Have you ever wondered how Walmart charges $13.98 (or $3 if you catch the clearance rack!) for a dress that looks very similar to one you would pay $49.95 for at L.L. Bean? Until the last few weeks, I always thought paying more for a garment was just paying for a slight quality increase and the brand name. So, as I strived to be about the heart and not about the look, it seemed immodest to pay for the name brand. I chalked H&M’s low prices up to the fact that they bought in such high quantities they were able to get garments made for pennies. I never even thought of asking the question, “Who made my clothes?”
Even when I started my own clothing line last year and was shocked at how much it cost to get a garment made here in the U.S., I thought it was because I was paying in dollars and not Chinese yen that made it so expensive. 
With all our modern technologies, there are a lot of ways that clothing manufacturing can be made streamlined with cutting machines, conveyor belts, ultra-fast needles, whatever– but there is still a human doing the bulk of the creation of that garment. In so. many. factories, that person is barely getting paid a living wage to work long days because the industry of cheap, quickly produced, throw-away fashion drives these factory owners to take on huge orders for too little money. Unfortunately, in this fast fashion system, as one Bangladeshi factory owner said, “Something has to give; it is often the safety and pay of the workers.” 
I hesitate to generalize, because I know each factory, each company, each business, is run differently and has different standards, but the vast majority of dirt cheap clothing sold to us is sewn in a country where the labor laws are not enforced, where they allow massive chemical dumping in the rivers, and where oftentimes it is nearly impossible to track the supply chain because of all the politics and liabilities. 
The more I learn about this, the more I am disgusted, discouraged, and ready to hunker down and weave my own flax clothing. 
I’m disgusted with all the lies I’ve believed as a 21st century American. We expect things to be cheap, easy-to-come-by, and wrapped in plastic. Y’all, we are so far removed from the source of what we consume that we assume chicken grows in the freezer section.
I’m discouraged because I know there are millions of people who are mindlessly buying into the idea, just like I did, that a red sweater from Old Navy is going to make them smile bigger this Christmas season and have no clue they are contributing to a world-wide humanitarian disaster
I’ve had lots of people tell me my Fresh Apparel skirts are way overpriced… and until recently, I was apologetic about having created a product that by necessity had to have what I would call a “high end” price tag. But the reality is, I’m charging just enough to recoup my costs of Texas-grown cotton and working with a facility in Tennessee who actually takes care of their workers. What that factory owner said in The True Cost documentary about the worker’s wage being squeezed in a business really hit home for me, because I’m not charging for my labor in custom-hemming every order that comes through FreshApparel.us. Some skirts I’ve spent over 8 hours working on… I can’t imagine having the pressure of supporting a family by creating a garment for pennies.
I’m so blessed in my own situation, so burdened for this industry, and so not okay with buying tanks for $1.80 from Forever 21 anymore. What I used to think was an awesome resource for us budget-conscious shoppers now sickens my stomach and makes me question what other things I am completely naive about. 
So many of us are willing to pay extra for naturally-grown, local food– yet we don’t even question how a pair of jeans that has traveled halfway around the globe to our Walmart is the same price as a family-sized frozen lasagna. 
“Oh, don’t tell me what’s in it, just let me enjoy it!” I’m sorry, but where another life is concerned, that oh-so-american-consumerism attitude is seriously selfish. I admit this as someone who for the last 10 years has been addicted to fast fashion, new clothes, and awesome deals. I can’t change how I’ve spent my money in the past, but I can and will be drastically changing how I evaluate, purchase, recommend, and curate clothing in the future.
If you haven’t watched The True Cost yet, watch it free on Netflix or dig some quarters out of the couch and rent it on Amazon.  Please.
I walked around for awhile in a crazy mad confused helpless daze when all this really sank in, so in my next post I’ll be sharing suggestions for how we can take immediate steps towards being a conscious promoter of ethical fashion… still on a budget, still modestly, and still with excellence. 
We cannot ignore this. 

76 thoughts on “Please Stop Buying Cheap Clothes”

  1. This disgusts me so much, and it's one of the reasons I thrift/sew almost everything. The other thing that is worrying as well is paying more for something does not necessitate higher quality. I know my husband often pays decent mid-range prices for clothes that end up rubbed, faded in a few months, and shoes that come apart. It's worrisome that things at all price points are decreasing dramatically in quality, to the point where I simply don't know if it's worth buying retail at all.

  2. I've never commented on your blog before (and I haven't watched this movie yet) but this is really hitting me. What is the solution? We buy most of our clothing used. But for those occasional new items – where should we get them?

