Learn. Choose. Change.

I pledge to learn the true cost, to people and the planet, of what I eat, wear, drive, use and do every day. I choose to consume justly and to increasingly change my habits.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Just Read: Overdressed

Unlike Elizabeth Cline, I have never liked to shop for clothes.  My best illustration of this is the "search" for a prom dress in high school.  After walking into the first store on our list at the mall, I spotted an adequate dress.  Off-the-shoulder, fitted bodice, full skirt, in a nice shade of green, it was very Grace Kelly.  It was even under a hundred dollars!  But my step-mom felt we should keep looking.  I might find something better.  However, this was, and still is, torture for me.  I only shop with a specific purpose in mind.  And once I find what I am looking for, I am done.  This goes for groceries, birthday presents, craft supplies, and clothes.  The only exception is bookstores, and even then, I usually have one or two titles in mind.  All of this is to say, when our family made a decision to change our consumer habits, it really wasn't that hard for me.

Overdressed:  The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion chronicles Elizabeth's journey from cheap clothes connoisseur to conscientious consumer.  At the beginning of the book she details the "steals" she would find while shopping (for fun!) on her lunch break.  If a top was under twenty dollars and she liked it, she would buy it.  Her bottom line on dresses was thirty.  When she finally finds herself lugging home seven pairs of identical shoes ($7 each) she realizes she might have a problem.  Her closet was bursting, and she hadn't even worn half the clothes in it.  Because she is a journalist she began addressing her problem through research.  I appreciated how thorough she was in addressing the entire stream of effects connected to cheap fashion: where and how cotton is grown, the depletion of the American textile industry, the reality of garment workers overseas, and the tremendous amount of waste generated by Western consumerism.  By the end of the book she has pared down her wardrobe to well-made, well-tailored items that look great on her and that she loves wearing.  Sometimes she has to splurge on a sustainably made jacket, but sometimes she finds a quality skirt at a thrift store.  Considering she was impulse buying at least one item a week, at an average of $25 a pop, I am sure she still comes out ahead.  

After reading this book, I was very excited to tell others about it, even claiming it could do for "slow clothing" what Omnivore's Dilemma did for slow food.  How pleased I was to see a reviewer label Elizabeth as "the Michael Pollan of fashion."  It was not just me and my Pollyanna hopes, others think this as well!  If consumers will just take the time to learn the facts, eventually they will choose to change.

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