Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

Tantor Media Inc

Narrated by Amy Melissa Bentley

7 hr 53 min
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Cheap fashion has fundamentally changed the way most Americans dress. Stores ranging from discounters like Target to fast fashion chains like H&M 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, Elizabeth L. 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.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Tantor Media Inc
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Published on
Dec 27, 2016
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Duration
7h 53m 0s
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ISBN
9781515986799
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Consumer Behavior
Business & Economics / Environmental Economics
Business & Economics / General
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Eligible for Family Library

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In February 2011, John Galliano, the lauded head of Christian Dior, imploded with a drunken, anti-Semitic public tirade. Exactly a year earlier, celebrated designer Alexander McQueen took his own life three weeks before his women's wear show. Both were casualties of the war between art and commerce that has raged within fashion for the last two decades. In the mid-1990s, Galliano and McQueen arrived on the fashion scene when the business was in an artistic and economic rut. They shook the establishment out of its bourgeois, minimalist stupor with daring, sexy designs and theatrical fashion shows. They had similar backgrounds: sensitive, shy gay men raised in tough London neighborhoods, their love of fashion nurtured by their doting mothers. By 1997, each had landed a job as creative director for couture houses owned by French tycoon Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH. Galliano's and McQueen's work not only influenced fashion; their distinct styles were reflected across the media landscape. With their help, luxury fashion evolved from a clutch of small, family-owned businesses into a $280 billion-a-year global corporate industry. Executives pushed the designers to meet increasingly rapid deadlines. For both Galliano and McQueen, the pace was unsustainable. The same week that Galliano was fired, Forbes named Arnault the fourth richest man in the world. Two months later, in the wake of McQueen's death, Kate Middleton wore a McQueen wedding gown, instantly making the house the world's most famous fashion brand, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened a wildly successful McQueen retrospective, cosponsored by the corporate owners of the McQueen brand. The corporations had won and the artists had lost. In her groundbreaking work, Gods and Kings, acclaimed journalist Dana Thomas tells the true story of McQueen and Galliano. In so doing, she reveals the relentless world of couture-and the price it demanded of the very ones who saved it.
From the shuttered factories of the rust belt to the look-alike strip malls of the sun belt-and almost everywhere in between-America has been transformed by its relentless fixation on low price. This pervasive yet little examined obsession is arguably the most powerful and devastating market force of our time-the engine of globalization, outsourcing, planned obsolescence, and economic instability in an increasingly unsettled world. Low price is so alluring that we may have forgotten how thoroughly we once distrusted it. Ellen Ruppel Shell traces the birth of the bargain as we know it from the Industrial Revolution to the assembly line and beyond, homing in on a number of colorful characters, such as Gene Verkauf (his name is Yiddish for "to sell"), founder of E. J. Korvette, the discount chain that helped wean customers off traditional notions of value. The rise of the chain store in post-Depression America led to the extolling of convenience over quality, and big-box retailers completed the reeducation of the American consumer by making them prize low price in the way they once prized durability and craftsmanship. The effects of this insidious perceptual shift are vast: a blighted landscape, escalating debt (both personal and national), stagnating incomes, fraying communities, and a host of other socioeconomic ills. That's a long list of charges, and it runs counter to orthodox economics, which argues that low price powers productivity by stimulating a brisk free market. But Shell marshals evidence from a wide range of fields-history, sociology, marketing, psychology, even economics itself-to upend the conventional wisdom. Cheap also unveils the fascinating and unsettling illogic that underpins our bargain-hunting reflex and explains how our deep-rooted need for bargains colors every aspect of our psyches and social lives. In this myth-shattering, closely reasoned, and exhaustively reported investigation, Shell exposes the astronomically high cost of cheap.
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