Overdressed by Elizabeth L. Cline
The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

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According to Cline, we are clogging our environment with disposable clothing, primarily made of polyester, and the effect is as bad as throwing away a plastic bottle. I now realize that discarding a cheap t-shirt after one season is just as bad.
-The Uncustomary Book Review

Synopsis

Until recently, Elizabeth Cline was a typical American consumer. She’d grown accustomed to shopping at outlet malls, discount stores like T.J. Maxx, and cheap but trendy retailers like Forever 21, Target, and H&M. She was buying a new item of clothing almost every week (the national average is sixty-four per year) but all she had to show for it was a closet and countless storage bins packed full of low-quality fads she barely wore—including the same sailor-stripe tops and fleece hoodies as a million other shoppers. When she found herself lugging home seven pairs of identical canvas flats from Kmart (a steal at $7 per pair, marked down from $15!), she realized that something was deeply wrong.


Cheap fashion has fundamentally changed the way most Americans dress. Stores ranging from discounters like Target to traditional chains like JCPenney now offer the newest trends at unprecedentedly low prices. Retailers are pro­ducing clothes at enormous volumes in order to drive prices down and profits up, and they’ve turned clothing into a disposable good. After all, we have little reason to keep wearing and repairing the clothes we already own when styles change so fast and it’s cheaper to just buy more.


But what are we doing with all these cheap clothes? And more important, what are they doing to us, our society, our environment, and our economic well-being?


In Overdressed, Cline sets out to uncover the true nature of the cheap fashion juggernaut, tracing the rise of budget clothing chains, the death of middle-market and independent retail­ers, and the roots of our obsession with deals and steals. She travels to cheap-chic factories in China, follows the fashion industry as it chases even lower costs into Bangladesh, and looks at the impact (both here and abroad) of America’s drastic increase in imports. She even explores how cheap fashion harms the charity thrift shops and textile recyclers where our masses of cloth­ing castoffs end up.


Sewing, once a life skill for American women and a pathway from poverty to the middle class for workers, is now a dead-end sweatshop job. The pressures of cheap have forced retailers to drastically reduce detail and craftsmanship, making the clothes we wear more and more uniform, basic, and low quality. Creative inde­pendent designers struggle to produce good and sustainable clothes at affordable prices.


Cline shows how consumers can break the buy-and-toss cycle by supporting innovative and stylish sustainable designers and retailers, refash­ioning clothes throughout their lifetimes, and mending and even making clothes themselves.


Overdressed
will inspire you to vote with your dollars and find a path back to being well dressed and feeling good about what you wear.

 

About Elizabeth L. Cline

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ELIZABETH CLINE has written for AMCtv.com, Daily Beast, New York Magazine, Popular Science, The New Republic, The Village Voice, and seedmagazine.com. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Visit themindofelizabethcline.com.
 
Published June 14, 2012 by Portfolio. 267 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Overdressed
All: 3 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 2

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Avis Cardella on Feb 08 2013

She’s a persuasive advocate; when she writes that “sewing gives back a feeling of agency and self-­sufficiency,” I’m tempted to bring the Singer up from the basement. But she could have delved even deeper...

Read Full Review of Overdressed: The Shockingly H... | See more reviews from NY Times

LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by Carola Long on Jun 10 2012

By the end, Cline's manifesto for change involves customizing and mending your clothes and a call for a return to quality, mid-priced, ethical and sustainable slow fashion. For some readers it will feel like preaching to the converted.

Read Full Review of Overdressed: The Shockingly H... | See more reviews from LA Times

The Uncustomary Book Review

Above average
Reviewed by Kat Kiddles on Aug 17 2012

According to Cline, we are clogging our environment with disposable clothing, primarily made of polyester, and the effect is as bad as throwing away a plastic bottle. I now realize that discarding a cheap t-shirt after one season is just as bad.

Read Full Review of Overdressed: The Shockingly H...

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