Let’s Talk about Overdressed

Welcome back to the Colette Book Club!
94

Today, we’re discussing Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline.

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“ … fashion has become a slick, industrialized, heavily marketed industry. Loving most clothes sold today would be like loving a fast food sandwich.” – Elizabeth Cline

Overdressed looks at how the American fashion industry has changed in the last four decades. These changes have allowed retailers to drop the price of clothing to shocking lows ($1.99 for a tank top at Forever 21). However, those cheap prices come with hidden costs: environmental degradation, underpaid workers, dangerous factories, and poorly-made clothing that doesn’t satisfy us.

Consumers are trapped in a cycle of buying too much clothing but not loving any of it. Our closets are so over-full that a book on throwing things away has become a massive best-seller. Our shopping habits enable poverty and human misery–but most of us choose to ignore that, since it happens overseas to people we don’t know.

There is so much to talk about in this book, so I’m going to keep the questions short!

  1. How did you feel when you finished this book?
  2. Will your shopping habits change after reading this book?
  3. Do you have any tricks for building your wardrobe in a sustainable way?

Thanks to all our reader who suggested other resources on this topic!

KALIMAK recommended “Sweatshop”, a documentary/reality tv series where three Norwegian travel to Cambodia, where they meet the people who make their clothes. It puts a remarkable human face on an issue that feels overwhelmingly complex.

You can watch this series online, for free, with English subtitles.

Kat Siddle   —  

Kat Siddle is a librarian and fashion school dropout from Vancouver, B.C. She blogs about beauty and sewing at www.prettyscavenger.com.

More about our writers

Comments 94

Brenna instagram.com

I really enjoyed this book however I did read it quite awhile ago.

I agree with the many criticisms outlined in the book but I also recently listened to a podcast that really put the argument that these textile factories do elevate local populations above a solely subsistence agrarian life in perspective for me. It’s an episode from Planet Money’s t-shirt project and contrasts the lives of two sisters who were given different choices in life because of the jobs offered in textile factories. You can check it out here: http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2013/12/03/247360855/two-sisters-a-small-room-and-the-world-behind-a-t-shirt

I think another aspect I’m particularly critical of in the way we buy clothes today is fit, or the lack thereof. I constantly hear from my fitness-y friends how they don’t fit standard sizing and that’s exactly what happens when folks don’t invest in their clothing and get things tailored to fit. And why would you when clothing is so ephemeral these days?

I’ve been on a no-buy-except-second-hand-clothing thing for a while, although I want to be able to sew most of my own wardrobe. Honestly, finding the time to do so is the hardest thing. My life is very full these days! I’ve been making progress though and this weekend was particularly productive with the long weekend. I keep posting about it on my instagram @ThreadCookie.

emily

I’v heard that podcast too and it’s definitely interesting. It would of course be awful for local populations, women especially, if textile factories were to disappear, but it isn’t a choice between not manufacturing clothes and completely inhumane practices–there’s a middle ground there. When a whole textile factory can collapse and 1000+ garment workers die and barely a peep about it is made in the west, something is severely wrong. As consumers, we need to put out the message that we can’t support companies who neglect worker rights anywhere in the world, because hoping that mega corporations will change anything at the expense of their bottom lines is just not going to happen. Making out own clothes (as long as we’re aware of where the textiles and materials come from) is a big leap in the right direction to ethical consumption, but it’s also important to stop shopping at big fast fashion corps, and start encouraging fair trade and ethically sourced companies. Usually if a company isn’t specifically bragging about their ethical production, you can be pretty sure it isn’t pretty.

Brenna instagram.com

I totally agree. No issue is black and white.

I brought up this topic with some work colleagues today. All people I consider to be relatively intelligent and caring… But they just didn’t care about this issue. It was pretty disappointing to be honest and I think it is evidence of how far removed we are in the west from the consequences of our consumption.

Angela

That is so heartbreaking to hear. I don’t know why people in our country have so little compassion for other people in the world. No one knows how to put themselves in anothers shoes and think about what it must be like to live that way. We need to do more to teach our youth compassion because right now the majoraty of the population has none!

Brenna instagram.com

Generations previous to mine have worked hard to separate themselves from exactly the kind of labour and hardship we benefit from through mass consumption. I totally understand why this has happened and this movement away from labour has turned us all into (mainly) consumers rather than producers and left it’s mark on our bodies through our terrible food systems and the rising levels of obesity. I can’t criticize my ancestors for finding a way to live that doesn’t involve wearing themselves out by 60 and the loss of awareness is totally predictable when our patterns of consumption are framed this way. I’m not sure what I’m trying to say here, just thinking out loud I guess…

Janine Helligar janinehelligar.com

Thank you for sharing this link. I read the story. And I care. I care a lot! You are right–nothing is black or white, and I feel helpless. But I’ve decided that even though I know these low paying jobs are helpful to women in these countries, I do NOT want to support sweat shops abroad. I do NOT want to support unethical clothing and textile companies that take advantage of people in desperate places.

Mira

Your experience reminds me a lot about the Eloi and the Morlocks from “The Time Machine”. I am not surprised by your colleagues’ reactions. For most people, it’s not a priority. Unfortunately too many in Western society are more concerned with their immediate wants and needs, and are either unable or unwilling to look beyond their consumption to see where and how something was made. If it’s not in their immediate backyard or impacting them directly, it’s not going to matter.

But I also think that’s where the internet, outside of corporate controlled mainstream media, can really help. It’s the documentaries and investigations and books of this ilk that can help open people’s eyes and minds. These things can encourage people to look beyond the end product and scrutinize the supply chain to make more informed and conscientious choices.

Cindy

A friend gave me the best advice about how to change the world. It was to be purposeful in how I spend and invest my money.

Penelope

This piece of advice is easy to accept but challenging to carry out in the many day to day purchases one habitually transacts. It requires constant mindfulness.

Janine Helligar janinehelligar.com

I really love that you have made a reference to fit. As women, we KNOW that no two female bodies are the same, even if they share similar body measurements. FACT: We are all different as snowflakes.

So I simply have never been able to grasp why we think that we can buy RTW or a sewing pattern and get a good fit without comparing them to our own unique body lengths, widths, and depths.

If a garment fits you right off the rack or out of the pattern envelope (possible but highly unlikely), it is random luck. Same for a sewing pattern. Even before I could sew, I had all my RTWs altered as needed, because clothing that fits my proportions looks better and is just more comfortable and fun to wear!

Brenna instagram.com

I am somewhat baffled too! It just doesn’t seem to make any sense! I guess people just don’t think that hard about it? But when body image issues are exacerbated by fitting room challenges, you’d think that the logical conclusion would be “well the clothes don’t fit me” rather than “I don’t fit the clothes”. It’s so much more logical!!!

