-quality fads she barely
wore-including the same sailor-stripe tops and fleece hoodies as a
million other shoppers. When she found herself lugging home seven
pairs of identical canvas flats from Kmart (a steal at $7 per pair,
marked down from $15!), she realized that something was deeply
Cheap fashion has fundamentally changed the way most Americans
dress. Stores ranging from discounters like Target to traditional
chains like JCPenney now offer the newest trends at unprecedentedly
low prices. Retailers are producing clothes at enormous volumes in
order to drive prices down and profits up, and they've turned
clothing into a disposable good. After all, we have little reason
to keep wearing and repairing the clothes we already own when
styles change so fast and it's cheaper to just buy more.
But what are we doing with all these cheap clothes? And more
important, what are they doing to us, our society, our environment,
and our economic well-being?
In Overdressed, Cline sets out to uncover the true nature
of the cheap fashion juggernaut, tracing the rise of budget
clothing chains, the death of middle-market and independent
retailers, and the roots of our obsession with deals and steals.
She travels to cheap-chic factories in China, follows the fashion
industry as it chases even lower costs into Bangladesh, and looks
at the impact (both here and abroad) of America's drastic increase
in imports. She even explores how cheap fashion harms the charity
thrift shops and textile recyclers where our masses of clothing
castoffs end up.
Sewing, once a life skill for American women and a pathway from
poverty to the middle class for workers, is now a dead-end
sweatshop job. The pressures of cheap have forced retailers to
drastically reduce detail and craftsmanship, making the clothes we
wear more and more uniform, basic, and low quality. Creative
independent designers struggle to produce good and sustainable
clothes at affordable prices.
Cline shows how consumers can break the buy-and-toss cycle by
supporting innovative and stylish sustainable designers and
retailers, refashioning clothes throughout their lifetimes, and
mending and even making clothes themselves.
Overdressed will inspire you to vote with your dollars and
find a path back to being well dressed and feeling good about what