Book Review: ‘Overdressed: The shockingly high cost of cheap fashion’




As a former habitual fast-fashion shopper, my poor shopping habits came to a halt when I read “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth Cline, published in 2012 by Penguin Group.

The topics in the book made me think twice before spending another dollar on dollar-worth items. The book examines the fast-fashion industry that fuels us to spend on a fast-fashion budget and leads to fast-fashion addictions.

According to Cline, fast fashions are garments and accessories found in cheap and trendy retailers such as Forever 21, H&M and T.J. Maxx, to name a few.

The chapter, “I Have Enough Clothes to Open a Store,” describes the average fast-fashion customer who buys in excess when the price is low. When the item is at a low cost or discount- ed, the quality is also very low.

book cover

According to Cline, good quality measures up to the fabric and how well it sits and feels against your body.
Over time, you as a consumer are able to distinguish the appearance and texture of good quality versus poor quality.

The quality of fast-fashion fabric is quite different. The clothing may not fit or wear well. At times, the clothing may not even last through one wash cycle. According to Cline, in the age of cheap fashion, the trends you buy now only need to last until the next trend comes along.

The clothing that does not last until next season sits in our closet, without repair or care, tossed aside like trash. Over time our trash becomes environmental waste.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, on average Americans dispose of 12.7 million tons of textiles each year! I took notice of the amount I’ve accumulated over the years, which by now has probably ended up in a landfill.

Besides becoming trash, there are ethical issues that arise when supporting fast-fashion companies.

Factories in places such as China mass produce clothing due to our high volume of consumption. Employees work more than 12 hours a day, six to seven days a week while making very low wages.

To keep wages low, these factories provide a place for workers to work, eat, shower and sleep. After visiting a few factories, Cline noticed poor working and living conditions. The factory housed workers in cramped sleeping quarters with six to eight people in each dorm room.

According to Cline, food was served in 30-gallon drums that sat on the factory floor 15 feet from industrial equipment and piles of clothing.

Facts like that should persuade anyone to reduce their fast-fashion habits, moving towards eco-fashion and thrift store shopping, which can be both environmentally friendly and cost-effective.

Eco-fashion emphasizes a “go green” message. In the long run, transitioning from fast fashion to eco-fashion may save more green in your wallet while saving the earth. Another way to save a buck is to refashion the items you already have.

Refashion means to take an item that was once worn or used and to repurpose it into a new garment. According to Cline, refashioning is not a new concept, just a forgotten one.

At the end of the book, Cline discusses vintage retail owner Sarah Bereket and habitual thrift-store shopper Jillian Ownes. The two rely solely on thrift stores to find key pieces, then they alter and recreate the pieces into new products.

While repurposing clothing, there is always a risk of ruining the garment. According to Owen, people are afraid to cut their clothes because they do not want to damage them. In my experience, it is a great way to personalize an item you love. Through the process of trial and error, you are able to rely on your own individual style and skill set to repurpose and restyle a look of your own.

According to Cline, anything we wear can be easily altered and turned into something new with just a little personal touch.

Refashion may be the look of the future, but people have to want it to happen. According to Bereket, we all have the power to change the fashion industry through the way we shop. We as consumers blame fast-fashion companies, but in the end it is our duty to be responsible for our own shopping habits.

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