Mira

We’ve been conditioned to think that way by the garment industry and the media. Back when people made their own or regularly used tailors and seamstresses, while they still existed, body image issues were less damaging to the psyche. Now, with the industries standardizing everything, the message we get is that the problem is our bodies for not fitting into the designated mold. Basically “We stand by our products, it’s YOUR butt that’s too big.” It’s terrible and highly unrealistic. When you look through any book on sewing techniques you’ll find a multitude of fixes that can be made to patterns to make something fit different bodies. A good fit in clothes is a mix of many different shapes and measurements.

Veronika

While I can acknowledge the sentiments and ‘hard data’ presented in stories such as that of these two sisters the problem I have with it is the comparison to what is already there regardless of it’s morality or fairness. Yes it may be better in this instance but it has no sustainability over generations, it limits choice, independence and empowerment. When I am told ‘but at least they have a job and can make a living” my reply is perhaps but there are better alternatives that never enter the discussion if they are trying to prove this point of having work and being better off than those around them. I first began to realise the possibilities when I read about the Grameen Bank and then other micro loan initiatives in third world countries. I would much rather support businesses marketing products from these kind of things than large factories that provide work without any commitment or moral responsibility about the standard of jobs they are offering and support the development of jobs that recognise some rights for workers.

Amanda eechick.com

After finishing this book, I felt quite depressed about shopping. I also realized that the environmental concerns of fast fashion held much more sway over how I felt about overseas fashion.

My shopping habits have changed significantly. When I went to Target for household items, I would usually also leave with a handful of t-shirts in colors I like. They only last a season or two, so $5 is a great deal. Now when I look at their clothing department, I just see a lot of waste and choose not to participate in it.

I read this book shortly after reading Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy, so I now have a heightened sense about only purchasing clothing that I absolutely need and love. madewell.com has a great capsule wardrobe building program, and I have been using that along with the Seamwork patterns to craft a wardrobe. It’s way easier to get dressed now with fewer clothes, and I look more put together!

Mira

Having a smaller wardrobe really DOES make a huge difference! I’ve lived with a small wardrobe most of my adult life for various reasons, but whether by choice or circumstance, it makes you a LOT more aware of everything that is in your wardrobe, and how it all works together. Getting dressed is so much faster. Plus, accessories take up less room. ;)

Amanda eechick.com

The capsule app is by http://capsules.cladwell.com/ not madewell.

Sewing Sofie

Thank you for sharing this website!

kalimak swarmofchickadees.wordpress.com

I agree with Brenna and Amanda, writing above, who mention the complicated economics of clothing production and the environmental toll of fast fashion. These are issues that trouble me very much, and what really worries me is the impossibility of finding a solution on a personal level. Our personal choices mean a lot, don’t get me wrong. But what remains — as Cline points out — is that psychologically the super-low prices strike us as “fair” and it’s incredibly difficult to dislodge that tendency from our thinking.

I reread Overdressed for this discussion, finding in it again all those things that shook my world when I first read it. Sorry for that bit of melodrama in my language — this book really taught me how clothing gets made in large-scale production. I had imagined the process was much more mechanized and really had no clue that the production line is made up of real, living seamstresses who are drastically underpaid for their work.

I first read Overdressed before I learned to sew. Odd or not, it made me want to learn and to be more in control of my wardrobe. I’d never been a shopping addict, but even my somewhat selective shopping ended up being fast-fashion-dominated. I didn’t know where to find well-made clothes. I liked Cline’s encouragement to learn to sew or seek out dressmakers/tailors near you, and I happily took it.

But that’s just the personal level. Our increasingly selective use of the internet might make us think that everyone sews (because we might be interested just in what’s going on in our beloved sewing community). In reality, not that many people get to think about issues around clothing production, not to mention about sewing.

I’ve been returning to this piece by Emily Matchar: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/03/opinion/sunday/that-handmade-scarf-wont-save-the-world.html. I don’t quite know what to think, but it seems to me that apart from our choice to make and to support fellow makers, there are larger economic questions that we need to think about — and encourage others to think about. I’m still trying to figure out how to do that.

PS: Thank you for the mention in the post. The documentary, Sweatshop, marks in my opinion an important attempt to get this discussion rolling beyond the maker community and the DIY question.

Ros

“I didn’t know where to find well-made clothes.”

This. This is part of the reason I’ve learned how to sew.

Also because so many brands that are touted as being ethically made, etc stop at a size 10 or a Large, and my tush is an XL/16. “Ethical and well-made but doesn’t fit” is no help.

Michelle Rivera theintentionalseamstress.co

I hear this so well. As a plus size babe finding ethical fashion in my size and style is nearly impossible. It’s why I sew lol.

Brenna instagram.com

I still have faith in the power of personal choice. We are affected by the choices of those in our immediate circle and even if one isn’t out picketing for change our personal choices can still make change happen.

kalimak swarmofchickadees.wordpress.com

You’re right. I’m sorry if my comment came off dark and skeptical. I do think personal choices matter a lot, and that significant change has to start where we are rather than in some far-fetched possible future. But I guess I often end up feeling overwhelmed by the complexities involved, and by the responses I get from those who don’t see a problem with fast fashion’s super low prices (not because they think it’s okay to underpay workers but because they think about how fast fashion fits into their own budgets).

Brenna instagram.com

Not at all! I can totally understand how you feel that way! I have a hard time blaming nameless, faceless corporations sometimes because they have been created for one sole purpose and that’s to make money at the exclusion of all else. Of course when we humans create these things, the end result is the abuses now taking place. Society’s focus on profit and money is a quite troubling values-structure.

kalimak swarmofchickadees.wordpress.com

What can I say — I agree with you on that completely, Brenna!

Mira

I think that’s a valid point, kalimak. For many, the prices of fast fashion are what’s affordable, not as a shopping hobby, but as in “This is how I get the basic necessities for my wardrobe.” When your budget is super tight, the $25 pair of jeans is still pricey when weighed against its worth in groceries.

Sewing Sofie

Completely agree! For many its not a shopping addiction. Instead its the only way to afford clothes. This group of people is also less likely to recognize quality because they have not experienced it.

Susan

I agree with you, Brenna. I sometimes seem to have very different values from my friends and colleagues when it comes to environmentalism, social justice, and community service. But I have found over the years that the choices I make do have an influence on other people, although it might take years and I might not even realize it. A friend once told me that something I had done or said made her think about her own life, and many months later she decided to make some changes.

Sarah

Another great documentary on this subject (although very depressing) is The True Cost. It’s currently available on Netflix.

I read Overdressed a year or so ago and it changed the way I think about shopping, for sure. I do think that it’s easier for those of us who sew to take action and reduce dependence on sweatshop labor. For those without the ability or funds to sew their own clothes, it can be really difficult to escape the cycle of fast fashion.

Kat

So I have one tip for building a more sustainable wardrobe:

Look for specialized clothing sale/swap groups in your area. In Vancouver, there’s an active Facebook sale/swap group for gently-used Lululemon workout clothes. I’ve been able to build up a good-sized collection of workout clothes this way, without having to buy many new pieces.

