Monday, July 2, 2012

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion




I finished Overdressed (link goes to Goodreads; the cover photo above is linked to Amazon) over the weekend.  The author explores various angles of our addiction to cheap clothes:  the poor quality of clothing, the enormous waste generated by throwaway items and the (lack of) secondary market for used clothing, the loss of American (and most first world) textile jobs and production capacity, and the pressure on third-world garment-makers to keep worker wages as low as possible.  It was a good complement to Deluxe:  How Luxury Lost its Luster (and actually cites Deluxe).  

By the end of the book, the author is a convert to "slow clothing" over fast fashion:  fewer good quality pieces produced by well-paid workers in the U.S.  She even learns to sew.  She thinks if we could all just realize how poorly made fast fashion is, we'd all see the light on good-quality, more expensive clothing (which can end up with a *lower* cost per wear than fast fashion).

But I think she misses the major point to fast fashion.  She admits that she is not a fashionista herself; she's not a trend chaser and doesn't enjoy shopping.  She also lives in Brooklyn, New York, where there are thousands of options that aren't Target, Old Navy, Wal Mart, and other retail behemoths.  

So she can be forgiven for not realizing the essential problem:  Fast fashion isn't about clothing or fashion.  Fast fashion is about shopping.  That sounds like a tautology, but hear me out.

 The thing is, for a large majority of people in this country, there is nothing to do but go shopping. Literally.

I am very fortunate to live in DC and I can go for a bike ride, visit a museum, run, hike, or just walk around--NOT to stores, though I sometimes feel like I am "wasting" my time if I don't have a destination, i.e., a store, i.e., something to buy--very easily and without a car (well, the hiking part requires a car). However I moved from places where (a) you had to have a car to get anywhere, so you had to have a destination, and (b) the only anywhere to go was a mall or shopping center. Even with all DC's rich resources, it took me years to break the habit of going shopping most weekends. It is our primary leisure activity, other than watching TV.

Convincing people to buy fewer but better clothes has almost nothing to do with money. It has to do with entertainment.  




Sculpture from Artomatic 2012
Where my parents live, there are virtually no sidewalks and no bike lanes.  So when teenagers who can't yet drive want to meet up with their friends, it needs to be a central location and they must be driven there by parents.  And the only central location is the mall.  So you beg your parents to take you to the mall, where you spend hours shopping.  Now, as a teen I didn't have enough money to actually buy anything on most visits.  But it creates this idea that the place you go for fun is the mall.

Then when you can actually drive, it doesn't occur to you to go to museums (which are an hour's drive away and have high admission charges).  And there is no hiking within a reasonable drive because it is suburbia as far as the eye can see.   No, when you get your license it's so exciting because now you can drive yourself to the mall.  What started out as a central destination convenient for parents to drop you and teens to meet up, becomes the destination.  The only one.


At some point you get out of school and have more money but fewer people to hang out with all the time.  So you start going shopping by yourself.  Sure, you try to arrange to do it with friends when you can, but if you can't find anyone to go with you, what are you going to do, not shop?  What else is there to do?  It's considered weird to go to a movie by yourself, or to eat in a restaurant by yourself.  But if you need to get out of the house by yourself, it's not weird to go shopping alone.

That's when the buying really starts.  Because if you're shopping by yourself, it's not socializing disguised as shopping.  It's just shopping.  And if you don't buy something while you're out shopping, then what's the point?  It's like it never happened at all. 

Sculpture Detail
To feel like something happened in your life, you need to have a bag and a receipt and something to cut the tags off of.  It feels like you were being productive.


I am not pretending I am above it all here!  I love clothes.  And I am definitely still in the "productivity" mind set.  I prefer to sew a new item every week.  That is not any different than buying a new item every week, though my items are generally better quality than what you'd find at Forever 21 and their ilk.  

When I put a lot of work into one project, like my Seersucker Social dress, it drives me crazy to be working on it week after week.  I could have made so many other things!  Never mind whether I need them or not and whether they fit in my closet.  The slow pace of acquisition kills me with those projects.  And we all know how much fabric I buy (but I've not bought any for over three months now, which is very exciting).


