The Etsy Blog

The History of a Cheap Dress handmade and vintage goods


Elizabeth Cline is a Brooklyn-based writer and activist working on a book about responsible shopping in the age of cheap fashion, when low prices and rapid turnover of styles have ignited out-of-control clothing consumption. The book, called The Good Closet, will be published by Penguin Portfolio in spring 2012. You can follow the project at The Good Closet.

Everywhere American consumers shop — from outlet malls to department store sales racks —  deals flourish. But where can one find the cheapest dress? Fast fashion” purveyors like Forever 21 and H&M are known for their low prices, high volume, and rapid turnover of styles. It’s amazing to think that a hundred years ago, at the birth of ready-made clothing as we know it, women would drop six hundred dollars for a Parisian knock-off. Today a fashionable dress is cheaper than a bag of dog food. How did we get here?

In the early 1900s, the sewing machine had only been around a half a century and the production quality and fit coming off the assembly lines needed some polishing. Decent menswear could be bought off the rack, and men were slowly warming up to ready-made duds. But for women there was a deep divide between high-end European fashions acquired by the wealthy and the flimsy, flashy, of-the-moment items available to everyone else. According to Jan Whitaker’s book Service and Style, a history of department stores, a ready-made knockoff of a French “lingerie style” dress started at $25 ($621.50 in today’s dollars) at Marshall Field’s in 1902. It was more feasible for the average girl to buy a ready-made women’s suit, which started at $7.95 ($190) or, better yet, the quintessential shirtwaist, which sold for just 39 cents ($9.34) at the turn-of-the-century. The fashion-hound of modest means was better off making her own dresses or ordering them from the local dressmaker.


Illustration by Lena Corwin

By the 1950s, quality ready-made fashion was within the reach of the middle-class. America’s garment industry was the envy of the world and womenswear was its number one product. The International Ladies Garment Workers Union had almost 450,000 members and the sweatshops of the industry’s early days had been largely abolished. The 1955 Sears Catalog was a veritable wonderland of nipped-waisted frocks with Dior-inspired voluminous skirts. Style, quality, and affordability had found a meeting point. For a reasonable $8.95 ($72), you could order Sears’ “best acetate and rayon crepe” slim-cut dress in black or navy blue, with a set-on bodice and detachable nylon-organdy collar. The dress came with a rhinestone pin. Women also continued to sew at home, using a myriad of fashionable patterns available in women’s magazines.

A typical 1950s catalog.

Fast forward fifty years and the price of mass-market fashion has plummeted, as the garment industry has moved to lower wage countries. We now only make 3% of our apparel in the United States, down from 90% in 1955. The prices of these imports are so low that we have long since abandoned our sewing machines and deserted our dressmakers. Our clothes have also become increasingly casual and simplified, another reason for lower price tags.

As clothes have become cheaper, our clothing consumption has gone through the roof. In 1930, the average American woman owned an average of nine outfits. Today, we each buy more than 60 pieces of new clothing on average per year. Our closets are larger and more stuffed than ever, as we’ve traded quality and style for low prices and trend-chasing. In the face of these irresistible deals, our total spending on clothing has actually increased, from $7.82 billion spent on apparel in 1950 to $375 billion today. And the discounters are reaping the rewards. According to the latest Standard & Poor’s Industry Survey, the average American consumer is primarily looking for value with an impulse-buy standard of quality when they purchase clothing. As a result, H&M, Zara, and Wal-Mart — all discounters who sell low-quality clothing — are now the most powerful clothing brands in America.

Elizabeth Cline’s research on the global impact of fast fashion raises many questions about how to dress ethically (and fashionably) on a budget. In the coming months, we’ll explore the stories behind our clothes — who makes them, where they come from and why it matters. However, the question remains: Just what does your closet look like? Do you feel conflicted about purchasing fast fashion? Are you willing to spend big bucks on an investment piece? And how does one achieve a “good closet”?

Elizabeth Cline is a Brooklyn-based writer working on a book about responsible shopping in the age of cheap fashion, when low prices and rapid turnover of styles have ignited out-of-control clothing consumption. The book, called Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, will be published by Penguin Portfolio in June 2012. You can follow the project at The Good Closet.

6 Featured Comments

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  • tortilladesigns

    tortilladesigns says: Featured

    This was a great article. I'm currently in fashion design school and have been learning a lot about the outsourcing of almost all of our (US) clothing manufacturers. The big push to outsource everything possible in the 90s has come back to bite "us" in the butt. Even clothing that says it's made in the US, most likely was just cut in the US, then sent oversees to be sewn and due to loopholes brought back to the US and sold as "Made in the USA." It is sickening really. Until recently I had no idea the extent that outsourcing had on so many industries. Unfortunately due to the "global economy" companies that want to compete in the marketplace pretty much have to use non-domestic sourcing and production just to keep their price points reasonable. Also we no longer have the domestic infrastructure to manufacturer and produce goods like clothing. Hopefully sooner rather than later, industry will bring back manufacturing to the US (not just clothing).

    3 years ago

  • Leviyahlithics

    Leviyahlithics says: Featured

    Because of recent market fluctuations I have noticed an increase of thrift stores in my town. Before reading this article I had begun to trim down the closet noticeably and think about having only the items I truly need. I usually wear my favorites repeatedly and tend to get compliments on those favorites. I have many more than 10 currently, namely because of season, but I am noticing that many of my things do not last because of where they were purchased I am itching to change that. I have sewn many years and love to do it, not as much lately because it has been expensive but that being said I am looking to get my sewing skills into my community. I design lovely clothes and where I live people do shop more for the greatest than for the latest.

    3 years ago

  • smoffette

    smoffette says: Featured

    Hmm...I used to be against sweatshops until I read Nicholas Kristof's book "Half The Sky" on women's rights abuses around the world, which contains all sorts of unconventional tried-and-true ways to uplift women in impoverished areas. He made an interesting comment that if a large retailer would set up shop in the poorer areas of Africa, that would probably elevate the status of women more than any other single thing. He cited the experiences in rural China, where women are still considered less than men and infanticide was common as female children were not useful to supporting their parents in the way a male child was. The advent of textile sweatshops - which select for women over men because of intricate work needing smaller fingers and because women can be paid lower wages - became a way that girl children would not be such a burden and could actually obtain work in regions where any work is scarce (for men and women). Even with low wages and horrible conditions, the women became valued and breadwinners for their families. In doing so, the women had more control over the family decisions and paycheck, and accordingly the children in families did better (health and education-wise). So while it has many ills, a horrible job with terrible conditions and low wages does represent a pathway for the most impoverished communities to become stronger. Just a thought. Read the book for more info, although the book covers many difficult topics...

    3 years ago

  • PickledTink

    PickledTink says: Featured

    I'm a certified seamstress who just can't make a living sewing because of sweatshops. And it's not just cheap clothing that's destroying home-sewing; It is so darn hard to buy good quality fabric too! When you do find the good stuff it's cheaper to buy items from more expensive dress shops especially after you factor in the cost of notions and the amount of time it takes to make a single garment. There has been so many occasions when I knock back clients requesting custom garments because the price they expect to pay me for my work doesn't even cover the materials. I've been sewing for over 20years and it's just heartbreaking. The best solution I've managed to find is buying from thrift stores and altering clothes with notions found on the internet here on etsy and ebay from people trying to de-stash. it's cheaper than making a full garment and a hell of a lot quicker! Great article, I'm looking forward to the book release.

    3 years ago

  • box241

    box241 says: Featured

    It's definitely more expensive to sew your own clothes now. Those of us who do it don't do it to save money but to have pieces that are unique, well made, and perfectly fitted. If I'm craving a trend, I'll go buy it cheaply or thrift it. But if I want something classic and lasting I'll buy vintage or sew it myself.

    3 years ago

  • saffronfields

    saffronfields says: Featured

    Thank you so much for addressing this important part of our culture. This article has hit a nerve in me, so brace yourselves. I learned to sew in home economic class.This was the 50s and 60s when there were sewing schools all over town and most everyone knew the basics of it. Those who really got the hang of it sewed their own clothes through high school and college and later for their children. Quality fabric was so cheap, a teenager could afford them. My passion was not just in having the latest styles, it was also in meticulous tailoring, the process itself, the sense of being in control and creating a unique expression of ME. As time went on, my favorite fabrics and prints started disappearing from fabric shops. Fabric departments shrunk, then disappeared, from stores like Sears, Woolworth's, etc. Before long, I couldn't find a decent blue denim nor the trusty poly-cotton blends that looked and felt wonderful and required no ironing. I felt at that time that there was a conspiracy to restrict raw materials to sewers, to force consumers to rely on manufactured clothing. While amazed at the sheer quantity of pretty designs and fabrics on the racks today, I think of what our daughters have been missing out on. Sewing is the joining of vision, inspiration, engineering, art, discipline and caring. It is a basic human expression and should be accessible to all.

    3 years ago

  • FluffyFlowers

    FluffyFlowers says:

    i'd love to learn how to make my own clothes :)

    3 years ago

  • NecessiTees

    NecessiTees says:

    Great article. I TRY to keep my closet organized and weed out all the stuff that I don't or won't wear. I'm not a fashionista but try to keep up with at least classic styles:)

    3 years ago

  • BuyMeLove

    BuyMeLove says:

    I've been meaning to learn how to sew, I mean REALLY learn how to sew, so that I can create my own wardrobe. I already do thrift shopping and hand me downs, and alter much of the clothing I buy. I've gone from shopping sale racks at Target and Walmart and thrifting to just thrifting. Now I want to go from just thrifting to thrifting and making my own clothing. Maybe someday I'll only make my own stuff (though I doubt I'll be able to resist a good vintage piece!) Fast fashion is so easy and appealing, though, and I still have pieces in my closet that are proof of it. I can't afford to spend loads of money on investment pieces, but I have learned to appreciate the basics - a good pair of jeans instead several crappy ones, for example. I've also learned to embrace my own style, rather than chasing after trends I don't like. One of these days, I'll have the closet I really want - one that's guilt free, reflects my personal style, and simplifies my life.

    3 years ago

  • kmodine

    kmodine says:

    It makes me sad to think how nothing is made to be kept anymore. Great article! Further fuel for my "make stuff" fire! Thanks!

    3 years ago

  • haoor

    haoor says:

    Your article is very interesting. I defiantly would spend money for a good well made piece of clothing. I look for items in second hand stores. I do not like the throw away fashions of today. The best way to keep your closet unstuffed is to buy classic items that are rimless. Good stuff. Keep inup.

    3 years ago

  • AnnTig

    AnnTig says:

    Very interesting article! Thank you.

    3 years ago

  • haoor

    haoor says:

    I meant timeless

    3 years ago

  • vintageaimee

    vintageaimee says:

    Such great food-for-thought. Thank you!

    3 years ago

  • rebourne

    rebourne says:

    It is interesting to see how the "more and faster" mindset has worked its way through fashion over the last 100 years. It's a good thing that my mama taught me how to sew, but also how to have my own cooky style that isn't influenced by the fashion trends!

    3 years ago

  • VintageChildModern

    VintageChildModern says:

    This was such an interesting read. I think many handmade designers like myself are constantly seeing the effects of the "throwaway closet" mentality, but I'm so thankful that there is definitely a movement back towards quality over quantity, in all areas of life, not just fashion! Brianne PetalPetal and VintageChild:Modern

    3 years ago

  • amytopstitching

    amytopstitching says:

    As a dressmaker, I love this article. I miss the finely tailored clothing of times past. Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

    3 years ago

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie says:

    Great post!!!

    3 years ago

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies says:

    It reminds me of the history of food. Interesting parallels.

    3 years ago

  • readyruthieoriginals

    readyruthieoriginals says:

    Great article! I really appreciate anything on etsy that highlights garments as I don't think clothes get enough attention on here. As a newer clothing seller on etsy, I'm really enjoying the chance to work personally with a customer and create something that is unique to her size. It seems like so many women nowadays have piles of clothes, many of which don't fit that well or make her feel that great, but which she bought because they were ready and cheap. Ironically, as the article says, that actually leads to MORE spending than if we invested in fewer, more expensive pieces that can be pillars of our wardrobes.

    3 years ago

  • VogueVixens

    VogueVixens says:

    I sewed for myself and my children for most of my life. Now whenever I bother to try on clothes at these supermarket stores, I am dismayed at how poorly they are made and ill fitting they are, especially when it comes to dresses. Even when it comes to patterns, the structure of vintage patterns is often superior. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, cookie cutter couture isn't flattering. Tailor made items fit you right, while mass produced pieces do not fit the majority of people.

    3 years ago

  • QuirksAndCrafts

    QuirksAndCrafts says:

    We've traded quality for quantity. I've got lots of dresses, but only a handful that actually fit me perfectly. I'll make sure to make my next dress a tailored one from a friendly Etsy seller, rather than a cheap one from H&M which I know will need a belt at the waist! :)

    3 years ago

  • patchworkplace

    patchworkplace says:

    Great article. Recently stumbled into an art gallery, where they sent it to China to have it made. sad.

    3 years ago

  • TipsyTimeMachine

    TipsyTimeMachine says:

    If you watch something like "Upstairs,Downstairs" or a historical movie that features characters that aren't rich, you come to realize just how valuable clothing really used to be. Most people had two outfits, and one of them was the good outfit for church only worn on Sundays! Clothing and cloth was expensive, so people mended and reworked whatever cloth the had available. The previous Etsy article on sack dresses really brought this to light. Now we're spoiled for choice, like children who were given money to buy groceries, but ran amok in the candy store instead. Yes, fashion is fun, but is the disposable culture of ill fitting inexpensive garments good for us, and our economy in the long run?

    3 years ago

  • WhisperingOak

    WhisperingOak says:

    So interesting and such beautiful pictures

    3 years ago

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 says:

    As a once-upon-a-time fashion designer I am torn between the love of fine fabric and craftsmanship and the appreciation for the cheap, down and dirty throw away fashions mentioned here. Although I wish more of the manufacturing was done in the states because we need the light manufacturing industry, a lot of clothes means a lot of jobs for someone, somewhere. I’m always conflicted when I have to take into consideration conspicuous consumption vs the jobs it creates. Personally, my closet is very sparse because my needs are few at this time in my life but I have no problem combining a 40 year old Dior coat with an outfit I purchased in the same place I buy my groceries. It’s all in the attitude m’dears. Looking forward to future articles on this topic and following The Good Closet project.

    3 years ago

  • AuntieMacassarsAttic

    AuntieMacassarsAttic says:

    I am still wearing April Cornell dresses I purchased in the early 90's. A good designer knows how to make "timeless" clothing. My husband is Dutch and the Dutch are very frugal. As well, having been to Europe many times I see how European women know how to dress on a budget and yet turn out in style so it can be done. My own personal weakness is clothing by the Swedish designer , Odd Molly (which do not come cheap) but I think of these as long-term "investment " purchases. I shun mass-produced cheaply -made clothes and my pet peeve is buttons that fall off one week after wearing a newly purchased item! I have also started repurposing my own clothing and I am fortunate that Montreal has many "friperies" where one can buy fun and interesting recycled clothing at cheap prices.

    3 years ago

  • neednewclothes

    neednewclothes says:

    Ditto, ditto, ditto! As a dressmaker who 's prior career was in retail, I am constantly amazed at the willingness of shoppers to load up on junk, while demanding designer labels on everything from cars to sunglasses. If "cost per wear" is taken into consideration, the cheapest clothes are truly the most expensive. Simple shapes translate into bad fit, as fewer seams and pattern pieces mean less opportunities to shape fabric into a 3-D garment.

    3 years ago

  • tiedyediva

    tiedyediva says:

    Wonderful article. I think the quality of ready-to-wear has reached its lowest possible point and can only wonder what what will happen next. I of course would love to see a rebound effect - people fed up with wearing disposable rags return to sewing/buying handmade.

    3 years ago

  • JudiPaintedit

    JudiPaintedit says:

    I feel way back then the quality was better.... You cant buy clothes or even quality made furniture without paying an arm and a leg. Mass produced = cheap quality.

    3 years ago

  • gaiaconceptions

    gaiaconceptions says:

    Great article and I'm really looking forward to hearing more stories on clothing!!! Lots of luv goes out to ETSY and all my clients who have helped support slow clothing. We love dressing our clients with Eco handmade and are forever grateful to do what we love each day :)

    3 years ago

  • RazzamatazzHollywood

    RazzamatazzHollywood says:

    Wonderful article. Many vintage pieces are more expensive than new and rightfully so. As well as being more unique, Vintage clothing was better made and in many cases timeless. I have to agree about the "throw away clothing" of today and how they hold up in comparison to clothing of the 1950's through the 1980's. I look forward to more from this author.

    3 years ago

  • Leocardia

    Leocardia says:

    I will read this book as soon as it will be available. It might be interesting to have a look at the european consumption of clothes as well.

    3 years ago

  • TheNightjar

    TheNightjar says:

    What a great article thanks for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • youngcaptive

    youngcaptive says:

    the thrift store is the best answer ;) i must admit though, reading this article makes me feel dirt poor for the fact that most clothes at Zara seem super pricey to me...

    3 years ago

  • birdie1

    birdie1 says:

    All the more reason to buy vintage clothing. Shop the large ane ever-changing selection of long-lost quality vintage clothing, shoes, accessories and home decor here on Etsy!

    3 years ago

  • DeepBlueNotion

    DeepBlueNotion says:

    Wonderful article! I'll have to remember to look for the book when it comes out. It would make a great gift for those seamstresses in our lives!

    3 years ago

  • stemstallkids

    stemstallkids says:

    I make a lot of my own clothed b/c I just can't find thinks that fit. The ready to wear clothes that I do like are more expensive and for $200.00 I can make it myself cheaper. I do buy what I consider "throw aways" every season like t-shirts and jeans. I am just hard on clothes and those wear out. But maybe it is the way they are made and the materials they are made of. I have a dress that my grandmother made in the early 60's my cousin and I keep trading it back and forth and it still looks amazing. But you can't get that type of fabric any more....... I could go on forever

    3 years ago

  • LoveTheBaby

    LoveTheBaby says:

    I buy inexpensive dresses, pants and t-shirts at Target. The designs are certainly cute and priced reasonably, but the fabric wears out or they lose their shape before too long. Each year I usually buy a couple of dresses and pairs of pants from a higher end retailer, paying up to $140 for a dress, though I often get lucky and find something on sale. This for me is a splurge, but the quality and the fit are excellent. So, I feel it is worth it to pay a little more for a few pieces.

    3 years ago

  • LeahChristina

    LeahChristina says:

    I can't wait to read her book. Sounds very interesting!