Mira

For those interested in thrifting, I do recommend trying a variety of stores. In my area, I had the best luck finding good quality garb at thrift stores near wealthier neighborhoods. As in an angora sweater for $2.50, and other high quality clothes for mere dollars. Many times I’ve found things with the tags still on.

Kat

Great tip! If I’m restless on a Saturday afternoon, I take a take a ferry to a wealthier suburb, get a coffee and check out their Salvation Army. I’ve gotten lots of good stuff over the years. I basically won’t buy new clothes for work any more, unless I need something specific or fancy like an interview suit. I’ve found all the pencil skirts and blouses I’ll ever need.

Lori

Loved this book!

The biggest change for me was looking at the wardrobe I already have and refashioning the pieces I don’t love to fit me better. I have altered garments in the past to fit better, but I think remaking them into something more interesting is more exciting for me. It did make me pause in buying more clothes so I would not contribute to the waste already out there.

Would love to see some articles on the Collette blog or Seamwork on altering clothes.

kalimak swarmofchickadees.wordpress.com

I’m always really impressed by sewists who refashion clothes:-)
I have plans for an old dress I’ve hardly worn but have yet to take the plunge.

Kat

Sometimes, I find re-fashioning more challenging than sewing from scratch! It never seems to work out quite the way I want, though I’ve gotten better as my sewing skills and judgement have improved.

Mira

Agreed. Some people are geniuses at refinishing and redesigning old clothes, but it rarely works out that way for me. I had a couple of vintage coats that were very “granny chic” in their original styling. I had plans to tailor and update them, but it never quite worked out. C’est la vie.

Audrey skirtfixation.com

I have not purchased RTW clothing for many, many years due to my height (6 feet tall) and my sewing skills. This book was an interesting read to me, however. I did have one main criticism; the author never discusses the afterlife of retail store clothing that doesn’t sell. That is a HUGE tragedy.
Thanks for hosting this book club, I’m enjoying the selections very much.

Ros

Reading this book has, honestly, lessened my purchases of cheap clothing for myself, with one caveat: I am a size 16 in most RTW brands, and it’s nearly impossible to find ethically made jeans, for example. So I cringingly buy 17$ Old Navy jeans that fit like a glove, and wear then into the ground. Options being limited, you work with what you have.

The part where I have a really hard time with RTW is my kids. My daughter is a toddler (JUST had a growth spurt and all of a sudden no longer fits size 2T clothes, Within 2 weeks.) Functionally, she requires a completely different wardrobe every 6 months, both for season issues (summer to winter is a 50 degree difference here) and because she no longer fits the previous size, which is then no longer wearable for hte next season. I live in a place where buying used is problematic (few thift stores, Craigslist/Kijiji pick-ups are a 45-minute drive from my house, which, environmentally, is also a concern). I genuinely cannot afford a complete wardrobe of ethically-made children’s clothing every 6 months, nor can I make time to make it all myself (some, sure, but…) . So: RTW, Old Navy, and then I feel guilty. What are my alternatives??

Lisa

That’s exactly My issue as well. Growing children have changing clothing needs. I sew mainly for myself and would have a very difficult time Finding Time to sew for a child as well (beyond the occasional). Also used boy clothing isn’t half as easy to find as girls’.

Wilma

Yes, this is a problem for me as well. I buy H&M for my little girl (we live in The Netherlands, so we have different options for shopping). It just breaks my heart. I know people usually complain about the quality of H&M, but a lot of the baby clothes are so incredibly well made that it makes me sad how cheap they are. I bought a little jacket and it was so perfectly made and so durable. It saddens me when her clothes have little perfect pockets and I know that these pockets have been sewn on by underpaid people. I wish H&M would raise their prices and that the difference would go to the makers. I think the thing that annoys me is that I have two options: too expensive or too cheap. Now that’s she at the point where she needs a new wardrobe only twice a year I try to sew more of her clothes. I have also found some good second hand options for kids clothes. Since reading Overdressed a year ago I have vowed to buy ethical or to make it myself from ethical fabric for my own clothes, but making teeny tiny baby clothes was too difficult at first.

Susan madtownmamaknits.blogspot.com

It’s not just you. Fast fashion has pushed clothing to either too expensive or too cheap without many options in between.

I think you’ve really touched on something about clothing for kids, too. It’s all well and good to make your own clothing and have a capsule wardrobe and care for those pieces for years to come. But kids grow and spill food and roll in the mud, not to mention they have specific tastes and strong opinions and social pressure to dress like their peers, so a handmade wardrobe for children is a whole different animal, isn’t it? I have an 8yo daughter and 10yo son. I make some things for them, but it’s not easy to find styles they like to wear and of course like all kids they grow out of stuff every season. If I made all their clothes, I wouldn’t have time to do much else (like earn a living and cook dinner and stuff like that!) I do sew for my kids and they appreciate what I make if they’ve had some input in the style and fabric choice, but it’s really not practical to make everything. I wish I could, though, because the options for buying are abysmal – inappropriate gender stereotyping, or stuff that doesn’t last even a season because it’s so cheaply made. It’s depressing.

For all the talk about thrift stores, I can’t find acceptable clothing in my kids’ sizes in thrift stores, at least not where I live. I suspect those sizes get worn through before kids grow out of them (that’s the case for my kids, anyway), so all that’s left are things that are in bad shape or are so dressy they’d hardly get worn anyway.

Janet diywardrobe.co.uk

I completely agree. My son is nearly three , and he really gives his clothes some punishment (crawling around in the mud, falling off his bike, toilet training..)! Although we do buy a fair amount secondhand most of what’s available in thrift shops is poorly made imports. And it’s hard to justify spending a lot of money on better quality new clothing when you know it’s going to fit for a year at most. I’d love to make more things for him but time and cost pressures hold me back.

Diana

Maybe at that point, you tell yourself that you make do with your circumstances. If you can’t shop where you’d ideally like to shop (neither can I!), then you exercise care and concern by not over-buying. Or you might not be able to often shop thrift, but on the rare occasions you are near a thrift store and have time, you take a few minutes to see what they have. A little is better than nothing; keep your ideals in mind as a goal, but don’t feel like you have to meet them all immediately. The system is broken–not everyone will be able to find a way totally around it! :) (But don’t give up on the ideals, either!)

Mira

Well said! Not everyone has the same access to clothing sources. Sometimes it will be a matter of selecting the most mindful habits from the resources available to us.

Anya anna-zoe.net

I really enjoyed the book as well. I agree that there are some shortcomings and the author hasn’t covered everything, but I think it is a great book nonetheless. I read it a few months ago and it really affected me. Prior to reading the book I never thought too much about where my clothes were coming from and how they were made. I would hunt for bargains and not think twice about buying cheap clothing.

The book forced me to think about my purchases and my habits. I realize that on my own I can not do much, but I still have a choice where to spend my money and which businesses to support. I can make a choice to invest in ethically produced clothing, which I am planning to do. The book also affected me in a way where I decided to challenge myself to not buy any clothing for a year. Instead, if there is anything I need or want, I have to make it. I still can buy socks, tights and shoes though :) Once I am through with my year of no buying, I will be looking to spend my money to support brands that invest back into community and produce clothing in an ethical way.

