What’s in a Bargain?

Images via The True Cost

Images via The True Cost

Bargain hunting can be a fun and thrilling endeavor, and for a long time it was an activity I would happily partake in at various stores where I knew there were low prices available. I have a closet filled almost entirely with dresses and garments that were purchased for less than $20, many for less than $10. This was possible through shopping with a combination of sales, clearance racks and coupons. Often I would pay less for new items than you could pay for similar items at thrift stores.

I love clothing and the opportunities for expression it can offer, and this was the way in which it was easily accessible for me, but after some time I became unable to ignore the guilty feelings of knowing what conditions must exist to produce clothing that is able to be sold so cheaply. These feelings became much harder to ignore after I had begun to produce some items for myself, first through learning to knit and then through learning more about crocheting and sewing. When you know how much effort and work goes in to creating a simple item, I believe it becomes harder to accept the way our culture continues to devalue these things and the people who make them. It becomes harder not to understand the exploitation that must exist in order for us to buy so much for so little.

One way you can learn about some of the impacts of this phenomenon is by watching the film, The True Cost.  It is available to watch on Netflix and other platforms linked on the film site.

Some of the things that this film exposes are the poor treatment of the garment workers involved in the production of clothing. As the demand for prices to go lower and lower increases, the people who are bearing the negative impact of this are those producing the clothing. The companies that are selling it are not cutting their profits to sell things for less, so it is the most vulnerable people in the supply chain who are most affected.

Another area the film explores is the environmental impact that all this clothing production has, from the impact of chemicals used in growing cotton to those used in leather tannery, which include major health risks including cancer. These are greatest for those producing them and living in the surrounding communities which are being polluted. There is also a level of concern for the consumer about residual chemicals left on the clothing after production that can be absorbed through the skin while wearing.

The film goes into other issues surrounding fast fashion as well, and is certainly worth watching. People should be aware of these kinds of situations in the world and be able to decide how they want to deal with the implications of these things.

For me, I enjoy clothing too much to go without it, but have made decisions not to shop and buy questionably produced new clothing anymore, and turn to sewing and refashioning to create things for myself. I would be willing to put a lot more money towards supporting a quality made American manufactured product under the right circumstances. It is time to really think about who makes our clothing and where it comes from, and if those are conditions that you support or not.


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