May 20, 2012

Review - Overdressed (Elizabeth Cline)

Like "The Omnivore's Dilemma" did for food, Overdressed shows us the way back to feeling good about what we wear.
Fast fashion and disposable clothing have become our new norms. We buy ten-dollar shoes from Target that disintegrate within a month and make weekly pilgrimages to Forever 21 and H&M. Elizabeth Cline argues that this rapid cycle of consumption isn't just erasing our sense of style and causing massive harm to the environment and human rights-it's also bad for our souls.
Cline documents her own transformation from fast-fashion addict to conscientious shopper. She takes a long look at her overstuffed closet, resoles her cheap imported boots, travels to the world's only living-wage garment factory, and seeks out cutting-edge local and sustainable fashion, all on her journey to find antidotes to out-of-control shopping.
Cline looks at the impact here and abroad of America's drastic increase in inexpensive clothing imports, visiting cheap-chic factories in Bangladesh and China and exploring the problems caused by all those castoffs we donate to the Salvation Army. She also shows how consumers can vote with their dollars to grow the sustainable clothing industry, reign in the conventional apparel market, and wear their clothes with pride.

A century ago people usually had only a handful of garments in their wardrobe. Carefully mended, and handed down, these clothes were never disposed of before literally being worn out. Today the average US citizen buys 65 new pieces of clothing each year. Typically not meant to last, these items will rather be thrown away than repaired or altered, because this would ironically enough be more expensive than buying new ones.
On this premise Elizabeth Cline sets out to explore cheap fashion in her book Overdressed. Revealing the effects of cheap fashion on her own life, her research takes her to the reasons of this development and a possible future in slow (aka local and sustainable) fashion. Both conversationally written and thought-provoking this is a must-read for everyone who's interested in the economics behind the circle of shopping and clothes production.
I have read many books on the topic but this is the first that addresses one particular point which I feel is shockingly obvious yet often ignored. Fast fashion is not only cheap, it is, basically, waste. You might be all for recycling plastic, but have you ever thought about what's in your wardrobe and the implications for the environment? With fashion being cheap, and quality just "good enough", we create a staggering amount of pretty colored polyester garbage. Think about this before homing in on the next bargain you see!
In short: An eye-opening read that will hopefully make you reconsider your buying decisions!

4/5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


  1. This book sounds great, I think I will get it in the next months.
    I just recently saw something on cheap fashion on TV and IMO it's something everyone should think about.

    1. I guess most of us aren't even aware that living in a "Wegwerfgesellschaft" has spread to all kinds of things that can be bought, not just technical gadgets. Society really needs to change its way of thinking in that regard!

  2. Sounds like a really great read, Birgit! I do feel that we waste a lot with cheap clothes, but I at least pick up almost all mine from charity shops, and what I'm not wearing goes back to the same shops yet again. I think this yeat I bought only a pair of shoes and some underwear from proper shops, the rest was recycled :))

    1. I'm all for bargains, but books like this one really influenced my buying decisions in the past year. At first I thought that frugal living, with only replacing things that are worn out, would be hard, but actually it isn't. Thought I must admit, I only buy new - I can't make myself buy used clothes *shudders* despite the fact that I can wash them. I'm strange like that.