I don’t really have any tricks that I use as I am still figuring it out. I can recommend to really think about what you need in your wardrobe and concentrate on making / buying / repurposing pieces that are wardrobe builders and will be used a lot and go with other pieces. It doesn’t make sense to spend time and money on items that just sit in the closet, never get worn and end up being thrown out.

Another thought that Elizabeth touched on in her book, but didn’t go into much detail is ethical and sustainable fabric production. Now that I am feeling more comfortable with questioning my clothing I find that I am starting to question the production of my fabric. I think I would like to know more about that topic as well and try to find sources for sustainable fabric which is produced ethically.

Roz McNulty rozdigital.com

When I finished this book, it confirmed a lot of things I didn’t know but suspected. Firstly it confirmed why it seemed there was no real seasonal, yearly or even decade style changes since the eighties. This was because of the internet and the demand for ‘fast fashion.’ Changing styles in a faster and faster cycle.

Fashion will be measured in a different way than decades, as it was in the past. We all know what clothes looked like in the fifties, sixties, till the eighties and then it be came fashion re-invention.

As for the clothing manufacturing have left and moved off-shore, the logic of this was all explained in the book.

I have always been a sewer and am stunned with the poor quality of a lot of ready made clothing. I was horrified when I saw unmatched thread and other small flaws. Therefore I buy a lot of sweaters, a lot of fabric and plan to sew a lot more than I do. I try to not buy poor quality clothing when I have to buy.

I love Marks and Spencers in London England for good basics. Once I find a brand that works I tend to stick with it. I always do check my labels just to know where they make the clothing.

I try and remember how long I will wear a garment and remember to price it that way. Good quality boots have taught me a real lesson in getting an amazing quality (but I did buy the on sale.)

Katie Emma instagram.com

I really enjoyed the book (although at some points I found it kind of a bummer and didn’t exactly look forward to reading it before I went to bed). I almost never buy clothes anymore, and pay way more attention to the materials and where things were made since I started sewing my own garments, so I feel like I was already tuned into a lot of things Elizabeth had to say.

I like this quote from the book: “Consumers can afford to take on higher costs for living-wage products, yet raising the wages for garment workers does not have to have a huge impact on retail prices…[and] brands could afford to raise wages significantly without passing the cost on to consumers.” So it’s on both the consumer and the producer to improve things. The argument that ‘at least factory workers have jobs’ is not a good one. Raising wages would not be a huge burden.

The book has encouraged me to investigate more about the origins of garments I purchase. I started emailing companies about where and how their products are made before making purchases (just bought a pair of shoes from Allbirds) – many companies seem perfectly happy to give me detailed information, and these are the companies I want to support! I’m glad that I feel like I can get that information and that it’s becoming more common to expect this kind of transparency.

Jess wardrobeecology.wordpress.com

I didn’t read Overdressed as part of the book club but I did read it a few years ago and it continues to impact me. I think it is really poignant and well written, and certainly a foundation for the growing eco/conscious/slow fashion movement as an exploration of consumer patterns and an examination of economies of scale. I think Emily Matchar’s NYT piece (linked above) is a great complement to it, and as an aside I think her book Homeward Bound would be an interesting book club pick!
Elizabeth Cline recently talked more in depth about textile waste on the Conscious Chatter podcast and it sounds like she’s exploring that subject in detail – perhaps for another book or movie? http://awearworld.com/podcast/2016/3/23/s01-episode-05-waste

I was shocked to learn that textile waste has increased 40% from 2005, and that the average American woman only wears a garment 7 times before considering it old (I would venture this is similar for women in many Western countries/cultures). I think the sewing community is often several steps ahead of the average shopper/fashion consumer because we’re spending time planning and creating goods, and we have an inherently deeper understanding of the labor required to make a garment. I know many sewists, myself included, are drawn to making their own clothes because the cut & sew is necessarily ethical if we do it ourselves, and I LOVED the latest Seamwork Radio episode on this.

But I’d love to see more conversation in our community about our pace of making and textile waste which is not necessarily reduced by making clothes at home. Specifically, I keep circling back to this idea of an average 7-wears garment and wondering how “me-made” garments stack up. I feel like I’m a very slow maker and I’ve come to really appreciate that the time it takes for an idea to “steep” often leads to a bit of iteration (re-thinking material or design choices) which makes an item more integral to my wardrobe, pushing well beyond 7 wears to regular rotation. But then sometimes we can’t predict if a garment will be a flop, especially if you can’t try it on first in a store. Fast sewing offers freedom for fashion and trendy items, but is it wasteful to have an extensive wardrobe, even if it’s “me-made”?

In terms of tips, I’ve just been really loving the Seamwork magazine content around mindful making, and especially the scrap-busting underwear piece. I’m also saving nearly any scrap I can and hope to make a big quilt in the coming year. The Wardrobe Architect series is such a great tool, even though I only did the first half, I think I might pick it up again this spring or summer because it’s a really productive way to examine habits and taste. I love using pinterest for this too, especially as a way to tune in to what clothes I really want to wear and what my wardrobe needs (hopefully, ultimately, reducing waste).

Katie Emma instagram.com

I totally agree about the concern of textile waste! I don’t know what to do with my leftover fabric a lot of the time. And I am definitely guilty of making something and wearing it only a couple of times because it didn’t quite turn out or I made it on a whim without really thinking about whether it was my style. I’m getting better about buying less fabric for each project and making things I know I wear, but it’s an issue I struggle with!

Janine Helligar janinehelligar.com

It is my understanding that the Goodwill is happy for donations of old garments that are not suitable for resale; they recycle the fabrics. This might be a viable option for fabric scraps and handmade failures.

Katie Emma instagram.com

That is good to know! I did buy some fabric at a thrift store recently, so I should have thought of donating fabric and clothes there. Although the chapter in the book about all clothing at Goodwill that doesn’t sell in two weeks (that gets recycled) was crazy!

Sarah

I totally agree that waste is something we need to focus on as a community. It’s easy for sewers to be smug reading this book and think “well, I’m not contributing to the problem because I’m my own labor.” But our making does take resources. Fabric manufacturing, tool/machine manufacturing, electricity production.

For me, it’s hard to separate whether I’m making something to actually be able to use it, or for the enjoyment of making it. I do maintain a fairly small wardrobe compared to most of my friends, and I do wear the pieces that I make over and over again (mostly…). But is it different for me to make 30 garments in a year vs my friends who buy 30 garments in a year?

Kristi

This is sort of an odd contribution, but I found the discussion on fast-fashion entirely useful to my dissertation in transportation engineering where I’m trying to understand how the transportation impacts of various land uses (here clothing retail) have/are evolved/ing as businesses change the way they market (and supply) their products. Kudos for the Colette book club for contributing sources that further my research and my closet!