    1. I buy most of my kids clothes and mine from thrift stores and garage sales…this works for our budget! I also love to sew but sometimes struggle to find the time, but I'm making it a priority. Anyone know about the ethics behind fabric manufacturing? Some things I just like to/need to buy new (underwear and socks!) I've learned (http://theartofsimple.net/shopping/) that Hanes is an ethical company and easy to find and afford for simple things like T's, underwear and socks. I'm looking into trying Everlane for a simple T ($15, more than I usually pay, but not outrageous if the quality is good and will last a while!) Blessings to us all as we seek to live Christ's love in all areas of life!

  3. I cannot wait to read your posts on this issue. I remember when I first saw tags that said "made in Bangladesh" instead of "made in China" and I thought, hang on, what's going on here?

    I haven't bought what I think of as "fast fashion" for a while now, but I think I need to be more proactive in looking up the policies of clothing companies.

    you're absolutely right that people worry about ethical food and coffee, but don't consider the source of their everyday clothing. Great post!

    ~Esther of Oz

  4. I completely understand the insane way this whole process works and I'm sad and sickened by it. But, what happens when the market quits buying these "cheap" clothes? Suddenly lots and lots of people are out of work world wide who can no longer support families that may depend on that $3 a day. Yes, our world economy sucks and it will take decades plus, to right some of these wrongs. More so, as long as governments and corporations are run on selfishness and greed.

    1. There are various ethical companies that are hiring the workers from these factories to produce their clothing in much better working conditions for a much better wage. The more we stop supporting fast fashion and turn to these ethical brands, the more we build the market which results in more companies hiring more of those workers.

  5. Thank you so much for spreading the word about the truth behind cheap clothes, and thank you also for your honesty in this post. It was so refreshing to read this. I look forward to reading your suggestions!

  6. Unless the garments are made in america paying more doesn't mean the workers are treated any better, it just means the markup is greater. Sad but true.

  7. Thank you for learning more about this issue and educating us! I have to confess, I knew that the situation for garment workers was unjust, but I didn't know it was to this extent. I think it would be helpful if we completely changed our mentality of clothes. I come from a big, poor family, so buying cheap clothes is often the only feasible option, and it's kind of ingrained in me. But the more blogs I read about fashion are helping me to see that fashion-wise, having fewer, high-quality pieces is a benefit to a wardrobe. And this translates ethically, because if I'm not spending money to buy as many clothes, I can feel better about spending a little more on ethically-made garments. Still, I'm not going to lie, this is a nice idea and all, but VERY tough in practice (hello, college loans!). But you've definitely got me interested in learning more about this topic, and I want to discover more about how we can build a pro-life, pro-family culture in all areas! 🙂

  8. I agree with this whole heartedly Olivia, but I feel especially burdened by it in a bad way because our family can't even afford good locally-grown or organic food to put on the table, let alone pay for clothes brand new. We have always bought from thrift stores. Is even this not acceptable? How can we implement this without breaking the bank. I am in total support to end slavery, but Can I afford to donate all the money I want to the cause? No. I feel there is really no way to implement this to those of us family's that simply CANNOT afford it. Do you have any ideas? I really want to make this a reality in our country, but see no way out.
    Thank you for this post and making us think harder about what we purchase! Always in need of inspiration!
    Blessings to you!
    By His Grace,

    1. Oh, please, please do not feel guilty that you cannot buy locally grown organic food. You are a Christian, I see. Please trust God with your health and don't think there is some magic in local or organic. Even the proverbs 31 woman brought her family foods from afar 😉

      I, too, used to feel burdened by the need to feed my family local and organic. But by prayer and trusting in God to provide our health, He has TOTALLY liberated me from this fear.

      Children of God – He doesn't want you to fear your food, to worry about what to eat or drink – such things are what the Gentiles think about! Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and He will care for you.

      Not eating local or organic doens't mean you're eating unhealthy foods. We eat a very healthy (well…mostly! We're not perfect) diet of whole foods, lots of beans, grains, meat a few times a week (not in the budget for more).

      We then have leftover money to tithe and give offerings to the poor.

      We are not rich. We are a family of 4 making less than $30,000 a year. And my husband was recently unemployed for nearly a year. Even the poor (I say poor lightly, as in our nation the poor are often rich) ought to help care for His sheep.

      Buy your family healthful foods you can afford, give money to the poor, pray God blesses your food and TRUST that He will.

      The people who should truly be burdened are those who spend all their money on "health foods" and have none left over to share with people in need.

      With love in Christ,

  9. For those that are complaining about the cost, I suspect that they have never sewn a garment or know what goes into it. Secondly, the quality fabric that you use accounts for another plus to your skirt. If a person went to a fabric store to purchase, let's say, the pattern, the fabric, interfacing, buttons/closures, zippers, thread, the machine to sew it with, all the other tools you need, your time etc, all of this has a monetary value to it. And to make your own garments today is expensive! There will always be those who try to tear you down but just ignore those and follow your dreams!

