The High Cost of Cheap Clothes

Most people love it when prices drop on something they want -- who doesn't love a good bargain?! But when we're stuffing all those purchases in our shopping carts, we usually don't stop to think about why those prices have gone down, and whether it's a good thing.

Elizabeth Cline over at GOOD recently wrote an article about the trend in "cheap clothes." As she says:
"Sewing clothing is very labor intensive, which is why a $10 or $20 price tag on a dress should be raising eyebrows instead of just opening our wallets. Companies like H&M place their orders in a network of factories in countries such as Bangladesh and China, where poverty wages are legal (Bangladeshi garment workers are paid $43 a month) and workers have little choice but to put in the exhausting hours needed to feed the 24/7 fast-fashion machine. Not only does this debase the skill and craftsmanship of sewing, but factories in the United States cannot compete. Between 1990 and 2012, the United States lost half of our garment and textile industries. We now make 2 percent of our clothing here."

And, as Cline points out, this new spate of rock-bottom prices on our clothes has led us to think of them as much more disposable. She says:
"Our landfills are being filled with toxic, non-biodegradable duds and our charity thrift stores are awash with disintegrating and discolored garments that won't have much of a second life.
To feed our clothing addiction, approximately 82 million tons of fiber is now being produced worldwide, largely in countries with very minimal environmental standards. In China, I've traveled through an unimaginable landscape of factories along highways enshrouded in smog and saw dyes dumped in ditches in Bangladesh. The environmental toll of the fashion industry is being taken out on countries most U.S. consumers will never visit and is not reflected in the price tag of a $10 dress."
Read the complete article.

As citizens and consumers, there is plenty we can do. We can buy less. Shop mostly at thrift stores. Swap with friends (or strangers). Make our own. Buy from companies that offer ethically-sourced options. Buy with durability and lasting-power in mind. Find creative ways to use worn-out clothes. And ask lots of questions -- of ourselves, the companies that make our clothes, the retailers that sell them, and so on.

For teachers, there are also opportunities to explore these issues with our students. Check out our free activities, such as:

Clothing Line-Up

True Price

Where in the World?

~ Marsha

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2 comment for "The High Cost of Cheap Clothes"

  1. So good Cheap Clothes, I like, thanks for your sharing.

  2. Have you ever used Wholesale Accessory Market? They have great fashions at great prices.