Kat

That’s awesome!

Honora

Know I need to check out the links people have posted here. The book left me with more questions than answers, but that’s the point.

Janine Helligar janinehelligar.com

While I believe in always searching for the truth, I know now that we will never find answers for most of society’s ills. What I am going to do is this: Use the information to guide and direct my future clothing choices. Since learning to sew in 2012, I have come to greatly respect the art. And while quality was always important to me, I have become even aware of rare it is and how glad I am that I can sew it. This choice will be better for me–and for the world. And maybe that is all the answer there can be.

Nujoi1908

The book confirmed my suspicions about the state of clothing today. I get angry about the demise of quality clothing. I haven’t seen a pair of lined pants in years! I can barely find lined skirts and dresses (amazing because slips and half slips have disappeared. )

My shopping habits didn’t change after reading the book. I pretty much shop at one higher-quality department store for everything except jeans. I do notice where things are made.

I am not particularly concerned about sustainability from an environmental perspective. I don’t like fast fashion because I believe clothes should last a reasonable amount of time. I don’t want to have to constantly replace things because they can’t stand a good washing.

Lisa

You’re so right, what happened to slips, camisoles and linings?! When I walk down the street, I can see every bulge and bump through those tight cheap clothes and I think, Do they know about foundation garments? I guess in the haste for fast style, the basics go out the window.

Clémence

I really enjoyed this read and strenghtened my aim to be fully hand made dressed.
I also realised fast fashion is everywhere including in movies. I watched a movie on the plane with trendy characters in a london kitchen and the women were carfully poorly dress with jeggings and ill fitting tops to look more “normal”.

Holly theoksoutherner.com

I really enjoyed the thoughts provoked by this book. I especially appreciated the author’s willingness to admit that she had not done a complete 180, but instead that she is striving to be a more thoughtful consumer. It is often easy to turn down the obvious fast fashion of stores like target and forever 21. But more convicting to me was that even much expensive clothing is poorly made and of low quality. I am grateful for my desire and skill to make my own clothes but wonder what can be done for those who have neither and also don’t have resources to spend money on well-constructed clothing?

Thanks for pointing us to this book and this discussion. I just feel like I’m continuing to mull things over. Thanks also to all who have posted links.

Katie Emma instagram.com

I too have seen some unimpressive sewing in expensive and theoretically high-end clothing – it is surprising! It reminds me – the nicest item of RTW clothing I have is a dress I bought on a whim on clearance from Urban Outfitters. I thought it was just a plain plaid shift dress, but after I started sewing garments I noticed how perfectly all the plaid lined up, and that it was constructed entirely with french seams, including the pockets. I think there was a comment in the book that many people don’t even know how to recognize quality when they see it, and this was totally the case for me until I started sewing!

Janine Helligar janinehelligar.com

French seams are one my first loves and superpower! French seams in RTW?! How amazing is that?! And prints that actually match at the seams?! Priceless!

Janine Helligar janinehelligar.com

Today, at my local mall, I counted 12 –yes, 12– retail stores in one mall dedicated to selling the trendiest, cheapest, tackiest, disposable fashions to the female sector. And these stores are overflowing with stock. It is so discouraging that there is such a strong market for such uglies! I have always considered myself discriminating, but since learning to sew in 2012, I am now an outright textile and garment construction quality snob. I simply can’t bear to purchase and wear clothing made of cheap fabrics and constructed without care. These days, my motto is: fewer, but better, and preferably handmade by me!

Susan

I have been meaning to read this book, so thank you for choosing it.

What’s interesting to me is how easy it is to fall into the buy-more-because-it’s-cheap mindset, which Cline talks about in the book. When we first had kids, my husband and I were idealistic and very non-consumeristic, and we simply could not afford to buy many new clothes, so almost everything was made by me, bought second-hand or handed down. I spent many happy hours mending clothes that my nieces and nephew had worn. Then we moved to a town with a Target and an outlet mall. Without even realizing it, I started shopping more and we accumulated much more than we needed.

The novelty of being able to afford to shop wore off and our kids (young adults now) are not big consumers, thank goodness. Now we shop as ethically as we can, looking for clothes that have some value other than just being a good buy—designed or made locally or made with eco-friendly fabric or in a closed-loop process or by a fair-trade producer. It’s not always possible, but it’s getting easier. We try to buy the best quality we can (which doesn’t always mean the most expensive) and think about whether an item is something we’ll make good use of. We tend to wear our clothes for years. We have a front-loading washer and avoid using the dryer whenever possible, so that helps them last longer.

On one hand, the issues Cline talks about make me sad and angry. But on the other, I am optimistic. Fashion is a sector of the economy where consumers can exercise a lot of power to bring about change, if they’re willing to change their own habits and demand better products. The challenge is educating people and getting them to care about how their bargains affect others, including their own economy and job market.

Lisa

This book caused me to do a little hunting into the one thing I’ve been intentionally avoiding researching: leather sourcing. Hoping leather goods really were just offcasts of the meat industry, my eyes have now been opened. What good is buying all of that sustainable, humanely-certified meat from my local co-op in Seattle or from Whole Foods when I turn around and buy leather shoes/boots from Zappos and bags from Anthropologie? And when I enquired about a piece of perforated leather at Mood…….they didn’t know the origin of the leather.
As for textile manufacturing, I do wish the “made in the USA” options were better. Short of dying my own fabric (I’ve tried and I don’t care for the process), there just isn’t much there because we simply don’t (and never really have, compared to China/India) manufactured much there.

sugarduck

I’m so glad to have finally read this book; I was hooked from the beginning to the end. Lack of quality in RTW clothing (and a lack of awareness in the buying public) is a subject that I was already passionate about. Learning about the environmental and economic impacts of these shoddy products just makes me angrier about the situation. I’m left with a real desire to share this information with anyone who will listen. I think I’ve been driving everyone around me a little crazy with my rants since finishing the book! haha.

I did find myself feeling a little exhasperated at the end of the book, when the author suddenly decides to start making her own clothes; I feel like this could be sort of misleading for readers who have no experience with sewing. In reading the conclusion, it would be easy to assume that all you need to do is buy a sewing machine and you can immediately start making quality clothing or refashioning old items without so much as a learning curve. A lot of people today have no idea how much work goes into sewing a garment, and many still believe that making your own clothing is less expensive than buying. I *love* that she presents sewing as part of a possible solution to the fast-fashion problem, but I just wish she had been a bit more open about the time, effort, and monetary investment required in making, compared to buying.

I agree with previous commenters who would like to know more about fabric production. I’m a knitter as well, and yarn production seems to be much more transparent than fabric production. I would love for bolts of fabric to be labelled with the origins of the fiber, as well as where it was woven and dyed, like you see on most skeins of yarn.

Sewing Sofie instagram.com

“time, effort, and monetary investment”. Completely agree! The sewing and garment construction learning curve is also a big factor.

