Discount Shopoholics: America's Addiction To Cheap ClothingJune 22, 2012 @ 4:29 pm
By Rachel Belle
Americans love to shop. For some it's a regular hobby, and ever since stores like H&M, Forever 21, Target and TJ Maxx have sprouted up in shopping centers around the country, we validate our many purchases because the clothes are so so affordable. But have you ever counted the clothes in your closet? Elizabeth Cline did and she was shocked to find over 300 pieces of clothing, many that she never wears. She's written a book called Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion about America's addiction to cheap clothing.
"It actually starts out with a story of me going to Kmart and buying seven pairs of identical shoes because they were on sale for $7 a piece."
I think a lot of us have bought something we kind of like, just because it was on sale.
"It turned out that I actually was just the typical American consumer, buying about 68 items of clothing and eight pairs of shoes a year. How did we all collectively get here to where we are treating clothing as a disposable good and shopping all the time and wearing things once and then letting things sit in the back of our closets or throwing them away?"
Cline says it's a waste of money, it's erasing good style in our country and it's bad for the earth.
"The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world. A lot of it has to do with just the sheer scale of the textile industry now. In the 1950's, world fiber consumption was around 10 million tons and now it's skyrocketed to 82 million tons."
Another problem is that a lot of that fabrics sit in landfills, alongside things like disposable diapers.
"That's the thing about synthetics like acrylic, nylon and polyester. They don't biodegrade."
We live in a disposable culture, and in the last couple of decades we have started to treat our clothes as disposable.
"I can just buy this and if a seam busts open, or if a button falls off, I'm not going to put it back on because I paid so little for it and it's gonna be out of style next week anyway. We've gotten to this place now, really in the last decade, we started treating clothing as if it's really disposable."
Another interesting thing, that she talks about in her book, is thrift stores.
"When we drop off our clothes at charities, we imagine there is someone else in our community that needs those clothes and is going to come in and buy them. Actually, we donate so much clothing, and this has been going on for decades now, that most of it isn't resold in thrift stores, it has to be resold overseas in Africa, because we're donating so much of it. I think that it has, in some ways, undermined some African country's abilities to develop garment industries. But I think that the point is that what's happening is we're being distanced from the waste we're creating."
Both recycling and eating local have become pretty common place, but what about buying local, recyclable clothing? Cline says that instead of buying 10, $15 tank tops buy a couple of quality shirts from local, independent designers or from vintage or thrift stores. Most importantly, only buy what you really need.
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