    3 years ago

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage says:

    At one time , I did make my own clothes. As prices of ready made clothing went down and sewing supplies went up, I don't sew as much. Great article and an interesting book to look forward to!

    3 years ago

  • GetPersonalEtc

    GetPersonalEtc says:

    "...people fed up with wearing disposable rags return to sewing/buying handmade." Unfortunately, as long as you can buy goods at 'The Walmart" for the prices they charge, peeps are gonna continue doing what they're doing. Since my wardrobe consists of basically t-shirts & shorts or jeans, I can't make my clothes any cheeper than I can buy them at the big box stores. Even with fabric on sale or with a coupon, consider the time investment. My time is better spent creating items. For $2-$3 I can buy a new top or t-shirt. In the time it would take to create it, I can make $10-$30 on custom items for sale. However, I DO buy all my winter sweaters at the thrift THAT's a bargain!! If you want to learn to sew, look in your community college or adult continuing education evening classes held at some high schools. All it takes is a little knowledge & a lot of practice. Start out simple & work your way up. Also, Youtube has instruction on just about everything.

    3 years ago

  • zebracakes

    zebracakes says:

    I wish I had less clothes. It really starts to become a burden. Seriously!

    3 years ago

  • classybroad

    classybroad says:

    Interesting! You know, I made a commitment a couple of years ago: no more cheap shoes (and guess what, I've only purchased two pairs of shoes in those two years!) And this year I took it a step further and decided: no more cheap clothes (and guess what, I've only purchased one clothing item in 2011 so far - a beautiful virgin lambswool sweater that makes me *squeee* everytime I look at it). I guess the point is, if you are buying quality clothing that you truly love, you don't need to buy "disposable" clothes. I plan to buy things from now on that I absolutely love and want to take care of and wear for many, many years. It makes me much happier than a $15 shirt at H&M ever could.

    3 years ago

  • Vintage201

    Vintage201 says:

    Great bit of Information. I bet we spend the same time washing and folding as we did back then as well. It took more time to wash a piece with the technology (or none at all) of the time then it does now, but today we have tons more to wash, fold and put away. ....

    3 years ago

  • RichardandRuthie

    RichardandRuthie says:

    I LOVE this article! Well done! Would love to see a return to quality over quantity!!!!

    3 years ago

  • KMalinka

    KMalinka says:

    Great article and pictures!

    3 years ago

  • zwzzy

    zwzzy says:

    Super interesting! The quality of "mall" clothes these days depresses me for sure. I can't find a dress that looks good on me to save my life, and I consider myself an average build! Only vintage ones fit me correct, and look more womenly, rather than childlike. :(

    3 years ago

  • tortilladesigns

    tortilladesigns says: Featured

    This was a great article. I'm currently in fashion design school and have been learning a lot about the outsourcing of almost all of our (US) clothing manufacturers. The big push to outsource everything possible in the 90s has come back to bite "us" in the butt. Even clothing that says it's made in the US, most likely was just cut in the US, then sent oversees to be sewn and due to loopholes brought back to the US and sold as "Made in the USA." It is sickening really. Until recently I had no idea the extent that outsourcing had on so many industries. Unfortunately due to the "global economy" companies that want to compete in the marketplace pretty much have to use non-domestic sourcing and production just to keep their price points reasonable. Also we no longer have the domestic infrastructure to manufacturer and produce goods like clothing. Hopefully sooner rather than later, industry will bring back manufacturing to the US (not just clothing).

    3 years ago

  • honeystreasures

    honeystreasures says:

    Enjoyed reading this article as well as everyone's input. I'm a mix. I love to sew but also purchase ready made clothing for casual wear most of the time. Get my tank tops at Target, love those long lean skinny tanks as under tees and also to wear in the summer with shorts. I have to admit, they wear out quickly from laundering even though I don't put them in the dryer, and they get little holes. The quality just isn't there yet I continue to buy them because they're cheap and I haven't the time lately to sew my own clothes. Must say that I do appreciate a well made garment! There are so many clothing designers here on Etsy and some day hope to purchase something special from one of them. ;D

    3 years ago

  • PunkUpBettie

    PunkUpBettie says:

    The quality of clothing was definitely better back then. The style, in my opinion, (especially in the 30s, 40s, and 50s), were also far more elegant and more feminine. Thanks for the fantastic article. xx

    3 years ago

  • DictionaryArworks

    DictionaryArworks says:

    I volunteer at an Airman's Attic (baically a free thrift store) people bring in what they dont want anymore, and pick out new stuff for free. : ) It seems to work great! Tons of fresh new clothes, and if you get bored of them, you just trade them in. We do donate on average 15 garbage bags full of clothes to red cross per week, so yes, things do wear out, but since we have so much, they usually arent worn out when we get them.

    3 years ago

  • megansbeadeddesigns

    megansbeadeddesigns says:

    A wonderful article. I must confess that i buy my clothing at "bargain" prices. My most-shopped venues are Savers and Goodwill (along with other consignment and thrift stores). At least I'm buying cheap AND supporting a good cause. But how does my closet look? Or... i guess I should say CLOSETS (I have 4+)... well, I guess that answers that question. *guilt*

    3 years ago

  • misscharlottejewelry

    misscharlottejewelry says:

    I don't have much to spend on clothing and as a result have a small wardrobe. Luckily,I'm not a fashionista. I've discovered Woman Within catalog for larger sizes and I've purchased a few styles that work for me in a variety of colors. I add scarves and jewelry that I make myself . I'm happy!

    3 years ago

  • PatternsAndPlans

    PatternsAndPlans says:

    As a zero waste advocate with an appreciation of vintage clothes and patterns, all I can say is, Amen! Great article & looking forward to your book!

    3 years ago

  • BirdsinHand

    BirdsinHand says:

    Great informative piece. I collected far too many clothes in college, most of which were luckily from thrift stores and yard sales. (Many of which still had tags or were worn just a few times - and most of which I re-sold at my own yard sale!) I still shop bargains to get clothes, but am finally paring down to essentials and fewer, nicer and more lasting pieces. I no longer use the top of my closet, and I always have something to wear.

    3 years ago

  • styleforlife

    styleforlife says:

    Gorgeous post!!!! :-) I love this!!! XXXX EL VIntage

    3 years ago

  • ZipZapKap

    ZipZapKap says:

    I think one of the problems today is we don't plan our wardrobe, so we have closets full of garments and nothing to wear. One of the great things about making your own clothes from patterns, I think, is that it's much easier to consciously plan a wardrobe of coordinating separates to eliminate that problem.

    3 years ago

  • lamixx

    lamixx says:

    Very interesting. I design and make dresses, not that cheap but definitely affordable :) Check it out there.

    3 years ago

  • retrothreadz

    retrothreadz says:

    very interesting! thanks for sharing

    3 years ago

  • Verdurebydesign

    Verdurebydesign says:

    As a seamstress by trade I've seen the clothing industury disintergrate in Australia. How many full closets are out there with owners saying "I've got nothing to wear" Less is more! It is also freeing.

    3 years ago

  • rozzie

    rozzie says:

    "Today, we each buy more than 60 pieces of new clothing on average per year." I definitely spend and shop less for clothing than the average 26 yr/o female. Waste of $, and no room in the closet. I only buy when I really like something.

    3 years ago

  • VintageMarketPlace

    VintageMarketPlace says:

    This is a great article. I have always wondered why closets in older homes were so small and now it all makes sense. My closet in my new home is small and this keeps me on track to buying quality not quantity Thank you

    3 years ago

  • ikabags

    ikabags says:

    Thanks ! Very interesting article!

    3 years ago

  • Hilliker

    Hilliker says:

    i've always bought quality items that cost a little bit more, and tend to have less clothes in general than the people i know. i've always thought that having fewer, more classic clothes that are of great quality is better than having a huge closet full of cheaper, trendier pieces that will fall apart in the wash and not last the year, fashion-wise. i think i'm allergic to "fast fashion". it's about quality! not quantity! some of my friends think i'm insane to spend $400 on a diane von furstenburg wrap dress, but years later, i've worn it tons and it holds up - quality-wise, and fashion-wise. it will most likely last for the rest of my life! it's worth it. this article only reinforces my outlook, and i was glad to read it. can't wait to read the book the good closet! thanks.

    3 years ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery says:

    I'm one of those people who likes to invest in fewer clothes if I can afford it, you can't beat good quality fabrics and craftsmanship. I love the clothes I've bought from Etsy so far!

    3 years ago

  • theroyal

    theroyal says:

    very relevant. thank you.

    3 years ago

  • yukoart

    yukoart says:

    WOW. What an interesting post. It made me think (especially about my flooding closet). I am looking forward to the publishing of the book.

    3 years ago

  • Mistresswolff

    Mistresswolff says:

    Rather sad, isn't it? I'd love to go back to the styles of the 50s, the 10s or the late Victorian era (without the need for 14 freakin' petticoats!). They look so much nicer, neater. Clothes lasted so much longer, and were better made. Ah well, give it a few more years, 60s clothes have made a comeback; perhaps the 10s will, too.

    3 years ago

  • ChristianCreationsJH

    ChristianCreationsJH says:

    Susan Alise of Pebble Bridge Sewing teaches a beginner sewing class. You can find her here, on Etsy as pebblebridgesewing. Convo her and she can tell you all about it!

    3 years ago

  • AncaNY

    AncaNY says:

    Zara is a "cheap" clothing store on a par with H&M and Wal Mart?

    3 years ago

  • TrockiCharmedMe

    TrockiCharmedMe says:

    I'm an exclusive thrift store shopper, and I will wear the same shoes for 10 years (seriously, my husband threw out my old shoes and bought new ones for me). As a result, I look like a hobo most of the time, but I'll have to agree that it sure beats buying mass-produced crap every season. I'll buy a sweater one year, and I'll hold onto it until it has more holes than fabric. I'd much rather buy handmade pieces from artisans, though; but there seems to be a hole in these worn out old pockets...

    3 years ago

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage says:

    Great article! Love the illustrations.

    3 years ago

  • GardenApothecary

    GardenApothecary says:

    love the streamline blue dress...

    3 years ago

  • OldRags

    OldRags says:

    Sad but interesting. I'm so excited about this book!

    3 years ago

  • WigglinWasabi

    WigglinWasabi says:

    I've been meaning to do a sewing project (professional pattern and all) for a while now as a bonding activity with my best friends. This have definitely put the fire under my butt to go out and get it done! Maybe a cotton summer dress?

    3 years ago

  • BellabellaIsabella

    BellabellaIsabella says:

    Wonderful article ! Thanks for sharing.

    3 years ago

  • Lisolabella

    Lisolabella says:

    Wonderful article. Lets get back to the sewing machine!

    3 years ago

  • 1dream

    1dream says:

    Good Article..Thank you.. The important things is quality of fabric, quality of sewing material..

    3 years ago

  • NatalieDrest

    NatalieDrest says:

    Very interesting article. I make most of my own clothes - simply because I detest how almost each shop has their own sizing ranges. Also the bright confusing lights in most shops make me dizzy. So I'd rather just stay home, put on my favourite music and make my own things!

    3 years ago

  • kathyjohnson3

    kathyjohnson3 says:

    Lovely article, sewing is sew (no pun intended) relaxing!

    3 years ago

  • strawberryluna

    strawberryluna says:

    I just did a big closet purge this weekend, and funny enough was thinking about some of these points raised in your article and in the comments. Great piece, it's interesting to get a historical perspective on our wardrobes.

    3 years ago

  • cristinapires

    cristinapires says:

    hmmm...very interesting article! as I make & sell clothing, making most of my own clothes too, i can't help but view chain stores in a more negative light just looking at window displays, often changing daily or weekly, it makes me wonder who are the people making all those clothes? how do those people live? is it really cheap or does it mean someone else is paying for it in some way? do we really need all that stuff & what are you actually supporting by making purchases there? all the more reason to buy handmade or vintage & support small companies with a triple bottom line people forget that the little choices they make can have a really big impact i try to buy handmade & vintage as much as possible, even for basics & etsy is such a great platform for people to access handmade & small business clothes

    3 years ago

  • UneBelleVie

    UneBelleVie says:

    A very interesting article! Something I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around, though, is the idea of buying an average of 60 new pieces of clothing a year. I'm aware that we live in a culture where the clothing is practically more disposable than the paper dishes we take on a picnic, but even so, it seems so very excessive...

    3 years ago

  • Chuletindesigns

    Chuletindesigns says:

    Great article thank you very much for sharing :)

    3 years ago

  • JustOffNormal

    JustOffNormal says:

    I try and buy just a few things I really like and I'm conscious of where it's from. I love some of the Etsy sellers I've purchased from and I hope to get my sewing machine out this summer and make some.... well something. We'll see where my limited talent gets me ;)

    3 years ago

  • cinnamonlime

    cinnamonlime says:

    I've been making my own clothes for the last two years so no fast fashion for me! Two years before that I stopped buying anything 'made in china' (no trade unions, no toilet breaks till 200 units are sewn - I had no wish to support that system). Now my clothes fit and they are fashion forward and completely unique. Best of all there was no suffering in their preparation (and I always get compliments on my style =). The other option, of course is to buy vintage, Melbourne is a great city for that.

    3 years ago

  • oddnia

    oddnia says:

    I used to make most of my own clothes but now I find it too expensive to do so. If you want a beautiful outfit, you must start with top quality fabrics and notions. The best is just too expensive. I now shop at Goodwill and have bought amazing outfits from top name designers for less than $10. I've worn Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Anne Klein, and Liberty of London. Cheers, ANNiE

    3 years ago

  • thevelvetheart

    thevelvetheart says:

    Fascinating. I would love to read the book. I hope it will be like the book "Better Than Beauty", only brought up to date! I have found over the years that I prefer to have fewer clothes that I can mix and match and I absolutely don't mind spending more on a quality clothing item that will last me years!

    3 years ago

  • iswasandwillbe

    iswasandwillbe says:

    I can't wait to read more on this! My college thesis was on consumerism and it's both a fascinating and overwhelming topic, but certainly one of importance and relevance! I see a future with a happy medium of affordable, quality clothing, where workers are treated ethically and things are FAIR TRADE. We've seen the Fair Trade craze sweep the grocery stores, and now it's time to take on the RETAIL world! Anyone interested should check out THE IOU PROJECT, a really awesome new company with a fantastic idea!

    3 years ago

  • quirkyshop

    quirkyshop says:


    3 years ago

  • willynillyart

    willynillyart says:

    Interesting! I don't shun H&M etc. entirely, but they're more for basics. For the more exciting stuff, I get more and more from the second hand shop around the corner, or I buy vintage, or make the occasional things myself ( or have my mom make it). I don't go out anymore on a Saturday "just to buy clothes". My closet is overflowing with the secondhand, vintage, self-made etc. stuff. Well-made vintage stuff holds up forever, and things tend to stay longer in my closet. And there's nothing better than reorganising one's closet twice a year, to know what one has, instead of buying new stuff. I blogged about this last year:

    3 years ago

  • tiialin

    tiialin says:

    I personally have been in the process of cutting my spending on lower quality clothing for that last several years. It's helps that I'm a mom and would rather spend on art supplies.. but I digress. I do tend to spend on 'throw away' clothing for my kids because it's going to have a short shelf life any way. My daughter needs new shoes and clothing every 3-6 months because she out grows it. As an adult, I can focus on quality because I won't burn through pieces like kids do.

    3 years ago

  • strikingkittens

    strikingkittens says:

    Very interesting and well written, looking forward to the follow up articles. This is something that was only touched on when I went to fashion school, so I am finding it very interesting. I can say that I have a massive wardrobe due to buying from ready-made and making my own clothing (and a slight case of hoardingn - lol).

    3 years ago

  • AccentsandPetals

    AccentsandPetals says:

    beautiful and interesting post.

    3 years ago

  • MariesVintage

    MariesVintage says:

    Great article! As I've been exposed to more and more vintage clothing, I've really come to see the huge quality differences between vintage garments and mall clothing. I still buy too much mass produced clothing as its easier on my wallet, but l I'm definitely looking for a better way and would love to start sewing.

    3 years ago

  • vKnit

    vKnit says:

    Great article!

    3 years ago

  • lithospherial

    lithospherial says:

    The real costs of cheap fashion are paid for by the third world in sweat/slave shops with child labour and other horrors. There is a great BBC documentary about this called Blood Sweat and Tshirts - In this doco 6 or so cheap fashion buyers from London, go to india and see how the clothes are really made. I don't think anyone could buy cheap throwaway fashion after watching this. We feel good about the abolition of slavery but is this any better?

    3 years ago

  • Leviyahlithics

    Leviyahlithics says: Featured

    Because of recent market fluctuations I have noticed an increase of thrift stores in my town. Before reading this article I had begun to trim down the closet noticeably and think about having only the items I truly need. I usually wear my favorites repeatedly and tend to get compliments on those favorites. I have many more than 10 currently, namely because of season, but I am noticing that many of my things do not last because of where they were purchased I am itching to change that. I have sewn many years and love to do it, not as much lately because it has been expensive but that being said I am looking to get my sewing skills into my community. I design lovely clothes and where I live people do shop more for the greatest than for the latest.

    3 years ago

  • Leviyahlithics

    Leviyahlithics says:

    Because of recent market fluctuations I have noticed an increase of thrift stores in my town. Before reading this article I had begun to trim down the closet noticeably and think about having only the items I truly need. I usually wear my favorites repeatedly and tend to get compliments on those favorites. I have many more than 10 currently, namely because of season, but I am noticing that many of my things do not last because of where they were purchased I am itching to change that. I have sewn many years and love to do it, not as much lately because it has been expensive but that being said I am looking to get my sewing skills into my community. I design lovely clothes and where I live people do shop more for the greatest than for the latest.

    3 years ago

  • HopefulValleyVintage

    HopefulValleyVintage says:

    This is an interesting article. We are all so into having more, more, more of everything, and such a throw away society, it makes me very sad most of the time if I really think of it. I get 98% of my clothes at second hand stores, and try to always find other things I need at them as well before going to the "real" store, but since most of the population just keeps buying and throwing away everything from pants to computers to big screen tv's, it makes one wonder when (if) this frenzied obsession for buying and abandoning everything will ever end.

    3 years ago

  • kristinagrob

    kristinagrob says:

    It would be really interesting to connect this with changes in diet and hygiene. When you have nine outfits, you have to wear them frequently. Do you do a standard weekly rotation and wash every week? Different fabrics react differently to the body--did the development of cheap fabrics that don't breathe push the development of antiperspirant? When we give up chemically antiperspirant, can we wear cheap clothes? As we eat more chemical foods, how do our bodies respond? Do we have to strip our skin and hair with detergents and perfume them with chemicals to smell "clean" in and out of our clothes? I want a small closet and I want to go low-chem and as 'natural' as possible. as I experiment with ways to do that, I keep finding that the relationship between all the things we put in and on our bodies is way more connected than I had realized.

