Thursday, January 10, 2013


Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline

I borrowed a hardcover copy from the public library, but I intend to purchase my own at some point.

My review, originally shared August, 2012:

It's an easy and entertaining read that has made me rethink the way I view the stuff cramming my closet and dresser. I've already been beginning to sew my own clothes because I have a hard time finding affordable, adult clothes in my size, and reading Overdressed has only strengthened my determination to invest in quality materials and to learn to dress myself. It's also a great reminder that trends /= style and encouragement to break away from what's cool this week and to think about what you yourself actually like.

I disagree with the commenters who complained that Cline didn't "give us the answer" at the end of the book. If you are hoping that she'll provide a list of retailers whose merchandise is all high-quality, eco-friendly, and ethically sourced so you can switch your brain off and pick anything from the menu, then you'll be disappointed. But I think she gives many realistic suggestions for people looking to rethink their cheap clothing consumption. Care for what you have. Think about what you buy. Go for the highest quality that you can afford, which means buying less stuff but stuff that you truly love and use. Read clothing labels. Shop used/vintage when possible. Consider repairing, mending, and altering, either by doing the job yourself or finding a professional who can handle it. These are all practical ideas that anyone can take away from this book. 

Stars: 4.5

I think Cline may have exhibited a touch of confirmation bias when it came to noting the degree of catastrophic environmental destruction, etc., but I don't doubt that any exaggeration was slight. 

This was far and away one of the books I read in 2012 that had the greatest impact on me. I've never been a fast fashion junkie at the level of many recreational shoppers, but I know all too well the experience of buying a piece of clothing just because it's there and it's cheap. In my case, most of those impulse buys came from thrift stores and I felt virtuous about using secondhand shops as my "cycling closet." Overdressed explains why buying from Goodwill is a start but isn't enough. The life cycle of fashion and textiles in our economy is complex and scary and we need to change our relationship with "fashion."

In my own life, this has resulted in fewer "why not?" purchases. I'm making a real effort to look for higher-quality pieces, whether that means being more selective at the Salvation Army or plunking down a nauseating sum on a pair of new Frye boots that I know will last a couple of decades. I am filled with determination to hem those jeans that are dragging on the floor. I'm trying to edit my closet and drawer down to fewer pieces that are versatile, flattering, and high in quality. It's a process.

One huge change this book has prompted me to make is to start looking for merchandise that was crafted in America. I believe that our country is never going to make a true recovery if we don't start creating more of what we endlessly consume. Those Frye boots that I mentioned were one of the models still created domestically. It's good to know that my money went to something beautiful that will last me a long time and will also help to support wage-earning craftspeople and, in a small way, our own precarious economy. I believe strongly in helping others, but in order to help others, we ourselves first have to be strong.

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