Why Cheap Fashion Is Costing Us so Much

The supposed luxury of cheap fashion becomes less glamorous when you realize you've been dressed in rags by a corporate business model that emphasizes quantity over quality.

What's the Latest Development?


If you've ever bought outfits from retailers like H&M or Zara, you know that when the cheap stitching begins to fall apart, so too does the supposed luxury of inexpensive fashion. Our obsession with looking good for less constitutes one branch of the American consumerist tree, says Elizabeth Kline, whose book "Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion" describes the consequences of our growing "fast-fashion habit, starting with the sheer waste resulting from cast-off clothing." Kline's primary criticism is that the sheer volume of (low-quality) clothing being produced is simply unsustainable. 

What's the Big Idea?

Just by looking at clothing made in the 1980s, the era's fashions aside, you'll notice a wide difference in the quality of the clothing, says Kline. As a solution to the corporate fashion model, which is actually dressing us in rags, she recommends clothing enthusiasts buy a sewing machine. Even if you use it poorly, it will teach you to think about clothing in a more sustainable way. Her final piece of advice is to: "Take care of the things that you own. Buy less. And support local independent designers and retailers when you can. I think that the clothing industry in America was at its best when it was smaller and independently owned."

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