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Who Put Americans in Jeans and T-Shirts?

Feb 1, 2012

by Elizabeth Cline

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Women’s clothing once looked like an elaborate layered cake. Floor-length dresses were made of reams of fabric, often covered in trims and details like lace and embroidery, and supported by chemises, bustles, crinolines, corsets, and petticoats. Over the last 150 years, fashionable dress has shed layers and complexity to the point where many Americans spend their lives on the other denim-clad end of the spectrum. Modern, on-the-go lifestyles and women’s increasing freedoms are often cited for today’s laid-back modes of dress. We just like what’s comfortable, right? But what’s often overlooked is how mass manufacturing and the imperatives of what is easiest and cheapest to mass-produce simplify and ultimately dumb down what we wear.

Clothing was once entirely handsewn and custom made, either in the home or by a dressmaker or tailor. All of that began to change in the early 1900s, as America and particularly New York’s Seventh Avenue established itself as a sophisticated ready-to-wear manufacturer, capable of producing large volumes of readymade clothes. The iconic flapper styles of the 1920s with their shorter hemlines and lack of underthings embodied women’s more liberated roles, but the flapper dresses’ straight, unfitted waists were also easy for primitive mass manufactures to handle. This was at a time when factories were struggling with standardizing sizes. Consumer historian Jan Whitaker says, “The fact that these dresses didn’t have to be fitted was not insignificant at a time when the industry was incapable of producing a fitted dress for the whole population.” Coco Chanel’s “little black dress” was also a ’20s creation. Because it has a fitted waist, the LDB was trickier to mass-manufacture, but as early as 1926, American Vogue likened the LBD to the Ford, alluding not only to its universal appeal but to its uniformity and utter simplicity that seemed made for the factory line.

retroresource

Ladies' Home Journal, 1926

In the ensuing decades, clothing became simpler still, with separates replacing one-piece dresses and suits and casual cotton clothing known as “sportswear” taking off in the post-World War II years. Whitaker says the increasing influence of youth culture, the acceptance of cotton (a cheaper fabric than wool), and the development of sportswear all contributed to the simplification of fashion during this time, as did the women’s movement and the emergence of ready-to-wear fashion designers.

But it wasn’t until the garment industry moved offshore in the 1980s and 1990s that true mass-manufactured clothing as we understand it today occurred, with single styles produced in the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions of pieces. It’s no coincidence that this is when Americans became truly wed to their jeans and T-shirts. Ilse Metchek, the president of the California Fashion Association, affirms that fit once again played a role in the explosion of casual dressing. “If you’re making large quantities,” she says, “you make a T-shirt or jeans because they fit the largest number of people.” Other factors were at play: with clothes being made on the other side of the world and planned a year in advance, only the safest and most profitable styles won out. Clothing companies also became more corporate and consolidated, and dumbing down fashion was a way to mitigate the risky business of fashion.

What seemed like a consumer-driven trend — the extreme minimalism of the 1990s — was in many ways created by huge, mass-market clothing corporations like Gap, The Limited, and J. Crew. Producing clothing that virtually anyone will wear from Florida to Oregon means producing styles at the lowest common denominator — more T-shirts, jeans, basics, and “classic” sportswear. As Teri Agins writes in her book The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Business Forever, “Such mainstream styles are far easier for designers to execute on a commercial scale, in that they are cheaper and safer to produce, with less margin for error in the far-flung factories…where much of today’s apparel is made.” Even high-end designers made a killing off minimalistic fashion in the 1990s, with Ralph Lauren popularizing a sleeveless, shapeless shift with an American flag on the front, for example.

Today, fast fashion chains like H&M and Forever 21 order styles in smaller numbers than a basics company like UNIQLO or Gap, and have the flexibility to be more fashionable as a result. H&M is currently selling a pretty cute Goth-inspired “short, fitted dress in glossy velour,” for example. It can be yours for a jaw-dropping $9.95, a price achieved both by its cheap materials (polyester and elastane) but also by its simple construction and lack of detail — it’s little more than a few yards of stretchy, forgiving fabric slapped together.

Few would prefer we go back to wearing a corset or a petticoat every time we step out the door — but we underestimate the power of what’s put in front of us and the limited looks available in our consolidated fashion landscape. “People tend to like what’s available and the choices given to them,” agrees Whitaker. Casual and simple clothing’s complete dominance is not a foregone conclusion. I think our adoration of red carpet couture gowns, Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, and even Lada Gaga’s costumes are evidence enough that consumers aren’t satisfied with the fashion zeitgeist. Corporate retailers will always sell what’s safe and factories will prefer unfussy styles that don’t require a lot of set-up and training, but that’s where the handmade, custom-made and slow clothing have their edge. Jeans and T-shirts have their place, but they should be balanced out by a national wardrobe that includes more craftsmanship, detail and personal expression.

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3 Featured Comments

  • KettleConfections

    KettleConfections said 5 years ago Featured

    Fascinating look into how the current state of fashion evolved- there are plenty of options besides t-shirts and jeans, but the well tailored piece of any article of clothing is a rare find. If we just learned to make some of our own clothing, we can maybe revive the cloth mills and make the fashion culture much less generic.