I don't know what it would take to get people to go for a bike ride or to picnic in a park for fun and a way to get out of the house instead of going shopping, but it would require a huge, huge, HUGE cultural shift, infrastructure changes to offer entertainment alternatives to the mall, and a reconfiguring of the idea of "productive" away from having something tangible to show for your weekend.

In my current job we have a staff meeting every Monday.  The staff is pretty small so at the end of the meeting if we have a little time we all go around the table and give a little synopsis of our weekend.  When I started I was joking with some of the longer term staff members that I was going to have to start planning more exciting weekends so I'd have something interesting to recount.  

It was kind of a joke but kind of not.  If everyone had to give a report on their weekend every Monday morning, would we want to be able to say more than "I went shopping and got a great deal!"?  Or is that really enough?

There is a discussion of this book on Pattern Review.

61 comments:

Sewingelle said...

Very insightful post. I heartily agree. Shopping is not a good or particularly healthy form of entertainment! Its taken me a while to understand this.

Peter Lappin said...

I really enjoyed your review, Trena, and so much of it resonates with me even though I grew up in NYC. I think it's worth noting that shopping is America's favorite pastime partly (primarily?) because of advertising. People have lived in isolated parts of the country for centuries. But they found ways to occupy their free time (if they had any): reading, writing, stone skipping, whittling, what have you. There were no bike lanes (there were no bikes) or museums. But there were also few consumer goods to be had, little money to spend, and no advertising industry.

I have this book on my reserve list at the library and I can't wait to read it. I saw that the author herself was participating in the PR conversation too!

Thanks again for writing about this! Shopping as sport for shoddy goods is part of a very distorted economic system that seems to be coming apart. And maybe that's a good thing!

kbenco said...

Interesting. I was just discussing with my daughters this weekend how it cost around $100-120 to buy a dress from an ordinary shop when I was their age (fatal old age identifier term) and on sale meant $10 off, twice a year,whilst they can buy a dress for $10 on clearance any old weekend - a rubbish dress, but still....Free trade has really changed clothing consumption in Australia too
One of my daughters likes shopping and one thinks it is torture, and I think we have plenty to do here for entertainment other than shopping - most in walking distance, such as all the way to the sewing machine where I would rather make something new than do mending. Hmmm.

Donna said...

Excellent points! I'm definitely putting that book on my to-read list. :)

LinB said...

Poverty is a great incentive to go to the free public library, to spend hours visiting with friends, to cadge a ride to the free public park for a hike, and to shop without buying. "We can look and look and admire all we want to, honey. We don't have to take everything home that catches our fancy." But the flip side is all negative. Given any alternative at all, I would not choose poverty. The times when it has chosen me did/do not make happy memories. I have no ideas other than that to encourage non-shoppery among the citizenry. Which is, perhaps, a poverty of imagination.

Jan said...

Shopping as entertainment is all part of the consumer society mentality. Driven by advertising, of course. And probably not the most sustainable economic model, for people or the planet.

Gabrielle said...

You're quite right. I still struggle with myself not to go shopping when what I really need is a good walk!

Elaine said...

I don't have anything to add because you explained it all so well. You should put a like button on your blog.

McVal said...

Wow! Well put! My weekends are so full of busy and less of sewing, it's sad... And just when I think I have an evening to sew, I get my grandson thrust at me and that's really very ok! :)
As for shopping, my girls love it, but I really hate it because to me it's a chore that I don't have time for.

mjb said...

I used to go shopping on weekends for fun and entertainment, and then I realized that I could spend that time making something instead. Sister Diane (craftypod) had a post one time that talked about the act of creating and how when our time becomes too tight, purchasing takes the place of creating. I think we can all relate - buying fabric when we don't have time to sew (of course, when I do sew, I also buy fabric because I want to replace what I've used up). Friends that still love to shop as a hobby, though (and that can mean browsing, not buying) wonder why I'm just not as interested in it anymore.

Thanks for your input about this topic!

