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Friday, July 27, 2012

Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline

Most of us are dressed in rags.  This is what someone in the fashion industry told an astonished Elizabeth Cline, the author of Overdressed.  Even many of the clothes made by leading designers are relatively poor garments made in third-world countries.  Most garments of excellent quality cost thousands of dollars!

Overdressed documents the sad decline of the once-thriving U.S. garment industry, the rise of 'fast fashion'  and why we are buying clothes which are mostly made in countries such as China and Bangladesh.  Once clothes were made in America and of reasonable quality.  Now clothes are cheap and disposable. Even Michelle Obama was praised for wearing an inexpensive imported dress which was bought at Target.  I agree with Cline's recent blog post in which she writes that the American First Lady should focus more on buying less clothes. buying American-made clothes and making sure that they are well made.

Even the Olympic uniforms were made in China.   This caused a furore in the U.S. and made people more aware of the problem. I really think that Olympic uniforms should be made in the country of the Olympic team!

Australia has suffered an even bigger decline in clothes manufacturing.  Most of our clothes are made in China and we don't even have the benefit of low prices!  We usually pay much higher prices for garments than Americans.  Hardly anyone seems to care. There isn't even a fuss about whether Julia Gillard, our P.M., buys Australian-made clothes.

I recently watched the DVD of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.  This showed how workers in cotton factories often suffered with poor lungs and the children working in the factories.  Conditions in countries such as China and Bangladesh are similar.  Workers in the 'fashion industry' suffer from pollution, work long hours and earn low pay - often it isn't a living wage.  They often sleep in dormitories which have six people in each room.  There have been lots of factory fires in Bangladesh.  The injuries and deaths in this industry have probably been enormous. Plenty of children work in India and Bangladesh.

Cline researched Overdressed thoroughly and her book is a real indictment of the decline of the industry, although there are signs that people are starting to care about whether their clothes are ethically made and made in the U.S.  This provides a tiny glimmer of hope.  However, I don't think that many people care about this in Australia.  I read about a new campaign to inspire people to buy Australian-made or Australian-grown products - I hope that it is successful.

Cline also discusses the new movements which are attracting people to turn away from 'fast fashion'.  These include making your own clothes, buying and repairing vintage clothes  and swapping clothes.  She certainly made me want to learn to sew properly!

This is certainly a book which will make you think.  I highly recommend it.  I only wish that someone would write a similar book about the Australian fashion industry.


KarenG said...

Wow, this sounds fascinating. I'll recommend it to my daughter who studies fashion.

Viola said...

I'm glad that you enjoyed the post, Karen.

Please tell me what your daughter thinks of the book!