  • maimy

    maimy said 5 years ago Featured

    It's easy to bash modern clothing styles as boring or highly commercialised, but it should be remembered that at every point in history, fashions has ben subject to criticism - no one style is perfect. Fact is that jeans and t-shirts are practical and comfortable; it's not fair to assume that they are *purely* a product of big corporations somehow manipulating us to consume. Look up the history of the individual garments. Both were designed for practiality and durability, not for fashion. People have to have liked them enough for there to be a mass market for them! It's also worth remembering the social change that's occurred that has made it acceptable for us all (regardless of gender, age, etc.) to be wearing indigo-dyed denim trousers and fine knit pullover tops in the first place. Jersey and denim kind of define the age we're living in. It's a bit bizarre! I could go on. Who'd have thought there'd be so many complex issues raised by our good ol' jeans & t-shirt. XD Great article!

  • Sloanester

    Sloanester said 5 years ago Featured

    Very true and thought provoking. You are motivating me to break out my tights and skirts. It's the time it takes to get dressed that always draws me to t shirts and jeans and outdoor time. I agree that vintage shops have made their mark so much because of the quality that you find in clothes of yesterday and people's appreciation of that.

145 comments

  • VoleedeMoineaux

    VoleedeMoineaux said 5 years ago

    Ooooooooh yeaaaaaaaa!

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 5 years ago

    I love my jeans and tee shirts!!!

  • VogueVixens

    VogueVixens said 5 years ago

    I have a really hard time finding nice dresses in stores. They are so shapeless now, and I really hate stretch polyester. Comfort is over-rated, if it doesn't look good. So sewing is the only way I can make something that is flattering, fitting, and supporting.-------------------------------------------------------- While cotton is cheaper and easier to care for than wool, during the industrial revolution the mills of England were making imported cotton into cloth. They only exported it, and to protect their own wool industry they made it illegal for people in England to have or wear cotton cloth. Of course because it was so much cheaper, people did it anyway. They were probably sick of wearing wool undergarments.

  • freerangeart

    freerangeart said 5 years ago

    I live in jeans and t-shirts, because I am out doors a lot. But would love to see more tailored fashion. I do not appreciate voluminous unstructured clothing. I think clothes should flatter ones shape without having to be stick thin. Seems the cheaper the clothing the more stretch they put into it so it will accommodate more sizes. Hooray for etsy designers and all the beautiful hand made tailored to fit clothing!

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 5 years ago

    Great post, gets ya thinking..

  • mygoddess

    mygoddess said 5 years ago

    yes, great info. thanks!

  • ballandchain

    ballandchain said 5 years ago

    Great article!

  • RivalryTime

    RivalryTime said 5 years ago

    Nice fashion history.

  • SoliDeoGloriaSDG

    SoliDeoGloriaSDG said 5 years ago

    Great article. I LOVE dressing in a feminine style - jeans and t-shirts just aren't my style. I don't own jeans or t-shirts and wouldn't want to be caught dead in it.

  • empressjade

    empressjade said 5 years ago

    There is such a large market for vintage clothing beause of the great diversity of styles available but also the quality of fabric, finishing and details simply beats modern mall clothes. For example; when is the last time you saw beautiful seaming or an underarm gusset on a modern dress? Todays manufactuers rely too much on stretch fabric for fit in my opinion.

  • volkerwandering

    volkerwandering said 5 years ago

    Very insightful! I enjoyed this article

  • andiespecialtysweets

    andiespecialtysweets said 5 years ago

    This is great and so true. My husband and I have been trying to replace our wardrobe with quality pieces and are enjoying the freedom of having less. There is definitely a certain dignity that is either aroused or diminished by what we wear.

  • auldlangsyne1

    auldlangsyne1 said 5 years ago

    Very interesting article! KK

  • berryisland

    berryisland said 5 years ago

    I believe the first picture is called a Canadian tuxedo :D

  • KKSimpleRegalJewelry

    KKSimpleRegalJewelry said 5 years ago

    Thanks for posting! Good article, and very interesting! ~Krista

  • peaseblossomstudio

    peaseblossomstudio said 5 years ago

    I would put Tshirts (not beer tshirts) and jeans at the better end of what is manufactured these days. Everyone can look good in a Tshirt and jeans combined with a sweater or blazer. But rarely do people look good in trends and patterns and weird cuts and colors of clothing. I long for a shift to simpler styles in less garish colors and patterns.

  • MagnetoidMagnets

    MagnetoidMagnets said 5 years ago

    Awesome insight to what may predicting the course of your self expression! Thanks for the food for thought!

  • AvianInspirations

    AvianInspirations said 5 years ago

    The best option seems to be either to learn to sew and knit, or to shop at places like Etsy. Yes, please.

  • lilinspirations

    lilinspirations said 5 years ago

    Gotta love jeans!

  • birdie1

    birdie1 said 5 years ago

    Really interesting - thank you.

  • BellaBeadsOriginals

    BellaBeadsOriginals said 5 years ago

    Interesting article! I love my jeans and tees, but it's all about the accessories!

  • HomeStudio

    HomeStudio said 5 years ago

    Great article. Love it! Thank you.

  • Rt9NJvintageFun

    Rt9NJvintageFun said 5 years ago

    Great Article, thanks to all the vintage Shops on Etsy, keep on adding to your inventory. I am a forever customer, my mall days are over, Amen!

