Book Review: Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

by BUST Magazine

In Overdressed, New York-based writer Elizabeth Cline explores the extreme decline in the cost of fashion, and the political, economic, and social implications of this change. Cline begins with a personal yet familiar anecdote: she once bought seven pairs of $7 shoes in a single haul, only to eventually throw half of them out without having worn them once.

Most of us who grew up in the ’90s practice Cline’s former shopping ritual: consistently buying cheap, trendy clothes at “fast fashion” stores like H&M and Forever 21. For Cline, losing her job meant revamping the way she viewed clothing. As her fashion consumption plummeted, she looked into sewing classes, buying more quality clothing, and taking up re-fashioning, or modifying existing clothes.

But Overdressed isn’t about style; it’s about the crisis in our clothing industries. According to Cline, Americans throw away 12.7 million tons of clothing yearly. Meanwhile, stores like Forever 21 produce over 100 million pieces of clothing each year. Over half of our wardrobes are made of non-biodegradable plastic in the form of polyester, and donating everything deemed “out of style” to charity is no longer feasible: organizations like the Salvation Army are so overwhelmed with donations, they toss out five tons of unsellable clothing per day.

Reading this book, I could hear the echoes of my great-grandmother, a seamstress, who used to go into stores, pull at the seams of clothing, and lament the shoddy craftsmanship. Cline’s reporting and research prove that the fashion industry as it stands today must change. Overdressed is a manifesto for a new “slow fashion” movement, and I guarantee it will have you pulling out your sewing machine, ready to take a stand.

By Erica Varlese

This review appears in the Aug/Sept 2012 issue of BUST Magazine with cover girl Tavi Gevinson. Subscribe now


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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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