T. Sedai said...

Interesting! I agree with you on all counts - when I am at home I am usually busy skating or doing activities, but when I am visiting relatives out of town, literally the only thing to do is shop. The only thing. It is easy to see how cheap fast fashion can become so consuming when it is the only thing to do for recreation.

Mary said...

Trena, I finished this book a few days ago and am so interested in your analysis. I agree that we as a culture have turned shopping into entertainment. The expansion of the suburbs did drive this, with malls as anchor points for developments. I also think we became fearful of strangers, and malls seemed safe.

I,too, struggle a bit with sewing as consumerism. You have given me a lot to think about!

Anonymous said...

I agree. The city I lived in during my high school years was quite similar. Sometime after I left a museum was opened, but it went bankrupt a few years ago and closed. (Plus, it wasn't really geared towards young people, I suspect).

I haven't read the book so I'm not sure if this was mentioned or not too, but there's another aspect to this. Specifically, that the clothes are cheap and this reflects the lower wages of American workers these days. I read in the NYTimes (I think) that household brands are eliminating mid-priced products because the market is/has shrunk. It's either high-end or cheapo.

It's all a big awful circle. The less money people have, the cheaper goods they are drawn to, therefore supporting the 'cheapo' industry. It's hard to tell people to buy a more expensive t-shirt or make their own if they simply cannot afford to do it.

That said, in my opinion, obsessive consumerism is not healthy (i.e. shopping as entertainment) and is a symptom of problems that our society needs to address--people need more stimulation in their lives. This is were arts education and athletic programs and such are really important, but are often the victims of times like this. Sorry for such a long comment, but it's a great blog topic. Thank you!
~Jen (NYC)

Carolyn said...

Yes. I think you have some really good points. I live in a suburb with an enormous outlet mall which is made up of mostly clothing stores. The mall traffic is insane sometimes with people coming by the busload from as far away as Canada (at least 400-500 miles away) to spend thousands and thousands of dollars in the space of a few hours. It's literal shopping tourism. For the annual midnight madness sale, the freeway has a 3+ hour delay for anyone trying to get through, and the police have to watch the fence along the freeway to fine people who are getting out of their cars on the freeway and jumping the fence looking to join the shopping frenzy without waiting for traffic. I guess they must not mind going back to work talking about how they spent their vacation shopping.

Nancy K said...

Certainly advertising has a great deal to do with the popularity of fast clothing/shoddy goods. The ads on tv extol how much you can get for so little.
Obviously you haven't escaped the fast clothing mentality entirely since you have little patience for projects that last longer than a week and you like to extol the virtues of how little you've paid for your fabric. Cheap fabric is made at cheap wages just as cheap clothing is. Both have done a lot to change how we buy clothing. Quality in our clothing seems to be reserved for the rich.

alina said...

Spot on.

Trumbelina said...

My brother recommended 'The Lightbulb Conspiracy" to me, and you may be interested in it: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/light-bulb-conspiracy/.
It's about planned obsolescence–something which I immediately thought of when I read the title of the book.

Clio said...

Very thoughtful post, Trena! It makes me appreciate how, growing up in Brooklyn, I could go everywhere by city bus (free with my bus pass!) or subway (cheap). Instead of the mall, we actually did hang out at the park, beach and museums. To this day, I'm just not much of a shopper and I definitely don't do it for fun!

Minoustate said...

Very insightful. And even with online shopping, what yu do when you're too busy or tired to go out shopping, you feel like you've done something productive and have soemthing to whare with others at the proverbial Monday staff meeting.

Minoustate said...

Ahhh, that was me, Katharine, not DH!

Helena said...

This is a great post! I am amazed at the rate people are shopping at, these days it can also be done in the home via internet shopping. I liked your fast fashion conclusion.

Just today, I stumbled across this old article (http://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/spend-spend-spend-its-no-way-to-happiness/2007/09/25/1190486307021.html?page=fullpage) which tackle the same issues, but with a different approach.

I really enjoyed reading your review and your thoughts.

Uta said...

