How to Fix Your Fast Fashion Fixation

Written by Elizabeth Chamberlain and Kyle Wiens

You’ve probably heard the stories: a garment factory collapses, killing over 800 people. Before that, a factory fire kills 112. Elsewhere, garment workers report physical and verbal abuse when they fail to meet impossible quotas for the day.

The stories come from countries like Bangladesh and India—places that seem a world away. They come to us in sound bites and horrific images. They seem removed from our daily life. But in reality, these stories are closer than you think—maybe as close as the shirt on your back.

A quick look at the tags on our clothing tells us that much of our clothing is made in places like Bangladesh, China, or the Dominican Republic. Workers in garment factories around the world are tasked with creating inexpensive, mass-produced garments known as fast fashion—think the brands found in blink-and-you’ll-miss-the-trend stores like Zara, H&M, and Forever 21.

As it turns out, fashion is a dirty industry. The excessive damage done in the name of a cheap blouse is revealed in Elizabeth Cline’s book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, where she investigates the incredibly vast, complicated problems that stem from our fast fashion consumption.

Cline covers a lot of ground in her book—the downfall of the American garment industry, the environmental impact of gross excess, the loss of sewing as a skill—and sometimes Overdressed feels, well, overwhelming. But Cline makes it clear how fast fashion is directly related to and responsible for a lot of problems that aren’t going away.

Take sewing, for example. “I’m the lost generation, one of the first not only to lack sewing skills, but mending and altering skills as well,” Cline writes. Our grandparents sewed and mended clothing for a host of reasons—clothing price, fabric scarcity, etc. Cline makes a good point when she notes that sewing isn’t easy: it takes “memory, computation, attention to detail, and constant decision making.” So why learn to sew when we can go to Forever 21 and buy a dress that’s on-trend for $15.80 (or cheaper)? And why learn to mend when the majority of your clothing isn’t made to last past this season?

Or consider the impact of fast fashion on the afterlife of clothing. Most of us think that our old clothes go to those in need once we drop them off at a thrift store. Think again. The clothes we’re getting rid of are poor quality, they’re cheaply made and—because we don’t mend anything—they’re falling apart.

That translates to a lot of clothes that can’t be resold. Instead, they end up in the postconsumer waste steam, making for literal mountains of waste: at the Trans-America Trading Co, a textile recycler in Clifton, New Jersey, Cline describes a “Great Wall of China made of clothing castoffs.”

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the problems of the fashion industry. (My first instinct after reading Overdressed was to (a) make this face and (b) toss out my fast fashion-infused wardrobe and start over completely.) But Cline spends a chapter on the future of fashion, describing the steps that many are taking to break free of the dangerous fast fashion cycle.

If you want to cut back the amount of time and money that you spend at stores like Zara, Old Navy, or H&M, consider the slow fashion movement, marked by “an emphasis on creating pieces that aren’t trend driven and are instead unique enough not to really date.” Perhaps you’d like to learn to sew, or to repair your clothes. There are, it turns out, ways to avoid the fast fashion behemoth. It just takes a little more time and energy and, yes, money.

Although Cline’s book was released in 2010, the recent tragedy in Dhaka is a reminder that the problems related to fast fashion aren’t going away. Sadly, they’re more relevant than ever. It’s our responsibility to consider where our clothing comes from, where it goes, and whether the damage is worth it.

Spoiler alert: it’s not.

This post was originally published at TreeHugger.


Photo from Thinkstock


Michealclark Michealclark
Past Member 3 years ago

The Info in the blog is out of this world, I so want to read more.
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Romanoaura Romanoaura

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Alfred Donovan
Past Member 4 years ago

Why is it that on Care 2 no matter what the article is about it is turned into a religious discussion mainly by religious fundamentalists and Christian bigots who cannot accept that others do not share their belief.Jesus is often portrayed as a man of peace and love while there are passages in the bible that do not support this assumption.We all know the one about His not coming to bring peace but a sword but here's another one often either ignored or looked over by those religious zealots.I refer you to the following.
Luke 14.26 If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters and even his own life ,he cannot be my disciple.
Do the self declared Christians adhere to this statement if you do what a miserable lot you must be.

ER C4 years ago

_____ Amanda M._____ GREAT COMMENT !

especially the one about mens jeans actually comes up to your waist.

Yeah, what's the deal nowdays with womens' clothing ?

Why is it so difficult to find a pair of pants that come up to our waists ?

ER C4 years ago


ER C4 years ago

__ Miranda L. ____ GOOD COMMENT ____ HA HA !

ER C4 years ago


___ &



' How to Fix Your Fast Fashion Fixation '

No money here for a Fashion Fixation.

I've Got maybe 4 or 5 decent combinations ( oh boo hoo & wah wah 4 me )

the rest of my clothes, I wear at home. FRAYING fabric, lost buttons replaced with safety pins, & blah blah blah. wear my pants till the fabric in the seat area falls apart.

running out of old clothes to wear to save my few decent combos.

Sounds like outfits from the '80s. ah___ good times. good times...


Carla Sousa
Carla Sousa4 years ago

Thanks for the article. I know a bit of sewing. That is great not only for our clothes but for the clothes of the kids that grow so fast. Thanks.

N R C.
N R C4 years ago

wear what's comfy & practical by practical for myself I mean POCKETS ! gotta have pockets

& as long as you feel the look & comfort is right for you, go with it ..... 4get what others say.

mmmmmmmph !

Matsi Yasei
Matsi Yasei4 years ago

I rarely buy new clothing as it is. I know enough about sewing to know how to fix smallish tears and the sort. Making new clothing is a bit out of my range though. I wouldn't mind learning when I have the time, however.