Overdressed | Elizabeth L. Cline

Summary of: Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion
By: Elizabeth L. Cline


Prepare to delve into the world of ‘fast fashion’ as we explore the transformation of the clothing industry, driven by the American throwaway culture. In ‘Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion’, Elizabeth L. Cline exposes the unsustainable trajectory of fashion, as cheap clothes flood the market and consumers increasingly treat their clothes as disposable items. Discover how the quest for low prices has shaped customer attitudes and driven manufacturers to cut costs by compromising both on quality and ethical practices. This eye-opening journey also highlights the environmental impact of the fast-fashion industry and the growth of overseas garment production.

The Rise of Fast Fashion

The clothing industry has undergone a drastic change with the emergence of fast fashion. In the past, clothes were bought twice a year and valued for their quality. However, with the introduction of discount retailers and fast-fashion strategies in the 1990s, clothes are now cheaper and more readily available. This has led to an American throwaway culture where clothes are treated as disposable. While this transformation has positively impacted consumers’ pockets, it has had harmful effects on the environment and garment industry. Manufacturers have relocated their plants to cut production costs, resulting in the collapse of the US garment industry.

The Evolution of Fashion Industry

The fashion industry has undergone a paradigm shift in the last few decades. The production line shifted from the US to other countries, and clothing companies started outsourcing actual production, focusing more on design and sales. The North American Free Trade Agreement further lowered restrictions on imports from other countries. Cheaper imports flooded the market, causing Americans to view clothing as disposable. High fashion highlighted designers, becoming larger multinational organizations, which ironically intensified the purchase of cheap fashion, as affordable clothes made people feel like they’re getting a deal. Fast fashion responded by adding quick detailing to replicate high fashion, making consumers feel like they were buying prestige.

The Dark Side of Fast Fashion

The rise of fast fashion has resulted in a decline in clothing quality, increased use of cheaper man-made fibers, and a loss of sartorial knowledge among consumers. With clothing becoming cheaper, manufacturers are pressured to cut corners to compete on price, resulting in poorly made and overly simple fashion. Fast fashion companies also rely on continual consumption, offering cheap, cookie-cutter goods to keep customers consistently buying. This has created a cycle where consumers demand cheaper clothes, which in turn reinforces the need for manufacturers to offer low-priced items. Ultimately, the fast fashion industry is a creativity-stifling business that has had a significant impact on both consumers and designers alike.

Fashion Waste: A Growing Environmental Concern

Clothing waste is a major environmental problem, with the US alone discarding 12.7 million tons of textiles annually. The production process, particularly in countries without ecological regulations, harms the environment, while increasing usage of plastic in garment construction exacerbates the issue. Charities are struggling to cope with the deluge of fast fashion, which often ends up in landfills. This has led to a decrease in the availability of high-quality vintage and consignment clothing, as charity shops once accepted them but are now overwhelmed by cheap clothing. The fast fashion industry must take responsibility for reducing its waste.

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