    3 years ago

  • CheekyVintageCloset

    CheekyVintageCloset says:

    Such a great read! I am loving it all:)

    3 years ago

  • LillieoftheValley

    LillieoftheValley says:

    This is a fantastic article!! I myself have done a lot of research into consumption and sweatshops/mainstream stores use of sweatshops. This year, I took a good hard look at my closet and vowed to make a change. I drastically reduced the amount of clothes I had to only the things that I liked and fit well. I generally shop at the thrift store (salvation army), here on etsy for vintage, ebay for vintage, and H&M/forever21. But now that I'm aware of the sweatshop use going on, I have vowed to make more ethical choices and avoid the local XXI. I'd rather have a lovely, quality handmade, vintage, or custom-made dress for $150 than a mass-produced, made in China (in a sweatshop likely) $10 dress. I've noticed especially that cheap shoes tend to fall apart very quickly, and patterns on dresses dont match up, seams rip, and buttons come loose. Even aside from ethical and quality concerns, its fun to have one of a kind items!!

    3 years ago

  • TheMillineryShop

    TheMillineryShop says:

    I learned to sew as a little girl and have always altered and restyled ready-to-wear clothes to fit me. Almost everything I put on has been played with by me. This usually results in clothes that I can keep for a long time, a practice we know is long gone, but its time has come. It is time to purchase quality.

    3 years ago

  • RubyBeets

    RubyBeets says:

    I too enjoy thrift shopping. But if not for ladies who love to update their wardrobe then the thrift stores would be empty. If these ladies did not donate,then the thrift stores would not make money for charities!

    3 years ago

  • SoliDeoGloriaSDG

    SoliDeoGloriaSDG says:

    I used to design and make all my own clothes; but gorgeous fabrics are now terribly expensive.

    3 years ago

  • BlushEnvy

    BlushEnvy says:

    Really interesting, and oh, so, true. What blew me away was the actual cost of a dress 100 years ago~I had no idea.

    3 years ago

  • Planetclairevintage

    Planetclairevintage says:

    What a great article. thanks so much for posting it!

    3 years ago

  • velvetbox

    velvetbox says:

    Interesting article, I actually like those clothes better than what's out today.

    3 years ago

  • ElvenWreathsJewelry

    ElvenWreathsJewelry says:

    great article!

    3 years ago

  • redhardwick

    redhardwick says:

    Love those dresses! Great article, thank you for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • dragonhouseofyuen

    dragonhouseofyuen says:

    ..... count me out ...! I last bought a piece of clothing, er, in, hmmm, let me see - I can't remember what year! I think it was 2 years ago! I am so not into clothing, it's not funny! but then again I live in about 5 pairs of trews, 4 pairs of boots, 2 Norwegian sweaters and white Ts! so I'm not the fashion hound to ask ;)

    3 years ago

  • paramountvintage

    paramountvintage says:

    i LOVE this article!!!! the pricing has lowered but at what cost? the idea of a dress maker (not designer) is virtually unheard of. luckily the few who are left have found a wonderful home with etsy :)

    3 years ago

  • LelatYReanbur

    LelatYReanbur says:

    If it makes anyone feel better China has increased the taxation on textile manufacturing and is slowly moving away from low end industries. The prices of raw materials in particularly cotton has gone up dramatically in the past 2 years and now to buy cotton in bulk costs in excess on $12 per kilo i.e. about 2 M. Back to China, though many companies are moving to find more solutions to their low cost garments in countries like Bangladesh, China still has the best infrastructure in terms of transporting the goods in/out of the country. So soon we will no longer see the ultra cheap clothes anymore and we will all be paying a lot of money for bad quality products. (If you really want to know why garments are so cheap; it's because China sold it's manufacturing capabilities to the short sited Richard Nixon who in the 80's couldn't forecast what cheap manufacturing really means and what it would do to future economy.)

    3 years ago

  • aaaandreaaaa

    aaaandreaaaa says:

    Interesting article.

    3 years ago

  • RetroRevivalBiz

    RetroRevivalBiz says:

    For several years now I've been gifting my "disposable" clothing to those in need and gleefully buying authenitic, made in the USA (labels usually still sewn in and intact), 1950's and 1060's dresses. Despite my dresses being 40 and 50 years old, they're in remarkably great condition and I feel really special wearing them. Looking forward to your follow up articles! ~Cindy

    3 years ago

  • smoffette

    smoffette says: Featured

    Hmm...I used to be against sweatshops until I read Nicholas Kristof's book "Half The Sky" on women's rights abuses around the world, which contains all sorts of unconventional tried-and-true ways to uplift women in impoverished areas. He made an interesting comment that if a large retailer would set up shop in the poorer areas of Africa, that would probably elevate the status of women more than any other single thing. He cited the experiences in rural China, where women are still considered less than men and infanticide was common as female children were not useful to supporting their parents in the way a male child was. The advent of textile sweatshops - which select for women over men because of intricate work needing smaller fingers and because women can be paid lower wages - became a way that girl children would not be such a burden and could actually obtain work in regions where any work is scarce (for men and women). Even with low wages and horrible conditions, the women became valued and breadwinners for their families. In doing so, the women had more control over the family decisions and paycheck, and accordingly the children in families did better (health and education-wise). So while it has many ills, a horrible job with terrible conditions and low wages does represent a pathway for the most impoverished communities to become stronger. Just a thought. Read the book for more info, although the book covers many difficult topics...

    3 years ago

  • heartsandhome

    heartsandhome says:

    Great article! I cringe every time a customer tells me they can find little girls dresses cheaper at Wal-Mart and ask me for a discount. You get what you pay for.

    3 years ago

  • IcingOnTheCupcake

    IcingOnTheCupcake says:

    It always amazes me to see price comparisons from the past to present!

    3 years ago

  • MishaGirl

    MishaGirl says:

    I'm grateful we no longer have to pay $600 for a dress, but also disheartened by the lack of quality I've found in many of the cheaper items these days. On the upside though.....there are some fabulous dress and clothing designers here on ETSY whose prices are very reasonable, the quality excellent and the styles unique enough that you're not likely to see anyone else on the street wearing the same outfit as you (a potential hazard when shopping at H&M or the like)! Thanks to all of you creative types for keeping those of us who care about the quality of our clothing, well dressed! And thanks for such an interesting article!

    3 years ago

  • beatyboutique

    beatyboutique says:

    what a great article!

    3 years ago

  • CuffandCollar

    CuffandCollar says:

    very interesting, thanks

    3 years ago

  • chalkoholics

    chalkoholics says:

    It's sad that quality goes down but I'm glad I don't have to spend a few hundred dollars on a dress. Interesting article

    3 years ago

  • VintagePins

    VintagePins says:

    I love the history of fashion, thanks for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • girltuesdayjewelry

    girltuesdayjewelry says:

    I'm amazed that a dress cost that much 100 years ago. I had no idea! I will shell it out for some items of clothing such as a great coat, jeans that make me look 10 feet tall and 20lbs thinner and shoes/boots. Dresses and other items like tops and sweaters I shop for when they're on sale. If I were going to an amazing event that required an equally amazing dress, I would spend the $$$.

    3 years ago

  • DarwinsDress

    DarwinsDress says:

    Wow, I'm so happy to see that this is becoming a serious issue backed by research. Over spending on low quality clothing. I feel that this is the first time in history that Americans in particular are presenting themselves as very poorly dressed unimaginative fashion hoarders. I don't mean to insult anyone, jeans, t-shirts, and sweatpants are very comfortable, but no one dresses up anymore, even for church and special events. I for one am depressed when I look at the average person's style. What happened to glamour and taking pride in looking good? I adore the quality and fabric of the past and luckily my patient Mom taught me to sew when I was a child, so I'm going to salvage whatever well made fabrics and trim I can find and turn them into new fashions with style. You can see what I come up with in my new shop I'm just starting up. I encourage everyone to dress up and look lovely one day for every 2 days of jeans and t-shirts! Fashion is meant to be fun and look good! Join those of us who are trying to bring style back to the streets and at the same time re-using and recycling. Thank you Etsy for an awesome article!

    3 years ago

  • Moddestapparel

    Moddestapparel says:

    Thank you for this article!!!!!! I am also a seamstress and am very critical of the items in stores. A lot are over-priced for low-quality, unfinished seams, uneven stitched, sloppy top-stitching, cheap-patterned, poor-quality fabric, ill-shaped,...need I go on? We, Americans, believe "more is better", regardless of quality. Ha! That kind of thinking keep me in business because a "Dressmaker/Seamstress/Tailor is getting harder and harder to find. I was born in the 50s and love the dresses from that era.

    3 years ago

  • HoldTheWire

    HoldTheWire says:

    Fascinating. I have to say that part of the reason I own more clothes than a couple of dresses is that I have clothes for exercise, jeans for work or cleaning, etc. Women's tasks are sometimes more varied or we are able to wear more comfortable clothing for the task. For "dressing up" I prefer vintage. No other guest at the wedding/party has what you're wearing!

    3 years ago

  • PamelasDesertRocks

    PamelasDesertRocks says:

    I strongly believe that you should stand out from the crowd and go for something handmade or buy from small local boutiques that tend to carry locally made items or at least not the mass produced, poorly crafted stuff you see on everyone else. It is sad that the "walmartization" of this country has resulted in it being cool to go for the cheap and sacrifice unique style.

    3 years ago

  • virginiaclara

    virginiaclara says:

    What an interesting article. I have been one of those buyers who will buy tons of cheap in the moment garments. Recently, I have become sick of poorly made clothes that don't really fit that well. I have decided to buy a third as many pieces as I normally would and invest more in timeless pieces that are well made and correctly tailored.

    3 years ago

  • notApplicable

    notApplicable says:

    totally want to sew something now!

    3 years ago

  • stilettogirl

    stilettogirl says:

    My wardrobe is filled with thrifted and vintage items. As noted, the true cost of these 'cheap' clothing pieces is really quite high as we consume more and more resources to have an item for just one season! It is so easy to find the same 'new' style right in your thrift or vintage market. A few high quality pieces should carry you through a lifetime. A little tweaking here and there can refresh an item many times over, and a fashionistas most valuable asset: an excellent tailor. Worth their weight in gold!

    3 years ago

  • illusionedwords

    illusionedwords says:

    since when is zara considered cheap? dropping 70/80 dollars for jeans is not "cheap". walmart is cheap, yes. cheap quality & cheap clothing. h&m is cheap but surprisingly high quality at times.

    3 years ago

  • iumi

    iumi says:

    Thank you for Interesting article!

    3 years ago

  • gothicreations

    gothicreations says:

    Very interesting read. Cheap clothes made cheaply that may not last long do make an impact not only on the planet but on the pocket book. It can end up costing more if it has to be replaced more often.

    3 years ago

  • tinyspace

    tinyspace says:

    interesting reading

    3 years ago

  • curiouslittlebird

    curiouslittlebird says:

    Great article, thanks for posting it! :)

    3 years ago

  • HiddenMeadows

    HiddenMeadows says:

    Very interesting article! I think i need to start trimming my closet down and getting more quality items. ... ^_^

    3 years ago

  • BluKatDesign

    BluKatDesign says:

    Great article!

    3 years ago

  • evamayha

    evamayha says:

    Great post!

    3 years ago

  • SmallEarthVintage

    SmallEarthVintage says:

    Interesting article--thank you for sharing it! I decided a couple years ago to stop buying cheap thrills items from places like Target. My closet is still overstuffed (due to my vintage obsession), but at least it's now stuffed with things that I actually wear (and can sell, if I don't), and that express my unique sense of style. When I need a standard or classic piece from now on that my thrifting can't accomodate, I'm willing to spend more for quality (and hopefully more ethical business practices, whenever possible).

    3 years ago

  • jamiesondesigns

    jamiesondesigns says:

    Powerful article love it!

    3 years ago

  • CarrerdelaCreu

    CarrerdelaCreu says:

    Awesome article! Adding my bit, this is linked to the loss of personal self-reliance, when we delegate our most basic needs like food and clothing to the corporations. When your learn the basics of sewing, knitting and in general making stuff you start thinking "hey, I can make that!", and that is when the revolution starts. Then you are happier with less but more genuine, with things that make you feel the highest pride which is independence, when you can reply "I made it myself!" when someone compliments you about your dress Get yourselves a sewing machine and you'll be closer to happiness :-)

    3 years ago

  • SoulRole

    SoulRole says:

    This is such an important topic on so many levels!Mahalo for sharing...for years I only bought clothing at thrift stores or found them in a give away box .I have upgraded to making most of my clothing using only ethical fabrics,and once in a while I will splurge on something new but only from conscious companies.It is a serious problem in our culture that clothing has become almost a disposable commodity at great cost to the poor countries where they are manufactured(try looking into old navy and gap jean production for is horrifying the damage inflicted on the earth where they manufacture-no to mention the people!)Many people ask me when I am going to get serious about making money with my clothing and have them produced over seas...they may have a point as it is difficult to make a living designing and handcrafting organic clothing but it is so worth it to me.I better shut up now!

    3 years ago

  • piecesofelises

    piecesofelises says:

    Very eye opening. That's why I love Etsy. You can buy handmade or vintage pieces instead of buying cheap trendy clothes from the mall.

    3 years ago

  • aok1964

    aok1964 says:

    Over the years I have slowly replaced my wardrobe almost completely with vintage from the 40's and 50's because of the quality and fit (I have a pretty small waist and newer clothes just don't really fit me). I am also so into the history of the clothing: who owned my 40's dress with almost every seam hand repaired with microscopic stitches and German store/size tag, and what was the story behind it? Who was this woman? And the housewife who bought the 50's dress and never even took off the price tag? What was her story? A repressed "Betty Draper" type relieving her frustration by shopping? And what was going on in the world when these were bought, worn and made? Endlessly fascinating to me... I just turned 46 and do have to wonder how long I will be able to get away with wearing these lovely vintage dresses but in the meantime have made my friends promise me that they will alert me to the time I begin to look more like Aunt Bea than interesting (and as a reluctant ex-Brooklynite now living in NJ, I do look "uh, interesting")

    3 years ago

  • OhSoBoho

    OhSoBoho says:

    Very interesting read! I have never been a trend follower, I've always preferred to ride out trends until they prove some longevity. Animal prints=staying power. Skinny jeans=not so much. This is why I live eat and breathe vintage...if something was in style 30 years ago, and it's still in style today, it will still be in style in several more years, and the quality will allow it to last that long with proper care! The same is not true for today's fashions. I am guilty of buying a few trendy pieces from Forever 21 and the seams began to unravel after just a few washes. I'd much rather spend money on classic pieces, made under humane conditions, that will stand the test of time. Hopefully one day 20 years from now, my daughters will find my collection of coats, suits and dresses and be able to wear them as "vintage' pieces!

    3 years ago

  • artbywinona

    artbywinona says:

    60 pieces of clothing a year? Really? I guess I would rather buy tools. I buy maybe 10 pieces a year and that includes shoes. Hmm......

    3 years ago

  • Saxiib

    Saxiib says:

    Very inspiring article!

    3 years ago

  • mattishege

    mattishege says:

    When we were growing up clothes passed from one child to another and we lived on welfare (9 kids). Something new was something to wear out and show off, because it didn't happen often. If you buy clothes from the shops now, mostly you are supporting the inhumane conditions in sweat shops around the world, and padding the pockets of the distributors. Even if you can't sew, buy from charity shops so the money goes back into community, puts less demand on sweat shops, and you won't look like a carbon copy of everyone else. Op shops have lots of beautiful and quirky things, just need to experiment putting them together. If you can't afford them, look at joining groups like freecycle yahoo group, people give away heaps of gorgeous clothes and what you don't want, you pass on.

    3 years ago

  • castocreations

    castocreations says:

    Great article. I think this observation can be made with jewelry as well. People want cheap $5 jewelry at Walmart so they can have a piece for every outfit. Instead of what my great grandma had which was one nice necklace (pearls of course) and a couple other "costume" pieces that are still able to be worn today because they were made so well.

    3 years ago

  • Iammie

    Iammie says:


    3 years ago

  • FabulousDuo

    FabulousDuo says:

    We cannot wait till Cline's book is out! Sharpening our garment making skills is definitely on our to do list!

    3 years ago

  • misty714

    misty714 says:

    I learned to sew from my mother and I love her for that! Making pants is the best way to begin, they are so easy!! Try a pair of lounging cotton pants with elastic or drawstring waist!! You will love the comfort and the pride!!!

    3 years ago

  • BlueMoonLights

    BlueMoonLights says:

    Less is definetely more. Great article!

    3 years ago

  • NorthbyEast

    NorthbyEast says:

    I'm amazed mostly by how EXPENSIVE clothes were back then! I always figured it had cost more, but never that much! I almost wish things were back that way: better quality clothes, actually taking care of your clothes, and then pretty much being forced into getting to make anything other items you might want by yourself

    3 years ago

  • earlybirdcreations

    earlybirdcreations says:

    What an eye-opening article! Thanks for posting it.

    3 years ago

  • HummingbirdHeirlooms

    HummingbirdHeirlooms says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed your article and would love to read your book. Yes, the view of what we cover our bodies with has changed through out the decades and centuries. Yes, the way we value the apparel we possess and the quality we should expect. However, in reading the comments, I find it remarkable that no one really seems to understand the import of this article. It is not hammering at the need to make our own clothes, or spend more on quality in order to save in the long run. Your closet may be filled with "quality" "bargains"... but it is FILLED. I love how you pointed out the few number of garments women in the 1930's possessed. They valued not only the quality items that they had... they valued -themselves- enough not to feel compelled to cover their bodies in an ever expanding array to make themselves stand out. Perhaps there in lies the lesson? I am completely guilty of a closet full of bargains, so yes it is a lesson I need to learn as well. But it is THE lesson nonetheless. :-)

    3 years ago

  • LAccentNou

    LAccentNou says:

    Great article which makes me think again about the theme! I'm completely agree with Cristinapires comment, just couldn't say better what I think about it. "..all the more reason to buy handmade or vintage & support small companies with a triple bottom line people forget that the little choices they make can have a really big impact ..." a responsible consuming.

