Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

Elizabeth L. Cline. Penguin/Portfolio, $25.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-59184-461-7
The good news for shoppers, notes Brooklyn journalist Cline in her engagingly pointed, earnestly researched study, is that cheap knockoffs of designer clothing can be found in discount stores almost instantly. The bad news is that “fast fashion” has killed America’s garment industry and wreaked havoc on wages and the environment, especially in China, where most of the cheap clothes and textiles are now made. A self-described shopaholic of low-end stores H&M and Forever 21, which emerged from the first budget retailers in the 1990s like Old Navy and Target, which marketed cheap fashion as chic, Cline traces the phenomenon soup-to-nuts from the sad consolidation of the big department stores and depletion of New York’s garment district, once supplying the massive labor needed for making clothes. From there, she takes her narrative to the factories overseas where workers are paid a fraction of what Americans earn. Cheap imports flooded the U.S. market, for example, shutting down textile mecca Inman Mills, in Greenville, S.C. Cline visited the root of inequity at massive, state-of-the-art factories in China where millions of “flavor-of-the-month” garments are manufactured for export, creating a new middle class for some Chinese while locking the lowest paid workers (also in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Vietnam) in nonunion, slave-like poverty. As the fabrication of artificial fibers takes a walloping environmental toll, Cline urges, in her sharp wakeup call, a virtuous return to sewing, retooling, and buying eco-friendly “slow fashion.” (June)
Reviewed on: 03/26/2012
Release date: 06/14/2012
Paperback - 258 pages - 978-1-59184-654-3
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-101-55717-4
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