    1. I have not seen what I would call real complaints. Some of us just simply CAN'T afford it, others can, but ask for cheaper options, such as thrift stores. I haven't seen a post tat says anythign along the lines of "Well, it costs too much, so I'm not going to do it." Most of the posts I've seen are either thanking Olivia for the post, or asking for cheaper options, becuase they can't/don't want to spend so much money on brand-new, brand-name clothes. And yes, I have sewn my own clothes. I have only one time in my life that I can remember bought any new clothes, besides underwear and socks and things like that. And that time was when my grandma was buying me clothes.

  10. I was curious too….I'm not complaining… but thankful for any & all income/work our family can have each & every day… but curious…

    My son is a paper carrier … gets paid 8 cents/paper weekdays, and 9 cents/paper for weekends… but the price tag on the paper says "$1" for weekdays and "$1.50" for weekends….So, he delivers $20 worth of papers each weekday, for 72 cents each weekday, and $30 on the weekend edition, for $1.80…. Here in the U.S.A. – produced & published here… I know it's not clothing, but just looking at the break down… The company he works under is owned by Berkshire-Hathaway… What are your thoughts?

    1. I have a feeling this isn't his career, nor do I think he's trying to feed children on this salary. A teenager's paper route is a very different thing from a mother's 20-hour days as she's struggling to feed her family…

  11. Thank you so much for sharing on this. Just a few years ago I was made aware, and disgusted by, the consumerism going on in America. I have been trying to change in other areas of consumerism, such as food, but with my focus on that, I forgot and lost focus on the clothing aspect of consumerism. I've been getting caught up recently on trying to dress more pleasing for God/more modestly and again was caught up just in that change over.I really really appreciate you as a modest blogger looking to purchase clothes more ethically and still at a reasonable price (I'm a stay at home mom of two, so budget matters also!). I CAN NOT wait for your next post!!! God bless.

  12. Hi Olivia,
    I compeletely agree that American consumers ccan really hurt people in other countries by mindlessly buying supplies that are supportive of cruel practices, but there is anotner side to this as well.
    Having been to India twice, I habe realized that a whole lot of the world live on less than we in America do. Believe it or not, $3 simple dollars can meam a lot and go a lot farther in another country. This is not to justify how badly these people are treated or payed, or hpw their safety is not accounted for, but I point it out because here in America we think, "Good grief! $3? I couldnt buy a meal for ONE person with that!" The money does go a bit farther in other places in the world.
    Also, while I agree that it is wrong for Americans to exploit people on the other side of the world in order to be able to drastically mark up their prices for a greater profit or just to be able to buy things cheaply, I don't think boycotting is the answer. Boycotting isn't the answer because, horrible as these people's positions are at the moment, they are the only jobs they have. Lack of business will hurt them FAR more than it will hurt some multimillion dollar corporation. Spreading the word about cpnditions in these factories and demanding that these companies be held accountable for lost lives and illnesses among these workers, will, I believe, produce more lasting change without first taking away the jobs and few meager earnings of these foreign workers.
    What are yohr thoughts?

    1. I agree Millie Carpenter. Another thought is, what if other countries started not buying from us because they don't agree with how we do things here in the USA?

      ~Grace P.

    2. I was thinking the same thing Millie Capenter. Boycotting works if you want to stop something like the killing of animals. If you want to stop cheetahs from being killed it makes sense not to buy real cheetah fur, but to try to influence a company to pay their employees more by not buying their products seems like it will just put them more in a hole. I understand it better if we thought of it as more of "supporting good companies" rather than trying to change bad companies by boycotting them. This may be what Olivia's feeling at the heart.

  13. I havin't watched "the True cost"yet but I will definitely be watching it on Netflix! Thank you for letting us know it was on there:)I definitely see what you're saying and coming from…I very rarely shop at name brand stores,I usually shop at Goodwill and other consignment stores.Its sad that alot of people in other countries are suffering and making literally pennies for cheap clothing it is disheartining……Thanks for the post!



  14. I am glad that more people are learning about these things. Much of our North American lifestyle comes at a high cost to people, animals and the environment. Since I learned about this – I have chosen to live more mindfully(I no longer treat shopping as a fun outing – it is more purposeful now) and with much fewer things. I rarely purchase clothing now and when I do I choose very carefully. While each individual thing I buy is more expensive than could be purchased at Walmart or some similar store – because I buy less and because what I do buy is excellent quality – the overall cost is cheaper. As a bonus the absence of clutter is so very nice.

