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!
It never ceases to amaze me at how thorough you are! To check every tag for their fabric type and country of origin! I know my mother and I share our ‘discoveries’ of where things were made, which is more fun when you’ve visited the country!
Ha ha, that is what “exacting” is all about! I was annoyed with myself for having cut out some scratchy tags! I am not very well-travelled so I don’t have reminisces about countries I’ve visited where clothes are made (no clothes made in UK and very little in US!)
It will be interesting to see what pieces you buy in the future! I’m enjoying the challenge of buying clothes to different standards than fashion alone. It takes work but can leave you very attached to certain pieces of clothing!
I’m hoping this blog will keep me accountable about what I buy in the future…I hope I won’t have too many mistakes to reveal here.
Strange that your UK clothes are not labelled with the content/country of origin…just had a look at my dress- fibre content labelled, but can’t see country of origin; leggings have fibre content and ‘made in India’…I thought this was a requirement!
My newest ones from this year have some labels, but not all; I am surprised too that if it is a requirement, it isn’t enforced.
I’m impressed! I’d be hard pressed to find anything locally made in my closet, either. It’s probably mostly Asian countries, like yours. I’ve heard LL Bean is a good place to look for made in the USA or Canada items – I need to check that out.
Thanks; maybe I should look at LL Bean too. The last time I bought their stuff, it lasted for years, and I think they have free shipping to Canada, too.
I still check tags even when buying used, but where I draw the line is in buying any synthetic materials any more. After finding out that every time we wash them little pieces of material (plastic) end up in the water systems I figure I can eliminate them. Plus by not having synthetics I don’t have to deal with static on my clothes and bedding.
Hmm, this is a good goal. It would be hard for me to do without that 2% lycra/spandex 🙂
Just a note on L.L.Bean, they have very few items still made in the US/Canada. I took a look at their catalog last fall thinking of getting a good set of sheets, they were all made overseas as was much of the clothing.
Thanks for the update; I wondered about that.
Wow you are the data guru! After reading your post I thought to check where my clothes came from then realized I cut the tags off of my clothes as soon as I buy them (hate tags on my clothes) so, um, no location data from me :I
Tags are no-win: they are scratchy if you leave them in and scratchy if you cut them down, and likely to leave holes if you pull out the seam…sometimes the tagless ones have an iron-on type transfer that later rubs off!
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