Overdressed | Elizabeth L. Cline

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

Introduction

In a world dominated by ‘fast fashion,’ the book ‘Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion’ by Elizabeth L. Cline examines its adverse impacts on the clothing industry and the environment. The book takes us on a journey from the days of high-quality, locally made clothing and department stores to the boom in cheap, disposable apparel that now pervades our global market. Highlighting the rise of big chains and the decline of unique designs, the book explores the environmental and social consequences of this shift while shedding light on the future of the fashion industry and how we, as consumers, can make informed choices and rediscover the art of sewing and tailoring.

The Rise and Harm of Fast Fashion

The rise of fast fashion in the 1990s has caused significant changes in the clothing industry and consumer attitudes towards clothing. US consumers used to buy clothes a couple of times a year at department stores priced according to their quality. However, fast fashion offered constant and inexpensive clothing, leading to a culture of disposable clothing. Big chains now dominate the clothing industry, putting traditional clothing sellers out of business. It also changed consumer attitudes about the cost of their clothes, leading to manufacturers searching for ways to cut their production costs, such as relocating their manufacturing plants. The result was the collapse of the US garment industry and imports dominating the clothing market. The harmful effect of fast fashion on the environment and the industry as a whole is unsustainable.

The Evolution of Clothing Manufacturing

Clothing manufacturing has shifted from being made in the US to outsourcing production to countries with cheaper labor. The North American Free Trade Agreement further reduced restrictions on imports, benefiting today’s clothing manufacturers. As consumers’ attitudes towards clothing changed, cheaper imports flooded the market, and consumers viewed their clothing as disposable. At the same time, high fashion expanded into multinational entities, intensifying the purchases of cheap fast fashion. Fast fashion responded by adding some detailing to imitate high fashion, making consumers feel like buying prestige.

The Dark Side of Fast Fashion

The rise of fast fashion has led to a loss in the quality of clothing. Manufacturers have cut corners to offer cheaper prices, leading to a decline in sartorial knowledge among consumers. Seasonal selling is out, and continual consumption is in. Clothing construction has suffered as well, making the industry less appealing to immigrants. The demand for inexpensive clothes has created a vicious circle that is stifling creativity and reinforcing the demand for cheaper clothes.

The Cost of Fashion

The fashion industry produces an overwhelming amount of textile waste, with the US alone discarding 12.7 million tons of textiles annually. The environmental impact of the industry extends beyond disposal, as manufacturing cheap clothes often lacks ecological regulations. Production of cheap clothing also includes plastic products, increasing waste. Charitable organizations struggle to keep up with the influx of cheap fashion, resulting in textiles ending up in landfills. The availability of quality vintage or consignment stores is dwindling due to the saturation of cheap clothing. The true cost of fast fashion is detrimental to both the environment and the availability of quality second-hand clothing.

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