  15. I have seen several people who have recommended watching The True Cost. I took the time to watch it. I am always appalled at how much people ignore their own conscience. I am guilty of going the fast fashion route. I use to think that having tons of clothes in your closet was the way to go, that you were more important that way. It also has a lot to do with not having hundreds of dollars to spend on clothes. But recently (before I'd even watched it) I started to consider that quality might just be better than quantity. I know people don't like to buy expensive and well made clothing because they don't have the money, but they are so focused on having the latest fashions at the cheapest prices that in the end they spend more money on cheap t-shirts than they would have spent on one blouse from a company like LL Bean or Patagonia. There are ways to do it that won't empty out your bank account. I have a jar in my house with a label on it that I save change in. I plop in my spare change when ever I have it. It adds up and when I reach the amount to purchase the item. I do so. I stopped running out and spending money just because I could on clothes. It has allowed me to have a capsule wardrobe with quality pieces instead of a closet full of clothes I don't even wear half of…

    My current jar is going towards and Errand #17 Skirt from Fresh Apparel.

  16. Thanks for this Olivia! I'm upset over that fact that I've been so indifferent to this topic. I really want to research this more and find out how I can make real practical changes to my overall lifestyle. So "how should we then live"?


  17. I can't afford expensive clothes on a regular basis so I do shop second hand – at Savers where they have amazing cheap stock and turn over their stock every few months to donate unbought clothes to third world countries. Can't get much more ethical than that! 🙂

    1. Shipping a bunch of cheap clothing to developing nations is about as unethical as it gets. By doing this stores like Goodwill and Savers are undermining the textile industries of lots of east African nations: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda. It's as bad as those stupid Toms shoes that are putting local shoemakers out of business by handing out free shoes.

    2. With every pair of Toms you buy a person in another country(Who needs shoes) gets a pair of Toms. I dont see anything wrong with that…..


    3. If you're given a free pair of shoes then you don't have to buy them. If you don't have to buy them then the people in your city who make them don't sell and pair and turn a profit. Handing out free shoes undermines local shoemakers. Toms could do worlds more good by sponsoring artisans (and even helping them sell their product at a slightly reduced prices to people or organizations in need) instead of throwing free shoes all over Africa because warm fuzzies. If they worked with local shoemakers they would be encouraging industry, and entrepreneurship, and helping people to lift themselves out of poverty. Instead they render local shoemakers obsolete because there are free shoes instead. Giving out free stuff, be it clothes or shoes or food does nothing to lift people out of poverty. This is an excellent example of western "help" that does nothing but hurt in the end. The solution to poverty and suffering will never be that simple, and anyone who says otherwise has never bothered to trace their actions through to see the end result.

    4. Sorry but I do not agree with you.Theres alot of people who cant afford alot of things because they're in undeveloped countries.And isnt their fault.I know without a doubt that there has been families that have tried to get there precious children out of poverty and some might have succeeded but most probably haven't. Its NOT something that can happen over night.Think If we were in a situation like some of those precious families where we were not even able to afford food,clothes ect… at all. Its hard Im sure I cant even imagine the hardship they go through wondering were the next meal will come from how they are going to buy dipers for that newborn baby or to pay rent for that property ect… I dont have it all figured out but I do know that I completely am for GIVING to the needy whether its shoes or clothes,medical supplies ect…It says in the bible "It is more blessed to give than to receive" Oh how this is true!! If the Toms Company didint want to be generous they wouldnt have started the "ONE for ONE"..

      In Christ


    I've wanted to send in "friends of Fresh Modesty" photos but haven't been game because the price I have spent on my clothes is (a lot) more than the $1.80-$3 prices that were boasted here because I like to shop ethically, from stores like Cue and Veronica Maine.

    We have a handy website/app in Australia – http://guide.ethical.org.au/guide/browse/guide/?cat=700&subcat=702&type=720 – making it easy to look up whether or not the stores are providing their workers with fair conditions. You should see if the US has an equivalent.

    It pleases me that your journey making the Errand #17 has changed the way you think about shopping. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂


    1. I like your post! Very thought-provoking. And you mentioned Chesterton!?!?!?! Super awesome 🙂 Not only is it at times more ethically sound to "shop local," but by supporting local businesses, you really build up a community and relationships, too. For example, I recently moved to a new city, and went out to explore some local shops. Yes, what I bought in the end (soap and two dresses) could have been purchased at a big chain store or online, but by going out into the local community, I was able to connect with the store owners (and one of the owners and I had a lovely conversation!).

  19. I totally understand this issue! People don't realize what it takes to make an item by hand!!! My mom, sisters and I hand make things and sell them on Etsy at SimplyHomemade965 and it's hard to sell because people look at the price and go "That's too expensive!" What they don't know is all the time and effort that goes into making things!
    We make a lot of our clothes too! It takes time to make something and make it nice!
    It would be nice if people started realizing what is really happening out there to make things!

  20. I'm glad to see that you are careful with your own line. It would be nice if more companies saw things the way you did. A lot of us don't make a living wage ourselves and we can't really afford to buy the clothes from the better factories. But since I know what it's like to not get paid enough for what I do, I will be much more conscious about where I buy my clothes from now on, though I cannot make a pledge not to EVER buy the cheaper stuff.

