Today’s post is one that’s been churning around in my brain for quite some time. In fact, it’s been on my list of post ideas for months, but other topics kept taking precedence. Well, the time is now! I have a number of complaints about the fashion industry and the list keeps growing longer day by day. Although I don’t like to focus on the negative, some things just need to be said.
I realize I may be preaching to the choir and many of you may share at least some of my complaints. You also may have a few of your own to add to the mix. We may not be able to change the status quo, but we can commiserate with others who feel our pain. The following is a list of my current “beefs” with the fashion industry. I welcome your comments on my rant and any additions you have to the list.
A Sea of “Sameness”
On Monday, I wrote about the successful shopping trip I had this past weekend, when I focused on filling defined wardrobe needs instead of “shopping for sport.” It’s great when we can pinpoint things we truly need to round out our closets and even better when we can actually find these pieces in the stores. Sadly, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes we really need a particular item but fail to find it even after an exhaustive search in numerous local shops and online stores.
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in terms of merchandise selection at almost all retailers. Everywhere I look, I see virtually the same types of items. There is very little diversity among the offerings at all retail establishments, regardless of what their target market seems to be. Each and every store is offering an abundance of the current trends and very little else.
Case in point… The pants styles that have been in vogue for a number of seasons have been skinny and/or cropped. Sure, there may be various colors and fabrics on offer, but they all have narrow legs and many of them are cropped to ankle length. If that style of pant is your “bag,” you’re in luck! If not, then tough beans (I could use a stronger word here, but we’ll keep this PG).
The same is true for color choices. If your favorite colors are trendy, you have a smorgasbord of choices at your disposal. Otherwise, you’re out of luck. You have to either select colors that aren’t your best or simply wait until the next round of color trends roll out and hope for the best.
Even the “Old Lady Stores” Have Followed Suit!
It used to be that only the stores that marketed to juniors and twenty-somethings were so trend driven, but now it’s all stores. I even went to some of the stores that focus on more mature women (e.g. J. Jill and Chico’s) and I still saw only narrow and cropped pants on offer. I’m sure I could find an online retailer who carries other pant styles and shapes, but I wouldn’t be able to try them on and would likely have to pay both shipping and return fees for my chance purchase.
It’s not just colors and pant styles that are homogenous in the retail landscape, it’s pretty much everything. For a number of years, the only available shoe options have been flats or sky-high heels. If you want a low or mid-height heel, it’s pretty much “no dice.”
More and more these days, we either have to buy the trendy items or walk away empty-handed. I’ve never been one to do the latter, but that has increasingly become my choice in recent months. I’m not a big fan of the current trends, so it’s been easier for me to just say no. Unfortunately, however, I really do need new pants, but I just can’t find them. While I may look okay in some skinny styles, I can’t wear tight pants due to a painful nerve condition. With the current pant styles, even if I size up, the legs are still too snug, especially since I have larger thighs to begin with, relative to my waist size.
Where Oh Where Has the Quality Gone?
Although I have my specific concerns, this isn’t just a personal rant here. It’s a complaint about the fashion industry at large. Not only do we have far fewer style options these days, quality has taken a nose dive as well. The fabric has gotten thinner, sewing has gotten sloppier, and after a few washings, many garments are history. This might be expected from “fast fashion” retailers, but I’ve noticed this with larger department store and specialty shop buys as well. Nothing lasts like it used to.
For years, I’ve purchased my workout tees from Eddie Bauer. They used to last me at least a few years through literally hundreds of wears and countless washings. However, the most recent tees, priced similarly to the ones I bought years ago, are ready to be tossed after only tens of wears instead of hundreds. It’s incredibly disappointing and I know it’s not isolated to this one particular store. Garment quality has been plummeting everywhere.
Where and How Are Our Clothes Made?
Along with concerns about quality, there are increasing worries about where and how our clothes are being made. It’s next to impossible to find clothing made in our home countries these days, unless we happen to live in China or Southeast Asia. In these days of “fast fashion” and rapidly cycling trends, the majority of clothing manufacturing has been outsourced to other countries.
Sadly, the conditions in which garment workers spend their days are far below the standards most of us would deem acceptable. Atrocities like the factory collapse in Bangladesh are not only tragic; they are becoming more and more common. Pollution runs rampant in China and other countries where our clothes are made, such that rates of lung cancer and other diseases are skyrocketing.
A Book to Read and Some Steps to Take
Many of these issues are highlighted in the fabulous book, “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth Cline. I read this book earlier this year and found it both enlightening and disturbing. Unless the fashion industry does an about face soon, there will be even more dire human and environmental consequences.