    3 years ago

  • janeeroberti

    janeeroberti says:


    3 years ago

  • retrospace

    retrospace says:

    Fabulous Article. Food for thought! Who makes them and where they come from does matter. I started out as a fashion design student and now deal with vintage due to the competition and moral issue of mass manufactured fashion. Saving preloved becoming landfill Xx

    3 years ago

  • proudmommyb88

    proudmommyb88 says:

    i love the old fashion dresses. i wish we still had those around and everybody wore them. i would love to wear them:)

    3 years ago

  • PickledTink

    PickledTink says: Featured

    I'm a certified seamstress who just can't make a living sewing because of sweatshops. And it's not just cheap clothing that's destroying home-sewing; It is so darn hard to buy good quality fabric too! When you do find the good stuff it's cheaper to buy items from more expensive dress shops especially after you factor in the cost of notions and the amount of time it takes to make a single garment. There has been so many occasions when I knock back clients requesting custom garments because the price they expect to pay me for my work doesn't even cover the materials. I've been sewing for over 20years and it's just heartbreaking. The best solution I've managed to find is buying from thrift stores and altering clothes with notions found on the internet here on etsy and ebay from people trying to de-stash. it's cheaper than making a full garment and a hell of a lot quicker! Great article, I'm looking forward to the book release.

    3 years ago

  • ThePurpleChameleon

    ThePurpleChameleon says:

    I wish there were "Like" buttons to click next to so many of these comments! I had no idea that we manufactured 90% of our clothes just 50 years ago, and now are down to 3%!! It is shocking! We really have become such a throw away society. Some of my favorite pieces growing up were ones my mother made, or that were thrifted. It is the same for me today : my favorite pieces are ones that I made myself or thrifted. I make my own girls clothes whenever I can. I think it adds a special "something". I do use new fabrics and material in my clothes and acccessories, but when I can find them- I LOVE to incorporate vintage materials~ Looking forward to more articles on this subject!

    3 years ago

  • picturesofsilver

    picturesofsilver says:

    Looking forward to reading future articles on America's clothing industry. Great subject & writing. thanks

    3 years ago

  • SoapForYourSoul

    SoapForYourSoul says:

    I have a closet full--it's all from second hand stores or hand-me-downs. I wear about 10% of the clothing I own. The rest serves as insulation on that side of the house...hahaha. Great article!

    3 years ago

  • TheScarfTree

    TheScarfTree says:

    I loved this article, it was so interesting! Great research on the history as I have never read about this before, so I really enjoyed it! It is all so true!Thank you!

    3 years ago

  • bedouin

    bedouin says:

    Fun article ~*~ My better half has a story of getting their silvery row of studs stolen right off of the side of moms handmade bell bottoms during gym class. ( bet those bullies are wearing a cheap dress now ) Thanks for sharing the fashion knowledge. Vintage rocks!

    3 years ago

  • magicelli

    magicelli says:

    If you want to learn how to sew - just do it! Take a class, or buy a machine and read a lot. Start with pillow cases and easy things. I sew my daughters clothes and a few things for myself here and there, and sometimes it's the only way to really get what you want. A lot of people here are saying they keep meaning to, and man, I will never go back. Sewing is the best "craft" I've ever met.

    3 years ago

  • arielifeoma

    arielifeoma says:

    I think that the increase in the size of women's closets is not just due to a decrease in quality as much of my clothing is custom and while expensive, it doesn't cost me the prices quoted here. Increases in textile and transportation technology and globalization have made even quality clothing less expensive. My closet is full but, regrettably, it's not full of bargains. It is full of international, business and period clothing (kimono, yukata, suits, hanfu, saree, salwar kameez, petticoats, corsets, etc). I own cheap/throw-away clothing but most of it consists of gifts or hand-me-downs. I rarely open my own wallet for a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, or tennis shoes, no matter what the quality is, because I know that others will gift me with such clothing and I just don't consider them high class. When I spend my own money on my clothes, it's not unusual for me to drop a pretty penny because it is usually custom made and/or foreign. The things that aren't custom are rather good quality IMHO. Plus, I get them tailored after that. My only exception is some lingerie. I'm not going to waste money on stuff that can be ripped and all that Still, I'm not certain my clothes have "timeless" fashion though. However, I don't care. I don't think anyone should worry about that nonsense as long as they are pleased. When I get clothes, I usually ask myself, do I absolutely love it to pieces, not just like it? Would I want to be seen in this as a 50 year old woman? I've been told that last question is silly though because supposedly clothes don't last that long anymore but I still ask those things of myself, just in case. Shoes are a weakness for me though. None of those are custom or high-end. Because of how difficult they are to clean and repair (and I am very good at caring for my shoes, even replacing my own heel tips if I don't take them in to the professionals), there are still times when I'd rather buy a decent pair that I can stand in all day and simply replace it as I get tired of cleaning, shining, polishing, washing, cobbling, dyeing, etc.

    3 years ago

  • funkomavintage

    funkomavintage says:

    cheap clothes are here because they are made by slaves...and I shudder to think about what will be left for picking and about 10 years for Vintage sellers like's all Old Navy garbage! Quality and Green-ness is why I'm a vintage wearing and selling gal...and have been for (clears throat) many decades, and yes, I sew ! I just bought another new-vintage sewing machine.... ;-)

    3 years ago

  • Thundercat1984

    Thundercat1984 says:

    So interesting about consuminghabtis and how the realtionship changed over the years, it really gives you an outside-eye of your own consuminghabits!

    3 years ago

  • sarahfburns

    sarahfburns says:

    I'm trying a dressmaker for the first time ever. I picked out a dress pattern, material and this wonderful woman took my measurements and adjusted the pattern to fit my body and this week I shall see if the results were worth it! I hope so - I'm soooo tired of badly made, cheap tacky jersey clothes!! I'd much rather have fewer better fitting outfits!

    3 years ago

  • SimoneBadourBoudoir

    SimoneBadourBoudoir says:

    Fantastic!! As someone who handmakes lingerie I wholeheartedly believe in the value of handmade clothing. Investment pieces with uniqueness ALL THE WAY!! I'll be buying your book! Thanks for caring about this subject!! xx

    3 years ago

  • AzaferraJewelry

    AzaferraJewelry says:

    I'm originally from the east coast and used to sew my own winter clothes, for my son and husband also, but I purchased summer clothes. Now living in California, and because of my job, I tend to have almost nothing but tshirts and jeans, which I really hate! I've always liked separates instead of suits, because I love the variety of choices. But as for vintage, IMHO, they are for young girls. They've never really worn them before, and its new and exciting for them, because it will be different from what everyone else is wearing. I once had a black vintage winter coat from the 40"s. It had the beading all across the yoke, back and front.I loved it! I replaced the lining with shiny black and white fabric,and I wore it to death,along with the 40"s hairstyle. But that was in the early 80"s and then the styles changed so drastically from the 70"s, and I had moved to Cali, where no one dresses up but the movie stars, ( and then only on the red carpet).I had left it with a friend, and because Cali is so casual, I never sent for it. Now,I couldn't see myself wearing vintage because I'd feel like an old woman in old clothes. And like ClassyBroad, I've had my fill of cheap shoes! Also, I think it takes us a while to develop our own style, and then we reject the trendy in favor of what we really love. But are we really surprised about throw away clothes when we have become a throw away society, from people, if they are not successful, to material things,because we have to have the newest to make ourselves feel successful.Ok, I'll stop now, this is not supposed to be political!

    3 years ago

  • LizsWares

    LizsWares says:

    I'm glad this article was posted, I was just thinking the other day about how Walmart and big box businesses have transformed our society. It's sad to realize how much of our goods are made in other countries. Although some of the items are cheaper, it comes at a cost for quality. I agree that sewing one's own clothes is a skill worth having, and one that not enough people have. I plan to open a clothing shop on Etsy soon. I am currently sharpening my sewing skills. Starting with accessories and home decor items then I'll move on to simple clothing, then more advanced. I've been doing a lot of sewing the past few days. One thing I made was a simple summer dress for myself.

    3 years ago

  • lesthings

    lesthings says:

    Great article! Also,I would like to point out that not only cheap clothes are made in sweatshops,I remember reading a book about this subject years ago and there was a lot of "designer clothes" which were made in the same conditions.

    3 years ago

  • cymbeline

    cymbeline says:

    Brive : 15 – 12.5 Dieppe : 17 Aix en Provence : 17 - 16 Metz : 17 – 14.35 Nevers : 22 – 20.9 Pau : 17 – 16.2 Bordeaux : 18 - 15 Alençon : 18 Tours : 15 Caen : 16 – 14.7 Cherbourg : 26 Niort : 22 Angers : 19 Douai : 18 Evreux : 15 Flers : 15 Laval : 15 Total demandé = 302m Total confirmé = 159.65m Great article about fashion industry in the States ! I wish for one about Europe now  Working for a fashion and decoration brand turned mainly toward very low budget, I would temper a bit some judgements about cheap-but-bad articles. Some people just does not have the money to afford what most of you call "regular" clothes (H&M for example) so cannot even think about well-made but expensive ones... And in little cities (I live in France), finding a good trift store can be kinda tough ! So, massive selling brand like Kiabi, Eurodif, Tati... (most of you are not going to recognize those names lol) are for some the only way to find affordable and durable clothes for all the family. Some articles are reaaaaally bad (mostly pants which are truly not cut to fit the real women out there) but honestly, you can find really good basics (tshirts, tops, dresses even as well as jackets, both casual and a bit more classier AND fashionable) with classical cut and of good quality. I wear thrift store and designer pieces yet most of my daily wear shirts and tshirts come from such shops, and I have some for more than 7 year ^^; I think the bad side of “new” international brands like H&M or Zara is that they are turned mainly toward “disposable clothes” ie : fashion pieces only made to last just one season. They so don’t have to create timeless articles of good quality, their main concept is fast turnover following the main trend ! My two cents about the slaving in fashion industry : those despicable practices have permitted many big names to conquer the market. But because of now conscious shoppers AND cotton rising prices, many European brands are coming back from Asia. More and more clothes are now made back in Tunisia, Morocco, Portugal, Spain… and France ;) (cannot talk about american brand thought, is somebody able to say ?) I have a question about the “growing closets” and homemade clothes : do you think we could way say small closet and sewing were easier back then because most of women were staying at home raising kids and so had 1) more time to sew (they also learned to do so at school/home), 2) weren’t working for most of them so did not “had to” have many clothes ? (hum… I not sure my question is very clear !)

    3 years ago

  • cymbeline

    cymbeline says:

    argh what are those ugly numbers before my comments xD ?!

    3 years ago

  • BlueTerracotta

    BlueTerracotta says:

    Great article! We have two types of closets in our family. I've always made my own clothes, starting when I was a teen. Adding some thrifted sweaters and accessories, and when I am able to, handmade items from independent designers. I have a small collection of pieces I really like. My daughter, (eighteen) however, has never wanted to learn to sew, and buys cheap 'throwaway' fashions from H&M and the like. Her closet is literally overflowing (onto the floor at times) with the things she buys to wear a few times. Having "nine outfits" in your closet seems just right to me.

    3 years ago

  • redemptionart

    redemptionart says:

    I admit, I am a recovering clothes whore...LOL!

    3 years ago

  • cristinapires

    cristinapires says:

    good point strikingkittens.... we were taught in my australian fashion college about manufacturing in china as if it was the done thing in the industry there was no discussion about handmade or in-house production. i think i was the only person somewhat horrified by that suggestion......luckily i did an internship with a small label that had in-house production & was a successful example of an alternative also smoffette.... the attitude that 'this is good for them' is really offensive & ridiculous. this just excuses exploitation. what those people need are human rights & freedom, not exploitation. if you want to help people in those countries you can support organisations like KIVA that help women start their own micro-businesses - on their own terms. Also you can support other companies like SSEKO and such, this is a much better way to improve womens conditions in developing countries.

    3 years ago

  • MegnificentCo

    MegnificentCo says:

    This was a super interesting read. We have become a disposable society, looking for a fast, cheap, and quick fix for almost everything we do. But I can't help noticing that the cheap items fall apart quicker, wear out sooner, and literally unravel after a few washes. The quality items I own do stand the test of time (i.e. shirts I've had for 10 years that look brand new). It's sad how the lure of a "good price" wins over quality and sustainability.

    3 years ago

  • 4letterword

    4letterword says:

    Great Read

    3 years ago

  • sylviascouture

    sylviascouture says:

    As a maker of quality and affordable hand made wearable fiber art, I'll be very much interested in reading the book. It is fascinating to observe and try to figure out what causes buyers to purchase or decline to purchase.

    3 years ago

  • pcolquet

    pcolquet says:

    very interesting. are we in a bit of a sea-change now? with the likes of etsy, including my own shop, do people now hunger for something less fast fashion, more meaningful, responsible and special? great article. looking forward to the book.

    3 years ago

  • alatsupplies

    alatsupplies says:

    this research confirms my observations: customers don't expect even the hand made to be of good quality and made out of good materials, the main thing is to buy something new as often as possible :( its just crazy! more than 60 pieces per year?

    3 years ago

  • backyardbirdsong

    backyardbirdsong says:

    Great article, very interesting. I think we really need a wake-up call to just how we are getting these super-cheap price tags. They do come at a price greater than money. Lets hope Etsy vintage and handmade clothing sellers can start to make a difference!!!

    3 years ago

  • ReneeFranceDesigns

    ReneeFranceDesigns says:

    Thank you for sharing a much informative peice on fashion. I find that most of my clients which is largely custom order are people who prefer quality and like to remain unique. But as the economy has dipped so have their budgets and then the lesser priced goods become more acceptable. But they remain especially when it comes to attending major functions. I look forward to more of your writing in the future.

    3 years ago

  • underthewillowtreeny

    underthewillowtreeny says:

    Love the classic, timeless, beauty that went with yesterday. It is so much fun to try to bring it back just a little at a time. This was an interesting article.

    3 years ago

  • GardenDaisies

    GardenDaisies says:

    Thank you for this article! When I was in college, I had a professor who labelled Walmart as "The Evil Empire" and it caught on. I started calling it the evil empire, and as I am finally figuring out my own 25 y/o style, I love vintage. And, the cheap pieces at the box stores do not fit me at all. There is not a single dress I can try on and feel pretty in, unless I want to pay small prices for cheap quality and then have it altered - which spends more money than I would pay for the entire dress! I am very happy I made the decision to order a custom vintage '40s wedding dress and bridesmaids dresses from a maker on Etsy, as I know the quality will be wonderful and the fit will be feminine and will fit my body, accentuating my features (30-25-36). Just like they used to do in the 30s, 40s and 50s!

    3 years ago

  • UptownUrbanCraft

    UptownUrbanCraft says:

    Great article! I look forward to purchasing the book when it comes out! As a designer of custom bridal this makes me feel a lot better about the prices I charge. Some people say " How can you charge $75-100 for a jacket?" They don't understand the cost of materials when you're not purchasing 1000 yards and they REALLY don't understand that I want to pay myself a living wage! But in return I offer the highest and very best quality of construction I know how. My garments are not "throw away" garments. They're heirloom garments.

    3 years ago

  • Tanith

    Tanith says:

    Interesting article. 60 items of new clothing a year? I buy 5-10 new items a year, excluding socks and under garments.

    3 years ago

  • box241

    box241 says: Featured

    It's definitely more expensive to sew your own clothes now. Those of us who do it don't do it to save money but to have pieces that are unique, well made, and perfectly fitted. If I'm craving a trend, I'll go buy it cheaply or thrift it. But if I want something classic and lasting I'll buy vintage or sew it myself.

    3 years ago

  • auntiejill

    auntiejill says:

    I find myself frustrated that it costs more to buy fabric to make my own clothing than it does to buy it completely made from a store in the mall - not just WalMart or H&M. Even with the stuffed animals I make I find that the average person has no idea what material costs (average $20/yard) - and that I have to pay retail prices for it, just like everyone else. I have tried to move my own shopping back to US made items, and Etsy is one of the few places I can find them! *Thank you Etsy!*

    3 years ago

  • FreakyPeas

    FreakyPeas says:

    I wish I could make my sewing machine work with me.

    3 years ago

  • FavreBijoux

    FavreBijoux says:

    I learned to sew well in my teens and consider myself an expert. I spent my twenties in NYC where fabulous high quality fabrics were available at discounted prices. Unfortunately today's clothing is made with fewer details and extra steps needed for a long lasting quality garment have been eliminated. Dresses are made from what used to be only appropriate for lining! Even the finer labels are cutting corners. I might have to start sewing again! look forward to the book.

    3 years ago

  • Cyberanna

    Cyberanna says:

    I make some of my own clothes and it doesn't always add up to be less expensive than buying from a store. But sometimes you come across great deals and it is worth it. In any case, my stuff is always different from everyone else, and I take great care and pride in every piece.

    3 years ago

  • KateStealey

    KateStealey says:

    This is so neat. It is sad that we've taken this turn in our country, where clothing made in the USA (consistently) would be unaffordable for most. I can't wait to read the book!

    3 years ago

  • feliceshappydesigns

    feliceshappydesigns says:

    This is a great eye opening article, makes me proud to wear, and work with, recycled materials! who wants to be a cookie cutter?

    3 years ago

  • StephDonoghue

    StephDonoghue says:

    I was thinking about this this morning. I have lots of clothes bought from cheaper stores (although I can't justify £25 for a tshirt from some places people I know call 'cheap') and I always intend to give them to the local charity shop but I am a hoarder and I get attached to my clothes (sad isn't it?). Clothes shopping really depresses me as I can never find anything that fits right (I am short with curves and a size 10/12) or looks right on me. I think I was lucky to be brought up in a family where my grandparents lived through the war and rationing was still in place when my Mum was young so we've always had hand me downs and clothes passed in from friends and relatives. Buying new clothes has always been a treat but as I never really wanted to pay so much for 'in season', 'trendy' clothes I tend to have a little splurge in the sales and buy a few new tshirts or something. I'm now learning (through lack of income and education) not to buy these things unless I really love it (usually I'm more in love with the fabric pattern than the item). Yes it may be providing a wage for someone but I have enough stuff to last me even if it does wear out/fall apart! And reading about things like is enough to scare me off shopping. I'd rather hoard my pennies in my piggy bank than be responsible for putting someone in that situation because I want a new tshirt with a pretty pattern on it. (I know the Anti-Slavery team would appreciate it if you could sign the petition while you're reading the info)

    3 years ago

  • PyxusPassionProject

    PyxusPassionProject says:

    Fanstastic article! And great food for thought.. now, if only non-Etsy, Walmart hoarding shoppers could clue in and get with the program!

    3 years ago

  • PrairieFairyDesigns

    PrairieFairyDesigns says:

    This is a fantastic aritcle it's definatly a white elephant and needs to be brought to all of our attenttion. The great thing about it is that there is somthing we can do!! Pull out your sewing machine, buy one and support artists who will make garments that are especially for YOU.

