Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Recently we had a grey rainy day. Packing a new umbrella, I
found myself feeling a little sad. It's adorable with purple
triangles alternating with pink and white plaid ones. No matter how
carefully I tend to it, though, it won't last like the umbrellas of my
childhood. Its little ribs are just too flimsy.
This really brought to mind the message behind Elizabeth Cline's
Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. They just
don't make clothes and accessories like they used to. In the past
garments were meant to last more than one season, and quite often to
be passed down. They were well crafted and capable of being altered.
People actually knew how to mend and alter. (In my childhood moms
worked on hems and seams to accomodate growth spurts and sibling
passing downs. You could go back to school with a perfectly adequate
wardrobe and only sneakers and underwear being new).
These days in much of the garment industry planned obsolescence
is the name of the game. (The wealthy are still able to get quality
at quite the price.) The consumer behavioral mandate is to be
continually revamping our wardrobes with this season's must have looks
that will be totally passé this time next year. But retailers are not
totally to blame. Consumers have come to expect ridiculously prices.
This puts pressure on manufacturers to continuously cut corners.
Basically all parties are complicit in this spiral to the bottom.
There are so many costs to this cheap fashion addiction that go
way beyond shoddy garment construction. Many of the American jobs
that made middle class life possible for families have disappeared as
factories are sent overseas. Workers in third world countries are
exploited by subminimum wages and unsafe work conditions. Just
recently over 100 garment workers making clothes for WalMart died in a
blaze horribly reminiscent of the 1911 Triangle Shirt Waist factory
fire. When clothes are seen as disposable they clog landfills all too
quickly. Don't even get me started on the environmental harm caused
by the stepped up usage of frankenfibers.
Cline believes, fortunately, that these changes can be reversed
if enough people rethink their relationship with clothes in the same
way slow food advocates change their eating habits. Put quality ahead
of quantity. Discover what styles and colors work for you and start
wearing what makes you look your best. This book has so many ways of
doing so that can be undertaken even by people of modest means like
your humble reviewer. I believe Overdressed is a must read for anyone
who wants to look great without helping to trash the planet.
On a personal note, when I saw the dress at a yard sale it was love at
first sight. It looked like something from a classic sitcom with a
timeless black and white pattern and a cut that emphasized my slim
waist while minimizing my veteran-of-three-pregnancies hips. We're
talking real retro. It was worn by the grandmother of the woman who
sold it to me. At both church and play rehearsal people loved it. I
will keep it around a long time and combine it with sweaters and
accessories to rock a wide range of looks. I believe Elizabeth Cline
would approve.
A great big shout out goes out to those who produce clothes ethically,
paying decent wages and using ecofriendly fabrics.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod

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