Own It

When I go mall shopping, I’m generally there for my kids.  They want the latest fashion, you know the boring, dime-a-dozen tops and bottoms that every other kid is wearing.  This is not hard to find.  If anything the problem is that there is too much choice.  When I walk into any Aeropostale, Ardene, American Apparel,  Aritzia, TNA, Abercrombie or Garage, I am bombarded with piles upon piles of clothing.  The abundance is disturbing and the tragedy in Bangladesh highlights why.


We are nowhere near a clothing shortage.  There is no need for the current level of production, for the quick and mindless churning out of the 300 pink flowered tank tops that sit on a shelf in just one store out of a chain of 100 other stores across the country that all have their own quotas of 300 pink flowered tank tops.  That’s just one tank, in one print, out of a series of about 15 other tanks in their own prints, that number in the hundreds as well.  And that’s just the tank tops.  I haven’t gotten to shirts, sweaters, blouses, pants, shorts, dresses, socks, gloves, underwear, outerwear and accessories.  There would be no clothing crisis if any garment producing factory closed down to relocate to a safe location.

The cost of this tank might be $15, or if I buy 3, I can get a deal of $25 for the bunch.  I can mindlessly make my purchase and praise myself for finding the deal – you know the one that’s always on in one store or another – but I congratulate myself anyway for being the savvy consumer.  Good for me.  Clothes at low-cost.  Yet the real cost of the clothing, as I’m sure all of us have heard time and again, is a collective human disaster.  Poor working conditions, poor wages, poor working environment and poor for the environment, poor quality and poor transparency.  We’re clothing bloated on the backs of people eking out a living to supply us with a nauseating amount of cheap apparel, easily disposed of and replaced with the next season’s model.

The complexity of the issue is not lost on me, and obviously nothing that is going to be resolved in a blog post.  The situation in Bangladesh requires global action on both a large and small-scale.  What can I do?

1.  Make the decision to truly educate myself and my children about what clothing made in a foreign country means.  What are a country’s working, wage and environmental standards?  What is the true cost of the product?

2.  Use the education from step #1.  Not just know it and brush it off, but actually use it.  Make difficult changes in my purchasing habits to reflect what I know.

3.  Think about, really think about when enough is enough.  How much clothing does any one person need?  How can I work with what the kids and I already have (alterations, building several outfits out of a few pieces, clothing exchanges)?

4.  Support smaller boutique stores with perhaps hard-to-take higher prices but locally and/or ethically made, hand crafted or fair-trade items.

5.  Sew!  Take a workshop and get familiar with basic techniques and materials.  Just like our food production chain where we seldom understand where our food comes from, how it is produced and how to grow and harvest our own, we are losing touch with where our clothes come from and how to make our own.  I can’t even think of the last time I reflected on the fact that clothing hasn’t always come from stores, especially in the mass quantities we see today.

In truth, I think #1 and #2 will be the hardest of the five.   Honoring them will require real change and commitment on my part and greatly influence the success of steps 3 through 5.  I will no longer be able to plead ignorance.  I will no longer be able to barely satiate my consumer culture kids with cheap clothing to meet their demanding need to assimilate with peers.

Making these changes is going to be very challenging, I dare say frightening.  But it’s not horrifying.  It’s not like feeling my only choice is to walk into a condemned building so as not to lose my garment factory job, and being crushed to death before the work day is over.


6 thoughts on “Own It

  1. Thanks for the enlightenment. I have heard of these ‘factories’ but have not seen a news show on this, so I don’t really feel what you are saying. We are tucked away with so many stores at the mall in America. I love fashion and buy mostly what I want, I just don’t want or go very often. I try and instill this in my kids. I think you save in the long haul. Recently, I told my kids, no more new clothes; it’s pitiful not wearing what you already own. Wait .. then you buy jeans that look like they are 15 years old @future prices.

  2. I don’t read the news so I’m not sure what happened in Bangledesh, but finding locally made clothing is going to be tough. Most of that stuff is produced over there FOR the cheap labor and horrible working conditions. That how it’s all so inexpensive over here.

  3. I can’t sew to save my life, but I do try to buy local as much as I can and not go crazy when shopping. Women and their shoes is something I do not personally get. Do we really need that many?

  4. I have been residually affected by when I was a teen & went shopping with my friend, she would ALWAYS buy 2 or 3 of a same thing because she couldn’t decide on ONE colour. She liked all the colours, bought all. I didn’t have money to splurge like that, but remember thinking how crazy, just crazy she was. She always came out feeling good for it too, which again i did not comprehend.

    It’s a culture, is shopping. I have never got into it. I never in my life have justified going out and having that frenzy of 3 for $25 etc. I’ve gone out when I really need something (yes, there’s that word ‘need’) – but what I mean is, when I’ve been wearing same and same and same to work, and threads are bare.

    I felt enormously ENORMOUSLY about all this. Great post.

  5. I kinda feel sorry for you. And the reality of what may be going on with your fish. I can’t talk too bad about you though. My room is a mess but we won’t talk about it. I have a few other blogs to visit.

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