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Overdressed: Responsible Shopping in the Age of Cheap Fashion [Hardcover]

Elizabeth Cline
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Aug 2012

Fast fashion and disposable clothing have become our new norms. We buy ten-dollar shoes from Target that disintegrate within a month and make weekly pilgrimages to Forever 21 and H&M. Elizabeth Cline argues that this rapid cycle of consumption isn't just erasing our sense of style and causing massive harm to the environment and human rights-it's also bad for our souls.

Cline documents her own transformation from fast-fashion addict to conscientious shopper. She takes a long look at her overstuffed closet, resoles her cheap imported boots, travels to the world's only living-wage garment factory, and seeks out cutting-edge local and sustainable fashion, all on her journey to find antidotes to out-of-control shopping.

Cline looks at the impact here and abroad of America's drastic increase in inexpensive clothing imports, visiting cheap-chic factories in Bangladesh and China and exploring the problems caused by all those castoffs we donate to the Salvation Army. She also shows how consumers can vote with their dollars to grow the sustainable clothing industry, reign in the conventional apparel market, and wear their clothes with pride.

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Overdressed: Responsible Shopping in the Age of Cheap Fashion + To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? + Fashion & Sustainability: Design for Change
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (30 Aug 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591844614
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591844617
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 9.1 x 0.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 238,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"Cline is the Michael Pollan of fashion...Hysterical levels of sartorial consumption are terrible for the environment, for workers, and even, ironically, for the way we look."--Michelle Goldberg, "Newsweek/The Daily Beast" "How did Americans end up with closets crammed with flimsy, ridiculously cheap garments? Elizabeth Cline travels the world to trace the rise of fast fashion and its cost in human misery, environmental damage, and common sense."--Katha Pollitt, columnist for "The Nation" ""Overdressed "is eye-opening and definitely turns retailing on its head. Cline's insightful book reveals the serious problems facing our industry today. The tremendous values and advantages of domestic production are often ignored in favor of a price point that makes clothing disposable."--Erica Wolf, executive director, Save the Garment Center" "

About the Author

Elizabeth Cline has written for AMCtv.com, "The Daily Beast, New York Magazine, Popular Science, The New Republic, The Village Voice, "and seedmagazine.com. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Visit overdressedthebook.com.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I caught sight of this book in an article in the New York Times but it hadn't been published over here (at the time) and there wasn't a kindle edition, so I put it on my Amazon wishlist and was given it last week.

This is a bit of an 'oh my' book. I am a bunch older than Elizabeth Cline and as she says only people born before the 80s will have had the opportunity to notice the change in the clothes we buy and the way we buy clothes, because we will have seen clothes that were not sold mostly based on price. I have spent the last 20 years wondering how the price of clothes can go down and the quality remain the same and of course it can't.

The book is written by a woman who likes fashion and is on a budget and it is a good if scary read. Elizabeth Cline looks at the mass clothes sellers like Zara and Forever 21 and talks about how they can make and sell clothes so cheaply and how we are managing to dispose of all these clothes once we are bored with them or they have fallen apart.

The numbers are frightening and the demands that big business make on people and the environment are alarming and as Cline points out, we the consumer are contributing to the mess because we like what we are being offered

This book is written from the USA and talks about things American but as the book shows we live in a world of globalized industry. I am sure that a lot of what Elizabeth Cline says is true for Britain and for Europe.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really, all I can say is read this book 27 Nov 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
If you’re going to read Overdressed, be prepared for it to leave a nasty taste in your mouth and a lump in your throat when you next open your wardrobe. This really is a pretty damning expose of the ‘fast fashion’ industry, which churns out clothes faster than we can wear them out, leading to massive waste and a wardrobe full of clothes that we wear only once or twice. Why? Because at $5 an item, we still think we’re getting our money’s worth even if we only wear it a couple of times and then it goes out of fashion.

I wouldn’t say I’ve ever been excessively fashion conscious and certainly for the last 2-3 years, I tend to only buy something when I need it. I do love shoes but even so I become incredibly attached and will wear them even when they have holes in. This Autumn, I finally threw out a pair after getting my feet soaked not once, not twice but three times! But have I bought an item in the past for $10 rationalising that it doesn’t really matter if I only wear it a handful of times? I probably have.

Fast fashion is all about embracing trends but Overdressed points out that trends change so quickly that some stores are introducing hundreds of new lines each week. Therefore, clothing is becoming disposable as people strive to keep up with the new trends emerging constantly. The cost? Our clothing is gradually becoming of poorer and poorer quality. As is stated in the book, it’s now enough for something not to be lousy. We no longer strive for an ideal, we just want to avoid something awful and if we can, that’s enough.

I was born in the eighties but years ago I was given a jacket from the seventies. It had already survived for years and it lasted for many more. Eventually the lining gave and I had kind of outgrown it anyway.
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2.0 out of 5 stars 3 stars for entertainment, 2 stars for content 7 Feb 2014
This was entertaining for a while but then got very repetitive.

The things I did not like about this book:

- The preachy proselytising tone.

