Responsible Clothing

We’ve all done it; binge shopping, cheap clothes, bargain bins, or silly trends. We see a sale sign, it seems like a really good deal, and we’re instantly sucked in; sliding hanger after hanger down the rack, listening to the screech of metal against metal over and over again, as our eyes search rapidly for the perfect fit or color. We are so consumed by the deal, the trend, and what people will think of us in our new clothes. But have you ever stopped to consider where all this clothing comes from? How was it manufactured? Who was it manufactured by? Where did the materials come from? Is this responsible clothing or am I contributing to the proliferation of sweat shops?


At first glance that $10 dress seems like a miracle, but if you could follow that dress all the way back to before it was actually a dress, you would meet someone working for well below the American minimum wage, who is forced to work 14-16 hours a day in unsafe, cramped and hazardous conditions, where sexual harassment is rampant, and a woman’s right to maternity leave is often not upheld. It turns out that, that adorable miracle dress was once a nightmare for someone else. When we support the retailers and manufacturers creating and selling the $10 dress, we are, in turn, supporting the exploitation of people all over the world.


The clothing industry greatly mimics the food industry. We have an abundance of cheap, unhealthy food. Those living in poverty, who one would think can barely afford food, are the most likely to be obese. Much like food, many people have tons of cheap clothing, much of which they don’t really like or wear, that they bought because it was a good deal, they cannot afford anything better, or they are unaware of the effects their purchases are having on the world. It is easy for the wealthy to be conscious consumers, they can afford to buy organic, locally grown food and expensive clothing, but what are the rest of us to do?


Much like the food industry, one of the answers to the clothing crisis is to purchase locally. When we buy from local designers, we support our local community; we know that the things we are putting in, and on our bodies are healthy for our families, the environment, and ourselves. Another great option is to change the clothing we already own, use a tailor, have them take in your side seams, remove that weird bow, or add something different; you could even learn to do it yourself. Buying vintage is also a great option when you are on a budget, or in need of an item quickly. Second hand shops have become a dumping ground for unwanted clothing and, on average, they are only able to sell a mere 20% of the items they take in. If you must shop at a retail store do a quick internet search to find labels that are fair trade certified, such as items from Patagonia, one of the earliest advocates for ethics in active wear fashion, Elegentees, whose clothing is sewn by women who have overcome sex trafficking in Nepal, or Fibre, a Chicago based organic athletic clothing company who supports environmental and poverty alleviation projects around the world.

Responsible Clothing
was last modified: September 23rd, 2017 by Brian Peterson

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