    3 years ago

  • YarnUiPhoneApp

    YarnUiPhoneApp says:

    Um...there's definite anger here toward consumerism in this article. I suppose what do you expect? IIt was written by an 'activist.' There are good aspects to consumerism - it provides jobs for those who sew the apparel, those who sell them and those who ship plus a myriad of other profitable side businesses....that help people making a living. Consumerism lifts the quality of life. Even those clothes that get 'thrown away" or dumped into clothing bins are recycled either for wear or shredded so that they can be used in airplane seats, etc. All this benefits peoples of all colors everywhere, not just the U.S.

    3 years ago

  • myAvonlea

    myAvonlea says:

    As a vintage dress reseller and collector this article is amazing. I love the historical standpoint and the economic challenge of impulse purchasing. I used to be an impulse buyer in stores and as the clothing would not last very long I started turning my attention to yard sales and thrift stores where my used clothing seems to hold and last longer. I think its wiser at least to being opened to buying used. There is so much waste and its from our over abundant need for more more more. Thanks for your article. I really enjoyed it.

    3 years ago

  • FlanneryCrane

    FlanneryCrane says:

    I enjoyed reading, and would definitely buy the book. I will share this on facebook as well!

    3 years ago

  • shop1848

    shop1848 says:

    Wonderful article! They don't make them like they used to!

    3 years ago

  • Hurray4Crochet

    Hurray4Crochet says:

    I've recently stayed in a bed and breakfast that was a home built in 1892 - no closets in the bedrooms! Each room had a wardrobe in it, some small and some huge, but it made me wonder...could I possibly manage to live out of only a wardrobe? What a challenge it would be to pare down my wardrobe only to the essential, long-lasting items I owned (if I own any!) and live a much simpler (and cheaper!) fashion life. Maybe I'll try it one day - this article gives me some motivation to really look for those pieces of clothing that are classic and well made and that will be a good investment of my hard-earned money.

    3 years ago

  • solarastar

    solarastar says:

    what a great article! and it's really true that quantity is prevailing over quality for most americans. i have been clearing out my closets, and now i have only things i really love and wear, but still more than 9 outfits!!! i am a modern woman! but i love that i can benefit form others over-consumption, by buying at thrift & consignment shops. i've got many pairs of $200. jeans at crossroads for only $20-$40. and when you clean out your closet, your friends get new clothes too! american people might rethink the walmart option if we want a sustainable economy for the future we need to make something of our own and stop exploiting the labor of people all over the world so they can have ugly clothes from the gap or h&m. i'd love a revival of american craftsmanship on a large scale. we can make great things here, pay what they are worth and have less but better quality.

    3 years ago

  • Definitions

    Definitions says:

    My dresses aren't cheap but you are definitely paying for what you get. Handcrafted gets no better :-)

    3 years ago

  • MeddlerandMeddler

    MeddlerandMeddler says:

    I grew up in the heart of the southern textile world. From the time that I was in 8th grade to my highschool graduation day I watched ALL ( yes..I mean ALL) of the textile/ clothing factories shut down in my home town in a matter of 5 years. Now all that is left are empty shells of once-busy factories. Thank you for writing this article, I hope it sheds more light on an often un-thought of subject for today's shoppers.

    3 years ago

  • WearTheCanvas

    WearTheCanvas says:

    This was a great article. I really enjoyed reading it!

    3 years ago

  • KimberlyEstrada

    KimberlyEstrada says:

    Interesting article! Having moved recently from one province to another, I've purged my closet to my bare minimum. I used to go out a lot when I was younger and was one of those girls who wanted to wear something new every single night and therefor accumulated a lot of, what I call, "disposable" clothes, as they were quite inexpensive. Now that I'm older and also trying to not be so stuck in my frugal ways, I want to start re-building what I have in my closet and actually spend on the "investment" pieces. I also love going to vintage shops, I've been very much into the 70's style for the past couple of years :D

    3 years ago

  • hodgepodgeia

    hodgepodgeia says:

    It's so true. When I shop in the stores, the clothes just look like rags hanging there. I wonder if we will ever go back to well made clothing that looks good on people? It's been interesting to watch the decline of our personal appearance in the last half of the 20th century. Years ago, when clothes and hair were difficult to care for, people had elaborate styles. As the 20th century brought ease of care through electricity and running water, you would have thought that people would be even more well groomed. Instead, as ourselves and our clothes became easier to take care of, we have opted for styles which require little or no care. It's just odd - like our kitchens - we have all the modern conveniences to make our meal preparation easier, but fewer people actually cook from scratch. I wonder how we managed it back then?

    3 years ago

  • DrVintage

    DrVintage says:

    Great article. Never thought to figure the conversion of $$ at the turn of the century, it's amazing what they paid. Thanks for the eye opener and one more reason to buy vintage! Most clothing at that time seems to have been made in the good 'ole USA, so one can feel proud!

    3 years ago

  • VintageByBecca

    VintageByBecca says:

    I love this article. What a great read! I don’t much care for ‘fast fashion’ and I’d rather buy it from a thrift store anyway! It’s so much more special when you don’t know that it’s on a rack of 30 of the same piece, in 250 stores, EVERYWHERE. And the difference between well-made vintage is obvious when you see how well a piece has withstood the test of time. I would love to learn to sew, but the time consumption may be better spent at a thrift store in order to keep recycling these well-constructed pieces.

    3 years ago

  • KCThreads

    KCThreads says:

    I love your article and the historic perspective! In the '70's I was a fashion coordinator for Macys and at that time there were beautiful fabrics and finely tailored styles still available in department stores. Over the years I have watched these elements disappear and it has saddened me. My Mom sewed and re-purposed beautiful vintage clothes into pieces I could wear in my teenage years. I have always deeply respected the ability to craft well made articles of clothing and household goods. When I discovered Etsy I was just overwhelmed with happiness that there is a trend back toward handmade, and many Americans are doing it! So, now I sew again (after years in public service), and I am loving it! This article is powerful and full of great thought that will inspire! Thanks!

    3 years ago

  • ChrissiesRibbons

    ChrissiesRibbons says:

    I think it's interesting that despite having a wardrobe full of clothes I still feel as though I have 'nothing to wear' because any cheap stuff I have bought makes me feel like crap when I wear it. Therefore I don't want to wear it! I keep falling back on about six outfits of things I have made or thrifted. If only I had more time to make things for myself as well as for my shop and my children! This is a really thought-provoking article!

    3 years ago

  • ageratum

    ageratum says:

    Great article!! Its so good to know there are people out there who know you don't have to spend big bucks to have beautiful fashions. The best of luck on your project ~ make everyone aware. ;)

    3 years ago

  • zasra

    zasra says:

    Well done! It is a sad state that our fashion industry is in, sweatshops in other counties earning pennies for their work, while the big names rake in BIG money. I recently watched a documentary on LA , Mexican born seamstress' producing clothing for Forever 21 , it was frustrating to say the least . Looking forward to reading more on this story ...

    3 years ago

  • turtlegirl00

    turtlegirl00 says:

    This is a great article! I am petite--but have a 32 inch inseam(im 5'1"). I have virtually no torso! so it is hard to find items that fit well and don't drown me. I have been learning how to alter items, and make my own. I am sooooooo loving it! and I am loving "upcycling" items. For example a men's button up turning it into a feminine ruffled shirt, pencil skirt, or strapless dress. You can find men's button ups at thrift stores (or hubbees closet) for super cheap! I too was tired of ill-fitting, yet wallet friendly finds. if you don't ever wear it because it doesn't fit--then how wallet friendly is that? I do invest in decent jeans--they hold shape better and last longer. And I will invest in decent shoes, but the rest I am trying to make myself or purchase from others that have made them!! :) much more rewarding!

    3 years ago

  • waywardseamstress

    waywardseamstress says:

    I can't wait for this book to come out. As a custom seamstress it is frustrating that people expect garments to be as inexpensive as they are at fast fashion outlets. It is refreshing to see a small number of people looking locally for a seamstress. They are out there, you just need to research and with the ubiquity of the internet it is easier to find them. The people sewing your garments halfway across the world still face workplace dangers not any less horrific than the triangle shirtwaist factory from a hundred years ago. The march toward offshore production has just put these place out of our sight.

    3 years ago

  • LotusStone

    LotusStone says:

    This is excellent. Thank you!

    3 years ago

  • Zalavintage

    Zalavintage says:

    A friend of mine toured ZARA's plant in Spain where she witnessed the scraps of garments sold in Europe, which are more high end, bagged for repurposing into fabric for additional garments sold elsewhere. Nothing wasted though! That's why I love to see the amazing vintage pieces on Etsy! Makes me appreciate what was and avoid the Marts. When I was young, we 'invested' in a few solid pieces, maybe throwing in one or two trendy looks each season and that wasn't too long ago. I look forward to your book!

    3 years ago

  • looseendsvintage

    looseendsvintage says:

    Great article. Loved the clothes in the 1950s ads. I prefer vintage clothing myself. Better quality fabric and workmanship.

    3 years ago

  • MeshnLace

    MeshnLace says:

    I loved your piece! I try to tell my customers all the time about the throw away society we have and nothing is made as well as we used to make it. Made in the USA! a classic saying and a tag on clothing and vintage items if you can them. I hate this wall-mart world and its clothes we choose to ware. Our economy and house issues have even forced some to not buy any new clothes at all. I hope those people find a decent thrift store, NOT GOODWILL as they have been buying target clothing and Ross, and charge sometimes 12.99 for a shirt that was 3.50 on clearance at target. Yes even the thrift store will hike up the price. However the flip-side of all of this is you can find many NEW items there. I like to spend my dollar on really well made items. sometimes that's only 20 years ago. I'm losing weight and I do donate my bigger sized items to the smaller thrift stores as I also look for my new sized at them too. Thank you for your article and I will be referring to it often.

    3 years ago

  • DesertMarigold09

    DesertMarigold09 says:

    It's amazing how a vicious cycle is created through all this. Clothing gets cheaper, sewing your own becomes a hobby, not a necessary part of life, and the prices are reflected. The only way you can save money making you own anymore is if you are used to having Couture clothing, and decide to make your own knock offs. Sewing your own costs just as much, or more than buying it, even if you would be getting better quality doing it yourself. My daughter and I are embarking on an adventure this Summer. We are designing a wardrobe for her first year at middle school. We are planning on upcycling and remaking as much as possible, and she will definitely have fewer outfits than her peers. Instead of enough clothes to make it through a month without laundry, she will have about a week's worth. Her main goal is to get noticed, without sticking out like a sore thumb. Thanks for all the thought fodder....

    3 years ago

  • IndyGrrrlProductions

    IndyGrrrlProductions says:

    Interesting and fun read. Thanks!

    3 years ago

  • PacoandLupe

    PacoandLupe says:

    I remember back in my university years, I was always broke. So I had to make most of my own clothes and continued to do so well into my office career. I'm petite and there just aren't many choices out there...still don't. I also made clothes for others to make extra money (grad gowns, wedding gowns, baby clothes, name it). I couldn't live on snickers bars forever, right? Anyway, I still have those clothes...if only they still fit 8-). I made my own wedding gown for just $300 and I got lots of fans at the reception hall where the other brides were so envious. Hello! I have a great deal of appreciation on how much work goes into the craft. I admire artists/designers/crafters who work so hard and who are so much more imaginative and creative. And I would pay for that anytime. If I want cheap, I get cheap. Cheap fabric, cheap labour...disposable clothes. QUALITY not QUANTITY is my mantra. AND house closet rule: 1 IN - 1 OUT. Works for us! Thanks for the eye-opening article. More please.

    3 years ago

  • steinschmuckdesign

    steinschmuckdesign says:

    Time changes everything.... :)

    3 years ago

  • chicaz

    chicaz says:

    Very informative article but not at all completely true, not everyone impulse buys and purchases cheaply made garments. For decades I've been recycling outfits and buying from thrift stores because I grew up with limited means. But quickly found it fun and rewarding to wear used clothing. I've been what they now call upcycling for years and now it's trendy and not affordable! And now that we have Ebay and Etsy, etc. we're able to buy online without leaving the house, I love that I can still purchase SOME vintage pieces, (most sellers mark their prices TOO HIGH on these sites though, and I don't, I refuse to be greedy, not everyone can afford to buy a 100 dollar vintage dress and much of what is over priced isn't even worth that....take heed sellers, please! It's just not fair). The Chinese have taken over in the hippie boho area of these sites and it's annoying, they make newer type garments with cheap materials and list them as vintage! What's worse is that they also hike up all the prices on their knock offs! It makes my stomach turn. Cheap dresses? The title is why I bothered to read this blog. I will always sell my vintage garments and wares for fair prices, I pride myself on that and hat's off to the other sellers who are fair just like me, so I can afford to continue to buy quality (mostly made in America) recycled garments. When I'm done with certain pieces I pass the savings on to my customers to enjoy. All my garments are well taken care of and well loved. I've recently purchased some vintage pieces that were smelly (like body odor or mildew) and sent them back. If you sell vintage, please remember to either launder or send to the cleaners or don't sell that piece at all, especially if they are mildewed, the odor will never come out. That garment is done forever.

    3 years ago

  • freshpikd4u

    freshpikd4u says:

    Great article, thanks!

    3 years ago

  • frenchtown

    frenchtown says:

    I just threw 3 bags of clothes into the bin on the side of the road today. They were not particularly worn out, either. I was thinking of how I am addicted to cheap clothing, and how was I going to stop? This is compounded by the fact that my weight yo-yos so much, that I not only have a lot of clothes, but in several size ranges. It's really very crazy.

    3 years ago

  • KhatsVintageJewels

    KhatsVintageJewels says:

    Fashion? What? I have two wardrobes. Winter: sweats, wool socks, and clogs. Summer: shorts, tees, flipflops. Oh. And jeans year round for going to town, LOL. And what I do buy is mostly from thrift stores and yard sales. I have what I need. :-)

    3 years ago

  • Reinhabit

    Reinhabit says:

    Sounds like an interesting read!

    3 years ago

  • MoonHalo

    MoonHalo says:

    Great article! Can't wait to read the book.

    3 years ago

  • irishandmore

    irishandmore says:

    Great article, and I especially like the comments. It seems to have people rethinking their purchases. Now, if more of them will give a dressmaker a try, they will find out about the joys of a custom made garment. There is really nothing like being able to stand in front of a mirror and say "Can it be adjusted a bit right there?" and have it done for you exactly as requested. Then, in the end, wearing a garment that fits you perfectly both in style and size - what a feeling!

    3 years ago

  • CoquesiaBelle

    CoquesiaBelle says:

    This is a subject that has been on my mind for quite some time now. This explains why the average closet of today is ridiculously small and inadequately designed! It is kind of sad to me that the quality and beauty of clothing has gone downhill, not only is it not made in America, but Americans don't seem to be very interested in dressing nicely as a whole... I wrote a blog post along the same lines, titled "Reveling in Ravelry" and it was why I started my own business on Etsy! Thanks for the history, it will most definitely be tucked away in my bookmarks!

    3 years ago

  • HOLDFASThandbags

    HOLDFASThandbags says:

    Great article, can't wait for the book release!

    3 years ago

  • TheVintageApartment

    TheVintageApartment says:

    This is an awesome subject. I don't own a lot of clothes, but that's mostly because what's made in the mass-produced world doesn't suit my body. I'm also not a fan of a lot of fabrics that are used. I thrift some clothes, have a couple of vintage pieces, and fill that out with good quality non-flash-in-the-pan staples. I love cotton - it's really the only material I like to have next to my skin - and it's hard to find good quality cotton goods in the mass produced shops. I'm working towards learning to sew so I can make my own classic pieces out of quality sustainable fabrics.

    3 years ago

  • KettleConfections

    KettleConfections says:

    Let's bring back the dressmaker. Yes, clothing is cheaper, but it's so hard to find anything that fits well, it's just not worth the low price you can pay per garment. If I add up the search time for the right piece of clothing (because we can't customize, specify what we want at the dept store, so we search) and the time I spend at the tailor altering what I buy so it fits, the system in place does not seem so efficient after all.

    3 years ago

  • econica

    econica says:

    Fantastic article! Being in a fashion business for years, I have always admired the fashion of the late fifties and early sixties. When each piece was so carefully thought thru, with complex details and tailored fit. Just look at Doris Day's outfits in her movies, it would cost hundreds of $$ and hours of work to create one of her dresses... But I would rather have 9 outfits like that then 60 from Walmart.

    3 years ago

  • JAdamsDesigns

    JAdamsDesigns says:

    I loved that article! I wish I understood the basics of making clothing! I'm made costumes for stage, but trust me they were not good enough to wear everyday! It would be so cool!!!

    3 years ago

  • tocijewelry

    tocijewelry says:

    I have in my closet clothes that have been expensive and some that haven't. I think women are so diverse and so their test. I bet we all have clothes in a huge range of prices.

    3 years ago

  • treeswithknees

    treeswithknees says:

    Really fascinating article, I'd be interested in checking out the book when it's released. I rarely shop at the "fast fashion" stores for precisely those reasons—it's essentially throwing money (and clothes) away for just a few times of wearing. I'd much rather spend a little more and have less pieces of clothing for items that are well made and well designed. A closet is like a personal museum collection—curate it well!

    3 years ago

  • Trinklets

    Trinklets says:

    This is a great article to remind ourselves of ethical shopping!

    3 years ago

  • vintagebutterfly94

    vintagebutterfly94 says:

    Can't wait to show this article to Mom and my daughter. How things change....and not always for the better.

    3 years ago

  • rubisartnmore

    rubisartnmore says:

    Very interesting! Thanks for the article, enjoyed it ~ I hadn't stopped to think about all those things, but have noticed many yard-sales with bunches, and bunches of clothing, making me a little more conscious about my purchase of clothes. I'm definetely sharing this article :)

    3 years ago

  • Bagstar

    Bagstar says:

    I very much enjoyed the article. How many clothes does a person really need?....this is a subject I have thought about often, especially on laundry day. I visited "The Good Closet" site and had to laugh when I saw the video on mending and making do during wartime. I recently made a spring coat for my daughter out of some curtains because I didn't have any money to spend and I had this box full of curtain samples someone had given me.

    3 years ago

  • Heysailorvintage

    Heysailorvintage says:

    Really thought provoking article! Inspires me to buy more vintage ; )

    3 years ago

  • Heysailorvintage

    Heysailorvintage says:

    The appeal of the cheap dress is undeniable, something that we all face. Especially if your parents accidently gave away half of your wardrobe, including all of your vintage sundresses, and you are struggling to compensate (may have happened to me). Another issue is time. Many of want to just get clothing shopping out of the way, buying multiple items at once, rather than carefully selecting each piece one at a time, inspecting the fit and quality.