Jen

This book was a real eye-opener even though I was aware of sweatshop labour and the like I had no idea of the shear amount of waste in the clothing industry! I’ve been sewing for a while and had already decided to not buy new anymore, but now every time I go into town it makes me cringe to see how much useless crap is being advertised in every shop window.

What’s been bothering me more though is noticing all the other areas where I’m happy to buy bucket loads of cheap crap. Roasting pan? Cheapest one I can find. Furniture? Whatever MDF monstrosity I can buy on the spur of the moment. As soon as I think of something I suddenly NEEEED it. I’ve not really been thinking before I buy and now that I’m trying to I’m shocked at how strong the impulse is for “now now now, more more more”. Financially it’s all been so cheap I’ve not noticed how much there’s been. I’m definitely going to try and buy less things of better quality from now on.

Kat

Also, I know what you mean about impulse purchasing. I’m trying to train myself to wait one week before I make a purchase. Usually the impulse dies down by then, unless it’s something I really do need.

Lynn Somerstein lynnsomerstein.com

This is the second book I’ve read with the Colette crew, and I am impressed with both. “Overdressed” made me even more aware of predatory business practices, and in a visceral way. I tend to stick to being “green,” even if it isn’t always easy. I was surprised and pleased that the author named names of companies, including my T shirt supplier. Too bad, I’ll have to buy those shirts somewhere else. (Good thing I stocked up last winter.) I wish there were a sticker showing which companies have better business practices so I could buy exclusively with them.
Meanwhile, I sew, knit, etc., a part of my wardrobe. Go sew slow!
Thank you!

Bobbie

I read Overdressed when it first came out so it’s been a while. I loved it because it brings to light how we are all interconnected. What we do here affects so many others. And it is a conundrum. I still hold to the live simply so others may simply live concept. I have been making my clothes since I was in college ( I’m now 63). Mostly it was because my mom had always made my clothes and I was in sticker shock when I went to shop on my small college budget and I couldn’t figure out why nothing fit me. If I thought it was bad in 1974 when I was young and still fairly thin, it is horrendous now with clothes made so skimpily and cheaply. Fast fashion has ruined any sense of style and elegance. So if for no other reason (ethics aside) today’s garment industry offerings are cheapening how everyone looks period. Am reading Paris Street Style right now and the inreviews of famous Paresians in the book are lamenting how things are made and don’t fit. I kept thinking, gee I don’t have to have that problem because I sew. I think you do your best to make what you can, buy locally, and realize that you can’t always avoid fast fashion which may or may not be a way for someone to eat in a third world country. Also let’s think about the fact that those in power in those countries don’t give a fig about their own people (if they did they would make sure that safety conditions existed for them) and I don’t know that we can ever change that. And that unfortunately is the whole problem in a nut shell. It’s good to be aware and this has made us so. We do the best we can with the information we’re given. As someone once said be gentle with yourself, you’re doing the best you can.

Kim

This book really resonated with me. It left me feeling sad about the industry but then thinking if the factories were not there what would the workers do? It’s a very tough issue. But there is no excuse for the bad conditions and I think those conditions are perpetuated by our greedy need. I have taken a good look at my closet and I am determined to not run out and buy something on a whim. Working from home and ‘living in sweats’ I don’t need to buy many clothes for my personal life – I have to tell myself who sees me in this today won’t be the same people I am around tomorrow so Who cares if I repeat outfits. Also by just re-organizing the outfit it can look different. To be honest I feel most people don’t concern themselves with someone else enough to even norice it hat they wore a repeat outfit till it after 10 times, if even then. I am getting back to sewing my own clothes but so far I am super frustrated – not with patterns but how patterns are hard to fit – my body ‘ain’t’ what it used to be when I made all my clothes. I will continue to work at this and get to where many of you are making beautiful clothes. But, I can’t get carried away with that as I do think about the environment in making the fabric, that matters as well – this is a book I never would have picked up and so glad I had the opportunity to read it – very deep thought provoking

Robin

Keep at it Kim. I have gone through several years of ups and downs with body changes (lost weight=renewed interest in fashion and buying splurge, a year goes by, gained menopausal weight=wardrobe now the wrong size+body shape changes). I am now starting to get a handle on skills and strategies that help, such as learning what basic fit changes I have to make with almost every pattern, which for me are adjustments for a slight hump on my upper back, thicker waist and full bust adjustment. But I am also culling my pattern stash for a handful of perfect for me patterns I can make several versions of. For the waist issues, for example, I focus on pants with no waist bands, just a fitted waist, because I like tailored styles. It has really worked for me to just be patient and work through these challenges ( though it also helps that I am out of work and so have loads of time, I will admit that). Good luck!

Robin

Oh, and I have worked from home too for a decade, ending when I had a job as recently as December. So I know it’s also a challenge to be interested in creating your own fashion/wardrobe when not many others will actually ever see you in any of it! Add to that that I live in a rural, mostly lower income area, and ill fitting fast fashion out there in the working world is the norm. I really never feel like I can have a conversation about any of this outside of the online sewing community.

Nethwen

I had a hard time relating to this book, even though I’m from the same age group as the author. The only part I could relate to was feeling like $20 is expensive for an article of clothing and that is largely changing as I gain enough expendable income to buy clothes that I like and that fit. If $80 jeans fit best and don’t wear out in the thighs in a year of almost daily wear, then they are worth the price to me.

The concept that a $20 article of clothing is disposable is foreign to me. I come from a background where one new item of Wal-Mart quality was purchased a year and was expected to last at least two years. I’ve never in my life had a piece of clothing “fall apart” after less than extensive wear over two or more years. Granted, I don’t shop at stores like H&M or Forever 21, but until recently almost all my nicest clothes were second-hand JCPenney quality with the bulk of my items being Wal-Mart quality. What do people do to their clothes to make them fall apart? Or is my definition of “fall apart” different from what others mean?

Several years ago I read a blogger talking about how she loved to wear lounge sweats and bought a new pair every year, but that was ok because they were worn out by then, anyway. What on earth is she doing in a lounging environment that causes sweats to wear out that fast? The only thing I can think of to make any article of clothing wear out in a year (except for maybe friction points on trousers or shoes) is to belly crawl on concrete.

And the concept of having enough clothes to “open a store” baffles me. I probably have more clothes than necessary, but this is largely because when items reach that halfway point where they aren’t in good enough condition for everyday wear but are too worn for second-hand shops, I don’t know what to do with them. I keep searching for a recycling option, but the closest thing is a Salvation Army at least an hour away and in a part of town I seldom have reason to visit. Putting them in the trash feels wasteful.

Reading this book was educational, but I felt like it was written from a place of privilege that is comfortable with what I consider to be wasteful indulgence. I was as educated in how some people think about shopping as I was about the cost of making clothes. Frankly, the part of how some people shop and consider clothing disposable was more interesting to me and harder to understand the motivation and justification of than the part about the human, artistic, and economic cost of cheap clothes.