  • KettleConfections

    KettleConfections said 5 years ago Featured

    Fascinating look into how the current state of fashion evolved- there are plenty of options besides t-shirts and jeans, but the well tailored piece of any article of clothing is a rare find. If we just learned to make some of our own clothing, we can maybe revive the cloth mills and make the fashion culture much less generic.

  • NannyMadeandfound

    NannyMadeandfound said 5 years ago

    Wow, really made me think.... I do love the comfort of today's fashion, though I see the way we've given up unique and artistic individuality in the process. I will see what I can do to "up" my image a bit! I find most of my clothes at resale and goodwill shops, so maybe I will just search a little harder from now on :-)

  • ArtFromEden

    ArtFromEden said 5 years ago

    I definitely agree. Style is more in the printed images on tees now rather than patterns, shape and fit. It would be great to find some more unique, individualized pieces.

  • TheMillineryShop

    TheMillineryShop said 5 years ago

    It's true that clothing is nothing like it once was, both in style, comfort, manufacture and availability. But even as we all sit in our comfortable, easy to obtain jeans and T's, we can't seem to get enough of peaks at the clothes from days gone by. Something about all the frou-frou and hand stitching is mesmerizing to see and ponder.

  • atomiclivinhome

    atomiclivinhome said 5 years ago

    I'm making my own tops, to go with my fav jeans, that meet my creative needs and unique style. I can't find anything that I really love in the stores. It's mostly boring and same ole, same ole. 'nuff said! ; )

  • hmmills

    hmmills said 5 years ago

    I love reading about the history of a trend or style

  • baileybuttons23

    baileybuttons23 said 5 years ago

    I wear sweatpants and pajama pants all day long!!! That's true counter culture.

  • OnlyOriginalsByAJ

    OnlyOriginalsByAJ said 5 years ago

    I completely agree! I try to jazz up my own style by adding fun accessories :)

  • CACoastVintage

    CACoastVintage said 5 years ago

    Great article. I love my jeans too! I just thought it was a CA thing to do. I could be gardening by the day and change my top for formal at night!

  • letl260

    letl260 said 5 years ago

    Excellent article! Unfortunately most Americans are obsessed with cheap junk These mass produced items have no place on etsy, BEWARE some shops are trying to pass this junk off as vintage, handmade, and "redesigned" clothing. Etsy's true artisians and vintage clothing dealers are competing with junk.

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 5 years ago

    "nothing comes between me and my Calvins"

  • breadandroses2

    breadandroses2 said 5 years ago

    Thanks so much, Elizabeth, for a well-written recap of mass-produced clothing and leti260 for saying what so many Etsy sellers & customers think about the huge amounts of faux/fraudulent handmade and other goods flooding this venue. The 9.99 scarf from India, Thailand, China, etc. simply cannot be authentic Handmade or if it is, it's a factory sweatshop with employees working for 25¢/hr (China) or less (think Vietnam, others). Scratch a lie, find a thief.

  • whimsywireandwool

    whimsywireandwool said 5 years ago

    Ts and Jeans are always sexy!! Ts for women have come a long way and are so much more figure flattering, thus even sexier! Great article!

  • megansbeadeddesigns

    megansbeadeddesigns said 5 years ago

    Agree completely! Honestly, I don't own a t-shirt, and i rarely wear jeans. I'm a shy person so I let my clothing do the talking. I also love any excuse to wear a formal gown (touring broadway shows, etc) so I have a full closet of ones I've picked up from thrift stores over the years!

  • jeweledlion

    jeweledlion said 5 years ago

    My little 4 year old neice recently wore a "party" dress her auntie from Rome had given her to a family gathering. I was stunned by the beauty and detail of this silk dress. How I wish it had been in my size! The pleated and stiched detail was impressive, the shape interesting, and the discreet aurora borealis sequins sparingly added under the sheer overskirt magical. This was a childs party dress - from Italy. It made me feel sad for our clothing options (from stores) and our own lack of imagination in dressing - and yes I do wear t-shirts and jeans. I remember wearing much more beautiful and interesting clothing when I was younger (I'm 64) and I don't remember being uncomfortable or resticted. Makes me want to learn how to sew. Thanks for this thoughtful article.

  • juicylucydanger

    juicylucydanger said 5 years ago

    Given a choice between the mass produced tawdry horrors that pass for garments today and a vintage frock (with petticoat), I'll gladly take the latter.

  • heli76

    heli76 said 5 years ago

    Yeah. It makes me laugh that the its the people who are brave and passionate enough to express themselves are the ones that most call 'fashion victims'.

  • LeatherheadOriginals

    LeatherheadOriginals said 5 years ago

    I never liked the idea of paying $$$ to wear a corporate logo plastered on a T- shirt! Same goes for hats. I don't own ONE baseball hat, never will! Its custom, handmade hats I offer to the world! I do wear jeans or cargo pants a lot, paired with a leather vest and hat that I designed:)

  • SteampunkPrussia

    SteampunkPrussia said 5 years ago

    I wear trousers, dress shirt, and bow tie every single day, and I'm a 15 year old boy!

  • elleestpetite

    elleestpetite said 5 years ago

    I couldn't agree more. I love jeans and shirts as much as any girl, but one of my favorite items of clothing to wear would have to be my vintage floral dress. So well made and fits like a glove, it really makes me feel special just wearing it. And I think that's what many mass produced items are missing: the attention to detail and that "one of a kind" feel.