  21. Olivia,
    I haven't read all the comments above so forgive me if I echo someone else 's thoughts. I appreciate your comments and your frustration with the industry.

    We can all stop buying cheap new clothes and switch to fewer new "more expensive clothes" (and used of course), but unless we take the extra time to verify that the extra cost is going to workers, we may just be paying more and still be a part of the problem.

  22. I really appreciate you writing a post on this. At the end of last year, I really started to feel guilty about how many clothes I have, and those feelings eventually morphed into me thinking about the true cost of many of my fashion choices. I've since made an effort to buy from "ethical" sources, though trying to determine the actual production conditions for different brands is difficult. The result has been me spending less overall, and I feel better knowing I'm not contributing to unsafe or unethical business practices. I wish more bloggers would touch on this issue!

  23. I'm sorry, Olivia, but I don't agree with you. I think it is the Liberals who think that all people have to be treated equally the world over…essentially, that's communism. I'm not accusing you of this, but that is the logical conclusion of your ideas. Also, I know that you have a tender heart and feel so bad for all the poor people working for only $3.00 a day, but you've got to realize 1) these people wouldn't have job if it wasn't for the American companies hiring them 2) If they agreed to work for $3.00 a day, then it's fair ( look at the parable of the workers in Matthew 20…those that worked the longest received the same as those that worked the shortest…I know that the point of this parable isn't exactly business, but I believe it can be applied to that.) And 3) $3.00 is a decent amount compared to their living standards.
    Just a few things to think about…
    I love your blog, and have been greatly encouraged by you in the past. Thank you for all the work you put into your lovely blog! 😀
    Sincerely, Lydia

    1. Your first and second point kind of contradict each other. You state that people in these countries wouldn't have a job if it weren't for the manufacturers coming in. These people don't have a choice and are forced to accept low wages. Yeah, technically they agreeing to three bucks a day, but that's because there aren't too many options out there. It isn't just the low wages that factor into the exploitation, but the fact that these people are working in unsafe conditions. Furthermore, I seriously doubt they are working an 40 hour work week like we do in America with legally enforced lunches and breaks as we are so blessed to have here in this country. I also seriously doubt they have other benefits like we do such as paid sick leave and health insurance. And no, I don't believe everyone is entitled to free health insurance. I'm merely pointing out that these people toil in much harsher conditions than we do, and when we in western countries demand cheap clothes we are contributing to their semi enslavement. I think it is skewed to say that Olivia is stating that people all over the world should be treated equally the world over. The point of not supporting sweatshops is to ensure FAIR treatment, which doesn't mean equal. No, I'm not a liberal. In fact I'm probably one of the most conservative readers of this site. Just some thoughts.

  24. Hello! I just found your blog and I've been enjoying it! I read your recent post about thredUp. I can find your style shops on thredUP, but is there any way I can make my own? How do you do it? Thanks so much!

  25. Is is deeply heartbreaking what is going on in this world….the suicide of farmers in India, the loss of jobs for people who can sew in Haiti, the illnesses caused by the chromium used to treat leather. It is all so horrifying. I worry about my own father who has to spray chemicals often in our cherry orchards. I want to know better alternatives for buying clothes and donating clothes. At the same time, I think part of the answer is to STOP buying clothes. I know it is a struggle for me, when truly I have enough already. I do wonder though….as an example…I have a simply cardigan that I bought at Old Navy for probably around $10. I wear it a lot…and have recently misplaced it…I saw that Patagonia is a better brand to buy from so I looked for a similar cardigan on their website. $149. It doesn't seem right to me that in order to be more ethical the price of a cardigan has to increase by over a hundred dollars. To be honest, how many people can really afford those prices? On the same line, the clothes from People Tree are super expensive as well. Do we have to be willing to dish out hundreds and thousands of dollars for a wardrobe in order to support better companies?

  26. This is an important issue to address. It is so hard to buy quality clothes when you already are spending so much to get quality food. I think one of the issues with our attitudes is that most of us (not all, especially if you're talking growing kids) have more clothes than we need and yet many of us go out and buy more to "keep up with the trends." Thrift shopping does help with this kind of waste, but I've noticed a lot of things in the thrift shops are now cheapies that are poor quality and don't last. So even if we are trying to buy good quality things that will last, the large quantities of low quality goods others are buying are sifting into the second hand stores.
    The other question is how do we know which companies to support? How do we know which stores or brands sell items made by people who are being paid decently and have good working conditions? I haven't seen the movie yet so maybe it does say what to avoid, but I need to know what to buy. There are so many issues now where you find out companies you deal with or spend money on, that support causes that you don't want anything to do with, such as the recent planned parenthood contributor list. This is yet another thing we have to be thoughtful about and it certainly makes everyday life complicated.