That's a very interesting post. I used to shop for fun occasionally; I hardly do anymore. The kids see a store every few weeks at most; sometimes I worry I'm not teaching them to be smart consumers, but whether it's the toy store or the grocery store, 99 % of what's on offer I'd never buy, and that's frustrating for children! I also hate how they're targeted by advertisements; as a consequence they're forbidden to watch commercials and I have stopped, too (funny how that excludes one from conversation sometimes!). There is a lot to do for children and teenagers here although most of it is quite commercial (children's theater, music, museums, indoor playgrounds etc etc). I try to support the less commercial enterprises (small local recitals, privately owned destinations), but also to make them see having a good time doesn't require spending money or having someone else determine what is fun. Again, it sometimes excludes them from their peer group. Is that better? I'm not sure. Gah, and they're not even teenagers!

Karin said...

I think your post is "right on the money." I recently read that shopping is now the number one leisure activity for British families.
The climate here is mild and there is plenty to do. I can't really explain it.

Karin said...

I think your post is "right on the money." I recently read that shopping is now the number one leisure activity for British families.
The climate here is mild and there is plenty to do. I can't really explain it.

Mrs. Micawber said...

You're right on so many counts. I've been lucky to escape the shopping bug - growing up without a lot of cash (although very near a mall) spared me some of that. And now we're back to living without a lot of cash, so I'm used to thrifting and re-making things - and I've learned to prefer it. The quality of mass-produced clothing IS shockingly poor - even my husband can recognize it now.

We live in a village surrounded by farmland. My sister's fiance often talks of his youth, and how his family kept themselves entertained with music in the home, small dances with neighbors, visiting around, and games. No TV (or even radio for quite some time); no malls; no shopping. Yet they had wonderful times together.

A huge cultural shift is indeed required. Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

ValHalla said...

I think there is also a dearth of well made clothes out there, at any price point. As someone who just cannot sew to save her life (and on top of everything else would not have time), likes clothes but not shopping in particular, I have a hard time finding quality garments either online or in DC. It is hard to take the plunge and splurge on a garment that you know may well not last any longer than el cheapo, or that you are very likely to splash olive oil all over.

puu said...

thank you for this very thoughtful post on an interesting topic. i particularly responded to your description of the mall as the destination through my teen years, and shopping as entertainment.

Louise said...

You raise some really good points here. I live in England, in a city, and it's exactly as you describe. There is nothing at the weekends other than shopping... it's ll about changing the mindset.

Sara said...

Wow, you've really hit the nail on the head about shopping as an activity. When I've overspent my budget and need to make up for it, I plan my activities ahead so I don't accidentally end up at the mall because I'm bored. Kind of like planning your meals when you'r on a diet. This is a very well thought-out and important post. Excellent job.

Phyllis said...

Elizabeth Cline was interviewed on WBUR Boston for an OnPoint segment recently, it was a pretty good show and the station has it availble as a free podcast.

Ripple Dandelion said...

Thank you for your interesting and thoughtful comments. I no longer enjoy retail shopping but I admit that thrifting really pushes my hunting/gathering buttons.

I have a new hobby that I think, with all the fervor of a convert, more people could enjoy: swing dancing. The point of doing it is to be doing it, in that moment. It doesn't get you anything, it doesn't produce anything, it is just joyful in the moment. And you can wear cute vintage-style clothes from the thrift store, especially the ones that just wouldn't be practical for work or lounging.

KC said...

Simply brilliant.

Meg @ Mood Fabrics said...

Hey! I'm in the middle of reading this book right now. Feel like I want to get through it before I comment...

Roxy said...

Great analysis! I often feel like I was part of the last generation of kids to grow up "wild". At least on holidays shopping was the last thing we wanted to do. It was all about bikes, the beach and adventures. Our parents didn't want to see us until dinner time. I don't think kids are allowed to go anywhere anymore except the shops. Also the pressure to be fashionable starts at an even younger age. I see 3 year olds dressed more fashionably than I ever was at 16. And that was only 10 years ago! I think people are changing their ways but here in Australia there is such pressure to keep spending "for the good of the economy".

little betty said...

I really like this post. Great analysis of the shopping and consuming bug. For me, three kids under 5 prevent me from shopping. Every weekend, for them and us, we go to parks, picnics and other interesting places. Although I've always been a tightwad and never much into shopping. :)

velosewer said...