  • statesmanties

    statesmanties said 5 years ago

    I think there are many people out there these days that just don't care about how clothes fit on them. Knowing this and trying myself to get clothes that fit is difficult at times. I'll spend money on a tailor adjusting clothes off the rack for me when I get a really good item, but most of the time, I have to get clothes that are a little too big. (Or not long enough. I'm 6'4".) I get that mass produced items are made to fit the masses, but how hard would it be to make some more in-between sizes? I don't know...Either way, I'm such a big fan of custom fit clothes and wish I could afford more, more often! Nice post!

  • PoetryofObjects

    PoetryofObjects said 5 years ago

    I have made and worn clothing I've sewn myself every single day for 30 years. I do it for comfort, creativity, quality. Alot of women ask me where I get my frock/dresses because they look so comfortable. I understand the whole mass marketing/consumerism/cheap labor/corporate greed mentality. I know folks are longing for more creative clothing choices/options than are made available to them. I see signs around me of people waking up to wanting...needing...more choices in every area of their life. Great article...thanks so much!

  • PattiTrostle

    PattiTrostle said 5 years ago

    Jeans and t-shirts are just about all I wear!

  • minouette

    minouette said 5 years ago

    Very interesting context for what seems to be natural and consumer-driven.

  • packmatthews

    packmatthews said 5 years ago

    Excellent article. My wife has been educating me about these issues for years. She came back from Thailand a couple of years ago with two tailored suits that looked grand on her but she could never get here. I certainly prefer the full figure tailored look.

  • funkomavintage

    funkomavintage said 5 years ago

    I have refused to buy slave produced ...anything...and 99.999% of my purchases are made from folks/companies that have, at least, a chance to organize and demand and get fair wages. I am so disgusted by so many young people who flaunt their "look at me in F21" blogs!!....yeah, it's why I deal in vintage. Thanks for a very thought-provoking article..... as I sit here in US made jeans and a US made tshirt....and what letl260 said.

  • Iammie

    Iammie said 5 years ago

    Interesting story!

  • artsyEVE

    artsyEVE said 5 years ago

    Interesting and thought provoking! I think the qualities of hand-made clothing will always be appreciated, but no doubt, the mass marketing of factory-made items will always win the most consumers.

  • papernickle

    papernickle said 5 years ago

    Not everyone looks good in jeans...lol. I have not worn a pair of jeans since the day my daughter was born three years ago(actually more like 4 months before then), and in fact, do not own a single pair of jeans at all anymore. They were all taken to the thrift shop. My wardrobe consists of vintage dresses, handmade dresses from etsy sellers and thrifted hoodies/skirts(because some vintage dresses just aren't stretchy enough for vigorous play with a toddler, haha!). I do not find jeans comfortable at all, just as I do not find the pressure to wear jeans(as I have been told many times that I am "weird" for wearing only dresses here in the MidWest) comfortable either.

  • PaperMaison

    PaperMaison said 5 years ago

    Love this article! I've been curious about how things have changed so much these past decades!

  • seabornpress

    seabornpress said 5 years ago

    Interesting article! I guess corporations can easily take advantage of everyone thinking that these minimal, lazy styles are the natural course of things and sell us on comfort. Never thought about it this way myself! I almost never wear tshirts and jeans but I'm never uncomfortable! If it wasn't comfy, I wouldn't wear it...it's such a silly idea that wearing anything different is somehow stodgy and uncomfortable. Jeans are just about the most uncomfortable clothing item out there! I would love it if we gradually return to fewer mass-produced items and different fashions that don't base themselves on that mass production return. That would be exciting!

  • junkgarden

    junkgarden said 5 years ago

    Interesting article!

  • RetroRevivalBoutique

    RetroRevivalBoutique said 5 years ago

    I'm an old fashioned girl with a deep love for vintage (esp. handmade) because of the quality and uniqueness that used to be put into clothing. I would love to see less "walmartification" and more individuality.

  • DCFraulein

    DCFraulein said 5 years ago

    Etsy and online stores like modcloth most definitely corner the "handmade, custom-made and slow clothing" market. A fan of vintage style dresses, I love being able to wear the quality of clothing the article mentions (without the hassle of finding the right dress in the wrong size) for very little additional cost.

  • piecesofelises

    piecesofelises said 5 years ago

    Very interesting! It's funny to think about how fashion really has become "dumbed" down over the years, and yet the manufacturers have made so much money from it!

  • HaveAndHold

    HaveAndHold said 5 years ago

    Wonderful article.

  • thevicagirl

    thevicagirl said 5 years ago

    Just for the record, I would perfer to wear something nice with details instead of jeans and a tshirt.

