Book Review: Are We Truly Over-Dressed?

The opening sentences of Over-Dressed, by Elizabeth Cline, are shocking. Take for instance this tidbit, "Americans are hooked on buying 20.5 billion garments a year or 68 garments and 8 pairs of shoes per person, and the fashion industry’s enormous environmental footprint is growing by the year." Are you shocked yet? The book itself is a little heavy on statistics, all of them jaw dropping in the enormity of the environmental and economic impact, but overall a fantastic read.

Redress Raleigh was founded on the mission to reduce our environmental impact in fashionable goods, but do we really have to stop shopping? As it turns out, we don't really have to stop shopping, but we do have to re-learn such things as how to sew on a button, find a decent tailor, buy better shoes, and support eco-fashion. It's not stopping shopping, it's shopping smarter. Updating or re-working an item of clothing can involve lots of shopping - finding the perfect buttons, thread, or fabric, for instance, or working with a tailor to get the look you would prefer. 

Ecofashion designers know and have known for a long time that it matters where our fabrics come from, that our clothes should be constructed to last for longer than 3-4 washes, and garments made of good quality fabric can be deconstructed and re-made into something more fashion forward when the time comes. As Over-Dressed points out, the issue is that we as consumers have bought into the concept that new clothes are required and clothes made from a pattern by your grandmother, designed and made by your mother or some other relative are not cool or fashion forward.

According to Cline, we have also come to expect new fashion on a regular basis. It used to be that there were seasons fashion designers worked around. That's still true, to a certain extent, with high fashion couture. NY Fashion Week also celebrates the unveiling of never before seen collections from fashion houses who for the most part do observe and plan around a four-season fashion cycle. However, the new era of what Cline labels fast-fashion has conditioned US consumers to believe, and shop for, new clothes on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Retailers such as H&M, Forever 21, and Uniqlo are some of the stores that bring in new styles on a weekly basis.

So Redress Raleigh would like to know - what's in your closet? How many pants, skirts, sweaters, blouses, etc do you have in your closet? Do you buy new, or do you re-make and re-vamp your clothes? While we're on the topic of what you have in your closet, take a look at the quality of the fabric your clothing is made out of. Is it thinner now than the clothes you have from five years ago? Over-Dressed is an eye-opening look at the fashion industry as a whole, and US consumerism, manufacturing, the garment industry, what's changing, and how we can help. While you're counting your clothes, call the library and have them set aside Cline's book for you. It's truly an experience to read.