Because I enjoy sewing, cycling and being with people, I don't shop for sport or even watch TV too much.
I've been aiming to do creative activities with my nephews and nieces and they don't want to shop or buy things. I think their parents have done a brilliant job after seeing how people are focusing on shopping as a past time.
I'll have to put this book on my reserve list at the library.

Myra said...

I went through that shopping cycle too, in my teens and 20's, but really have adopted a more practical approach now. Of course, clothes need to be replaced, household things, too. I buy minimal, make what I have time for, and hold off until it's necessary. I do have a stash of fabric, but I have become pickier in what I buy. The more you have, the more you have to clean/store,etc.

Sew-4-Fun said...

You make such a good point. When my kids were small I'd visit the fabric store just for entertainment and to get out of the house. It certainly wasn't to buy fabric, yet I always came home with fabric. :)

aleah said...

Wow, this is brilliant. It had never occurred to me before, but now that you've explained it it's amazing I never saw shopping as entertainment before. It's absolutely true! I used to love shopping, mostly by myself, but in the couple years since I've started sewing I've literally lost interest in it completely (except fabric shopping, of course!) I never really considered why, but it's absolutely about my changing taste in entertainment. You are a genius.

Lisette M said...

A very thoughtful post, enjoyed it very much. I am lucky that whenever I have driven my children it has been to parks and the old town we live near. The times I took my oldest to the mall was so that he could meet up with classmates when working on sociology projects for school. Both my sons will do work around the house rather than go shopping =)

Erika said...

Really great analysis. Thank you!! Great contribution to this discussion.

I have really struggled with this myself. I have one free evening a week (otherwise, kids) and I spend part of it dancing, but I spend part of it shopping. I limit myself to thrift stores, so it doesn't contribute to the shoddy fashion industry. But there's something about it that isn't replaced by sewing. (Count me in with the folks who shop when they don't have time to sew - I have about 2 hrs/week for sewing.)

Anyway, having thought about it a lot, I feel like shopping can be a creative act as well. Maybe especially thrift store shopping? Buying something old/weird and figuring out how it will mix in with my current wardrobe is really satisfying to me. It is the satisfaction of acquiring something - that is very real - but I can't say it's totally not creative. I don't know how this applies to shopping for new stuff, what do you folks think?

Anonymous said...

I do agree with you regarding shopping as entertainment, but we are all guilty of wanting to have more and more. Why is this? I know myself there are no clothes that I actually NEED. Also if I am honest with myself I could not buy fabric or patterns for many years and still find plenty to sew. Those of us that delight in buying cheap fabric ( also guilty ) are probably doing as much harm as buying cheap clothes. It is all so ingrained in our societies - I am from the UK -that it would need a massive change in all our attitudes. All our economies are built on each of us wanting to consume more. It's all so crazy !!!

patternpandemonium said...

If you sew a lot (me too) you do make more clothes than you need, but the process, including planning, choosing fabric, designing alterations, is interesting and creative in a way that buying something someone else made isn't. It gives a skill transferable to more hard up times. No reason not to recycle all those discarded ready to wear items with the skills we have.

Carole Mellin said...

I hate shopping now, but when I was growing up in the Southwest, shopping at a mall meant getting out of the heat. Bike rides, walks, and any strenuous activity outside was rarely done (the temps were routinely above 90F, and sometimes 105F). I suspect the reverse applies in the colder states. Now I live in Georgia and have been known to go to the mall just to walk for exercise, in the air conditioning. I am pretty unmoved by the goods on sale as they are overpriced, IMO>

Jess said...

I think a lot of the appeal of malls has to do with transportation and what stores are in your area. I grew up in the Ozarks and still live here, although in a slightly larger town. There are only sidewalks in the old part of town, so walking can be quite dangerous. There are very few bike lanes and many streets are narrow and dangerous for bikes. No public transportation. The only place to buy most things is Walmart. I have become very creative to avoid that place, but often find myself at the mall because if you can't find it second-hand, there are no other choices. It is about the only place-aside from Walmart-to find things like pet food, kitchen tools, curtains, furniture, shoes, etc. . .Once you are at the mall, you have access to merchandise-whether you need it or not-without having to drive further.