Reading about the sad state of affairs in how our clothing is being made, we may wonder what we can do to make an impact. We can voice our disgust for manufacturers’ irresponsibility by buying less, purchasing higher quality garments, and spending our clothing dollars for more ethically made items. The latter two options are easier said than done, but you can find some tips and resources on sustainable and ethical fashion in this “useful links” post I did a few months ago.
Sizes are All Over the Map!
What size do you wear? Chances are your answer will be a range rather than a specific number, and that range may consist of three or four sizes instead of just two. For years, I wore a standard US size 8 or Medium. Now, I can fit into anything from a 4 to a 10 and from an Extra-Small to a Large, and my weight is virtually the same as before! The vanity sizing trend has been adopted by more and more retailers and they haven’t adjusted their size charts accordingly.
This makes online ordering all the more maddening, as the size that is supposed to fit is often far too large when it arrives. For those of us who regularly have to order online (including tall folks like me), the ensuing frustration can make one’s blood boil.
Even men’s sizing isn’t as consistent as it once was. My husband has worn a size Large shirt for his entire adult life, but these days he’s often swimming in these shirts, especially those from US retailers. And he has an even harder time finding pants than I do, as manufacturers seem to think that all men over 6 feet are “big and tall,” not slim and tall. The poor guy was wearing workout pants from 12 years ago until recently, as we just couldn’t find any new options to fit him!
Every Other Day is a Sale
It used to be that stores held sales at the end of every season in order to clear the floor for the next season’s merchandise. But now some stores (I’m looking at YOU, Macy’s!) have a “big sale” just about every other day! It’s gotten to the point that many people won’t even buy something unless it’s on sale; they’re so used to getting a “deal” on every single purchase they make.
People are so accustomed to buying their clothing at low prices and that’s part of what’s driving the trend toward lower quality and manufacturing outsourcing. Nothing happens in a vacuum and all of these factors are having a domino effect on the fashion industry. It’s like a “chicken and egg” problem, though. It’s hard to tell what came first – the ever-changing trends, the ever-present sales, the expectation for low prices, the plummeting quality, the landscape of “sameness,” or the outsourcing of all manufacturing to China and elsewhere. My guess is that competition drove the low prices and everything else followed on from there.
It’s All a Big Mess!
From my vantage point, it’s a fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, as Laurel and Hardy would say. I’m sure there are other issues I haven’t mentioned, but my topics above are more than enough to have this shopper shouting, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” I used to love shopping and I used to be able to find interesting and creative pieces that were high quality and made in the USA. Of course, these things cost more, but I didn’t mind because that’s the way it had always been and that’s what I was used to.
Even now, I would be more than willing to spend a larger sum of money on my clothes, but I’ve found that a higher price tag is no guarantee of higher quality or ethical manufacturing. For a while, I was able to find better pieces at thrift and consignment stores, but the quality has declined there, too. Such stores are usually at least a year or two behind, but now it seems they’re only a few months behind and are packed with the same cheap and unimaginative clothing that I find at the mall.
We’ll All Need New Things Eventually…
Sigh… It definitely seems like it’s high time I find other interests and passions, for the reasons above as well as other reasons I’ve highlighted in previous posts. But even if shopping no longer resides in the forefront of my life and my mind, I’ll still need new things on occasion. We all will, and where will be turn now that the malls have become such a vast wasteland of mass-produced crap?
I’m all eyes and ears. I’m open to suggestions for where to turn to buy beautiful, well-made clothing that isn’t the “trend du jour” and hasn’t been churned out of a polluting, human rights violating factory in the Third World. You may not know, either, but perhaps some of you can offer some good news to counter my fashion “beefs.”
Of course, I will continue to search for answers and will share what I learn here. I’m also open to guest posts on the topics of “fast fashion” and ethical and sustainable shopping. We could all stand to educate ourselves better on these topics, as I don’t think things will improve anytime soon. It takes some extra time to do due diligence on how and where things are made, but it’s worth the effort. You’ll end up with superior clothing and you’ll feel better about wearing it.
Hope Springs Eternal that Things Will Change!
I like to consider myself an optimist, so I do believe there’s hope for the fashion industry to regain its luster once again. Perhaps a big name designer will take a stand against all of the insanity and spearhead a movement in the right direction. Hope springs eternal!
As for me, I’ll try to take a “chill pill” and carry on as best as I can. While I hope all of the things I wrote about will change before too long, in the short term, I hope I can find some pants that don’t hurt my legs or make me look like I’ve just emerged from a flood. From my keyboard to God’s ears!