Wednesday, December 19, 2012
I've just finished reading Overdressed and found it to be a fascinating look at the world of retail clothing.
Most knitters are aware that the yarns we work with are often far superior in quality to the yarns that retail sweaters use. It's not uncommon for non-knitters to express shock at the amount a knitter will invest in materials for our work. Many assume we knit for economy and don't realize the pleasure it gives us and the health benefits accrued. I heard the same commentary when I was sewing many of my own clothes. I realize after reading this book and thinking about what people who have never made clothing say, that many of them were not even noticing the quality of what I was wearing, was far superior to anything they could purchase.
Elizabeth Cline explains how cheap fashion has completely changed the way most North Americans both shop and dress. She says "Retailers are producing clothes at enormous volumes in order to drive prices down and profits up, and they’ve turned clothing into a disposable good. But what are we doing with all these cheap clothes? And more importantly, what are they doing to us, our society, our environment, and our economic well-being?"
She explains how the pressures of cheap have forced retailers to drastically reduce both craftsmanship, and the quality of the materials our clothes are made from. For me it answers the questions of why I've recently abandoned several stores because the quality of their clothing has declined so radically in the last few years. It explains why even in the custom clothes making world it has become so difficult to find buttons that are not made from plastic or zippers and ribbons out of natural fibers instead of polyester. Even the vintage market is being impacted by this shift to poorly constructed synthetic fabrications.
In an interesting chapter of the book Cline discusses how consumers can break the constant churn of cheap clothing by buying less of better quality clothing or return to custom clothing. The suggestions for DIY clothing is something I have done all of my life however I know that is rare in our society. Even amongst knitters I often feel that my sewing background has supplied me with a base of knowledge that many lack. Past generations often had much more knowledge of both construction and quality which created a greater appreciation of clothing and a willingness to invest more into it's purchase.
What I liked most about the message of the book is Overdressed may inspire us to find the way back to being well dressed and feeling good about what we wear in the same way we do about the things that we knit.