  27. Hey Olivia,

    This topic really interests me, and I'm thinking of writing a persuasive speech about it for my public speaking class. Could you provide some links to articles you might have gotten your information from?
    I'll keep reading for other posts on this topic. 🙂


  28. This is something I have never been aware of or thought to think about until now.Thank you Olivia! I wonder if you could help us and compile a list of ethical clothing companies?
    Love, Stevie

  29. Please keep in mind while labor is horrifying in some places the reality is not every family can afford name brand or designer things and need those less expensive deals to make it work for their families. Having been in a position where we have seen some lean times in the beginning as a foursome family I get that and used to be all about the "if it's not Arden its not in my face" and "if it's not Lauren I don't own it as a shirt or sweater" etc. not everyone can lay out $40 for a shirt or whatever and have to do what they can. It doesn't mean they aren't caring about poor labor facilities some companies use but they are thinking more of my kid needs shoes and pants and I have lost my job so that $10 and under clearance can mean the world to them to make it work. Someday when you have a family and kids you may see that a bit better. I still have to rely with two growing kids on clearance racks and consignment and other sales deals at various places and not just in Walmart. A lot of other moms I know do the same. When you have a mortgage, kids to care for and a budget to have to work in that isn't all fat filled all the time you see things way differently in dollars and cents.

  30. Hello Olivia,

    Surely I'm not one of your usual readers. I am 53 years old and a very liberal Christian. I have been concerned about this for years – -since long before you were born, both because globalization took jobs away from Americans and because it gave perfectly horrible jobs to foreigners.

    Oddly enough, I came to your blog because I was really struggling with how dowdy I looked as a middle aged woman who always dressed out of thrift stores because I just could no longer support usual American fashion but I realized that if I didn't find a way to look better, I might have to settle for eventually making a reasonably attractive elderly corpse! So I found you while working on my style. Although we'd disagree on SO many things, I like your blog. I like the clothes and I like reading meditations on scripture, even when I disagree.

    But to find that you now know about these problems and are taking them seriously. I have to go back to work now but I just had to write to say — please stay on the path you're on, keep employing Tennesseans (I'm East Tenn born & bred!), and know that this blog post had a middle aged Episcopalian weeping with gladness that you understand this issue.

  31. This is a really complicated issue, and I think it's harder to solve than, "Just go buy more expensive clothes". Just because a company charges $60.00 for a sweater instead of $10 for a sweater doesn't necessarily mean they are paying their workers any more. Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss, and Armani are just three "high-end" companies who have garments made in Bangladesh, and still pay workers less than $100 a month. Having garments made overseas makes for a higher profit margin for these companies.

    Patagonia was mentioned upthread, and while they brag about being an ethical company, they also have garments made in countries like China, where workers are not treated well. Lands-End has also been caught outsourcing garment-making to China and even North Korea (!), although the company insists all items are made in the U.S.
    American Apparel is a company that operates solely in the U.S. and pays workers a fair wage, and is close to closing due to millions of dollars in debt. U.S.-only companies just can't compete with companies that outsource.

    Where does that leave us?

    1.) More expensive does not equal well-treated and well-paid employees
    2.) "Made in the U.S.A." labels are no guarantee that workers are well-treated OR that the clothes are really being made in the U.S.
    3.) All clothing companies are in it for the profit.
    4.) Companies lie to consumers.
    5.) $3.00 a day in some parts of the world is A LOT of money…who are we to take away what might be someone's sole source of income?
    6.) I'd consider making my own clothing, but how do I know that fabric makers are treated any more ethically than garment workers?

    Given all of that, I don't know how we make the best choice as consumers…Open to suggestions and appreciate that you are raising the issue.

    1. I think our best option as consumers is to be informed and active. Truly there is no way to ensure someone was not treated unfairly no matter what the product is that you are buying. However, if we raise awareness and are willing to pressure companies to treat their employees better. No, buying expensive clothing is not the answer. It can be an option, but is often ineffective in achieving these ends. Rather, we need to confront these companies and push for better pay for these workers, demonstrating a willingness to pay more if necessary after the change is implemented.
      Alternatively, we could stop sitting in our comfortable living rooms wearing our comfortable clothes (expensive or not) and typing on our computers about how sad it is that these people are mistreated, and instead spend the time working to create programs that help these people. Let's not debate about cheap vs expensive clothing; let's stop buying clothing we don't really need and send the money to missions and organisations working to provide for these people's needs. Buying expensive shirts does not count as being proactive.
      Thanks everyone for your thoughts!

  32. Olivia, I love seeing your passion for these people who make the items we use. I think God is truly working in your life, and you are asking the important questions that many of us as Christians don't know to ask, and in that way using your social media platform as a ministry for the word of the Lord. Thank you for spreading awareness and knowledge.