  • MishaGirl

    MishaGirl said 5 years ago

    Illuminating! While I have no desire to wear a tight fitting corset, I do wish the attempt to define a woman's waistline were more in fashion these days! Alas, I think clothing manufacturer's are harking back to the 1920's for their inspiration.....the unfitted waistline has made a comeback. The irony....I've opted for curve defining jeans and a fitted t-shirts as my daily look! So either way, I guess the dumbing down of fashion has affected the best of us :-0

  • 2HIP2CLIC

    2HIP2CLIC said 5 years ago

    This great article feeds me. Here's what my husband and I are doing. We find a lot of satisfaction in a responsible lifestyle- self sustaining, know where your water is, where your food comes from, your energy, etc. Consequently, we began noticing the poor craftsmanship on 'affordable' clothing, the poor fit, and how everything is made out of plastic based materials, and if it is cotton, if it isn't "organic," there's actually a 90% chance it's been doused in pesticides. While there are very talented and aware taylor's out there, most of what is so readily available is uniform and looks like it belongs with stepford wives. So, we started collecting yards of fabric we like, organic cotton, wool, raw silk, anything that is natural and feels good. The idea is to start tailoring some of our own clothes, altering clothes, reproducing patterns of clothes we like. We want it to be functional, long lasting, and to let the skin feel good in it's own confident style. It's true that good fabric can be costly, and the time spent on your creation can be timely, but kind of like traditionally grown food, the advantages far out weigh everything else.

  • ThePolkadotMagpie

    ThePolkadotMagpie said 5 years ago

    Thanks for the wardrobe history. I miss sharp dressed men.

  • miss32act

    miss32act said 5 years ago

    Interesting article! I spend most days in jeans (not so much the tees) but love love love to really dress up - and do so whenever I have the chance. My motto is "overdressed for every occasion". I have long bemoaned the poor quality of mass produced clothing for women and children; I don't think the quality of men's clothing has declined quite as much - just look at the difference in fabrics in men's and women's "dress" clothes. Looking forward to the publication of your book!

  • vintagethisretrothat

    vintagethisretrothat said 5 years ago

    excellent and interesting, really gave me something to think about

  • genisepark

    genisepark said 5 years ago

    I love my jeans and t shirts and when they are worn...I love to weave them up into durable rugs....

  • Velvet3

    Velvet3 said 5 years ago

    Excellent article! Indeed clothing seems to have become the fashion equivalent of junk food in recent decades. But if the recent passion for vintage and one-of-a-kind handmade pieces indicates anything, it's that the desire for original design and quality craftsmanship is not lost entirely. Let's hope that passion continues to grow! I look forward to your upcoming book.

  • ChinaCarnellaFineArt

    ChinaCarnellaFineArt said 5 years ago

    Unfortunately, I really don't like the jeans and t-shirt look on either men or women.

  • michaelhutton1

    michaelhutton1 said 5 years ago

    Loved this interesting post. Reminded me of my Grandmother who was a seamstress in the early 1900's. In our small town she custom made clothing for many people in the town, for many years. As I recall it was a very rewarding experience for her. The people loved the talent she had and therefore people kept coming back for more custom made clothing.

  • mattyhandmadecrafts

    mattyhandmadecrafts said 5 years ago

    Interesting!

  • vintagemaison

    vintagemaison said 5 years ago

    In France, until quite recently, many clothes were hand made at home or run up by the local seamstress - French women like to look chic and a little different. Nowadays of course, globalisation has meant that clothes are similar and there isn't that diversity of fashion - unless one is rich!

  • cadreams

    cadreams said 5 years ago

    Great article! @ vintagemaison-yes, even with the soldes the prices are still sky high!

  • CestSuperbe

    CestSuperbe said 5 years ago

    I can always appreciate a good article on clothing. :) I have a love for clothes and not for the mainstream. “People tend to like what’s available and the choices given to them,” Well, I am certainly not one of those people. And I hear a lot of people complaining about the lack of choice: all stores carry the same clothing styles and not only that. The Exact Same article, from the same factory, can be found in multiple stores, high and low end stores, just with a different brand attached to it. Somewhere the connection between price-quality-brand has disappeared. The move of the garment industry to countries with low wages has not only resulted in poorly made clothes, it has also caused a shift in the materials used. Materials that, just a couple of years back, were only used for the cheapest of cardigans, coats and shoes are now used predominantly in the clothing industry. The decrease in the cost of making clothes by lower wages, has oddly lead to a trend to further decrease cost by using inferior materials, thus leading to an even higher profit margin on each garment. As you can tell, I'm not liking this trend. :) And it's time companies realise there are a lot of consumers that like quality and diversity.

  • cottonbirddesigns

    cottonbirddesigns said 5 years ago

    Interesting article!

  • juror2

    juror2 said 5 years ago

    Hmmm interesting... personally, I think tee shirts can express your personality in ways that other clothes, or accessories, just can't.

  • SusiesBoutiqueTLC

    SusiesBoutiqueTLC said 5 years ago

    Great article. Thank you.

  • BePeaced

    BePeaced said 5 years ago

    Elizabeth, this is the first article that I have read by you and I LOVE IT! I am very interested in your upcoming book. Now I have something to look forward to in June 2012!

  • Angelender

    Angelender said 5 years ago

    I wish the Sari would come into ready wear in America!

  • elenamc

    elenamc said 5 years ago

    Great article - 2 comments: 1- my husband was costumed for the "Low Life" (set in 1915 and stars Jeremy Renner) film yesterday and they put him in the coolest early 1900s jeans - they looked fab! 2- that looks to be my old Riding Instructor Matt Collins in that jeans photo! - he was stunning!

  • baconsquarefarm

    baconsquarefarm said 5 years ago

    Enjoyed reading your article and look forward to the book~Took me awhile to warm up to wearing jeans and t-sirts but you can dress them up or down with accessories. Thank you for the article.