I completely understand that not everyone can or wants to sew their own clothes. I also don’t expect people to spend high dollars on items for children. While I think a book like Overdressed has it’s purpose, I think education on recognizing quality and hands-on experience with better clothing will do more to convince people of the value of spending more. Maybe some kind of loan program where a person wears a well-made article for a week after a week of a poorly made article with each garment coming with an explanation of the differences and how those differences factored into the cost?

One trick some women use for more thrifty clothing is to buy men’s basics. This only works if men’s clothes fit and appeal to the woman, but I’ve met more than one who would buy men’s t-shirts, hoodies, etc. because they looked identical to the women’s ones the person wanted, but were better constructed with thicker fabric.

The unexpected outcome of reading this book is that suddenly I’m more attracted to the hand sewing that is required to make a nicely finished garment. I hate hand sewing, but I find myself motivated to take the time to hand baste and so on in order to have a better made garment. My thought seems to be that if I can’t afford the nice $50 a yard fabric I want, I should make the details nice enough that the poorer fabric is overshadowed.

sugarduck

I make the bulk of my kids’ clothes, but I do buy a few things for them like leggings, socks, and underwear. I’ve had several of these types of items “fall apart” after only a couple of washes – as in, there were gaping holes at the seams and fabric worn very thin at the knees and rear end. The elastic on the underwear might completely unravel after very little wear. My girls are not particularly hard on their clothes; the clothes I make for them are in quite good condition even after being handed down and worn by my youngest. But I’ve seen store-bought t-shirts with holes after being washed only once – before even being worn – so it really is an issue with the quality of the garment, rather than the wear that it receives.

I think this is what people mean when they say that their clothes have “fallen apart”. If you don’t know how to sew, there’s really nothing you can do about it. Even when you can sew, the seam allowances are pretty non-existant in RTW these days, so it can be difficult to repair the holes when the merged seams unravel.

sugarduck

…when the “serged” seams unravel. Darn auto-correct! :)

Janine Helligar janinehelligar.com

Today, those who don’t sew and so many of us who do equate serged seams with a professionally finished look. And serged seams do look nice. But I wonder. I wonder if it isn’t partially a conspiracy of the fast fashion industry. After all, if seam allowances are non-existent, there is no room to grow. Therefore, if you grow out, you have no other option but to dispose and buy something new, which keeps fast fashion profiting.

Whereas, couture is less concerned with how something looks on the inside and more focused on meticulous construction techniques, custom fit and large seam allowances that ensure the wearer options in the future. Couture cares about profits too, but the factors I mentioned are just as important.

For this reason and others, I do NOT own a serger–and I probably never will.

Robin

I agree with you on all points. I too do not own a serger and I don’t feel as if I have missed anything. I do understand the attraction (though honestly maybe I don’t understand!) and feel I have professional looking hand makes without it, plus I have saved money and space, and learned to select and execute the best seam finish as a result. Also, my low end machine has an imitation serger stitch that works great when I really need that finish to a seam. Of course, my machine was probably made in a factory by low paid overseas labor…it just never ends….

Veronika

Unfortunately I am one of those people who wears clothes out quite quickly – not all my clothes but I only have a small wardrobe. I live in an urban setting but have animals (chooks,rabbit,dog) that are not ‘fenced’ in and a veggie and larger garden. This and an innate ability since childhood to ‘get dirty’ too easily contribute to my clothes wearing out quite quickly. Your point about recognising and appreciating quality when you see it being lost is great. I know when I finally found the daring to try on clothes in shops with prices I could not entertain but were beautifully made with quality materials I could feel and see the difference. It only took a few moments. Education and the experience of this has been considered and your solution has been put into motion by some – http://thestylishstandout.com/2014/04/16/where-to-rent-clothes-from/ and also http://sharewear.se/faq

Debra

I also had difficulty relating to the basic premise of this book – that shoppers today treat clothing as a disposable commodity, and that anything under $20 is worth buying. I am not in the age group of the author (I’m 54) and I shrugged our different perspective off to this fact. I could completely relate to your comments, Nethwen. I, too, was fascinated (in a kind of sickening way) by the massive consumption of the women in the book, and also wondered how it was possible to wear clothes out at the rate they claimed to have done. Some of my favorite articles of clothing were purchased at rummage sales several years ago and I still get compliments on them today.

I did find it interesting to learn that the fashion industry mostly caters to this mindset – that a wardrobe is meant to be completely replaced every year, if not every season. It also saddened me to learn how much we have lost in the fashion world because of the push for speed design and production.

But anyway, I just wanted you to know that not everyone shops or wears their clothing the way the women in the book do.

Robin

I think a lot of clothes purchasing is related to habits, upbringing, convenience, aspirations, etc. Many people seem to buy clothing without trying it on first – this is unbelievable to me because 90% of what I tried on when I bought RTW either did not fit well or just did not look good on me. This was when I ‘thought’ I could wear most items off the rack. Also the book is written by a woman and focuses on a specific cohort of mostly female buyer I don’t identify closely with either. My spouse used to buy clothing all the time he thought was his size, turned out not to be, or he doesn’t like the fabric or style once tried on, so for one reason or another it’s not worn, and some purchases hang in the closet with original tags.

Jane F

Nethwen I too found it difficult to relate to. I come from rural New Zealand and attributed the difference to that. We just don’t have such cheap clothing here. Sure we have some what we woukd call fast fashion shops (like “Glassons”) but certainly no where near as cheap. I get annoyed that a cotton blend knit cardigan from Glassons that I’d wear a few times a week lasts only about a year before some stitching frays, to me that is wearing out very quickly.

I think this might be a rural thing, but I have home clothes and going out clothes. I wear home clothes to do things like gardening, and change when I want to go out. When I get home from work I change out of my office clothes. Maybe this reduces wear and tear. You might all think I’m really disgusting, but I also don’t wash my clothes every time I wear them! Sure dirty gardening clothes get washed frequently, but a tweed office skirt or wool cardigan will only be washed once or twice during winter.

I found the book really interesting and eye opening, but felt that the message about over consumption doesn’t apply so much to me.

I loved the aspects about quality though. I still own (and wear!) some heirloom clothing from my grandmothers, and boy are they much more robust in both fabric and construction.

Jane F

Oh, and I’m 32 years old. So in the wheelhouse for the target audience.

Kat S prettyscavenger.com

Jane, I think your point is really valuable. Not everyone has the same shopping habits — in fact, Americans have only been shopping like this since the 1990s. As a society, many of us could buy less clothing and live perfectly fine, well-dressed lives.

I also don’t wash my clothes that much! I keep a jar of baby wipes around for spot-cleaning.

Tory Boehl

I found Overdressed very insightful. It’s disheartening that so much waste is generated in the creation and disposal of fast fashion, and that there is so much demand for fast fashion. I’m also curious about other retail industries, and whether consumption increased in home goods, sporting goods, other junk during this time (the last four decades). Production of not just fashion, but a lot of goods has gone overseas, so I’m curious to how the other industries measure up (more product? Lower prices?), and just how much over consuming are we doing across industries.