  33. I have been thinking a lot on this article. As a modest dresser with extremely conservative convictions, it is hard to find cute and modest apparell, even in a huge city with many thrift stores.It's to the point when I find something I may or may not physically do a jig. I was so thrilled when I found cute, baggy tops at F21 (how ironic.) On a whim, I looked up their practices, and was disappointed. But really, how naive of me to expect cheap clothes to be ethically manufactured. This solidifies that I cannot shop at places that exploit ppl. I may be honoring God to dress modestly, but it is pointless if I am knowingly participating in others being exploited. A few months ago I remember reading complaints about ur skirt prices, and I thought that wasnt fair. It is worth paying for something cute and modest. As a society, we want everything cheap and easy, because we've been conditioned that way. Shopping won't be the same for me.

  34. I intend to watch "The True Cost" when I get the chance, because I had a similar crisis after a hard-hitting English course about popular culture.

    Olivia, I highly recommend that you read "Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion" (Hoskins). If you've read the book "Fast Food Nation" (Schlosser) about the making of fast food, "Stitched Up" is a similar exposé-style book that I think you'll find very informative.

    I hope to hear more of your findings in the future; this is truly a subject that needs to be talked more about, and you have the platform to do it.

  35. Hello! Just a question, Olivia. Will you be buying from eShakti anymore? I recall a post in the wintertime where you were showing us how to get a dress for around $13, including shipping. They come from India, I believe. Also, I totally agree with the above comment from "Lydia". "I'm sorry, Olivia, but I don't agree with you. I think it is the Liberals who think that all people have to be treated equally the world over…essentially, that's communism. I'm not accusing you of this, but that is the logical conclusion of your ideas. Also, I know that you have a tender heart and feel so bad for all the poor people working for only $3.00 a day, but you've got to realize 1) these people wouldn't have job if it wasn't for the American companies hiring them 2) If they agreed to work for $3.00 a day, then it's fair ( look at the parable of the workers in Matthew 20…those that worked the longest received the same as those that worked the shortest…I know that the point of this parable isn't exactly business, but I believe it can be applied to that.) And 3) $3.00 is a decent amount compared to their living standards."
    I am concerned, too, but we must remember that the way the world wants us to think today is everything we have must be shared, a rich man needs to give his wealth away to those who have less, EQUALITY…. I'm sick of that mindset. I don't want to be selfish, but believe you are entitled to what you earn. If someone else has a problem with how much money I make, they can work hard just the same to make their own money. This probably sounds hard. I'm not trying to be. Just concerned that we not go too far in the other direction. There is a Godly balance to this part of life, as well. ~Valerie

  36. I've been wanting to watch that! This inspires me further to do so! I really love this post in every way. I know it makes a lot of people uncomfortable but that is what will drive them to stop buying things that are not fairly made. At the same time, there was a book that I read a few years ago where a man went to visit the factories and visit workers to talk to them of those who made his own clothes. Some of them said that if people do boycott their companies that they are slaves in, they won't receive the little bit of money they do. Instead we need to be sure to contact companies to pay their workers and treat them fairly. Reading about it made me question things. I do still boycott a lot of companies but have seen that there are companies making efforts towards fair trade in which they never did before. I yell at my mom sometimes for buying things from Kohls for my sons. All we own are hand me downs or artisan made items or items made by former freed slaves or handmade items directly from those who made them. May your journey continue!!

  37. Thank you so much for addressing this, Olivia! It is so nice to know that there are other people aware of how huge this issue is and doing something about it!

  38. I appreciate this post. I don't buy cheap clothes, because I don't buy cheap clothes. Not only for the reasons in this post, but because I've always been disappointed with them. I bought a cheap tank recently because I liked the color and I thought it would help me layer for breastfeeding. I got home, and you could see clean through it. The problem with not buying cheap clothes is that I am broke, so it means I have no clothes that fit me. I struggle to buy quality undergarments that I need (pregnancy and breastfeeding do crazy things to your bra size, and bras in large cup sizes cost a lot of money for quality!!), let alone outergarments that fit. I'd love to have an errand #17 skirt, I've wanted one since before my last pregnancy, that baby is nearly 4 months and it's still not affordable. So I'm wearing hand-me-downs from my late mother which do not fit me (and haven't really ever) because I don't buy cheap stuff and can't afford quality.

  39. This has been something that has bothered me for many yrs. Having a small budget and looking for modest clothing often runs into this problem. Even sewing ones own clothing falls into the same pitfalls as the fabric is mostly made in China/3rd world countries. I try to buy reduced clothing and shop in 2nd hand/charity stores myself. I have found very few economically friendly eco-clothing. However several stores do a 'conscientious' range such as HM etc it's just a lot more expensive!!! One thing that does help is having a smaller and 'needs' only based wardrobe. Buying unnecessary items just adds to the problem. Hope you find a way through this problem. I love your blog by the way 🙂

  40. I one of those who have been shouting a similar message for years (decades?) now. I am proud to have never, ever set foot in a Walmart. I am so glad you have begun to study and share about this important issue. It gives me hope for the future. See people? It's not just "big, bad liberals" like me who care about these things!