  • brewershirts

    brewershirts said 5 years ago

    It's interesting how an entire generation that grew up in jeans and t-shirts now sees "dressing up" as an inconvenience. I look back to the Turn of the Century (1900, not 2000) and wonder how on earth people lived wearing wool suits, starched collars, and thick all-over undergarments and lived in houses without air conditioning, central heat, wall-to-wall carpet, modern lighting, refrigerators and electricity in every room. Boggles the mind.

  • lucyspearl

    lucyspearl said 5 years ago

    Great article. Very inspirational. I was just contemplating this morning why I shop at H&M when I have the skill to make my own clothes and also recycle what I already have. You are right, I often accept what is placed in front of me yet complain that the industry has no originality. I guess I have to be the change I want to see. Thats why I love etsy.

  • Woolbridge

    Woolbridge said 5 years ago

    so true! as a seamstress, going to the mall annoys me. The latest "shirt" trends are unreal, just a rectangle with the seams left open for head and arms. I look forward to reading you book when it's published!

  • littlebrownpen

    littlebrownpen said 5 years ago

    Very thought provoking. Looking forward to the book.

  • maimy

    maimy said 5 years ago Featured

    It's easy to bash modern clothing styles as boring or highly commercialised, but it should be remembered that at every point in history, fashions has ben subject to criticism - no one style is perfect. Fact is that jeans and t-shirts are practical and comfortable; it's not fair to assume that they are *purely* a product of big corporations somehow manipulating us to consume. Look up the history of the individual garments. Both were designed for practiality and durability, not for fashion. People have to have liked them enough for there to be a mass market for them! It's also worth remembering the social change that's occurred that has made it acceptable for us all (regardless of gender, age, etc.) to be wearing indigo-dyed denim trousers and fine knit pullover tops in the first place. Jersey and denim kind of define the age we're living in. It's a bit bizarre! I could go on. Who'd have thought there'd be so many complex issues raised by our good ol' jeans & t-shirt. XD Great article!

  • perebags

    perebags said 5 years ago

    Excellent article.

  • jojosvintagecupboard

    jojosvintagecupboard said 5 years ago

    Hey, you get what you pay for. Interesting article.

  • grandmae1

    grandmae1 said 5 years ago

    Wonderful! Idea for the book...look back at "peasant" clothes of yesteryear, and you will find cheaper fabrics and much simpler styles! Has the fashion industry turned us all into the lower classes? In the mid seventies my family and I were waiting in line to see the space museum in Florida when a woman in line asked what country we were from...Her reason? My daughter and I were wearing skirts and blouses instead of t-shirt and shorts!!! Now I just read a comment that said other countries are All wearing jeans and t-shirts. How sad! Ellen

  • auntierobin

    auntierobin said 5 years ago

    Excellent article! Very informative and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I love wearing jeans and t-shirts, but I also love unique and quirky looks. I love sewing and making something my own. It's fun to see someone wearing something that is uniquely them.

  • grandmae1

    grandmae1 said 5 years ago

    P.S NO I am not wealthy, far from it! I just try to look my best with fewer clothes.

  • Sloanester

    Sloanester said 5 years ago Featured

    Very true and thought provoking. You are motivating me to break out my tights and skirts. It's the time it takes to get dressed that always draws me to t shirts and jeans and outdoor time. I agree that vintage shops have made their mark so much because of the quality that you find in clothes of yesterday and people's appreciation of that.

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat said 5 years ago

    Whatever the product, large retailers only sell us what they decide to stock. Food, clothes, books, music... large retailers reduce choices in all these categories. The only way to be able to choose from a large variety of items is to browse multiple small retailers. In other words, do all your shopping with independent, small retailers... such as the ones here on Etsy! :-)

  • erasistible

    erasistible said 5 years ago

    I am short and 30 lbs. overweight but plus sizes are too big to fit me. Manufacturers used to make things with the slim and the overweight in mind. They would make say a top in the same fabric in two different styles that would flatter either. Now, everything looks like a bag. I wear petite sizes (5' 3" and under) because I am short. Things are so massed- produced that even my khaki work pants are now about 3 or 4 inches too long, because someone decided high heels were what we wanted to wear. Even if I wore high heels, I would not wear them with khaki work pants!

  • RossLab

    RossLab said 5 years ago

    I find it so true! Thanks for sharing.

  • PinesVintageClothing

    PinesVintageClothing said 5 years ago

    Well said! Great article! The classics are a style necessity and so is personality!

  • littlegoatsoaps

    littlegoatsoaps said 5 years ago

    I'd love to have a nice wardrobe! Not in the budget. :( And right now I'm a SAHM raising a 2 yr old little boy... finger paints don't mesh with Prada. ;-)

  • ErinElsie

    ErinElsie said 5 years ago

    Well done. This was the best article I've read in a long time. I worked for a large manufacturer here in NY and walked away from it a few months ago.

  • someprintfolks

    someprintfolks said 5 years ago

    Such an interesting topic of conversation. The reason I decided to go into the textiles industry is the because of the lack luster world of fashion in stores these days. I go shopping having an idea in my mind of what I want and then don't find it on the racks. It's a shame that we've lost the sense of presentation and uniqueness in our dress.

  • julsandmaude

    julsandmaude said 5 years ago

    Long live Etsy.com and the diversity there in!

  • isewcute

    isewcute said 5 years ago

    Interesting!