- There needs to be more facts and figures. For example I was fascinated by the few examples of how clothes prices went down from 1900 to 1960. I wanted to know more.

-There should have been more investigation of factories in Bangladesh and China instead of one little visit.

-The usual handwringing over how evil we are to pollute to planet with nothing about green chemistry.

Then there were the two things I hated the most, the repetition and the fact the author assumes that most Americans have the same shopping habits to her and her circle.

There is an extreme left, pro-Trade Union, pro-Green, Third World Country pitying side to her views. There is nothing wrong with these sentiments. I agree with some of them myself. However I wish someone would present both sides of the argument. For example are we in the West solely to blame for China's pollution and Bangladesh's factory fires? Surely those countries goverments are resposible too?

She preaches the formation of trade unions as a solution to Chinese low wages. Yet Chinese wages and their standard of living have expodentially risen while trade unions are illegal in their country.

I couldn't help feeling that if she was from a poorer background or had personally lived as a working class/lower middle class person in the 1950's-60's, she would see the good side of cheap fashion. She looks back nostalgically at pre 1990's expensive clothes. Yet I remember that era as an unpleasant time when things could be very hard.

She also did not explain why luxary high ends clothing have also gone down in quality.
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Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
it's not bad to know how our garment is evolved.
This book describe this evolution very well, and maybe I will briefly consider my next purchase whether it is justified or not to buy it.
It is important that everyone attaches more value to the quality of a garment, by opting for quality rather than quantity. So that our relationship with our clothes do not end up like our food, where they do not know where our milk comes from. Or how a cow looks like.
I recommend the book to anyone who does not bother to buy cheap clothes and whose wardrobe is about to explode.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  126 reviews
96 of 103 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Think before you buy! 14 Jun 2012
By BLehner - Published on Amazon.com
A century ago people usually had only a handful of garments in their wardrobe. Carefully mended, and handed down, these clothes were never disposed of before literally being worn out. Today the average US citizen buys 65 new pieces of clothing each year. Typically not meant to last, these items will rather be thrown away than repaired or altered, because this would ironically enough be more expensive than buying new ones.
On this premise Elizabeth Cline sets out to explore cheap fashion in her book Overdressed. Revealing the effects of cheap fashion on her own life, her research takes her to the reasons of this development and a possible future in slow (aka local and sustainable) fashion. Both conversationally written and thought-provoking this is a must-read for everyone who's interested in the economics behind the circle of shopping and clothes production.
I have read many books on the topic but this is the first that addresses one particular point which I feel is shockingly obvious yet often ignored. Fast fashion is not only cheap, it is, basically, waste. You might be all for recycling plastic, but have you ever thought about what's in your wardrobe and the implications for the environment? With fashion being cheap, and quality just "good enough", we create a staggering amount of pretty colored polyester garbage. Think about this before homing in on the next bargain you see!
In short: An eye-opening read that will hopefully make you reconsider your buying decisions!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
107 of 116 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars read along with "Supersize Me" 19 Jun 2012
By A. Whitacre - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had the same sense of revulsion reading this book as I did reading "Supersize Me" (which is more or less the food version of this book) and I see fast food and "fast fashion" as indicative of the same lack of basic skills. We don't typically cook -- and therefore don't recognize quality in food. Few people sew anymore, and therefore don't recognize quality in clothing. The high cost of housing means that cost becomes more important both for food and clothing -- and quality suffers. The manufacturing chain makes adjustments to accommodate the desire for more of everything. And then follow the TV shows: Biggest Loser for the food problem; and Hoarders for the clothing (and everything else) problem.
Oddly enough, the bad construction of cheap clothes puts consumers into the endless cycle of buying more of everything. If you can't fix your shoes or alter your clothes, then you need multiples of everything just to make sure something lasts through the season. Expectations of grooming and dress have become demanding, which means that there is more acceptance of cheap clothing. 60 years ago when every working woman wore a suit every day to work, her entire wardrobe was different. She didn't have 22 tops and 14 skirts -- she had five suits. And yet we see the connection between clothing and our behavior-- schools that expect specific behaviors usually have specific dress codes. (the author of Supersize Me also comments on how fast food -- and eating in your car -- disrupted the idea of set meal times. )
I am old enough to remember the grand department stores in big cities -- and the expectations both of dress and behavior that accompanied them. The author does not make the connection between larger houses (and greater house payments as proportion of income) and the growth of the shopping mall. Those grand department stores didn't need parking lots -- people took transit and had their purchases delivered by delivery truck (not FedEx). They shopped during the day, not on the way home from work at 8 pm. Our whole society has changed and the way we relate to food and clothing has followed.
This may be one of the first things I've seen that puts a "sustainable, green" cast on clothing consumption though. its ironic that Whole Foods sells cheap -- although organic and fair-traded -- teeshirts in the toiletries aisle. And those items are always manufactured overseas.
353 of 397 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The shockingly high cost of cheap editing 29 Jun 2012
By Nancy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm very interested in the subject of fast fashion, and I'm pretty sure the author did her research. (There are 11 pages of endnotes.) But "Overdressed" is so poorly written and edited (or unedited) that I stopped reading after three chapters. Some of the more glaring errors: "rarified" for "rarefied," "principal" for "principle," "hoards" for "hordes," "reigns" for "reins," "lose" for "loose," and "$150 dollars." There are comma errors, syntax errors, subject-verb agreement errors, verb-tense errors, and capitalization errors. Concepts that require clarification are unexplained (Black Friday, "when France was occupied").

