Monday, 5 October 2009

About Making Clothes

Apart from managing to make a horrendous shirt and two awful pairs of pants at school, this skirt is my first self-made item. I boldly skipped patterns and trusted my instincts, although it is not that this was difficult to make. I cut one single rectangular piece of fabric (if you don't count the belt loops) and the rest just fell into place. Okay, the workmanship isn't exactly first class, but I think it looks quite okay.

I sort of mentioned this in an earlier post, but making this skirt, as simple as it was, really made me think about the quick-fix clothing industry. Having previously been one of those shoppers that visit every high street store on the way home from work, I have spent a lot of money in places like H&M and Zara. Some clothes have lasted me one season either because I fell for a quickly passing trend that I wasn't even that crazy about, or some because they fell apart or lost their shape so quickly. Others have survived in my closet for several years.

It takes a relatively long time to make the simplest piece of clothing, and with cheap high street clothes, the whole process of design and production costs money. There are a lot of people in the production chain that need to earn money from clothing production - others earn more, others less. Then there are environmental costs, from harvesting cheap cotton (think pesticides, erosion, work conditions) and shipping (fuel expenses). And what about the moral costs: child labour, or other expendable work force that work in unbearable conditions.

The whole thing makes a lot of sense, actually - the people want cheap clothes in order to get their quick fix, so the companies that produce them are only serving the public. I guess one can argue that they also create jobs in poor countries, although I have never thought that the argument about cheap workers becoming prostitutes without the sweat shops holds very well. But is it morally justifiable to buy cheaply manufactured clothes, in any way? Does it make it any better if I wear the piece of clothing for years rather than just one season?

I want to stress that I am not asking these questions from a moral high-ground. I have bought my share of cheap clothes, I really have. Today I am wearing two items that I have bought in H&M, and shoes from Asos. How do you justify your shopping for cheap clothes, or do you feel the need to justify it at all? Does style have anything to do with morality?

Top: second hand / UFF - Skirt: self-made - Belt: second hand / UFF

Tights: H&M
Scarf: H&M
Ankle boots: asos
Necklace: JBL


Anonymous said...

I think the skirt is beautiful, hon...and it looks wonderful on you. It's the cat's meow, darling!! CR

Eyeliah said...

It is such a cute skirt, well done! The pattern is so great for this season too.

SwanDiamondRose said...

came here to compliment the skirt too. and it looks great with the belt. and those questions drive me crazy. i think what you can do, is do the best you can. and each scenario has a best take on it. as in- but less, but when you do buy, try to buy thrifted clothes, buy less cheap clothing, but if you do, wear it as long as you can, and re-use it, or donate it well. i make & sell things, but try to use thrifted fabric in what i make. that's a challenge, so i use as much as i can. a lot of challenges. ugh. often if i get something new, it is the most expensive thing i get recently and i sort of hate it for being new, and end up wearing it less.

Adrienne said...

I love the shape and print of the skirt!

Buying expensive doesn't necessarily mean workers are getting treated any better. However, if you buy fair trade clothing and food, you're buying from organizations that have regulations put in place to ensure the humane and equal treatment of workers. And then after that, of course, everything SwanDiamondRose mentioned helps.

The Waves said...

Chris: thanks honey! I am very happy with it, and if it has anything to do with cats, it must be great!

Eyeliah: thanks! I adore the pattern, it was love at first sight at the fabric store!

SwanDiamondRose: you are so right, I guess that is how almost everything is in life: we just have to try to do the best we can. :) For me this is one of those issues that I keep thinking about right now, and it will just take me a while before I settle down with my opinion, and above all, practices. Everything you wrote makes perfect sense, though!

Adrienne: good point, expensive is not necessarily ethical. I just read somewhere recently that some European luxury brands (I forget which ones) have used illegal immigrants as labour.