Anonymous said...

What an interesting point you make about shopping, and it's not what struck me first when I read the book. I have never enjoyed shopping. The way you describe that need to acquire something, in order to feel productive, is a familiar feeling, though. Instead of acquisition, it is a sense of needing to create something. If I couldn't sew, I would feel a void and fill it with something else. Like duck carving. Or whatever. My DH has the same drive and with him, he craves experiences, so he knows every museum in DC inside out. I have learned to add this in to my life and lighten up on my productivity. So here I have been caught in this tug of war between creating and experiences and didn't notice everyone else is shopping. I need to get out more!

Anonymous said...

Robin, posting from my iPhone (and it is not easy:)

Anonymous said...

Are we hard wired to collect stuff? Having recently downsized my house, involving much hard work in giving away/ selling/ dumping posessions, it is so hard not to aquire more. It takes real self control. Is it a cave man thing to want to have more than we need in case bad times come?
The key to overproduction of sewed items is, of course, to sew for others!

Mel said...

Dear Slapdash, both your post and the comments on it have given me some things to think about, especially when it comes to shopping as a hobby. Thanks.

Thank you also for linking to my blog "Sew You Said" on your sidebar. It really tickled me to see your link because your blog is on my list of favorite sewing blogs and, when I figure out how, I will be putting a link to your blog on my sidebar!

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the review and the comments. I'm in the mindset of producing quality, not quantity these days - aided with Susan Khalje's Craftsy course on the Couture Dress...

Brenda

badmomgoodmom said...

That's a very insightful analysis. Shopping for entertainment is a socially communicable disease. People learn to fall into the pattern when they see others around them doing it.

I try to model a different way of living and spending time for my daughter. It's early days still (8th grade), but she and her friends hang out at each other's homes or in a local coffee shop--not at the mall.

scormeny said...

Thanks so much for your review and thoughts and I enjoyed skimming through all the comments to date as well!

Starting about 15 years ago, when I was in my mid 20s, I radically slowed the pace of consumption in my life -- mostly because I was living in a small, crowded apartment, and was starting to feel overwhelmed by the stuff! It was a definite mindset shift but one that came very comfortably once I made it, and now I can't imagine life as an avid shopper.

As a result, one of my major First World Problems arises when I go out shopping with friends or family. In general I don't mind doing it -- we are often shopping in an attractive neighborhood, the goods are fun to look at, and most shopping doesn't take an enormous amount of attention so you can talk and catch up while you're doing it.

But I usually have no interest in buying anything, which I've noticed starts to bother the person I'm with!

I truly believe I'm having a good time, being attentive to goods for sale with a smile on my face, complimenting my companion's choices, etc. But a point in the afternoon will come when my companion turns to me and is either genuinely perplexed or even slightly hostile -- "why aren't you buying anything?"

That's how pervasive the norm is -- in two hours of shopping, I feel like not buying anything is considered pretty much equivalent to 10 hours of not eating or 20 hours of not sleeping, in terms of the concern it raises amongst one's companions. I don't mean to bitch about it, but it does catch me up short any time I have to confront it.

Trena, I think it would be AMAZING if you were to start a youtube series in which you snoop-shopped some stores in the USA (here in the DC area), and analyzed the garments for their construction and materials quality. As someone who sews, I am pretty comfortable assessing a garment in the store for how well it is made, but I think the majority of people don't get it when a person says "I can sew something so much better than what I can buy at Target or Nordstrom's or Forever 21." If there is any hunger out there to understand the high price consumers pay for shoddy workmanship, I think this would be an intriguing way to satisfy it!

I know I would be a regular viewer.

Thanks again!

MySummerTouch said...

I think you can give online classes or record videos about how to sew - and people will watch you because you know really well how to sew. And you'll take people from malls out and to their families home and to sewing machines. And make extra money.:)
About shopping - there are so many ways to spend time NOT shopping - reading, watching smart movies, youtube with free videos on any subject of interest, and you don't have to do it all alone, can could invite friends and make clubs (ie reading club).
So, I'm with you on this!

