Seamless…

Hi, guys!  Hope you’re all enjoying your Fridays (or Saturdays, if you live realllllllly far away from me)!

First things first, perhaps you’ve noticed already, but my ugly mug is featured over at Elena’s blog today!  Thanks, Elena!  She’s starting a regular feature interviewing folks participating in the Seamless Pledge– I’m really excited to hear about other people’s experiences with it, and I’ve enjoyed reading your blog posts about it (Gail just renewed her pledge, as did Julia a few months ago.)  I’ve been so amazed and excited to see the way that folks across the blogosphere have embraced the idea of dressing responsibly (and less disposably).

On that note, I wanted to mention a book that I’m reading right now, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline*.  Is anyone else reading this?  I’m a little over halfway through, and I have to say that the facts in the book are pretty shocking.  Most of us in the sewing blog world are probably ahead of the curve when it comes to this topic, but I didn’t realize just how rapidly and alarmingly the garment industry in the U.S. declined (I’m sure this is the case in other countries, but I’m not familiar with the garment industry outside the U.S.).  The book lays out in no uncertain terms that our addiction to cheap, trendy clothing has greatly contributed to unemployment here in the States, not to mention a glut of trashed clothing piling up in landfills, artists and designers having their work ripped off with no consequences, and our closets and homes cluttered with shoddily-constructed items that won’t make it through the washing machine.

These facts are horrifying and sad, but I have to say that I feel encouraged to know that there are people out there (many of whom I could name!) who are choosing another way– choosing to recycle textiles, to refashion used clothing, to live with less, to mend rather than to throw away, to pay a fair price for clothing, to consume thoughtfully.  It’s a huge problem, and a complex one, but you know what?  We’re making a dent in the problem.  So thanks for choosing a different way!

What are your thoughts on this issue?  Have you read this book?  Any favorite tips or tutorials for reusing or refashioning?  I’m looking forward to trying out Zo’s idea for making tanks out of old t-shirts… you can download her pattern here!

*Note: I feel like I should mention, since we’re on a crunchy, responsible-consumption-type topic here, that although I usually link to books on Amazon, I order them from my local indie bookstore (WORD, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn).  Amazon usually has many more reviews than any other site, so that’s why I link to them.

40 responses

  1. Ugh, I am DYING to read this book. Dying, I tell you! Unfortunately (for me, not for everyone else, ha) there’s a massive hold list for it at my library. I think there are like 20 people ahead of me! Ew! I may end up buying it, even though my budget is protesting.

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  2. I’ll have to read this book! I love to pick up thrifted items which are made in Britain, but it makes me sad to think that our once great textile industry has been shrunk to practically nothing – much like the US I imagine. Now instead of our wealth being based on what we produce, it’s based on what we consume.
    When walking round some stores, packed full of shoddy cheap clothing, it’s hard not to feel a little disgusted at ALL THAT STUFF, which won’t be treasured and won’t last. As people get more detached from how and where their goods are made and are focused on keeping up with fast changing trends, they seem to form less of a meaningful relationship with them.

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    • I agree completely. And when you don’t have a meaningful relationship with goods, they’re chucked in the landfill in record time! I’ve been buying most of my dresses from vintage sellers on eBay for seven or eight years now, and the workmanship and even the weight are unbelievable compared to what you find in stores– sheer fabrics cut off-grain that pill immediately, stretch out instantly, and lose buttons so quickly that it’s as though the buttons are ejecting themselves from the trainwreck of a dress! There’s really something lovely about the idea of taking the time to make something that you’re proud of and that people will love for decades.

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  3. The book looks really interesting and I had never heard of it. The fashion/garment industry is really depressing. I have not taken the Seamless pledge, but I am definitely thinking about it. I don’t buy many clothes anymore and try to be careful about where they come from. Instead I buy fabric… but who knows where those textiles were made!! My last RTW piece of clothing was a dress suit and it’s made in Canada (where I live). I was really happy about that. I got it at this Canadian chain where more and more they try to have garments that were made in Canada. I think that’s great. Of course they cost more, but I think it’s worth it!
    As for refashioning sites, I recently came accross http://chicenvelopements.wordpress.com/
    She does some pretty cool stuff with thrift-store finds, though I have yet to try one!

