I've spent quite a bit of time this spring and summer in other places. And it has been a joy to be gone and a joy to be home each time.
Keeping My Nose in a Book
I've also been reading -- a lot. On my recent trip to Oregon, a friend asked if I had read Elizabeth Cline's Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. My friend knows I like to shop at all price ranges, so she thought it would be an interesting read. And it was -- as well as eye-opening, and as the title promised, shocking.
Confronting Uncomfortable Realities
Read it for yourself, but bear in mind that if you like to bargain-hunt by shopping at Forever 21, H&M, Target, and other inexpensive outlets, you may feel just a little bit sick. (Remember reading Fast Food Nation? Cline does for the clothing industry what Eric Schlosser did for fast food.)
The book details the dramatic level of consumption in our society, analyzes our obsession with cheap clothing, and explores the underpinnings of these low prices, including the high cost to the environment and the deplorable wages and workplaces of international garment factory workers.
Changing Habits for the Better
If you know me, you know I like a bargain -- but I also like to know that I'm buying quality. And unless you get out of places like Target and H&M, you won't find both. I like to tell my clients that "less is more" and I simply suggest that when we are in a discount store, we should think very clearly about our motivations. In other words, are you eyeing that top because it's the perfect addition to a wardrobe that reflects The Real You -- or merely because it's inexpensive and seems adequate?
Another thought for your consideration: if as a nation we continue our obsession for buying cheap stuff, then we must accept the fact that the small, neighborhood shops that give our communities their flavor and invigorate our local economies will also fall by the wayside. It's hard to compete with cheap outlets as a small boutique.
Tips for the Thinking Shopper
What's a responsible shopper to do? If I were to give advice (and I do like to!) I'd say two things:
- Be mindful of what you buy and how much you buy. More is not always better.
- Frequent your local boutiques for gifts and looks for yourself. The price point may be a little higher, but your community -- and your conscience -- will be stronger for it.