    3 years ago

  • sabrosavintage

    sabrosavintage says:

    i try to stay out of the mall, and big box clothing stores.... i cringe when i think of allllll those clothes, and how probably half of them will end up in the landfill, and the other half will be at the thrift store in a few years... and that's just ONE SEASON OF CLOTHING!!!! this is one of the reasons I LOVE (live?!?) VINTAGE. better quality, already created, unique style, better fit (usually), often more economical.... great article!

    3 years ago

  • WinkArtisans

    WinkArtisans says:

    Wow, that was eye-opening! From "nine outfits to 60 pieces of new clothing" and "we've traded quality and style for low prices and trend-chasing." How about H&M, Zara, and Wal-Mart as the most powerful clothing brands in America. It's time to do a swap amongst my friends

    3 years ago

  • TheSewingGin

    TheSewingGin says:

    This is one of the best articles on Etsy that I have ever read. As a long time sewer, I would see things in the store and think I can make that better and for less so I bought very little. Now making it for less is not true, but making it sure makes you feel better and fits better. I encourage you all to learn to sew,

    3 years ago

  • EmSewCrazy

    EmSewCrazy says:

    This is a very interesting article!

    3 years ago

  • mariposavintage

    mariposavintage says:

    I have a fab handmade vintage shirt and you can see on it where there was a tear and they like darned (right word?) it to repair it it just adds to the charm Icringe to think of the countless clothes I've loved worn ripped and thrown away I could have rescued them! As a textile designer I'm keeping my fingers crossed there is a resurgence in sewing get me some customers! :) keep it local and make it yourself even just part of the time. I think its ok to buy disposable fashion but try to support some original designers too! Mix it up I bet ya if even 50% of the clothes were made at home we wouldnt be in the state the economy is in now!

    3 years ago

  • sunnypatchcottage

    sunnypatchcottage says:

    I do make my own...and it's lasted tons longer than any wallyworld clothing! The fabric may cost a little bit more, but in the end, the piece itself lasts much longer, which is more economical overall.

    3 years ago

  • LoveYourBling

    LoveYourBling says:


    3 years ago

  • TheYarnChicGeek

    TheYarnChicGeek says:

    Love the article. Been trying to get myself to learn how to sew. I can crochet up a storm but can't sew for the life of me. lol.

    3 years ago

  • AnatomicLovelyShoppe

    AnatomicLovelyShoppe says:

    What a great article. It makes me appreciate all the more the clothes I have made with my own hands whether by altering thrift or making from scratch (which is still difficult for me). At least I know they will last and are WORTH mending when needed. Thanks to all the artisans here who are re-educating America on the values of a well made garment.

    3 years ago

  • VintiqueVixenVintage

    VintiqueVixenVintage says:

    I adore seeing a garment from the 40s, or even earlier, that has stood the test of time. People used to place heavy value on the things they had, they didn't have the mass "stuff" that we do today. They took care of what they owned, they worked hard for it. Our world has become so full of disposables, and gotta have makes me love my vintage all the more! Great post, I relish following The Good Closet :o)

    3 years ago

  • afarawaylook

    afarawaylook says:

    Great article. Thanks for sharing; I look forward to reading the book!

    3 years ago

  • papercutworks

    papercutworks says:

    Great perspective. I definitely feel conflicted about fast fashion buys & often purchase second hand items (greener & more conscious choice) or vintage (better made & often living-wage/union made!). My Mom & grandmas all made their own clothing (Mom probably stopped in the 80s), or had them professionally made. I am going to attempt to make my first dress this summer (my inspiration board for this project is here & the fabric purchased on etsy arrived yesterday! ) Really looking forward to more stories behind our clothes!

    3 years ago

  • girliepains

    girliepains says:


    3 years ago

  • marieetcie

    marieetcie says:

    I don't mind a few inexpensive t-shirts for the sake of summer, but for everything to be cheap, when the fabric looks tacky, well it's not chic. Thank goodness i can sew. I always heard that the French were amazed/appalled by the size of American women's closets. Why is our economy based on people having to buy a bunch of crap they don't need? I have a couple of Adrienne Vittadini dresses from the late 80's that I paid over $300 for, and other than being outdated in the big shoulders, the wool knit fabric has held up beautifully. My old made in the UK Laura Ashley pieces are still holding up too. Walking around Paris, I saw that mature women (my peers) were wearing classic pieces, no oversized bags, no studded flashy stuff, just classic pieces that were artfully accessorized with what appeared to be a few expensive accessories... I like the philosophy of having fewer, better quality items that are reflective of the individual woman, and using "statement" jewelry or scarves in favorite colors to vary the looks.

    3 years ago

  • becka85

    becka85 says:

    Great article, raising some interesting points that have bothered me for a while. I am also very interested in the 'process' of clothes ; where they are made, by whom, the working conditions. We, as consumers are so removed from the whole process in a way that wasn't possible a hundred years ago. It seems people don't really think deeply about where their clothes come from, what they are made of, the impact on other human beings and the environment. I look forward to the book. If anyone is interested in reading more about where our 'stuff' comes from, this is a great book:

    3 years ago

  • littleadelaidekate

    littleadelaidekate says:

    While I have zero sewing skills and have never fashioned my own clothes, I made a commitment at the beginning of 2011 to a year of only purchasing second hand or fair trade clothes for my wardrobe. I've definitely become more aware of the real price of my clothes and been pleasantly surprised by the number of fair trade shops around the web.

    3 years ago

  • iomiss

    iomiss says:

    this is one of the best article I've ever seen. Congratulations!! I own a small clothing and accessories boutique in Spain, based on independent designers and small companys, and I'm suffering this. Part of the Spanish economy was based in the textil industry and now It's really dificult find any workroom to make clothes. This is very sad! I see the future...... all of us with the same bad t'shirt and broken jeans!! I live in a pretty small city where always women was elegant , dressed well,... and now seems that the most of the women buy her clothes in markets. Argggg.... this is terrible!!!! I always say this to my customers: it's cheaper a t-shirt for $50 that you'll wear it about 1000 times than a t-shirt of $10 if it is broken, old, crooked..... in the second washing.

    3 years ago

  • rosannagiles

    rosannagiles says:

    I am trying to repair the damage by inspiring young girls to make their own clothes in my c ommunity by teaching sewing and the gratification and honesty that comes from making your own clothes. Very relavent article looking forward to more!

    3 years ago

  • nascentstudio

    nascentstudio says:

    Except for socks, underwear, and the occasional new piece, all my clothing is second hand/vintage. I'm very picky about the quality of my clothes. I don't care if something's a $1 if it's not made well, I won't buy it. I'm not a fashionista, but I'm comfy in my clothes, and style.

    3 years ago

  • ktirone

    ktirone says:

    I loved this article! Please post more! Looking forward to the book

    3 years ago

  • lauraprentice

    lauraprentice says:

    I lived abroad in a developing country for a year and I discovered that I was easily able to live out of a suitcase with just a few wardrobe options for the whole year. That has really influenced how I shop and what I buy. I survive mainly off of thrift stores and hand-me-downs and it works wonders. My best tip: Hang out with a friend while she is cleaning out her closet or moving, it's a great way to take home some new pieces.

    3 years ago

  • psucaspurr

    psucaspurr says:

    what a dress without accessories?

    3 years ago

  • da0419

    da0419 says:

    Making your own clothes is a great idea in theory as long as you understand that whatever you make is going to be an investment. We as consumers have come to demand cheap stuff fast, so we're used to being able to buy a one season shirt for $20. As a former fashion designer, I'll tell you that it's not cheaper to make your own clothes, far more satisfying for sure, but not cheaper. I think once we get out of the Wal-Mart mindset, people will be more willing to make that investment.

    3 years ago

  • jill2day

    jill2day says:

    I buy 100s of used sweaters per year... it is amazing to me how the quality differs between the vintage or high end manufacturers and the "fast food" manufacturers. So much what is made/purchased today will barely survive one season - often not even one cleaning!!.

    3 years ago

  • Saysie

    Saysie says:

    Very interesting article! I find another thing with the "cheap" fashion these days is everyone ends up looking the same! I'd love to have time to get hold of some vintage patterns and make my own clothes!

    3 years ago

  • 8kids4me

    8kids4me says:

    I have come to the realization recently that if I want high quality, well fitting clothing, I must make it myself. I am now stocking up on vintage patterns which aren't the multi size mess the new ones are. I'm so glad I can sew!

    3 years ago

  • SavingGraceBeads

    SavingGraceBeads says:

    I echo da0419's comment above. It takes a *lot* of time, energy, and material to make a piece of clothing, especially a quality piece that will last. Additionally, it's great to talk about sewing our own clothes, it is very rewarding and, if you know what you're doing, allows for clothes with a better fit. However, we have to remember that the fabric industry probably looks about the same if you track the change in cost and labor. I'm sure most fabric is also made in sweat shops, so unless we're talking about learning how to make that as well, homemade clothes cannot be considered "guilt free." We really need to have a fundamental change at the heart of the industry. Also, I would be curious to see if another factor in the "cheap fashion" trend shift has been due to Americans' fight with weight issues? When women are constantly on yo-yo diets, changing shapes and sizes over the course of a year or less, they tend to amass a collection of "if only" and "just in case" clothing. I know personally, even though I only shift between three sizes, I have many more clothes than I can wear at any given time, just because I don't get rid of clothes I'm sure I'll be back in by next year.

    3 years ago

  • moonscreations

    moonscreations says:

    A beautiful article. I wish I had the patience to sew my own clothing.

    3 years ago

  • Ubruni

    Ubruni says:

    We have the talent we need to change the industry -- imagine if more people made their own clothes. What we need are more teachers out there. I'd pay someone to teach me for an hour a week how to sew clothing that actually looks decent. If any of you are willing to teach your craft, visit and start teaching private lessons.

    3 years ago

  • scientificculture

    scientificculture says:

    How interesting! Great read.

    3 years ago

  • ThePrettyShinyThings

    ThePrettyShinyThings says:

    i think i want to combine the two eras: cheap fashion AND less of it. if people took better care of their clothes, they'd last longer. i've had some of my clothes since middle school (and they fit better now o_O), i'm in college.

    3 years ago

  • EclecticBoogie

    EclecticBoogie says:

    When my sister and I were little, mom made our clothes and coats. I have made some clothes but I struggle with the directions and things dont come out very well. But I can quilt like crazy! Mom even made my son clothes adorable shorts and button down shirts out of the cutest fabrics. she used the same pattern each time just changed the fabric.

    3 years ago

  • evamaria81

    evamaria81 says:

    I've found some of my favorite clothes (especially dresses) here on Etsy, and I love knowing where they were made and who made them with so much care... But my closet also houses cheap store-bought clothes that I purchased in the past 15 or so years (when I wasn't able to afford anything else as a student) and which I still wear. It's all about knowing what you like, finding those pieces wherever that may be, and then keeping them in good condition...

    3 years ago

  • BiancaFerrando

    BiancaFerrando says:

    I must admit... Id totally wear the green tinsel print rayon taffetà... Sometimes I wonder if I bornt at the wrong time... I live in italy, and as far as I can see 60-70s are coming back this year, among textures and cuts. Bell bottoms trousers for one, or flower decorations for shirts. I really love bell bottoms trousers, so for this year Im pretty happy.

    3 years ago

  • melaniegracedesigns

    melaniegracedesigns says:

    Great article! I still have things I made in high school (20 years ago) and handmade vintage pieces, beautiful classic well made fashion lasts forever!

    3 years ago

  • labellevievintage

    labellevievintage says:

    Just another reason to buy vintage! Quality, fashion, character! You don't have to worry about the dress you bought at H&M that 200 other girls have! Aww, I LOVE etsy! :o)

    3 years ago

  • myriamandell

    myriamandell says:

    Wow this was really interesting! This explains why closets in old houses are so small lol

    3 years ago

  • sesiber

    sesiber says:

    Gorgeous article! Thanks for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • jabakerarts

    jabakerarts says:

    Excellent article... I've already made the move to thrifting and I want to make a further move towards "altered thrifting" I love to find a quality made garment in a thrift store so I can have the best of both worlds!

    3 years ago

  • VogueVixens

    VogueVixens says:

    This article makes me appreciate the people who buy my vintage patterns to produce their own clothing. I don't think anyone in my family had a bought outfit until the late 1980s when I started to work outside the home. I thought I would sew for my grandchildren but why bother because clothes are so cheap to buy, at least that is what their mother says!

    3 years ago

  • ilovetrash

    ilovetrash says:

    buy vintage & you wont be spending twelve dollars over & over on overseas- & poorly- made pieces of crap!! i also have to say: this is for very young people. it's supremely trendy now to buy cheap. that doesnt mean it -always- was. you dont have to go back very far to find bargain-buying an -embarrassment-. & there's a HUMONGUS difference between "parisian knock-offs" & junk from forever 21. i'm astounded by this article, actually.

    3 years ago

  • Frosty772

    Frosty772 says:

    I sew my own clothes. I enjoy the process and seeing a final result. Also when you make your own clothes you tend to care for them more and by doing that they last longer (well the construction is better too when you make them yourself and last longer) I have several outfits and items that are going on 6 years old and are just simply worn out and just now starting to tear at the seams. I very very rarely shop for clothes and more and dont even look at walmarts garbage hardly anymore (i might by one, by walmarts standards, pricer item once it has gone to clearance but that might only happen once or twice a year.) It seems store bought clothes get you maybe six months of wear if you are lucky based on how cheaply made and how often its worn. Pretty sad!!! Glad I really dont purchase anymore!!

    3 years ago

  • ilovetrash

    ilovetrash says:

    post-edited to add: i assume by "parisian knock-offs" the author is talking about -adaptations- or well-constructed high-end department store clothing {@ worst}. "regular" people--low-end department store buyers--were NEVER buying cut-rate french styles. they were buying clothes to wear to work--men, women, everybody, even when the work was the recently-fashionable "stay @ home mom"-ing. or they were buying their kids' STURDY stuff--w/ -far- less regard to fashion. that kind of overall fashionyness didnt really take place til mid-century, mostly -late- mid-century. oh for heavens sake.

    3 years ago

  • ilovetrash

    ilovetrash says:

    last comment: by the time that stuff got to sears, those mildred natwick knock-offs were -years- out of date & people in the cities would be ashamed of buying them. the comparison is not of apples & apples, it really is of apples & oranges. it's just one more peculiarity, i suppose, rendered by the overwhelming breadth & lack of depth that is our age.

    3 years ago

  • PinkSenorita

    PinkSenorita says:

    Great article and very informative. I need to get back to my roots of sewing. The last dress I made was 2 years ago! I need to find a pattern for the blue dress in the picture, Gorgeous! Thanks for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • pasqueflower

    pasqueflower says:

    Thought provoking!

    3 years ago

  • DragonFlyCountry

    DragonFlyCountry says:

    One of the worst decisions American Education did was take dress making, tailoring, and draping out of the basic educational system. They don't even teach basic sewing anymore. I was lucky, I had grandmothers and mother that taught me to sew. I would love to teach basic sewing, as in, how to make anything without a machine. Yep, by hand, all you need really is a needle and thread.

    3 years ago

  • Salts

    Salts says:

    Thanks for the wonderful article Elizabeth! I am excited for the articles to come. Obviously I feel Passionately about this issue!

    3 years ago

  • PleasantPeninsula

    PleasantPeninsula says:


    3 years ago

  • thefashionablefinch

    thefashionablefinch says:

    Wonderful Article! As a Fashion Merchandising major I love to see this history told. Unfortunately as a result of the easily affordable prices, I feel we are very wasteful with all the clothing in our closets. There are so many poor people who would love to have our surplus. As a child in the 60's my mother made all or most of my clothes because we could not afford to purchase them at a retail store. We had just enough to get us by for 3-4 days until we washed them. Fashion? I'm all for a little flair in the wardrobe but don't have my closet overflowing of either fad items or classics. I have just enough to get me by and pass along the gently used items to charity.

    3 years ago

  • artworksbycarol

    artworksbycarol says:

    There were so many clothes donated to the hurricane victims after Katrina that they sat in a monsterous pile in the destroyed K-mart parking lot on the coast.It was kind of sad, people picked through it daily then they got rained on.

    3 years ago

  • IslaNewYork

    IslaNewYork says:

    Woah, this article just brings up some many discussion points - great piece! When I was a kid up until early high school, I was all for the fast and furious shopping sprees. I'd buy cheap, and I'd buy plenty. Then I started realizing what I bought was always at the bottom of my drawer, maybe used once or twice, then forgotten about. Why? Because I could. Because the pieces I were buying weren't standout, they were fill ins. They were pieces that maybe started falling apart after the wash, or maybe I realized, well even if this was only $9.99, it actually kind of sucks, and I'd rather have my money back. But after high school, especially after college, something clicked and I began living the mantra of quantity doesn't equal quality. I started looking for well made key pieces, that I loved not for the price, but for the piece. There will always be H&M's, Old Navys, and Forever 21s but I don't always think that's a bad thing. I'm just hoping that these fast fashion mega retailers use their success to build something more than just their brands. It's one thing to be remembered as a retail giant, it's another to be remembered as a retail giant that cared.

    3 years ago

  • PierogiPicnic

    PierogiPicnic says:

    As a small indie clothing biz I grapple with the problem of making quality handmade pieces at a price that the average consumer, who is being wooed by fast fashion houses, will be attracted to. How can I sell handmade, be viable, and turn a profit when Target, H&M, and Walmart offer such cheap and trendy clothes. We need a slow fashion revolution!

    3 years ago

  • CovetedVintage

    CovetedVintage says:

    very informative and thought provoking article :) thanks for this insight and info.

    3 years ago

  • Laor

    Laor says:

    Thanks a lot for the good article :-)

    3 years ago

  • EurekaVintage

    EurekaVintage says:

    A great reminder to put thought into our purchases. Chances are, the lower the price, the more someone in another country has suffered to bring you that item. Another great reason to buy vintage!

    3 years ago

  • CurlysQuilts

    CurlysQuilts says:

    I'm just starting to learn to make my own clothes. Gets me out of my creative ruts. I love it and can't wait to be really proficient at it.

