Having just read the book Overdressed, about the impact of “fast fashion,” I took another look at my wardrobe. I made note of what my clothes were made of and where they were produced.
Despite having spent a lot of money to “right size” my wardrobe these past two years, I have decreased my inventory by only 5 items since my last report in April. However, since my clothes project began in January 2012, I have let go 91 items! I also replaced a number of worn out and faded items with new ones, necessary for work. So far I’ve been buying new when I need things because my tastes and sizes are so particular. Maybe that should change. I have only 10 items from thrift stores, vintage or hand-me-downs.
My clothes count is currently 165, which includes:
- Coats and jackets
- Work jackets (blazers)
- Sweaters (pullover and cardigan)
- Shirts (button-up)
- Pants (trousers)
- Dresses and skirts
- Footwear (shoes, sandals and boots)
I didn’t include less substantial items like underwear, socks, sleepwear and accessories.
A look at where my clothes were made is unsurprising. I thought that 2/3 would be made in China; it’s actually just under half. The reason is that all the clothes that used to be produced in China are now made in Cambodia and Bangladesh where labour costs are cheaper. I can see a clear divide: the only clothes still made in China are the ones that require some workmanship or detail, such as plackets and buttons, pockets, darts and ruching. Anything that is straight cut-and-sew goes to the newer manufacturers.
I was surprised that 6% of my clothes were made in Canada, and 10% total in the Canada/USA/Mexico free trade zone. Some of those items are quite old (such as a coat and boots) and I wouldn’t be able to replace them with locally made ones.
I was a bit taken aback to find that almost none of the clothes I bought in the UK over the past 5 years are labelled with either fabric content or country of origin. I wonder why that wasn’t required? I don’t own any clothes from the EU except the Danish rubber boots I bought this year.
As far as fabric goes, it appears I am not very attracted to shiny things. 27% of my wardrobe is all-cotton, and it adds up to 62% once you include cotton/spandex, cotton/polyester, and other cotton blends. 28% is synthetic (polyester, acrylic, nylon and blends) including footwear. I have 5 pairs of leather shoes or boots. I am undecided what to buy for footwear in the future. Most of the synthetics are terrible for the environment, and cotton/canvas doesn’t stand up to rain and snow. I have two items made of especially bad stuff: a “pleather” jacket made of polyurethane, and rain gear made from polyester with PVC. I guess I will just have to keep and wear them forever.
Over all, I am happy with the quality of my clothes. I don’t feel that the items I own from China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, (etc.) are of lesser quality. But then I again, I avoid teen clothing stores and discount stores where the worst offenders are found. I especially hate those paper-thin T-shirts that you need to layer!
I don’t think my wardrobe will get a lot smaller. Since I work full-time (and in management, at that) I will continue to need two sets of clothing, for work and non-work. My casual clothes get demoted to sleepwear and gardening/painting clothes as they wear out. Maybe someday I will own fewer T-shirts and hoodies, but at least I’m not adding to the collection!
I am sure that my attitude toward clothing – what to buy, how much, where from, and what it’s made of – will continue to evolve as I gain knowledge. At least I hope so!