A new book suggests that our penchant for cheap clothes is leading to fewer jobs in the U.S. and environmental problems. You’re probably like, “WTF? My Forever 21 sundress isn’t the problem here!” And we totally hear you! But part of the author’s argument makes sense.
The average American spends around $1,700 a year on their wardrobes and has them chock full of cheap clothes–so many that a lot of times, we forget what we have (like when you find a random pair of jeans with the tag still on at the back of your closet). Because we’re buying cheap clothes, the quality isn’t great, so they often get worn out pretty quickly–which leads us to buying more. Then those cheap clothes wear out, and we’re back to square one. It’s a cycle of shopping and spending. Compare that to 1929, when the average woman had–get this–just nine different outfits. Imagine the closet space!
While it seems like the biggest consequences would apply just to our wardrobes and wallets, cheap clothes also effect the environment. The demand for fabric, namely polyester, is so high that world fiber use has gone from 10 million tons in 1950 to 82 million tons (tons!) today. Keep in mind, too, that a lot of clothes today are skimpier than they were in 1950, so that’s not as much fabric per item, either! A lot of the materials used in modern clothing are non-recyclable, too, so if you toss ‘em, it’s not only wasteful for your wallet, but also for the planet.
On top of all that (phew!), most of the cheap clothes we buy–namely slip on shoes and dresses–are manufactured in China. As a result, New York City’s once-thriving garment district is now pretty dead. That’s a lot of jobs lost here, which in turn places a blow on our economic recovery. Plus, the clothing is usually made by workers who barely earn minimum wage, so we’re hurting China’s economy, too. Yikes!
So what can you do? One option is to opt for quality over quantity. Instead of buying a bunch of cheap clothes that pull and snag, buy only a few pricier items that’ll last you a lot longer. We recommend these for timeless pieces, like white button-downs, little black dresses, or sweaters, as opposed to trendier stuff that will only be worn for one season, then tossed. You can jazz everything up differently by mixing up your accessories, so you won’t get bored of them!
Another idea? Instead of hitting the mall, host a clothing swap with your buds. You’ll save money but still be able to get new stuff. You can also DIY your clothes–hop on a sewing machine, grab some patterns, and have at it. You’re guaranteed then to not have cheap clothes, but to have one-of-a-kind, unique-to-you pieces. Love that! And if you don’t want your clothes anymore, don’t toss ‘em in the trash–donate them!
Where do you shop for cheap clothes? Do you think that cheap clothes are contributing to the poor economy, or that the poor economy is driving us to buy more cheap clothes? Tell us in the comments!