Vicki said...

Oh, how true! I am so guilty of it. My daughters and I go to the "mall" every weekend. We go for coffee mainly but of course purchases are made. Today we didn't go, I said it is a beautiful sunny day (it is winter here) and we are going to find a cafe to sit outside in the sun. There is no doubt we go to the shops for entertainment not shopping. But of course we buy. That is why I haven't sewn anything for ages. We even have clothes now in the supermarket!!

mermaids said...

I go to the mall maybe four times a year, usually for shoes or something else I can't make myself. Fabric had yarn store.... let's not talk about that. ;)

Sounds like an interesting book.

Nethwen said...

I'm glad you brought up that sometimes "shopping" is the only way for young people to get out of the house. I didn't grow up going to the mall, but that's because my parents insisted my friends come to our house.

Also, my parents let us go outside and yell and be
kids/teenagers, no matter what the temperature was. As an adult, I hear parents saying, "My kids wanted to go outside and play, but I wouldn't let them because it was too hot." That attitude baffles me. I know they do it for safety, but having lived through running around in 100-degree heat, I can only guess that learning to listen to your body and stopping to cool off and drink water when you're too hot/thirsty is a skill people learn through practice?

My point is, for many people, going to the stores is one of few options for getting out of the house and if you take away outdoor recreation as an alternative, then I think it's unfair to blame advertising as the reason people go to the shops for entertainment.

Joy said...

Excellent, thoughtful post. I think you hit the nail on the head. Shopping's almost become another national holiday (you know, Black Friday?). I'm fortunate enough to live in an area that is dedicated to outdoor activities, nature, and even the arts somewhat. Since we're out of town, all of those things are closer to me than the nearest mall. I'm been reading "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking", which mentions the shift from a "Culture of Character" to a "Culture of Personality". In other words, merit vs. how you present yourself to the world. I think that parallels the shift from a quality mindset (in clothing and how one's time is spent) to a consumption, entertainment mindset.

katherine h said...

Great post. Very thought provoking. I can't see the idea of slow fashion catching on, and I think that you have got to the core of it. There is also the good feeling that people get when they buy something...this must be hardwired into us...some prehistoric notion of finding enough food to eat I guess. I don't shop much physically, because all the lights, noise and people are a bit too much of a sensory overload for me. On-line shopping is another matter, as it takes away those sensory inhibitors and I have to monitor my spending more. My partner travels a lot for work and I have noticed that I tend to shop on-line the weeks that he is away. I don't live in a city, and the kids around here all play sport for entertainment. I don't know whether that lasts into the teenage years or not as my own children are not that old yet.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I just discovered your blog and I'm enjoying it very much. I placed a reserve on the book at the library but it's "on order" and I'm #63 on the wait list, so it will be a while.
I agree with you shopping is a form of entertainment, it's a learned behavior. People need to be taught the alternatives.
I sew for a couple of reasons, I enjoy it, I was GIVEN a lot of fabric by others who know that I sew and can use the fabric. I also found that I could not buy the classic clothes that look best on me. Try buying a navy straight skirt and a white tailored blouse. If I go looking in the stores, I won't find it. So much easier to find the fabric in the colors I want and make the same classic patterns over and over again. You don't get tired of wearing the same thing over and over if it looks good on you!
- Donna in VA

Justine of SewCountryChick said...

What a terrific insight you have! When I moved to the isolated countryside or exburbs from busy LA I became bored and started shopping way too much at a nearby outlet mall.When I lived in LA there was so much to do, shopping wasn't a priority. Luckily I rediscovered sewing and channeled that energy into something more productive. But that begs the question, am I making too many clothes too? I already have made more than I need!

ritasmeeta said...

WOW, YES! Thank you for this blog post it makes so much sense. Just last weekend I said to my husband, "Let's NOT go shopping today" because I finally realized that that is just what we DO to pass time/entertain ourselves but there are so many other productive things we could be doing. Instead of shopping, I painted and he made music. Yes! :D