With so many reviews already, it was impossible to start reading Over-Dressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion with a completely open mind since I already had an impression of what the author had to say. Instead, I approached it with a question - am I part of the problem and if I am, how can I be part of the solution?
I owned sixty-one tops, sixty T-shirts, thirty-four tank tops, twenty-one skirts, twenty-four dresses, twenty pairs of shoes, twenty sweaters, eighteen belts, fifteen cardigans and hooded sweatshirts, fourteen pairs of shorts, fourteen jackets, thirteen pairs of jeans, twelve bras, eleven pairs of tights, five blazers, four long-sleeved shirts, three pairs of workout pants, two pairs of dress pants, two pairs of pajama pants, and one vest. Socks and underwear notwithstanding, I owned 354 items of clothing. Americans buy an average of sixty-four items of clothing a year, a little more than one piece of clothing per week.
Being a minimalist who rarely shops and someone who owns a limited wardrobe predominately sewn by myself, I didn't expect the book to have such an impact especially when I couldn't relate to the quote above. What I came to see is that the problem is not limited to fashion alone, it is in every area of consumerism, and we are all part of the problem and must all be part of the solution.
An abrupt reversal won't work. There's too much involved. To radically stop shopping in North America would throw many lives in other countries into deeper poverty whereas thoughtful and carefully orchestrated changes in our shopping patterns could actually raise their standard of living and improve their working conditions. For me, that means more thoughtful purchasing and better financial management to faciliate that goal.
While I dislike clutter and accumulation, the one room in my home that has the most stuff is my studio. I began to apply what I was reading to what happens there. While I might not be purchasing disposable t-shirts in every color, every season, I have been trained through the BMV club sales to not pay more than $3.99 for Vogue patterns and less for other brands. Because they are so "cheap", I have an ever growing collection of patterns many of which I have never sewn and will never sew. To stop buying patterns is not the answer. I could however buy more thoughtfully. The same is true with fabric. You could say I have a lot of clothing; it's just flat folded.
While finding quality fabric on sale at a great price is something I will continue to do because I only have so much money and I love the challenge, even before reading the book I'd been thinking about upping the quality of my fabric and about sewing a selection of classic basics that can be mixed with more artistic pieces. I will now ignore the less than best fabric no matter the price and leave it at the store while bringing home higher quality.
My goal to learn about and to sew more creative everyday wear works with a less is more and better is better objective because creative clothing is individually styled and it's never out of style to be yourself. I'm already a proponent of slow sewing, of not rushing and of taking time to work out fitting issues and to enjoy the process. With a focus on enjoyment combined with well chosen fabrics, quality notions, and T & T patterns, I could build a wardrobe with longevity and be part of the solution.
On OverdressedTheBook.com, there's a page about what you can do. I rarely shop so shopping less won't make much of a difference but shopping wiser would. Now when I buy RTW, I will focus on higher quality purchases especially lingerie, jeans, shoes, and bags. Perhaps I'm not hard on my clothing - or perhaps because I've sewn my garments they are of a higher quality and rarely need mending - however, after reading the book, I will make sure that any items donated to a second hand store are in excellent condition. I didn't realize that if they weren't 100%, they were sorted out and I never thought about how few women know how to sew and would be able to repair small issues. LOL - after reading the book, I polished my shoes yesterday ready for my trip!
I really enjoy refashioning and had already planned to do more. Back in 2004, I started recycling art pieces into new items like bags. Since then, zero waste has become increasingly important. I will continue with that goal with greater enthusiasm.
Also in 2004, I set a studio goal to only use what I had in stash for a year. It stretched my thinking in new directions and influenced every area of my life. I now look at used clothing as a source of buttons and fabric and I've learned that I can dye, paint, embellish, cut up, and piece together the fabric that I already have whether it's flat folded or currently in a garment shape meaning I can shop my closet both in terms of the clothing already sewn and in terms of my fabric stash. I am going to focus even harder on using what I have first.
The biggest take-away for me was to realize that the decisions I make about the number of items I buy and the level of quality I settle for has an impact on the industry and that any impact on the industry has an impact both on the environment and on lives in other countries. To shift how things are done, I need to shift how I do things by placing more emphasis on quality in my clothing and accessories, fabrics and notions, and by further developing a less is more attitude. I'm thankful that I've never had a throw-away mentality.
I'm really looking forward to your impression of the book. Remember that I'm wireless in Seattle and can't reply until Sunday.
Talk soon - Myrna
Grateful - change is possible; change is desirable