    1. Hey, Alison! I read about this company called Krochet Kids, which seems pretty fabulous for its ethics and empowering message. As I've read through what Olivia has said, talked with people, and thought it over, I also am seeing the value of quality over quantity. If I have fewer clothes, I can afford to buy clothes from ethical companies, and my life becomes even simpler because I don't have a myriad of clothing options. That's just personally what I've been thinking!

  41. Hey Olivia,
    I really appreciated your thoughts on this subject.
    I'm curious if you accessed https://www.forever21.com/Htmls/CustomerService/en-US/socialresponsibility.html?4/28/2014 yet, and what you thought of it if you did?
    Also, I'm wondering why you view second hand as an option. It seems to me that by doing so, we are only worsening the issue by causing these workers not only to not be able to find work with a fair company, but by no longer being able to find work at all because less clothing will need to be produced, and workers will be laid off.
    I would really value your thoughts on this matter!

    1. *but no longer
      Also, let me clarify…second hand would be considered to be an ethical choice for us to make. If we purchase used then we are doing our part in that we would not be employing people in sweatshops/poor working conditions. However, what I was trying to say is that it still doesn't really help those people because we are only taking their job away from them without helping to provide a better, fairer one like we would if we only bought from fair trade companies who employ people like that.
      I'm just not entirely sure how to think about all of this, so thanks for helping me think! I wish more people were more aware/commited to helping this issue.

  42. Like many of the comments stated above it is a very complex issue. I do however think you've hit some great points.

    I feel very patriotic and really enjoy buying made in the USA products from USA grown resources. I wish we could create a more business friendly enviroment so that more companies would move/keep their business here. This would ensure fair wages to workers as well as provide consumers quality control.

    I agree with Debra, until our country realizes how handcuffed we are by current laws, it is almost impossible for 100% made in the US companies to compete with those that outsource.

  43. I would like to gently say that some of us choose to buy cheaper clothing so we can give more money to the poor and needy. And although $3 is a ridiculous amount to make for a day wage, even in countries with a much lower cost of living, it is better than making $0/day because suddenly all of us rich folk in America decided to purchase only USA made clothing. (And, since you are spending your money on expensive clothing you certainly wont have money to put that $3 back into that now jobless workers pocket, will you?)

    I didn't read through the comments so I may just be repeating what others have already said. However, It's quite tiring hearing about Christians spending a ton of money on USA made clothing or organic, locally grown food (another current trend) at the expensive of offering (come on, you who trust organics to keep you healthy! TRUST GOD! Cut your $600-1000/mo organic local budget down to $300/mo of healthy, simple food and give the rest to those who don't have food at ALL!). Now, I know you aren't SUGGESTING people offer less and spend more on themselves, but that's what it would amount to if my family chose to forgo walmart (when we need a new item…we buy used when possible).

    The best thing you (you as in everyone..not just the author 😉 ) can do to help is to opt out of the materialist, keeping up with the world and it's ever changing fashions and cravings culture and only buy what you need. Give the rest to who it belongs to – GOD.

    I'm not ever going to feel like I'm doing something wrong by purchasing a $3 clearance shirt at Walmart and giving the extra $47 it would cost me to buy a new USA made shirt to a charity that is clothing the poor, feeding the hungry and providing medicine from the sick.

    Also, many expensive brands also use cheap factory labor overseas and in fact DO mark up for the name. And then there are USA companies I'd rather die than support – American Apparel (a popular, "ethically" produced clothing company), uses pornography to sell their products. I'd NEVER support that, nor suggest another believer support them either.

    Matthew 25

    34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

  44. The extreme poverty in some areas of the world is startling. But ask yourself, does handing a factory and it's employees a pink slip improve their living standards? Unless there is actual forced labor going on, someone's choice to work at these factories tells us it is their best, or least bad, option available to them. Is safety compromised? Sometimes, and who are we to say that they should demand a better and safer work environment at the cost of even lower wages?

    I appreciate the motive behind ethical shopping and fair trade, but it's actually harming the poor folks you're trying to help by cutting off their best option to make a living. This humanitarian crisis of poverty can only be solved by modernizing these societies with the free market, private property foundation that we built ours on (our ancestors once lived as bad and worse than those shown in the movie). So go ahead, buy those cheap imports; take some of the savings, and donate to institutions and causes that will educate and establish private property societies in these impoverished areas so that they too have a chance to pursue an "American Dream". And we had better start doing that for ourselves, too, as the regressive ideas of socialism and protectionism continue to make dangerous advances back into our own country.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.