The following is a guest post by one of my loyal readers, Deby. This story was originally submitted as a comment to “Why Continue to Shop?” Since it’s such a powerful story with some excellent points, I asked if I could use it as a guest post for wider exposure. Deby graciously agreed!
If you have an idea for a guest post on “Recovering Shopaholic,” please connect with me to share your thoughts.
I have a recent shopping story to share. Always interested in new trends, I read several fashion magazines each month. Most recently, I thought it might be fun to have a sheer shirt to layer over a camisole for summer. Since I began downsizing my wardrobe, I decided I was only allowed to have one sheer shirt and it had to coordinate with at least three bottoms. Placed floral prints are very popular now, so this was what I was looking for (I often focus my shopping expeditions to look for very specific items).
A Perfect Find – or Was It?
After visiting several of my favorite retailers, I seemingly miraculously found the perfect shirt at Marshall’s. It was sheer, cut like a sleeveless collared shirt, and “flowy.” The colors of the floral could not have been more perfect to coordinate with my bottoms – it included every signature color in my seasonal capsule, and the looks I could create were far more than three.
You would think I would be fulfilled at scoring the perfect shirt, that this would be a happy ending. But, sadly, no…
You see, I allowed myself to be so seduced by the chase and the exhilaration of finding this more-than-perfect colored print – in my size and the only one in stock – that I swooped on it like a huntress, happily carrying my “booty” to the checkout.
A Sham of a Garment
Then I got home. True, the shirt coordinated dizzyingly well with my wardrobe, just as I thought it would. It fit passably well; I would give it a 7. But there was something terribly wrong that hit me all of a sudden as I examined the shirt.
The shirt was a sham of a garment, all looks and no substance. Away from the high of the shopping experience, I examined the shirt more closely and was frankly shocked at the poor quality sewing. I realized that beyond the superficial attraction of the print, the fabric was really substandard.
In a Factory Across the World…
All of a sudden, I felt ashamed for not paying attention to what I had bought. I thought about how, in a factory across the world, thousands of shirts like this are being churned out by toiling garment workers to stuff the forever greedy maw of the American consumer.
I felt disgusted at our appetite that creates the scenario of such shoddy goods being produced in the first place, creating a whole plethora of problems. The problems range from changing social values to pollution from factories during production on down to what to do with these garments when they are no longer fit to wear.
The Afterlife of “Fast Fashion”
Because “fast fashion” garments aren’t designed to last more than a few wearings, then where do they go? Maybe they end up in the Goodwill, where they might be put out for sale. But what is even more likely is they’ll be shipped in bales to poor countries where people need clothing. If those people won’t wear them, you guessed it, all that polyester ends up in a landfill or is recycled into carpet padding or similar products. It is a tremendous production cycle that uses vast amounts of energy and resources.
We have created a huge global polluting industry over our lust for cheap accessible clothing that is such poor quality that even indigent people will not choose to wear it. Instead, we should be scaling back and returning to manufacturing quality goods for a fair price, in our own country, and giving jobs to our own people.
I Should Have Known Better!
I am ashamed because I should have known better. My grandmother was a seamstress and an embroiderer in a time when seamstresses and garment workers were respected trades. She would have been appalled at the shirt I so mindlessly purchased.
It will be awhile before I go shopping again. When I do, I will be far more mindful of where my clothes are coming from and the conditions under which they are being produced. Those of you who shop for the high or the temporary “anesthesia” it provides might do well to pause, as I have done, and consider the social and global implications of your next impulsive purchase. As for me, the cheap shirt is going back to the store, not to be repeated.
Want to Learn More?
I have to add one more thing. Around the same time as my shirt shopping story, I began reading this book, which I highly recommend to everyone who is thinking about their clothing:
- Overdressed : The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline
Always looking for some bargain at Target or the like, what I learned in this book has been an awakening for me about the reality of being a shopaholic and return-aholic. I dare say, I may have taken a great step towards a cure!