And that's just the first 94 pages.

Nitpicking? Not really. "Overdressed" isn't a hastily written blog post; it's a book from a respected publisher. The sloppiness of the editing doesn't merely make for a painful reading experience; it also impairs the author's credibility and makes me wonder about the accuracy of her facts. Which is a shame, because this is a subject crying out for thorough and expert reporting.
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Long on problem-short on solutions 12 Sep 2012
By Amanda Rudelt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
I do recommend this book to anyone whose closet takes up a whole bedroom and is full of things you got as a steal but never wear. I recommend this book to anyone who takes frequent hauls of last season's clothes to Goodwill thinking they are doing something grandly generous. I recommend this to anyone who remembers going to the high end section of the department store and finding amazing details and fine finishing of garments-remember French seams?- and wonders why you can't seem to find them at any price now.

I bought this because I am well aware that something is wrong with clothing currently. I grew up as a home sewer and in the last 10 years I have done less and less as finished garments were getting cheaper than then fabric needed to make them. A simple sheath dress takes about 2 hours to make and about 2 yard of outer fabric, not to mention interfacing and notions. To think that these fast fashion stores could sell this dress and far more complex things for under $40 tells me a lot of people are getting screwed. I wanted to know how many, but also what I as a consumer can do about. Sadly, this book is a little thin on solutions. It doesn't give much help on how to source fairly made clothing. How to source fairly made, high quality, environmentally sound clothing is really what I was looking for. On the other hand it did remind me of the value of home sewing. Fast fashion is like fast food-it is good enough and is set up to crate cravings, but clothing, like good food, nourishes the spirit. You may need to work harder for it but it is so much more rewarding.
48 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cline writes a book on something I've noted for years, AMEN! 23 Jun 2012
By Todd Bartholomew - Published on Amazon.com
As 20-somethings are want to do I delved into wearing trendier, more fashion-forward clothing, rejecting the Preppy WASP clothing of my youth in favor of inexpensive retailers. I was making good money but realized I could have a much larger and more varied wardrobe for about as much coin that bought me a few nice items from more traditional clothiers. But I quickly realized the inherent problems as clothing I'd bought quickly became passe and last season's fashion. Relegated to the darker reaches of the closet they never really got a much wear as I'd hope and soon my closet and armoire were bursting with rarely-worn out of date items. A move would prompt a massive donation to the local thrift shop and the daily guilt of confronting remnants of a misspent shopping trip were whisked away. After this happened twice I came to realize I was better served by returning to my WASP roots; buying traditional well tailored clothing that skirted fashion trends, something my mother would routinely drill into my head. But aside from the money squandered on short-lived clothes I never contemplated the larger picture until I read "Over-Dressed". Cline certainly addresses the foolish waste of money on poorly made inexpensive clothing, but I'd never thought of the front end or back end of things. The sheer squandering of resources on making essentially disposable items for quick profit is perhaps the most horrific thing here. Rather than making durable well made items that will last, manufacturers are giving retailers what they want; trendy clothing made as cheaply as possible. Retailers push this clothing on a public who views them as bargains and then snap them up, giving retailers the profit incentive to gin up the whole process. Consumers become lemmings stuck in a cycle they're not fully conscious of, storing clothes still too nice to throw out, but too out of date to wear in their closets and attics. Like me, many donate them to charities figuring they'll find a new home. I'd thought so too, but was stunned to read Cline's most in-depth expose on what truly happens. Yes, the nicer items that are vintage or from high end retailers does get put out for sale, but most wind up being shipped overseas, or is bundled into bales for recycling or other uses. That sounds great, but how many of us would buy clothes made from recycled post-consumer content? Anyone? I thought so!

Certainly a great deal of our castoff clothing winds up in lesser developed nations but even now they are developing taste and discretion. Even the poorest of the poor in Mozambique aren't going to wear a dirty stained decade old Spring Break t-shirt. Our landfills are already overflowing with outdated fashions and the time has come to reconsider what we buy. Cline makes some excellent points on that front and they're ones I've already put into action. Long ago I realized pants and shorts that couldn't be altered were a ticket to nowhere. Rather than throwing out worn out t-shirts I cut them up for use as shop rags. Before buying something I think to myself "What else that I wear does this go with?" And more importantly I've returned to my WASP nature and only buy things that are traditional staples that don't go out of fashion and which aren't trendy. Thankfully I don't have to be au currant in my dress. And I've embraced the Scandinavian frugality of watching what I spend! "Over-Dressed" is a good call to arms. Even if it changes one mind at a time it's something that could certainly build into a movement. I'm certain there may be others like us out there!
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