The size of the average American home has almost doubled in square footage in the last twenty years, and a sense of overconsumption and extreme materialism by Western societies is concerning to me. In the US cities I’ve lived in and European cities I’ve visited, shopping centers and excess material items always seem so abundant. I’m not knocking capitalism, as our economy depends on the the purchasing of goods, but there has to be a more sustainable balance.

My shopping habits have always been rather minimal. I grew up without much money, so without being able to afford a lot, my shopping habit has always been small. I do believe Overdressed will help me make more informed purchase decisions and even decisions about what garments I sew and what materials I use to create my garments.

Lastly, tips for ways to easily find sustainable or socially conscious textiles would be wonderful!

Laura Jane Handmade laurajanehandmade.squarespace.com

I have not yet finished the book but it has already had a huge impact on me. I have always been a girl completely obsessed with the fashion industry (following trends and overbuying fashions). One thing the book really made me think about was what are these trends I’ve been following? The realization hit me that trends are just made up by these huge fashion brands to keep us shopping more and more regularly. They’re basically just invented and we fall for them. Online brands are even worse with developing new trends every couple of weeks nowadays! I just felt stupid for getting sucked into that way of thinking.

I sew my own clothes but still buy a lot as well since I don’t have enough time to make everything “I want”. This book has made me completely rethink this. I want to try and cut back on consumption in this industry, make the most of the clothes I already have and sew anything new that I need or want. And if I really need something, then I want to shop at ethical brands only to support this way of production. It’s hard to know what else we can do to help the situation?!

I also, always thought I did my bit by sewing my own clothes, but then started to think about where my fabric is coming from and that starts a whole other load of concerns… a couple of weeks ago I made my first purchase of organic cotton materials to make a dress for a wedding I have coming up. I used the below company, they were lovely to communicate with and the fabrics have been amazing quality!

http://organiccottonplus.com/

At least these thoughts and actions are a step in the right direction. The fashion industry has a long way to go though, but I have faith it will get there if we keep supporting the brands who are doing the right thing :)

Rebecca everydaynotionsblog.blogspot.com.au

I totally agree with your thoughts about “trends”. This book was a real eye-opener that a lot of what is trendy is really just good advertising (?brainwashing? ha!). I am definitely going to be a more mindful consumer, buying fabric and clothes, going forward!

bookboxer

I think that our individual choices DO make a difference, even if it feels like just a drop in the bucket when considering the overwhelming nature of the problems associated with clothing manufacturing. One thing that we can all do, something that doesn’t take the time involved in sewing our own wardrobes or making frequent trips to consignments shops or second hand stores, is to write to our governmental representatives voicing concern and asking them to support legislation that promotes environmentally and socially conscious manufacturing. It’s said that only 5 letters from constituents will move an issue closer to the top of the list for legislators, so if each of us wrote one letter we’d be making a pretty significant impact, especially when coupled with the actions we take personally.

Debra

I applaud everyone who makes the choice (and then follows through) to live with a smaller wardrobe made in ethically humane workplaces, as well as those (like me) who are committed to making or buying used nearly all of their wardrobe.

I encourage all of us to go one step further and also consider the real cost of the cheap food we eat, too. And I’m sure there are other industries with similar faults.

The goal for me is to be cognizant of the true cost of everything I purchase. If I haven’t made or grown it myself, who did? What were their working conditions? How much are they sacrificing in order for me to enjoy the luxuries inherent in American life? Am I willing to scale back – in all consumption areas of my life – in order to give my fellow human beings the respect and dignified life they, too, deserve? It’s a tall order, especially when we are so far removed from the sources of our daily purchases, but I think it’s one worth pursuing.

Penelope

‘Overdressed’ made me think and think and think. Throughout the few weeks it took to read, I kept mentioning things about it in my conversations with others. It seemed to have relevance to many everyday issues (particularly economic and political) that came into my awareness during March. When I closed it on the last page, I felt thoroughly satisfied with the new thought strands it has embedded in my mind. Thank you to Colette for prompting me to read a book I have been aware of for a while but not had the impetus to go and out and find/read.

I think my shopping habits were already morphing towards the more frugal even before I read the book but the points raised have confirmed a new direction for me. I don’t think I will start buying in op shops. I have never had much luck. Being a roundish woman, I have always found it hard to locate donated clothing which appeals to my taste and fits my body and is not just a badly made sack jazzed up with a bit of trim. This is perhaps because it is only very recently that designers and retailers (maybe influenced by on-liners e.g. Curvy Sewing Collective and others) have responded to the needs of this large (not a pun ) group of we people. It may take time for this to show up in the second hand market.

I have always been a sewer. I have made most (but not all) of my own clothes for work and leisure as well as children’s clothing and my husband’s shirts. I live in a sub-tropical climate which makes me crave light weight cotton voile pants to team with simple light weight natural fibre tops. It is hard to find a range of these in bigger sizes which do not come from a hippy era shop or look like pyjamas. So I make them using a fabric stash which been a hobby collection for years. Overdressed has decided me to reuse/recycle/repurpose my home-made clothing once it is no longer in a useful form for me where once upon a time I sent it all to a charity outlet and made new. It is hardly worthwhile in sustainable terms to donate when the garments may well end up in land fill.
The biggest take I have from Overdressed is stark focus on disrespect of our fellow human beings through indirectly underpaying them because we can through the companies we – as a group – choose to do business with despite their anti-social approaches to workers, communities and the environment. On top of this, we seem to be massively undervaluing the garments they create. Wear it. Chuck it. Buy some more. I realise I have been doing that with socks, underwear and shoes. I want to stop or at the very least – slooooooooow down.

Rebecca everydaynotionsblog.blogspot.com.au

This was a great read! A few things that jumped out at me:
*”It was clear that trends are industry-determined, created and destroyed arbitrarily in the interest of turning a profit” (chapter8). It really resonated with me about what is “trendy” and how a lot of the fast-fashion really has no “sou”l. It’s easy to get swept along with what is “on trend” when really that style may not suit your body shape. Sewing my own clothes means I can make clothes that suit my shape/lifestyle better.
*Some RTW clothes may only be worn about 3 times!! This is crazy, but now I think about it there could be some clothes in my wardrobe that fit this rule. This book has made me rethink the clothes I do have and being mindful of wearing them!!

Kate G okaykate.com

I read Ms. Cline’s book a year ago and I was thrilled to see the volume back in rotation with Colette. Thanks, Kat! Every entry in the discussion thread has created new lines of thought for me.

Like many other commenters, I find that mindfulness is key for me. I can work with what I have, in the community I live in, meeting clothing challenges as I find them, and making small changes, but true changes.

Staying awake and open to change is such a sewist’s mindset. If it doesn’t work well…alter it. Happy this morning to be a member of the Colette community.

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https://blog.colettehq.com/colette-book-club/lets-talk-about-overdressed

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