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    • You’ve touched on another subject– textiles! I’m always curious about if they’re sourced responsibly, too! I like to see what country they come from, if possible, but it doesn’t always say. I love the site you linked to– thanks for sharing!

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  4. congrats on being featured! It’s so nice that other bloggers are helping each other out!

    I haven’t heard of that book but it sounds like it’s very eye opening.

    I’ll be sure to sew up my new creation fast. I know, I know, I’m the slowest sewer in the word but I like the process of perfecting the pattern and sewing muslins so that the final thing is impeccable!

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    • Girl, I’m right there with you! I’m super slow, too, but mainly because I don’t know what I’m doing and I like to practice everything on muslin before I make it for reals.

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  5. I haven’t taken the Seamless Pledge but I would like to when I’ve got a few more handmade clothes in my wardrobe to choose from 🙂 Thanks for recommending that book. I hadn’t heard of it, but it sounds really interesting.

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  6. Although, I agree about the foreign made cheap clothes, why don’t the foreign made designer clothes ever get any attention? I’ve seen dresses costing over $400 still made in a foreign country and not well put together. The same for clothes costing thousands of dollars. They are so stylish that are almost engineered to be tossed aside, not because of construction, but because we are brain washed to be in style. Today’s skinny jeans or colored jeans go the way of yesterday’s flares. Shouldn’t these clothes come under the microscope for being made “not in the USA” just because the country may be more acceptable like Italy or Eastern Europe? It still hurts American garment workers. Or do they get a pass because a designer’s name is attached?

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    • There’s quite a bit in the book about how even high-end clothes have adopted cheaper construction techniques (not all designer clothes, but some) because they’re sort of the norm now. Interestingly enough, the clothes that are still made in the USA are usually mid-range designer clothes (think Nanette Lepore or an equivalent), because they place orders for much fewer units and foreign factories won’t accept orders of less than several thousand pieces. But since the learning curve is high on designer clothes (as opposed to t-shirts, that are basically all constructed the same way), mid-range designers can barely turn a profit on a $300 dress. It’s really a complicated issue. And I definitely think that no one should assume that garments are constructed ethically or carefully just because they’re expensive.

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  7. It is something I would definitely like to do, but I know myself, I would break it. So I am, in my own small way, dressing ethically. I can’t remember the last time I bought a new piece of clothing ( undies not included).

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    • I broke it a couple of times, and I’m OK with that. But you’re onto something– I think it’s about making small choices to be more responsible and conscious about what you’re making, wearing, and buying.

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  8. Very cool post! Having sewn for a few years now, I get pretty depressed when I walk into most fashion retail stores. Cheapness originally drove me to shop at thrift stores when I was younger, but now it’s something that I really believe in. The last few years, I’ve kept my new clothing purchases to under three-ish a year.

    As for sewing, I’d love to get more into sustainable fabrics! I’ve worked with thrifted cottons, but I’d really like to experiment more with dyeing, etc. Thanks for sharing, Ginger!

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    • I really would like to get into sustainable fabrics, too! Even when you look at a recyclable fabric like cotton, there are so many pesticides used to grow it that the environmental impact is huge even though it’s a biodegradable product!

      Let me know how your experiences with dyeing go! I’m really interested in using natural dyes these days, but I can’t get organized enough to try it!

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  9. great post Ginger, and go you being featured over at Seamless 🙂 I haven’t taken up Len’s Seamless pledge because it was a decision I had already come to. I have been following her blog though and its great seeing others take it up as well. Sourcing ethical fabric is definitely the next step, I think it is as important but is harder. For instance my local fabric shops don’t have that kind of information on the bolt labels, and to be honest I think unless its labelled as organic/fairtrade its more than likely not, so it leaves you in a peculiar position where you have to choose between supporting local business or shopping online

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    • Yep, it’s a super complicated issue. Sometimes it feels like there’s no way to dress yourself without exploiting someone in a Third World country, but there have to be good options out there, right?

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  10. Congratulations of being featured again! I love reading about things like this – really makes you think. I’m wary about wading in with an opinion without thinking about how it can be solved and the impact it may have on others to solve the problem – which has the greater impact, which is the lesser of two evils etc etc. Interesting topic though and one I would like to find out more about.

