Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

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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.

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About the author

Elizabeth Cline has written for AMCtv.com, The Daily Beast, New York Magazine, Popular Science, The New Republic, The Village Voice, and seedmagazine.com. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Visit overdressedthebook.com.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin
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Published on
Jun 14, 2012
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9781101560587
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Consumer Behavior
Business & Economics / Green Business
Business & Economics / Industries / Fashion & Textile Industry
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Their approach to fashion was wildly different—Galliano began as an illustrator, McQueen as a Savile Row tailor. Galliano led the way with his sensual bias-cut gowns and his voluptuous hourglass tailoring, which he presented in romantic storybook-like settings. McQueen, though nearly ten years younger than Galliano, was a brilliant technician and a visionary artist who brought a new reality to fashion, as well as an otherworldly beauty. For his first official collection at the tender age of twenty-three, McQueen did what few in fashion ever achieve: he invented a new silhouette, the Bumster.

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The same week that Galliano was fired, Forbes named Arnault the fourth richest man in the world. Two months later, 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 revolution in high fashion in the last two decades—and the price it demanded of the very ones who saved it.
The apparel and textile industries have always been at the mercy of rapidly changing styles and fickle customers who want the latest designs while they are still in fashion. The result for these businesses, often forced to forecast sales and order from suppliers with scant information about volatile demand, is a history of stock shortages, high inventories, and costly markdowns. But, as the authors explain in A Stitch in Time, technological advances in the 1980s paved the way for a new concept in retailing--lean retailing. Pioneered by companies like WAL-MART, lean retailing has reshaped the way that products are ordered, virtually eliminating delays from distribution center to sales rack by drawing on sales data captured electronically at the checkout counter. Armed with up-to-the-minute data about colors, sizes, styles, and geographic sales, apparel and textile companies now must be able to respond rapidly to real-time orders efficiently based on new approaches to distributing merchandise, forecasting, planning, organizing production, and managing supplier relations. A Stitch in Time shows that even in the face of burgeoning product proliferation, companies that successfully adapt to the world of lean retailing can reduce inventory risk, reduce costs, and increase profitability while improving their responsiveness to the ever-changing tastes of customers. Based on the success of these practices in the apparel industry, lean retailing practices are propagating through a growing number of consumer product industries. A richly detailed and resonant account, A Stitch in Time brilliantly captures both the history and future of the retail-apparel-textile channel and offers bold insights on the changes and challenges facing retailers and manufacturers in all segments of our rapidly changing economy.
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The ten chapters of the book provide a detailed coverage of clothing appearance and fit. Chapter 1 considers body attractiveness and how it relates to clothing material and design parameters and discusses classical and contemporary theories of beauty. Chapters 2 and 3 present the industry’s techniques, methods and standards for assessing clothing appearance and fit and Chapters 4 and 5 review the research and development of objective measurement technologies for evaluating clothing appearance and fit. Fabric objective measurement, fabric properties and garment drape are covered in Chapters 6 and 7 and the R & D of body measurement, anthropometrics and sizing systems are detailed in Chapters 8 and 9. The final chapter reviews published work on garment design and pattern alteration for achieving good clothing appearance and fit.

This book is an essential reference for researchers, academics, professionals and students in clothing and textile academia and industry. It includes many industrial standards, techniques and practices.Offers a critical appreciation of technological developmentsIncorporates user-friendly illustrations and photographsValuable reference for students, researchers and professionals in the clothing and textile industries
A fascinating chronicle of how celebrity has inundated the world of fashion, realigning the forces that drive both the styles we covet and the bottom lines of the biggest names in luxury apparel.
 
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Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Lopez, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sean Combs, and a host of pop, sports, and reality-show stars of the moment are leveraging the power of their celebrity to become the face of their own fashion brands, embracing lucrative contracts that keep their images on our screens and their hands on the wheel of a multi-billion dollar industry. And a few celebrities—like the Olsen Twins and Victoria Beckham—have gone all the way and reinvented themselves as bonafide designers. Not all celebrities succeed, but in an ever more crowded and clamorous marketplace, it’s increasingly unlikely that any fashion brand will succeed without celebrity involvement—even if designers, like Michael Kors, have to become celebrities themselves.
 
Agins charts this strange new terrain with wit and insight and an insider’s access to the fascinating struggles of the bold-type names and their jealousies, insecurities, and triumphs. Everyone from industry insiders to fans of Project Runway and America's Next Top Model will want to read Agins’s take on the glitter and stardust transforming the fashion industry, and where it is likely to take us next.
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