    3 years ago

  • TeriMelisa

    TeriMelisa says:

    My closet is beyond overflowing. We have a walk in closet and my husband has maybe 7 inches of room for his clothes. Plus I have clothes in other closets like my daughters. I have 5 dressers full and still have baskets filled with clothes on the floor. I have no idea why I keep most of it? I guess I think I will wear it again. I buy pretty much all my clothes at inexpensive places Khols, Jc Penneys, Walmart, Target, etc. I can't afford to just buy expensive pieces because I could only buy maybe 1 thing every 6 months if I bought expesive things. The 1 thing I will spend money on is shoes. I do buy inexpensive trendy shoes that will go out of fashion in a year, but with things like boots and tennis shoes I will pay more money for better quality. I really want to start making my own clothes.

    3 years ago

  • atomicblue

    atomicblue says:

    I don't buy 60 new pieces of clothing a year! I sew at home. I sew for myself. How did things become so cheap? Mass production + China. I went to FIDM (fashion school) yet I learned to sew when I was 6 years old. I sewed alot and worked at a fabric store when I was a teenager. Even then, I was buying vintage because it was 1. super neat 2. affordable! Some of my best memories are taking the bus to the Marin City flea market with $30. in my pocket. My prom dress was $13.00, it was gold brocade, and had a sweetheart neckline. It came from the flea market!

    3 years ago

  • eabolton

    eabolton says:

    I love this article and thank you to Elizabeth for raising awareness. As a fashion design student, I've been asking some of the same questions while I begin to design my senior collection. I started designing by going through my own closet in order to analyze my own style. Needless to say, I was astounded at what I saw - so much waste and yet I still feel that I have nothing to wear!! There was such a strong disconnect between what I buy and what I actually wear. It was sad. I started sewing because I wanted to be able to make my own clothes of incredible quality that I would be able to wear until they fell apart because I loved them so much! By the time I graduate, I'll have a smaller wardrobe, but at least it will be made with my own two hands! Thanks again, can't wait to read more! Erin (

    3 years ago

  • abigailsales

    abigailsales says:

    My Grandmother worked in a dress factory, R&K dresses. I used to go there everyday to get the house key and the owners were kind enough to give me material and information about various fabrics for a class project. I've seen R&K dresses in stores these days and I bet they're no longer owned by the same family and the work is farmed out of the country.

    3 years ago

  • TheFabricVineyard

    TheFabricVineyard says:

    Clothes are cheap, and they are cheaply made. That's why I'm glad I sew. And I'm always repairing the clothing that we purchase.

    3 years ago

  • watermediaworks

    watermediaworks says:

    I love this article! I used to make all of my own clothes, but I haven't sewn a thing in such a long time. (My husband loves to point out my THREE sewing machines, none of which has been used in the 15 years since I insisted he move them to our new house....) I stopped sewing not because of the price or time considerations, but because I couldn't find a fabric store that sold a scrap of fabric I would wear. Probably that lack of inventory has to do with the general decline in sewing and lack of fabric buyers....I recently decided I wanted to reupholster a chair instead of buying a new one, for environmental reasons. I spent weeks driving around to fabric stores trying to find a decent fabric to cover the chair in. I went through so much gas trying to find well made and attractive fabric that it probably would have been better for the environment to go out and buy a new chair!!!!

    3 years ago

  • LilyRey

    LilyRey says:

    My mother learned to sew very well and sewed many of her own clothes as a young woman. However, as a married woman in the 1950s she had so many household responsibilities she did not have time to sew. Nor money to buy new. For years she was very poorly garbed and hardly owned any clothes that fit, since repeated pregnancies changed her size and rendered her former wardrobe useless. The clothes available at cheap stores in the 1950s truly were terrible quality and she never bought them. Eventually, she bought jersey dresses in patterns, "grandmother dress," I called them, and she looked at least a generation older than she was. But they wore like iron, as did the original doubleknits of the 1960s. She still had some in good condition when she died last year. I used to sew a lot 40 or more years ago, but even then I noticed that the quality of fabric I could afford was not as good as the fabric of the clothing I could afford to buy. The weave was looser, and the elastic available to buy was not of professional quality, period. Plus it took an entire day to make a dress. I've had excellent dress and skirt patterns that I used repeatedly, but realized that my judgment when buying fabric was not as good as it was when buying clothing. Thus, I ended up making garb that was rather loud looking, whereas the clothes I bought tended to be far more conservative overall with pops of color. Whenever I went looking for a new pattern, I also made style mistakes. If I try on a piece of clothing in a store and it does not flatter me, all I have lost is a little time. If I make an item and it does not suit me, I have lost money and a lot of time. So it did not pay me, in the end, to sew my own. I lay this all out because there is no perfect lifelong answer to the clothing issue. I care about how I look, but with my weight and size a moving target, it is more sensible to buy clothing than to make it. It is true that before mass production of clothing, most people's clothing fit them well. But there were few fashionable styles at any one time, and so people wore styles that did not suit them. Today, people have much more variety of styles to pick from and can usually find a style that suits, but mostly our clothes do not fit us well. A tradeoff of convenience, and a good reason to wear simpler clothing.

    3 years ago

  • whimsicaljewellery

    whimsicaljewellery says:

    i wish i could sew!! can hardly thread a needle! what an interesting article, thanks for sharing

    3 years ago

  • SandraEterovic

    SandraEterovic says:

    I wish I had time to read all 300 comments! I am so looking forward to this book. I used to work in the fashion industry and became disillusioned with the increasing speed of trend cycles and the lack of appreciation of the complex craft of clothing. I have made clothes since I was 17, less so when I earned money but now that I am self employed I enjoy the challenge of utilising my vast fabric stash! I prefer vintage fabrics, patterns and clothing too -- way more interesting and not so trend driven. One solution for the less crafty -- find your own colours and style and stick to them. Buy quality investment pieces that you feel wonderful in. Learn from the French, who do both brilliantly.

    3 years ago

  • Zazupatz

    Zazupatz says:

    great perspective on our wardrobe evolution, food for thought! I sew, so did my mother, and grandmother, and I love op shops and re-styling garments. Just this week I was tempted into a 'fast-clothing store' by a 70% off sale, despite lowering expectations and trying on dozens of garments there wasn't anything wearable on offer. all stretchy, flimsy, no structure, and will last about two wears and one wash!!! even at that price no bargain!! people were staggering out of the shop with cartons full of garments, that will re-appear discarded at the op-shops in the very near future. And still be unwearable!

    3 years ago

  • lorora

    lorora says:

    I remember my mother sweating over the Sear and Montgomery Ward catalogs in the 1950's. The dresses in the catalogue were made of cheap cloth for the most part. We had to pay postage back then too. She complained all the time about it. Mom sewed my sister and my clothes. The United States had unions in the clothing factories at least through the 1960's, I knew a rep. Wages were $1.00 an hour. That really needs to be taken into the equation. Minimum wage in Oregon was $1.25 in 1964. Sometimes you had to fight for that. The best garments were in the dress shops or your mother made them. You could buy fabric at the 5 and Dime; every department store sold fabric. When so many women started working out side the home, sewing changed. That was mostly the 1960's. Then most schools took Home EC out of schools sometime in the late 80's-90's, people who knew how to sew shrunk again. Now it is picking up and small learning store are cropping up. At least in the Portland, Oregon area.

    3 years ago

  • ajacque

    ajacque says:

    "Our closets are larger and more stuffed than ever, as we've traded quality and style for low prices and trend-chasing. In the face of these irresistible deals, our total spending on clothing has actually increased, from $7.82 billion spent on apparel in 1950 to $375 billion today." Is that $7.82 billion adjusted for inflation between 1950 and today? If not, a quick look at inflation figures seems to indicate that $7.82 billion in 1950 would have the same buying power as $72.977 billion in 2011. Also, in trying to make sense of these figures, it is also important to consider that the US population has more than doubled since 1950, from 152 million to 311 million. So if the numbers for money spent on clothing in 1950 were not adjusted for inflation the dramatic jump in our collective clothing budget isn't quite so dramatic (still a big jump though).

    3 years ago

  • MCr8on

    MCr8on says:

    As a seamstress, I see a lot of clothing that really isn't worth repairing. But to make something yourself is a huge investment. You can buy a blouse on sale for the price of just the pattern. Fabric is also not very inexpensive, especially if you want something of high quality. I am trying to learn how to draft my own patterns now, because I never find what I am looking for in the pattern catalogs. So like the majority of people, I buy what's on sale and rarely sew for myself.

    3 years ago

  • KioMade

    KioMade says:

    Very interesting! We definitely live is a society that likes what it wants, when it wants. I am trying very hard to instill the lesson of patience and that good things are worth waiting for. I had never thought about clothing in this light before, but now I will think when I pick up a new shirt.

    3 years ago

  • metalissa

    metalissa says:

    I have been guilty of the impulse buy due to crazy low price...only to realize the quality is terrible in many cases...shrinking, uneven seems, and so on. I think knowing how to make clothing is a huge source of pride. Knowing how to make anything the old-school way is a smarter, less toxic way to live, if done correctly. This was a very interesting slave of the historical pie (which I am terrible at making from scratch)... ; )

    3 years ago

  • karenanderson

    karenanderson says:

    Love this article and the dress ad shown. I began sewing at the age of eight. During high school and college I made lots and lots of my clothing. In the late 70's & early 80's it was still possible to save money by sewing. As time passed, fabric became more & more expensive & the cost of clothing came down so low that it wasn't cost effective. I still wanted to sew for my children as an act of love but again time & prices guided that to make no sense. I seem to only sew novelty type items to personaiize w/ embroidered initials or maybe costumes for the kids (which is such fun). I often long for times gone by and much less ready-made fashion to choose from. I loved the days when I knew every brand and style of shoes that were made.

    3 years ago

  • weekendvintage

    weekendvintage says:

    I may not always be able to buy handmade but I do choose to buy thrifted most of the time. I sew but I also wonder if the fabrics I buy are ethically produced. Interesting article.

    3 years ago

  • makingthishome

    makingthishome says:

    The info in this article is fascinating! In May 2009, I started "The No New Clothes Challenge" on my blog, It's been the greatest thing for me - from how I view myself to my wallet (the savings on clothes went to investing in my shop). Flagging the info here for sure. THANK YOU.

    3 years ago

  • joyofvintagewithsam

    joyofvintagewithsam says:

    3% made in u.s.?!? Shocking and sooooo sad. There was a terrific documentary made about this subject for HBO re NYC's garment district -- From Rags to Riches to Rags...see it if you haven't already. Viva la vintage

    3 years ago

  • 17reasonswhy

    17reasonswhy says:

    Great article, I'm all about wearing recycled and upcycled garments, and making my own clothes. The cheap, new clothes in the stores fit terribly, are of low quality, as well as having a dearth of ethical issues associated with them. Thanks for the great post!

    3 years ago

  • allthepreciousthings

    allthepreciousthings says:

    sew your own - I do! Using vintage patterns :-)

    3 years ago

  • katherinechan

    katherinechan says:

    In the 1970's my mother designed her own clothing and spent a fortune having Hong Kong tailors create something especially for her. Nothing she wore could ever have been created by someone else or copied. The off the rack norm these days is making us look all the same.

    3 years ago

  • JadieBaby

    JadieBaby says:

    I was just thinking about going out tomorrow to find a new dress.... think I'll dust off my sewing machine instead!

    3 years ago

  • StrangeVagaries

    StrangeVagaries says:

    I won't buy anything that isn't pre-1990 if it's made of polyester. (If it's already on the market, nothing I can do about that). Polyester is hideous on so many levels. When it went out of style for a while, the very word polyester to describe clothing was derogatory. It became common knowledge that the hideous "polyester pant suit" was going to grace the land fill for the next 10 million years, and I was happy that it seemed to be going by the way of the Edsel. Then it came back. With a vengeance. and it's always the most trendy, obnoxious styles that are sure to end up in the landfill. It's another reason why clothes are cheap cheap cheap to buy, but very very costly in terms of the environmental impact of such fickle and mindless consumerism.

    3 years ago

  • BlessedRepublic

    BlessedRepublic says:

    Very insteresting.

    3 years ago

  • craftyhoney

    craftyhoney says:

    Great article! In Thailand, most cloths made in china.. as the price cheaper, quality is very poor. I used to love cheap dress but now I prefer my closet full with QUALITY ,NOT QUANTITY!

    3 years ago

  • LeafLee

    LeafLee says:

    great post!

    3 years ago

  • JanesCorsets

    JanesCorsets says:

    Fantastic article! In todays market it's almost impossible for the individual garment maker to compete with mass market clothing and most people are no longer interested in quality made garments. Thanks for tracing the history and illustrating how this has come to be.

    3 years ago

  • artywear

    artywear says:

    Wonderful post! I look forward to the book. It reminds me of Fast Food Nation, the book that spawned the "slow food" movement. I hope it will do the same for the rag trade, but am not holding my breath. I have sewn all my life, and am fortunate to have a source of high-quality fabrics nearby. The things I make last forever. I do thrift for t-shirts and things like that, and have also gotten into upcycling my thrift finds into art to wear. America is awash in used clothing, everything from trash to treasure. I thrifted a Chanel haute couture suit which I wore until I put on weight. Alas, I'm going to sell it, as I need the $ more than an exquisite piece of art. You can bet I'm not going to blow the proceeds at Target!

    3 years ago

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush says:

    GREAT post! Thanks for bringing this topic to light. I'll be looking for the book ;)

    3 years ago

  • pastafajulia

    pastafajulia says:

    I'm interested to read more- I love these discussions! But I also wanted to add my two cents: as a former Fabric R&D Sourcer for a womenswear company, I've seen a lot of the inside of fashion companies. Construction (sewing the garments) is one thing that most people do ok on. It's fabric quality that is truly the indicator (for me anyway) that quality is present or lacking. -First off, more expensive clothing DOES NOT equal better quality. The place I worked for had a 78% mark-up (after materials and labor) on basic fabric that cost $3-5/yard, but was sold in garment form for $150 (made in Guatemala and China). This fabric had to undergo testing, but when it didn't pass average standards, they'd stick a "dryclean only" tag on it. It can be hard to tell what mark-up percentage companies have, although you can bet if it is "fashion" it has a higher mark-up than basic retailers. -Also, Walmart has better testing standards than MANY high-end clothing companies. They have such a low mark-up that they cannot afford returns, so they are much more strict about their fabric testing. With Zara, it's hit or miss, but their fabric quality is certainly higher than H&M or Forever21. Those are truly throw-aways with very little testing on quality. -And finally, I am a huge critic of the fashion industry (in part why I left), but there is also a disconnect here on Etsy with makers and craftspeople in regard to this "handmade" mantra. Our clothing is already handmade. By people overseas for little money of course, but it is not made by machines. We are already wearing handmade clothing, but it is in the details that matters. Can we shift to an "quality and ethically made" mantra instead? With knowledgeable makers? I wholeheartedly support all of us becoming more self-sufficient and less dependent upon this type of clothing. But we still do need to recognize that the fabric we are using is also coming from the same locations as our cheapened clothing. Know your fabric, know your quality testing. It can be done on a small scale- it's difficult and slow, but it's important. It's the other half of this dilemma.

    3 years ago

  • AltogetherLeather

    AltogetherLeather says:

    BanglewoodSupplies, I couldn't agree more - definitely reminds me of the progression of food in the US!

    3 years ago

  • artistdebbie

    artistdebbie says:

    I can make my own clothes and I'm a bit of a designer as well but by the time I buy material, thread, buttons or a zipper or interfacing etc... it's way cheaper to buy. I've been to Goodwill stores and have found some great name brand clothing with the tags still on them.

    3 years ago

  • baublesnfripperies

    baublesnfripperies says:

    Really cool article. Vintage dresses always inspire me.

    3 years ago

  • GingersnapKids

    GingersnapKids says:

    This is a wonderful article about the evolution of clothing and how fashion has truly changed to fit the needs of todays women. Today we have so many more choices than in previous decades. I remember wheh I was 13 years old and the Peasant Dress was just becoming popular, we are talking the early 70's. My mom was taking me shopping at the local discount store and I could not wait to get one of this cool new style. Unfortunately, I was a very tall and skinny teenager, and the dresses did not fit me properly at all. I was soooo disappointed that I had to take home an ill fitting baggy dress just to get it long enough. That fall I started home-ec in school and learned to sew my own clothes and never looked back. Until the jeans craze of the late 70's took hold and it was not fashoinable to wear homemade clothes. Styles come and go, but something can be said for a properly made, well filling garment whether it is made by your own hand at home, a talented etsy seller, or a designer. I have started making all my granddaughters skirts, dresses and tops, and they love them. Its really nice to be appreciated again for my talent, and I truly understand how every seller on etsy feels about their craft. Cannot wait to read this book.

    3 years ago

  • RadiantShadow

    RadiantShadow says:

    I remember my mother's stories of her grade school teacher in the 1930's having only two dresses. I also remember, from reading many Victorian novels, that those less well-off would often "turn" a worn or faded dress: carefully take it apart at the seams, and reassemble it inside out. They might have had only one good hat (in an era when a woman never went out without a hat) that had to last them several years; they would buy a new bit of ribbon to refresh it for the new season. One thing I learned about shopping for vintage clothes - the more workaday items are more rare than fancy things: people wore them until they were good for nothing but the ragbag. And that segues into quilting.....

    3 years ago

  • RadiantShadow

    RadiantShadow says:

    P.S. For a current company that makes jeans, tees, sweaters, and outer wear that can hold up for years, try Eddie Bauer. I've never had anything from them that I could actually wear out.

    3 years ago

  • ARabbitNamedMolecule

    ARabbitNamedMolecule says:

    I used to be the guilty one hogging all the high street stores esp when I was younger as a student in the UK. High street stores are everywhere and you get tempted by their ever changing selection every so often - plus most of these stores offer student discounts. You get attracted by the trends in a very magpie-like fashion. But as I grew older, I begin to realised that I don't need to buy the 'hottest' trends in town all the time anymore as I developed and became more aware of my own personal style. Now, more than not quality matters and I'd rather get a lot of wear on an item than wear one item once and never put it on again. Great article, this - very informative.

    3 years ago

  • Sunsetgirl

    Sunsetgirl says:

    Fashions come around again, some of my most nicest clothes belonged to my Mother in the 60's and 70's!

    3 years ago

  • reinamagica

    reinamagica says:

    I love that green dress! I guess the problem is not just the cheapness of the item, people are getting very lazy and settled in the ways of 'modern' life, and they are spoilt and consumeristic, and hence the problem with cheap labored clothing. I guess Etsy and all these other DIY and retro, and recycling movements help to change the way people behave. There's a joy in making, and there is a joy in having clothes and items that are lovingly made, and unique, and not slave-laboured. Its nice to look back to times when even commercial clothing was carefully tailored, and well-designed, and not like a bunch of cheap t-shirts in 'hot summer colours', or whatever is in and out of fashion for a very short moment.