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  11. Looks like a very interesting book, Ginger. The topic is right up my alley. I have to say that the only clothes shopping I’ve done since signing up for the pledge is a pair of running shoes and I really have not felt that I’m missing out or wishing I had free range of the mall. Living at the farm out of a bag (most of my clothes are packed away) has also been a good eye opener of how little I really need in terms of clothes. Perhaps I should work on a “capsule” hand made wardrobe? In the meantime I have to get my hot little hands on that book.

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    • What a great opportunity for you to figure out what you actually need and wear! It’s been really freeing for me to feel like I don’t have to buy things that I don’t really need. It sort of eliminates all the dumb impulse shopping that I always feel guilty about later.

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  12. I recently read something about Merino wool being a sustainable source for material. I need to do some research about it. I’m sure it would be more expensive but it would feel lovely.

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  13. Thanks for covering this. I’ve been aware of it for some time now, there’s a documentary on it that covers (among other things) Forever 21 (one of the worst offenders in terms of forced child labour, environmental damage, copyright infringement, worker torture, and other unmentionables) and the sh*t they’be been up to in the US (LA specifically) and abroad. It’s why I can’t abide people going on about F21 online, especially on sewing blogs XP
    I’ve haven’t bought anything RTW since 2008 (an exception being a business suit for job interviews-didn’t have the time/ stress levels to start tailoring stuff and it was Made in Australia under fair labour laws so I was happy) I bought in Jan/ Feb this year and a swimsuit (made in Australia) bought last year. Socks and underthings are exempt (I make sure they’re not made in China or any other place with slave labour), everything else I make myself. A good place to check out if you’re interested in taking this further is Made in a Free World where you check your slavery (yup it still exists and a lot of it is children) footprint based on your current consumption (of everything). Mine was 15 slaves. XS

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    • Yikes, that survey is scary! Thanks for sharing. It’s really sad that, in a matter of just a few decades, we’ve made it nearly impossible to shop without contributing to the suffering of others.

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  14. like every issue i think this is a really complex one – and just (yet again) another symptom of a much larger problem. and there are also varying sides. i was just reading an article about the rampant poverty in this country and how its an unending cycle (of course this cannot be compared to the ridiculous poverty and poor working conditions in the countries that we are outsourcing to) . i know for so many families (shit! including my own!) stores like forever 21 and target are a godsend. but the model is certainly not ethical or sustainable. depending on my mood, somedays it seems like we’re careening towards our own self destruction. i feel that so many things will need to change before this can change, and that this is just one piece to a much more disturbing puzzle.

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    • It really is a disturbing puzzle. You have to wonder how many families have been launched into poverty in this country because apparel companies (and basically every other industry) shipped all their jobs overseas. I can’t imagine how many hundreds of thousands of good jobs just don’t exist anymore. I certainly don’t judge anyone else for shopping where and how they can afford to. It’s such a sad situation all around.

      I grew up in a working-class family with five kids, and we bought basically all of our clothes from a resale shop (ha, before that was the cool thing to do!). The funny thing is that these clothes, which came second-hand to us, would last forever! I have a photo of myself in the first item of clothing I can remember liking, a little red coat with Snoopy on it, and I have a photo of my baby brother wearing the same coat. 5 active, outdoorsy kids wore that coat, and then it went on to my younger cousin! What a struggle it must be to keep kids clothed these days when everything seems to fall apart so quickly!

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  15. Thank you so much for posting a review of this book! I’m adding it to my Kindle wish list right away. Maybe it’s a maturity thing for me now (unlike when I was 14 and shopping at Target/H&M all the time) but I’d rather buy fewer but spend more on clothes that will last (or sew them!) than buying lots and having a closet full of cheap, low-quality clothes.

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  16. A pleasure to feature you on the blog – I loved the picture you sent!

    As for the book – it seems to be a similar situation here in the UK. Did you see my post about where my wardrobe comes from? It’s a difficult situation to get around because cheap clothes are obviously going to be popular while the country is tightening their purse strings but it’s also not exactly a positive way to boost job growth if most of the clothing is being made elsewhere (not to mention in potentially unethical conditions). The fact is, we’re made to think we need all of this cheap, throwaway clothing so we can have a rotating wardrobe of unending outfits a la our favourite celebs in the magazines. It doesn’t exactly help it’s ‘news’ in showbiz sections when a celebrity DARES to wear a garment twice in a lifetime.

    /endrant

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