Overdressed by Elizabeth L. ClineFull Title: Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion
Elizabeth L. Cline
Publisher: Portfolio/Penguin (2012)
Number of Pages: 244
How long it took me to read: 1 week
Where I got this book: borrowed from the library
ISBN: 978-1591844617

Like a Moth to a Flame

I first became aware of this book when I read an excerpt of a guest post Cline wrote on the official Etsy blog, where she writes on occasion about cheap fashion. She shared a chapter from the book about what happens to clothing after donation to organizations such as The Salvation Army. I was shocked to learn that the volume of donations to groups like these is so overwhelming that most of the clothing never makes it to the stores. Instead, it is either taken apart and recycled in a variety of ways or sold in huge blocks to clothing vendors in faraway places such as Africa. Like Cline, I’d always assumed that my clothing donations would be of benefit to people in my community. When I realized they could actually be a burden, I wanted to learn more about the impact of my actions and basically stop throwing so much junk back into the environment.

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Favorite Five

I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:

5. “ ‘If every man, woman, and child in China bought two pairs of wool socks, there would be no more wool left in the world. Think about that. So, yes, there will be problems with scarcity of resources. And what’s going to happen is prices will go up.’ ” ~Sal Giardina, adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology (p.172)

4. “The Quincy Street Salvation Army [Brooklyn]…processes an average of five tons of outcast clothing every single day of the year and much more during the holiday season when donations spike. From that astonishing mass, the sorters choose exactly 11,200 garments a day to be divided up equally between the eight thrift stores they serve.” (p.120)

3. “ ‘There’s a slow food movement; I will call the project to make the majority of clothing I wear slow clothes. Mass-produced clothing, like fast food, fills a hunger and need, yet is non-durable and wasteful. Home sewn garments, similar to home cooked foods, are made with care and sustenance. In a sense clothing can be nourishing.’ ” ~Sarah Beaumont, Blogger—about her quest to make all of her own clothes (p.190)

2. “ ‘I’m not telling you should you [sic] learn to sew. I’m just saying it’s so satisfying.’ She held in her breath in only slightly feigned ecstasy.” ~Sarah Beaumont, Blogger (p.194)

…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…

1.Americans spend more money on eating out in restaurants every year than they do on clothes. It’s not that we can’t pay more money for fashion; we just don’t see any reason to.” (p.3)

Conversation with the Reader

While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:

“When I first picked up this book, I was aware of many of the problems that plague the USA clothing industry: from cheap and cheaply made pieces that pill or split within a season to factory workers around the world who do not make a livable wage despite working six or even seven days a week on twelve-hour shifts. I didn’t think that would stop me entirely from shopping at fast-fashion chains, and I’m still not sure that it will (I know I’m going to be weakened by something cute beckoning to me from a store window some day), but I’ve got to say that after I finished Overdressed, I immediately took myself off the mailing list of several fast-fashion stores. It actually made me feel a little sick to realize how much material I’d been wasting without realizing it.”

“I like how this book doesn’t scold readers for their fast-fashion habits. In fact, the author is as guilty as anyone of filling her closet with cheap, shoddy goods. For example, Cline makes a point of noting that she is wearing a $3 tank top while she talks to a blogger about the problems created by the production of cheap clothing. Fast fashion is an easy habit to fall into; it’s everywhere and you can buy it by digging out change from your purse. That’s a mighty force to resist.”

“I thought the true horror story in this book would be the conditions in which workers toil to make clothing. While that information was disturbing, another huge problem with the current industry is waste. According to Cline, we are clogging our environment with disposable clothing, primarily made of polyester, and the effect is as bad as throwing away a plastic bottle. I now realize that discarding a cheap t-shirt after one season is just as bad. If I won’t drink from plastic bottles, then why on earth would I buy clothing that I would want to discard in essentially the same way? I’m going to start being more mindful about the way I shop. I want to buy things that will last, because I don’t want to be a part of this problem.”

“I took a look at my own fast-fashion wardrobe after reading Overdressed, and was a bit depressed to realize just how shoddy most of the items were. However, I also saw opportunities to refashion pieces with a little dye and alteration. Before reading the book, I’d planned to donate most of those items to make room for new, and most likely cheap, fall clothes. Now I’m planning to dye all my faded black shirts so they look new again, fix my loose buttons and change the neckline of that shirt I never liked so that I won’t finally give it away because I never wear it. Though I can’t say I’ll never buy another $4 t-shirt, my eyes have been opened. The revelations in this book have the potential to be life changing.”


  1. Susie Klein says:

    So, reading this book could give me some great reasons to shop more expensive stores? Hubs will love that!

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