  • jillatay

    jillatay said 5 years ago

    Thanks for writing this, my thoughts exactly, especially since seeing the beauty of the clothing in the new Sherlock Holmes movie. We have become ugly, plain and simple. Peer pressure keeps people from moving back to a more beautiful wardrobe except in the big cities. It's not just clothes either it is everything. Sigh, I was born in an ugly time. Have to add, thank goodness for Etsy where new, weird and delightful still has a place not dictated by factories.

  • lalucyann

    lalucyann said 5 years ago

    Interesting article for sure. My daughter is a fan of Etsty also, and about a year ago she was fed up with the "shirt coming up and the pants going down" look, and found a seamtress here on etsy that sews to your measurements. She now goes to work everyday in shirtwaist dresses and is loving it. She says a day doesnt pass that someone doesnt comment on how pretty she looks and wants the info on her dresses. So its dresses for work, and jeans for play and she says she not ever going back.

  • mrstn123

    mrstn123 said 5 years ago

    I began sewing again because I could never find a dress that looked appropriate and flattered me anymore. I found that vintage patterns did both. Thanks to Etsy for providing us with lots of ways to make ourselves pretty again.

  • ForeverFall

    ForeverFall said 5 years ago

    LOVE this article! Love the history :)

  • EmSewCrazy

    EmSewCrazy said 5 years ago

    Thanks for the article!! Neat peek into history! It's encouraging to know that there is a place for those of us who sew! Now let's make something beautiful!

  • PaintedHorse

    PaintedHorse said 5 years ago

    What a great read, great point of view and thoughtful insight. Thank you for sharing this very interesting article. Yes, I love my denim and tees but I also love to dress up like a city gal, which really stands out in oh-so-casual Boulder, CO.

  • BellaDeLucca

    BellaDeLucca said 5 years ago

    Wonderful article! A must-read!

  • Decaldecor

    Decaldecor said 5 years ago

    This was an awesome read. I can always appreciate a good article and I love my JEANS!

  • Bunderful

    Bunderful said 5 years ago

    interesting

  • phunkyphashions

    phunkyphashions said 5 years ago

    Neat post! Thanks!

  • EmilyWiserJewelry

    EmilyWiserJewelry said 5 years ago

    i love my jeans and t-shirt. that's my choice.

  • TheAlligatorFactory

    TheAlligatorFactory said 5 years ago

    great article, makes us realize the true value of handmade items. love the pictures.

  • cookiehats

    cookiehats said 5 years ago

    interesting article.

  • fieldstudy

    fieldstudy said 5 years ago

    thanks for the article - it's very informative and i really appreciate the perspective! i'm looking forward to your book now. :)

  • LoveButtons

    LoveButtons said 5 years ago

    I must admit that I have gone for simplicity and comfort as I've got older, but I used to love wearing a mixture of handmade, vintage and high street clothing. Thanks for the article - food for thought! Maybe it's time to look for something different that reflects my personality more :)

  • justthegoods

    justthegoods said 5 years ago

    "It can be yours for a jaw-dropping $9.95, a price achieved both by its cheap materials (polyester and elastane) but also by its simple construction and lack of detail — it’s little more than a few yards of stretchy, forgiving fabric slapped together." Don't forget the barely better than slave wages at sweatshops in international free trade zones =-(

  • KaiceJoy

    KaiceJoy said 5 years ago

    Interesting read...gets my thoughts going...hhhhmmmmm

  • MeganRD

    MeganRD said 5 years ago

    Very interesting...it's hard to find new clothes that don't fall apart or wear out quickly

  • CrazyBlueSpot

    CrazyBlueSpot said 5 years ago

    I guess we "Etsians" have a responsibility to bring the quality back.

  • connietownsart

    connietownsart said 5 years ago

    Style never goes out of fashion.

  • Zalavintage

    Zalavintage said 5 years ago

    even though I love my jeans, crisp white cotton shirt and 4" heels for day to day, I love real clothing at night, let's bring fashion back! ... and the manufacturing jobs that go along with a Made in America label

  • QuirkMuseum

    QuirkMuseum said 5 years ago

    I like the idea of fashion and I love seeing women dressed in the latest styles, but under my fancy hat and overcoat it's jeans and a t-shirt.

  • SomsStudio

    SomsStudio said 5 years ago

    Its Jeans and T-shirt for me! :)

  • PurestPets

    PurestPets said 5 years ago

    Point made. Insightful article. Thank you so much!

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies said 5 years ago

    I love the history of it all! Thanks.

  • Pickseeville

    Pickseeville said 5 years ago

    At the tender age of 40 I am learning to embrace straightlegs jeans and tall boots...Jeans make you feel like you still rock!

  • thewomensrepublic

    thewomensrepublic said 5 years ago

    Great article and perspective. I think it is a little culture as well. It is that old saying which came first the chicken or the egg? In this case the pants or the jeans/ cheap production mindset of companies. Women's roles in our culture started to change and their clothing/aesthetic reflects this as we saw women start wearing pants and dress lines change. I blogged a little about pants and women. I do think however; how the article's thoughts on the way clothing today is mass produced cheaply and poorly constructed and company tactics fueling the mass aesthetic was on target (no pun intended:)).

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage said 5 years ago

    Wonderful blog!

  • NicoleNicoletta2

    NicoleNicoletta2 said 5 years ago

    great article

  • ezliving

    ezliving said 5 years ago

    Great ! Interesting!! Congratulation.