    3 years ago

  • GeorginaKay

    GeorginaKay says:

    I remember being at school and being taught how to use a sewing machine as a matter of course. The following year, the class was dropped and never reappeared. Apparantly it was sexist!

    3 years ago

  • woolenmoss

    woolenmoss says:

    Good article. As a maker, it's hard to make a living in these times of cheap disposable fashion. Here's to Etsy for making it a little more possible.

    3 years ago

  • WoodentItBeNice

    WoodentItBeNice says:

    I remember those sewing classes in school too - problem was I wasn't very good although I tried (a little too impatient in my youth to stop and take the time to do it the right way. I didn't want to wear what I made - it was not quality work. I wonder if now I would be better at it - this article brought back that interest - might have to try again. I rather have a few good pieces than a whole closet full of junk.

    3 years ago

  • angelacolorito

    angelacolorito says:

    Maybe this cheap consumption trend has opened the vintage market to reuse those clothes that were made to last?

    3 years ago

  • ElizabethGoodCloset

    ElizabethGoodCloset says:

    ajacque -- I read your comment and want to respond. You make a very good point about the following statistic: "In the face of these irresistible deals, our total spending on clothing has actually increased, from $7.82 billion spent on apparel in 1950 to $375 billion today." Adjusted for inflation and considering the increase in population, our total spending on clothing compared to 1950 is not that dramatic. You're exactly right! What is dramatic is our increase in consumption. The fact that the clothing industry is able to grow in terms of sales given the sharp decline in the price of clothing since 1950 is just further further evidence of how much more clothing we're consuming. Meanwhile, we're actually spending less per capita on clothing, as a percentage of our budgets, than ever in history. Hope this point isn't too confusing and thanks to ajacque for helping me clarify my thinking. And thanks to everyone for reading!

    3 years ago

  • VincentVdesigns

    VincentVdesigns says:

    most of you who commented here might enjoy a book called "alligators, old mink, and new money" by alison houtte. she is a former fashion model- turned vintage clothing boutique owner. good read! jaime

    3 years ago

  • Feille

    Feille says:

    More expensive is not always better. As a purveyor and buyer of fabric, I can definitely say that. Part of the issue is discarding perfectly good clothing, expensive or not, for the fashion of the moment. Don't be trendy to begin with and one won't have that problem. It's quite possible to create one's own style and look without falling into every style that comes out. All that's guaranteed is that next year it's out (except for those maxi dresses, still going strong!) I have clothing that I paid little next to nothing for, of good quality, but the reason it lasted is because, quite frankly, I took care of it.I resole $20 sandals when they wear down, I hand-wash lots of my clothes. And pull them year in, year out, from storage, just fine. My children's clothes when worn out and still in good condition,I send to Jamaica with relatives, to give away to children who have little or nothing to wear. In general I buy the best I can afford or when it's on sale. I maintain them so they will last me. And I have to love it. When I have disposable income I get stuff made. Best fit yet. i don't have a problem with clothes being hand-made in other countries, it there are fair labor laws and people are making a living.

    3 years ago

  • tortilladesigns

    tortilladesigns says:

    Great points @pastafajulia thanks for sharing an former "insiders" point of view!

    3 years ago

  • jinchon

    jinchon says:

    Hi all - Just a clarification to @pastafajulia I work in the apparel industry and directly with Forver21 in addition to some other retailers, and I can tell you that their standards are pretty high. I too was surprised with the testing requirements and their quality control processes, but they far exceed another retailer we work with who charges WAY more in mark ups...Just a thought... One other things is that they actually work with a lot of companies that manufacture goods in the greater Los Angeles area - which H&M, Zara and Walmart do not do any domestic production.. a lot of those clothes are hand made right here in Los angeles...

    3 years ago

  • saffronfields

    saffronfields says: Featured

    Thank you so much for addressing this important part of our culture. This article has hit a nerve in me, so brace yourselves. I learned to sew in home economic class.This was the 50s and 60s when there were sewing schools all over town and most everyone knew the basics of it. Those who really got the hang of it sewed their own clothes through high school and college and later for their children. Quality fabric was so cheap, a teenager could afford them. My passion was not just in having the latest styles, it was also in meticulous tailoring, the process itself, the sense of being in control and creating a unique expression of ME. As time went on, my favorite fabrics and prints started disappearing from fabric shops. Fabric departments shrunk, then disappeared, from stores like Sears, Woolworth's, etc. Before long, I couldn't find a decent blue denim nor the trusty poly-cotton blends that looked and felt wonderful and required no ironing. I felt at that time that there was a conspiracy to restrict raw materials to sewers, to force consumers to rely on manufactured clothing. While amazed at the sheer quantity of pretty designs and fabrics on the racks today, I think of what our daughters have been missing out on. Sewing is the joining of vision, inspiration, engineering, art, discipline and caring. It is a basic human expression and should be accessible to all.

    3 years ago

  • flytie

    flytie says:

    "...we have long since abandoned our sewing machines..." oh, oh... tis not true! teehee! :-) interesting article though {and comments}. thanks!

    3 years ago

  • MyWisteriaCottage

    MyWisteriaCottage says:

    Etsy is where we can find great patterns,great fabric to make items,great upcycled fashion unique and support small business. Lots of sewing machines have come out of closets now.Most sewing machines do not age in that to do basic sewing they are still great. A resposible person can add value to her wordrobe and help small business by selecting not mass produced items. As well as the parts to create her own items.

    3 years ago

  • reveriefrance

    reveriefrance says:

    It's true, clothes are not made as well as they used to be. Has anyone else known that with the increase in labor laws in the US, that the manufacturing part has gone overseas. Sure, we don't use child labor in the US anymore, but it is used in those countries where most of those off the rack clothes are being made. I really hope this causes another turning point where people appreciate homemade and accountability. Are those clothes you are buying off the rack feeding a family? Not really, but then, without those jobs, those people would near starve. It's not a simple question, nor a simple answer.

    3 years ago

  • boxesbycrane

    boxesbycrane says:

    Wow...good reading...i am 75..... i started sewing when i was 12 or 13. until i retired in 1996, i made almost all my clothes. skirts suits, shirts,dresses, and i made them so cheap. and i was envied by younger women who would not bother to try to learn to sew. i am so glad i did learn. I also sewed for my mom and others long time ago. it is one of the great joys of my life. I am so glad to hear all this talk about others who love i did. and about their love of fabric, i still have lots and lots of fabric. i love fabric. i still do a lot of hand sewing. making whatever i feel inspired to do. I still make some things to wear but just don't need so many garments now. sew on young friends. sew on. I thank God for the years He has given me.

    3 years ago

  • boxesbycrane

    boxesbycrane says:

    i agree about the fabric stores they have all but dis appeared. remember when Piece Goods was on every corner. and Jo Annes etc etc. I miss those places. now you almost have to order and its not the same as feeling and looking.

    3 years ago

  • BluJeanBeads

    BluJeanBeads says:

    Interesting article. I remember in the 50's and 60's one closet held all the dresses of five girls and our mother. Now the same closet would house 1/2 of my wardrobe which I rotate between rain and no rain. Post divorce from first marriage I assauged my angst by shopping. Thriftstores, major department stores, t-shirts from target. Fortunately 16 years later, I am still wearing the majority of those clothes as I am easy on clothing and because I learned to sew from my mother and in home ec in jr. high I know how to choose well made pieces with good fabric. Still ridiculous to have so much and am trying to reform. When 85% or more of our clothing and products come from off shore....we need to make a least in our closets. When we shop, think about those without employment, here at home.

    3 years ago

  • smallcouture

    smallcouture says:

    very interesting ! Can't wait to read the book !

    3 years ago

  • AsianPacificCo

    AsianPacificCo says:

    Great article! I worked for an asian couture designer for several years, traveling to exotic locales for textiles, i.e, fur, leather, buttons, obi and kimono fabric, for the many season's of fashion in the industry and the costs involved were astronomical, not just for the finished product, but the requirements which made the apparel "couture". Yes, the fashion industry has become a major blight on the economy. I iive a simpler life now, running my own shop, although my closets are ashamedly stuffed with "label's" from another time. I have chosen to cull, sell, give away excess. My motto now, choose wiser. Well made clothing with good fabric, structured pieces, can go a long way. Thrift shop, it's a satisfying experience. It's ridiculous in this era to have so much, especially when others have nothing.

    3 years ago

  • NewVintageLady

    NewVintageLady says:

    The UK Guardian also did an in-depth article on disposable fashion. Its a good tie in to this intro.

    3 years ago

  • allyoung

    allyoung says:

    I think we do have too many clothes. I do think the amount spent on clothes figure should have mentioned that our US population has doubled since 1950. This would make the amount spent seem slightly more reasonable. And with the multitude of women in the workforce that were not in the 50's- who has the time to sew their own clothes and the clothes for their family? There is nothing inherently wrong with inexpensive clothes- my MIL can make nice clothes cheaper than we can buy. It just takes time. Part of the reason for cheap clothes is the assembly line system. Not every item I own has to be a work of craftsmanship. There are other issues involved of course.

    3 years ago

  • MamaPepperDesigns

    MamaPepperDesigns says:

    I'm pretty good at keeping only a few things, and have vowed to start making my own clothes, so this article was really timely for me!! Thank you! Makes me want to become a clothing minimalist!

    3 years ago

  • marquina

    marquina says:

    @ amytopstitching - I miss the tailoring of yesteryear as well. My mother learned hand sewing from her grandmother and tailoring from an Armenian tailor, and I learned from her. In fact, it was years before I could shop for clothes at the store without feeling guilty (or disgust at the barely-existent quality of sewing on the clothing!) I have to say I was appalled while reading this article (great article, by the way!) I have seen the effects of people who go shopping all the time and have no space to put their new purchases. And they wonder why they feel anxious and disorganized all the time! I don't have as many clothes and wish I had more - I guess I'll have to go back to sewing again! I will most certainly will be more choosy about the fabric so that I can get better quality that will last whether I keep it or eventually give it away! @ allyoung - You make some very good points, and we could still use attitude adjustments where clothes are concerned. As my mother used to say, "You don't need all that!" Good grief, I used to hate to hear that, but (gasp!) she was right!

    3 years ago

  • adthenomad

    adthenomad says:

    Great article!!! I will follow your blog as this topic really interests me. I recently made the decision to buy only eco-friendly, sustainable, handmade and or 2nd hand fashion. But you bring up a good point on your blog that one should look at the overall impact of their closet and the life span of the items and not just the source of each garment. I'm a shopaholic who somehow considers herself environmentally friendly (i take public transport, bicycle or walk everywhere, I recycle everything plastic & paper.... even recycle the cardboard center that paper towels and toilet paper are on...i use rechargeable batteries only and LED lights, use my 'gray' water from the wash to water the plants....etc) but when it has come to fashion, i've always loved getting a good deal...meaning if I had $100 to spend, I would like to get 5 dress on sale at $20 each instead of one higher quality dress at full price. i now see I need to take the total environmental approach to have a "Good Closet". Appreciate you sharing your knowledge!! Keep up the good work on spreading the truth :)

    3 years ago

  • marypaquette

    marypaquette says:

    Not everyone has the talent to make a dress, I would say homemade dresses more often than not, look homemade, and not in a good way.

    3 years ago

  • Ebrown2503

    Ebrown2503 says:

    It's all very interesting about the cost of clothing. However, style is such an integral part of a decision to purchase. I think that's why the best seamstresses here on Etsy are seeing a measure of success. A woman will always want to try something new and to be the only one with a particular item in their closet. What a great feeling! This was an interesting and fun article. Imagine what a $100.00 dress meant to someone 100 years ago. It was a veritable fortune!

    3 years ago

  • samsstuff

    samsstuff says:

    Really interesting article! I won't shop at Walmart, due mainly to it's outsourcing issues. They basically tell manufacturers 'We'll pay this much for your item. If you can't or won't meet this price, we won't sell your products.' In order to meet these prices, manufacturers have to outsource their labor to other countries & we lose jobs. We lose jobs & can't afford higher prices, we become dependent on lower prices, manufacturers outsource, we lose jobs...It's a never ending downward spiral. I'm sure they're not the only retailer that does this, just one of the largest. It's become cheaper to buy clothing than make it, but i am going back to sewing. I love thrift stores, though it's difficult to find sizes. I find myself buying fewer new things & making or re-making more myself. I look forward to more articles in your series!

    3 years ago

  • marcif1

    marcif1 says:

    Great article! Brought back so many memories of childhood years, sewing all my own clothes. Not that I needed to financially, but my father told me he would purchase all of the fabric I needed to make my own pieces; otherwise, I would have to make do on my allowance ($12/month) and whatever catalog outfits my mother would buy for the new school year. Well, I new a bargain when I saw one, so I made everything! This was in the 50's & 60's, when fabric was inexpensive and anything you wanted could be found, and home-ec classes were the norm. In high school, I even made not only my own prom dresses, but those of my friends, for a price ($10/dress!). Eventually in the 70's ready-made fashion was everywhere, and sewing my own clothes wasn't worth it, especially considering the investment of time - sad shift in perspective. Ah, what wonderful memories.....I'm so glad to have had that experience. Thanks Dad!

    3 years ago

  • VintageSouffle

    VintageSouffle says:

    I worked in factories on and off in munitions and eventually sewing. There is no such thing as good working conditions in factories where there are no bargaining rights. Since bargaining is not permitted in poorer countries I can't imagine what those denizens are like. This is the reason large companies found overseas factories favorable. if you've never worked in a factory you can't know what goes on in those places. The conditions are never worth the pennies you are paid. If you get permanently injured then you are finished. In the US there is disability. Consideration is hardly every taken with regards to the number of injuries sustained by workers in poorer countries. And the longer you work in a factory sooner than later you will sustain an injury that may require hospitalization or worse disability. None of these things are provided for in poor countries. Often the women are working pregnant in the worst conditions for them and their unborn child for up to eighteen hours a day for a pittance. I agree with cristinapires: Barefoot college and all the ones that promote self sufficiency and early education for girls is the way to go. As far as the large corporations like H&M and Walmart are concerned collectively we have a bargaining power called choice. We can bring back manufacturing one person at a time. The manufacturing changes that came about required a collective and conscience agreement. Collective thinking and the rolling up of the sleeves will be the catalyst for a new better marketplace One process at a time, one idea at a time. It has already begun with the conscience observation that a new path would be beneficial. I no longer purchase anything from the giants I don't care how cheap it is. I would rather do without or make it myself. The cottage industry is the way to go.

    3 years ago

  • VintageSouffle

    VintageSouffle says:

    I omitted that this is a fantabulous article and right on cue.

    3 years ago

  • Janjan4

    Janjan4 says:

    I related to this article in many ways. I designed and sewed all my clothes in junior high and high school and loved that they were different from every one else. When I married I started haunting the vintage and second hand shops for many years. The quality and style of the clothing from the 20's,30's,40's,50's and 60's was vastly superior to anything I could purchase on my newlywed budget and again was so distinctive. As my children grew it became cost prohibitive to sew and beautiful fabrics became less available. My daughter was not at all interested in learning how to sew. It was a struggle to even teach her to sew on buttons and repair her own clothing. However just a few days ago, my 7 yr old granddaughter asked me to teach her how to sew, She's a natural! In one evening picked up several handstitches and sketched a skirt design! We are also reworking one of my evening dresses into a dress for her via her design, This is one 7yr old that is getting a sewing machine for Christmas instead of a doll! I learned to sew and cook from my grandmother and it was the best gifts of my childhood!!

    3 years ago

  • teetoo

    teetoo says:

    Fantastic article Elizabeth. Thank you.

    3 years ago

  • conniescloset

    conniescloset says:

    I think that the reason many women are obsessed with vintage is because the clothing is more body conscious and the designs are more interesting. Some of us don't want to go back there but can still be inspired by the details. What some people don't realize is that the undergarments of yesteryear were very, very constrictive. Do we want to suffer that much for fashion again? All those spanks give me a stomach ache and make me hot! Today's clothes are either loose and baggy, or shockingly tight. Each of our bodies is unique. My advice, find a good seamstress and get the fit right. We can take any garment and remake it or redesign it to be one of a kind AND the right we need to talk about clothing sizing: past and present.

    3 years ago

  • oldecityvintage

    oldecityvintage says:

    Loved this article- and the website as well. Like many other women, I think I own a mix of cheap, vintage and high quality clothes. I like to wear items until they look worn, and then I usually donate them. I think this article is particularly interesting if you look at this through the spectrum of baby/children's clothes . . . Talk about consumerism and turnover! Again- I try to pass it on. And some of the clothes have been recrafted into loving heirloom quilts . . . Which reminds me of a children's book called "Joseph Had a Little Overcoat" published by Viking which talks about recycling clothes . . .

    3 years ago

  • urbandon

    urbandon says:

    Excellent article. More is actually less.

    3 years ago

  • Mariadel

    Mariadel says:

    This was really interesting. I'm looking forward to your book and following your Tumblr.

    3 years ago

  • mylatestexcuse

    mylatestexcuse says:

    This is such an interesting article! I will be following you on tumblr post haste!

    3 years ago

  • juli2999

    juli2999 says:

    When I was a teenager I used to spend all of my money on clothes and trying to find things unique and personal. As an adult (26), I still have a great love for fashion, but much more important places to direct my money. I buy almost exclusively from inexpensive thrift stores and then alter them to fit or else completely redesign the piece. On occasion, I sew from scratch, but I find that to be much more expensive. When I do shop in a regular store, it's to find a high quality piece that I know I'll still want to wear for years. I try to force this on myself as a habit. Otherwise, I find that going to stores like Forever21 tempts me to impulse buy large sums of money on a multitude of very cheap clothing that often disintegrates after one or two wears

    3 years ago

  • CheapBoutique

    Steampunk Supplies from CheapBoutique says:

    I'd like to know about the new fabrics available on the market today...where are they coming from? What abuses are we supporting by buying new fabric? I've started sewing from rescued/recycled/second hand clothing. It cuts MY costs for bulk supplies and takes care of one small corner of the world's waste! I make lots of scraps and lint in the washing and making of these garments...insulation had already crossed my mind as a way to use up those fibre remnants... Can one "felt" cotton scraps as easily as wool?

    3 years ago

  • CheapBoutique

    Steampunk Supplies from CheapBoutique says:

    I may well have had friends and students in the T-shirt factory that collapsed in Haiti during the earthquake! I told my teen-aged daughter how the people in that building were paid only $3 a day and worked in hazardous (as it proved-lethal) conditions. They all died for that job, for those cheap clothes! "That, my dear, is why we have $3 tee-shirts in this country. IS IT WORTH IT?"

    3 years ago

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