Back to School Disposable Fashion

I'm talking about disposable fashion: clothing that is so cheap that it only lasts one, maybe a couple more wearings before it pills, stretches, washes poorly, or literally falls apart. Is this what we're buying this back to school season?
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Have you noticed that clothes are a lot cheaper these days? When you were a kid, clothes cost more than they do now. They're also cheaper in a different way: the fabrics are cheaper, the work is cheaper, the finishes are cheaper, clothes are simply of lower quality.

Shopping for kids clothes

image source: miguelb

I'm talking about disposable fashion: clothing that is so cheap that it only lasts one, maybe a couple more wearings before it pills, stretches, washes poorly, or literally falls apart. You'll notice that your kids will tear a hole in jeans the first time they wear them. It's almost easier to throw out a shirt than try to get a stain out of it. All our clothes, including our kids' clothes are close to disposable fashion.

What does that mean? 

Why do you think you can buy kids' clothes for $3 a shirt? Is it because we live in a magic time warp where the prices of clothes go opposite of the cost of everything else? No. When was the last time you looked at those shorts you picked up for $4 at Target? China, Pakistan, Bangladesh? China is getting too expensive now to maintain those $4 prices, so the manufacturers of all the brands you use are moving to Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and yes, Bangladesh. Bangladesh, where 400 women died in a factory fire last May. Because your shorts will cost you more than $4 if those women have a safe place to work and a wage they can use to pay their families.

So why am I bringing this up? Because we're all about to do a lot of clothes shopping for back to school. I know I'm guilty of it: spending a handful of dollars to stock up on a bunch of basics. And what do I get for that? Pants that tear immediately, shirts that look shabby after one wash, a dress I buy to wear just once, and way, way too many clothes which I will then have to launder.

I want to stop buying disposable fashion, especially for my children. Sometimes we can't afford to buy better clothes for our kids; we're not at Wal-Mart picking up T-shirts because our French fashion pieces are taking a little too long arrive from the continent. So if we can't afford to buy quality at the beginning, what can we do instead?

What I Can Pledge to Do

  • I can do better by treating the clothes I do buy with more care.
  • I can reinforce my kids' jeans with a patch under the knee before they blow it out.
  • I can buy less, buy only when we have a need, skip overly trendy pieces.
  • I can be more mindful of when and where I'm buying clothes.
  • I can turn that garment inside out and look at how it's finished--are the seams a mess, buttons loose, zipper sticking?
  • Ask where my clothing came from and how it was produced.

Because you can make a difference. Every time you spend a dollar you are voting for what you want with that dollar. You and I are about to step into the stores to buy clothing and gear with our money that we hope will last all year for our kids.

When we buy cheap clothes there is a hidden cost. Sometimes that cost is that we end up having to replace that garment several times to get the same use out of something of quality. Sometimes that cost is a human life. You can ask companies where they get their clothes from. If enough of us ask, companies will listen. You can pass up clothes that are cute but cheaply made. We can stop buying clothes we don't need. We can all do better.

What are your thoughts?

-Resources: Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

Related

Crayons and back to school supplies

School Supplies Headache

I love having all the kids' school supplies purchased well in advance and stored perfectly until back to school. The reality is a little messier.

middle schooler with backpack

Library Secrets for Back to School

Summer is almost over. In the libraries we are girding our loins for the start of the school year. No more happy families picking up audiobooks for road trips; it's time for the after-school junior high crowds (heaven help me) and . . . dun dun dunnnn . . . school assignments.

Soothing Back-to-School Anxiety

Here we are at the beginning of the school year, when play-time turns abruptly to work-time, when sleeping in is officially out, when academic and social pressure combine in a way that can give almost anyone the willies.