  • ezliving

    ezliving said 5 years ago

    Jean never go out of fahion!! Congratulation.

  • sarahfburns

    sarahfburns said 5 years ago

    I am sooo tired of t-shirt jersey fabric!!! It's everywhere! I"ve been getting inspired to make clothes and splurge by paying an amazing dress maker I know to custom make me some COMFORTABLE and well fitting custom clothes. Jeans and t-shirts are cool, but a little too oft seen these days. Get dressed America!!!

  • anamt

    anamt said 5 years ago

    Of course Etsy is about slow fashion. I like to wear things that someone made that they were so proud of . The jeans are harder to make than the T's. I want all fashion to be ECO Fashion. My Campaign "Changing How The World Shops . The 4 W's. Where was it made, out of What, by Whom & What were they paid ? Watch my video The Green ECO Show http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emY3UpMARkk

  • jkrusinski

    jkrusinski said 5 years ago

    It is crazy how much fashion has evolved! I actually find it fascinating!!! I love dealing with vintage especially because I feel that all of my items have a story to tell and are definitely special because the are the REAL THING and not just some mock item trying to look vintage. Fashion is just beautiful!!!

  • 1AEON

    1AEON from 1AEON said 5 years ago

    The Spanish-American war is when it's started I believe, to keep undershirts on, and it became popular as t-shirts.

  • ysaiy

    ysaiy said 5 years ago

    seriously dope piece here. thanks for this epic reiteration of the truth!

  • PurpleToedGypsy

    PurpleToedGypsy from PurpleToedGypsy said 5 years ago

    yeah. each new generation is so proud of being "different." And you know, no matter how many ways each generation find to be different, there is still another way. T shirt cutting and repurposing clothing is a great way to encourage the individual to get personal with their own apparel!

  • LeatherWorksWithYou

    LeatherWorksWithYou from LeatherWorksWithYou said 5 years ago

    Interesting article. hcg

  • floridascarf

    Sarah Geraci from floridascarf said 5 years ago

    Pardon me if I'm repeating what anyone else has written (as I did not read all 138 comments) I will have to add that as we "modernize" everyone has gotten much busier. And when a woman has a busy schedule, the last thing she wants to do is spend too much time getting ready. Dressing more casually takes less effort and less time. Personally, I think dressing up is wonderful, but don't often do it. There is a certain chivalry to looking great in public. It's a courtesy extended to those that have to be around you. My solution to the issue is to pair killer accessories like shoes, scarves, necklaces, and hats to my simple pants and shirts. I believe it can have the effect we think fashion may be missing.

  • LilyPocs

    Lily Pocs from LilyPocs said 5 years ago

    so true! I wish dresses and skirts were considered more as casual items. I feel they're more comfortable anyways!

  • LaFlamenca

    LaFlamenca said 5 years ago

    I LOVE, live in and BREATHE vintage! I only own 1 pair of funky, flared jeans which I wear maybe once a year, if that. I'm a vintage devotee and have a vast collection I've amassed over the years. So much so, that I had to start selling it and had to open an on-line vintage store (Passion Fashion Vintage). You can find me on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Passion-Fashion-Vintage/119655528130209 I also have a FASHION PHOTO album in my private Facebook profile, which I'm hoping to turn into a book in a near future to inspire Americans to wear vintage which is UNIQUE, SOULFUL, GREEN (by wearing vintage I help recycle the fashions of the past), much better made, lasts a lot longer (some of my garments are 50 years old or even older and in a great shape). I'D RATHER BE DEAD THAN CAUGHT IN A PAIR OF JEANS AND T-SHIRT!!! Uniformity is NOT for me!!! Why would you wanna look like everyone else, when you can be unique??? Sadly, the current trend is a death of fashion & by buying these, cookie-cutter, uniform garments, you only put your money into Chinese manufacturer's pockets! No, thank you!

  • backyarddenim

    backyarddenim from BackyardDenim said 4 years ago

    Interesting article thanks! Particularly like the comment about "..low prices and rapid turnover of styles have ignited out-of-control clothing consumption." Let's turn this around now by buying the best quality we can that will last a life-time (or at least decades).

  • levisjeanscheap

    New Used Blues from NewUsedBlues said 3 years ago

    Levis jeans are the classic American jeans. They are part of our American culture. A household name to put it simply. Everyone knows the story. Many people still are not aware that Levis are the original jeans. We enjoy promoting this product, they are a great company, I can tell you from experience. We sell mostly pre-owned, vintage and distressed. We started on eBay many years ago and have developed on own website(s) as a celebration of entrepreneurship! Thank you Levis for your contribution to our culture!

  • ernestolopez2

    ernesto lopez said 2 years ago

    Levis really rule as far as I am concerned, in fact there are many other brands and a lot of cuts and funny looking jeans but the classic style is always trendy for those who like good taste. Have a look at this prices in the Spanish Speaking Shopping Mall Chollazo.com http://www.chollazo.com/content/la-tienda-de-levis-strauss-en-chollazocom-ofertas-y-descuentos-en-vaqueros-premium-para

  • teestrend

    teestrend from Trend2Tees said 2 years ago

    T-shirts are best wear for every day (jeans too) , Americans like the freedom, thats why they like to wear this stuff :) Be free wear cool tees

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