rude awakening

A few days ago I finished this book:2013-04-09 11.05.28

I shall not give a book report here, there are good reviews out there like this one from the Huffington Post and a summary that I found on the author’s website.

Elizabeth Cline’s writing style did not really excite me but she sure gets her point across. And while I thought I knew a lot about the fashion industry, sewing and how seamsters are paid, I learned a LOT more.

Take for instance the amount of clothing that ends up in the landfill. I already knew that in Germany, when they are trying to ‘add’ more caskets to existing cemetery plots, they discover that more and more bodies haven’t decomposed the way they should have. This is due to the clothing the people are buried in.  More and more people are being buried wearing synthetic fibers and they take FOREVER  to decay. Here in the US burial practices are different (and we have way more room) , so this might not be an issue. However, the practice of donating used clothing to charities and thrift stores is very, very common. So much gets donated that it can’t possibly get sold, made into rags OR even be sent to developing countries.

Yes, you guessed right – it ends up in the landfill.  Where it doesn’t disintegrate. And pollutes the land.

The overabundance of ‘used’ clothing has much to do with the ‘overproducion’ of clothing, especially cheap clothing.

Most chain stores, especially stores like Target, H&M, Zara, Kohl’s, bring a constant flow of clothing into their stores. The sheer volume that gets sold at rock-bottom prices generates a nice profit for these stores. Cline interviews people in her book who confess to not even washing their clothing item – it was so cheap that they rather buy a new one.  Or they wash it a couple of times, it then falls apart and ends up in the trash, again. In addition, there is this thrill of owning something new, so these stores make sure that they turn over their stock every two weeks to a) make you come back often and b) buy something every time because it will be gone if you don’t.

Cline illustrates an aspect in the book that strikes home with me: sewing your own, caring for, mending and altering clothing.  She calls this the ‘slow clothes movement’. The point is that if you own something that is well made, out of nice fabric –  preferably wool, silk or cotton – you can have it for a long time. You may be able to alter an item into something more ‘trendy’, mend something that has a hole or re-fashion the entire garment into something new.

I’m all for that.

PS – this book is well worth the read, especially if you are a shopper.  Or a clothing horse like me.

The library has it.


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