Overdressed

I love books that challenge me to not only think about my choices, but to actually change my lifestyle because of what I’ve learned. After reading Michael Pollan, we planted a garden, have thought more about our shopping choices, and have ventured more and more into the world of homemade foods over convenience foods. Really, in the grand scheme, we are activists-lite. We garden but I don’t preserve; I make some foods from scratch and others I buy – chemicals and all – because I can keep them in the car as snacks without worrying about spoiling. We buy mostly local and organic, but sometimes it’s just out of our price-range to do so.

I debated reading Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline. Do I really need another cause to change the way we view our purchases? As I thought about it, I decided that if I’m committed to making this world a better place, I need to continue to add lifestyle changes. Not all at once, but as we become more confident in certain areas of change, I do think it’s important to evaluate other areas.

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Overdressed was not necessarily an a-ha book, but it does reinforce what we all know on some level: Cheap clothes come at a cost. Cline not only explores factory conditions, but the environmental impact of cheap clothes and the economic impact among small designers in the United States of competing with disposable clothing.

I’ve definitely fallen into the fast fashion trap. Before having Bea, I would spend my money on nicer, classic styles and buy a few cheap items for fashion. When Bea was born and clothing was measured in three-month increments, I definitely looked for deals and justified the throw-away mentality as she outgrew items with in two wearings. Now that her growth has (somewhat) slowed down, we’ve bought better made, higher quality items. And, they last so much longer! Not only do they withstand washings, but they seem to grow with her in ways the cheaper clothes didn’t.

While I’m not ready to stop shopping at Target, this book did highlight a few areas I can easily change my buying and discarding habits:

1) Same Budget, Fewer Clothes
This one isn’t going to affect me as it may others who truly love to shop. I’ve never been much of a browser – I’ve always had an item in mind and wouldn’t settle for something different. Now that I shop with a high-energy toddler, well…. I don’t really shop…. I do want to be more aware of the clothes I actually need and save my clothing budget for higher quality items. (Including items for Bea.)

2) Tailoring & Shoe Repair
We have a tailor down the street and the prices are amazing. They charge $5 for simple patches and under $10 to hem. I used them more with my work clothes, and they allowed me to continue to use otherwise perfect items for much longer. I also frequent our shoe repair shop, in the same area. I take my boots to be polished several times a year. Once, they noticed the soles wearing thin and resoled them for under $50. All well worth the money, especially on classic items that I don’t want to replace quickly.

3) Sewing Classes
When I took Home Ec in middle school, I won the “Super Sewer” award two times. While others were making locker caddies and pillows, I tackled a fleece jacket. I was so proud of my accomplishment to make something wearable. Cline recommends learning to sew, if only to know how to alter your own mass-produced clothing into something more individual. I liked the idea of knowing how to take in and repurpose some of my nicer items that I just don’t wear any more. I signed up for a refresher Sewing 101 class at the Fancy Tiger, a local sewing school, hoping to reignite some of my super sewing skills.

4) Awareness
As I said, I don’t see myself never shopping at Target again (nor does Cline suggest that) but I do want to be more aware of why I’m choosing to buy cheap, fast fashion. If I feel that an item fits a need and I’m ok with the impact of that choice, then I’ll continue to buy the occasional item at those stores. Cline suggests that even if we shop at big box stores half the time, the impact could be enough to cause the fashion industry to shift practices.

These are only four ways I could see myself embracing immediately. I didn’t even touch on thrift shopping or making all my own clothing. I love books that inspire me to make changes to my lifestyle and I’m excited to see how this plays out in our family. Which practices will be sustainable and which will simply not work for this time in our lives? In any case, I’m much more aware about my fashion choices and I think that’s a good place to begin.

Are you a fashionista? What are your thoughts on buying cheap clothes instead of fewer, more expensive clothing?

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8 thoughts on “Overdressed

  1. I’m not a fashionista and I think that higher priced clothing is a rip off. To have many serviceable items of clothing makes more sense than having one to show off and try not to get dirty. My budget constraints do not conform to this kind of elitist thinking. Maybe when I can afford better, I’ll purchase higher end items, but I doubt it. I have better things to spend my money on. BTW–best place to find high end items on the cheap? Thrift stores.

    1. She talks about how thrifting can be a great way to find higher quality at lower prices. I’m terrible at it, but maybe I just need to find a smaller store? For me, I’d rather spend a bit more on something that won’t go out of style and will last years, rather than weeks. It’s an interesting balance….

  2. I’m usually a big thrift shopper – but find that I justify buying more clothes that I “need” when I do that. After all, for 30 bucks you can usually get 4-5 items. She’s right, it is a good way to find better quality clothing cheaper – but the time spent hunting may or may not be worth it with small children. I found it wasn’t right after my son was born and I had limited time. Easier to hit the mall. For the same reason (time) I probably won’t be making my own clothes any time soon.

    One switch I wish I could make would be to shopping at more boutiques vs. big box stores. Does she talk about that at all?

    1. She does talk about keeping the same amount for your clothing budget but buying fewer, higher quality items with it. I think that’s a way I could save for smaller stores: Waiting to buy staples there. It’s definitely thought-provoking and she encourages baby steps to help raise awareness.

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