The high cost of cheap fashion

Coincidentally, I spent my Labor Day weekend reading Overdressed:  The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline.  

If you love fashion, have an interest in sustainability and/or want to know more about how the fashion and garment industry operate  today take a look at Overdressed.   One reviewer likened this book for the fashion industry what Fast Food Nation was for the fast food industry.   Here are some of Cline’s findings from her three-year look into the fashion industry. (Page numbers noted. )

  1. Fashion trend cycles are speeding up faster than ever, creating obsolescence and more hunger for something new. ( 5) This creates greater profits for clothing companies, and eventually tons of waste.  
  2. Quality in garments for consumers is at an all time low. 
  3. In 2007 survey apparel manufacturing is listed as the fastest dying industry in the US. (37)
  4. US apparel industry is outsourced almost entirely to low wage countries. (42) I think we all knew that.
  5. Demand for cheap clothing has killed the US apparel industry.
  6. Cheap fashion exists because of cheap labor. ( 42) 
  7. Nike has never made a shoe in the United States. ( 55)
  8. Companies like  Forever 21 rip off fashion and accessory designers all the time. (105)  
  9. There is no fashion copyright in the US. (105)
  10. Americans discard 68 pounds of clothing per person per year.  ( 122)
  11. One Salvation Army processing center creates 18 tons of unwanted clothing every 3 days.  (126)
  12. In developing countries with textile  mills and factories  most if not all create massive environmental tolls. (125)
  13. US cotton industry alone uses 22 billion pounds of weed killer every year. (125)
  14. China makes over 40% of clothes imported to the US. 
  15. In China it is common for factories to pump dyes used for fabrics straight into waterways. (124) See photo below.
  16. Labor unions are outlawed in China. (163)
  17. Garment workers all over the world are routinely mistreated.  A stand up, highly reputable factory is not the exception.
  18. Buying higher priced clothing isn’t a guarantee that it is ethically created or made in a sustainable way.

This is a small sample of what is in the book.  The author goes into great detail about the industry, history and future of fashion cheap or otherwise.

Where do you stand on the issue of fast and cheap fashion.  What about independent designers, what keeps you going?  What would you like to see change in the US garment industry or is the change solely reliant on the consumer? Governments?  As a consumer have you noticed any change in your buying habits? Change in quality?  Are you guilty of buying clothes simply because they are cheap (I am!).

Next post some good news from Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. But only a little I’m afraid.

Below are links on pollution and textile industries.

Image from Ecouterre

Red dyes dumped in waterways in China


Style and the Start Up

Image from


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