Disposable Clothing – Filling Up The Landfills

Mainpoint: Much of today’s clothing which is made overseas is designed to last only a couple of wearings – like disposable clothes which were originally designed for doctor’s offices or factories that work with chemicals.

Fashion has always been about being  trendy. If it were up to Fashion magazines, nobody would ever wear the same piece of clothing twice. Since the beginning of time when Fashion houses came into vogue (no pun intended), the 1800s and early 1900’s, they have created clothing for the seasons. At first, there were really only two seasons, Winter and Spring/Summer. But as time passed, Fashion houses have further divided the fashion seasons into Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. They have since divided them even further, early Summer, Late Fall, etc. In fact, you would think that it was the Fashion Industry that created the concept of disposable clothing (Nope, it was the mega-chain stores).

The Early Years of Manufacturing – the 1800’s to the mid 1900’s

However, most of the United States, in the 1800’s – mid 1900’s, was agrarian, rural and had no need for fashionable clothing. The people in the cities, for the most part, also did not fall prey to the fashion advertising as they had more common sense when it comes to money than today’s consumer. The saying: “A penny saved is a penny earned” was taken seriously, perhaps because any money earned was often back-breaking and labor intensive. And, of course, the Great Depression further reinforced the sentiment that every penny was valuable. So, our great-grandparents and grandparents were far more stingy with their hard earned cash. They looked for clothing that was durable, well-constructed, and would last for years. (They were made in the United States, of course.) There were the occasional “fashionable” flings, but often their choices were fashion with garments well-constructed, that could still last for years. For the most part, the message from the Fashion houses fell on deaf ears.


Fast forward to 1980. The Fashion houses spend millions of dollars on television, radio and magazines to convince consumers to buy their products. And for the most part, the 1980s consumers are starting to spend more on fashionable clothing due to money that is easier to earn, (not as much hard labor). The United States continues to become more urbanized, less of people’s time is spend in “work” uniforms. With regards to the clothing industry, although most of the clothing was still made in the United States, but there was a big push to move the garment factories from the centuries-old traditional manufacturing plants in the Northeast United States to cheaper-labor and non-union Southern States and, then, to countries with even cheaper labor and no history of manufacturing. Simultaneously, it was the beginning of the rapid expansion of chains, franchises, and Mega-stores. “Consumerism” soon becomes the way to track the economy. And finally, people start to shop, just to chase away the blues-“Retail Therapy.” The 1980’s start us on a pathway that slowly suffocates the U.S. economy and the middle class as many of our traditional American jobs are siphoned off to other countries.

H & M "Disposable Clothes"

H & M “Disposable Clothes”

The Present

Now, 98% of clothing found in the United States is manufactured elsewhere. A majority of people in the United States have never even owned a well-made quality garment. For many people, wearing a garment just once or twice is sufficient, because the current line of clothing will always look worn and faded after one run through the washing machine. The reason for the quick decay is poor quality materials, poor workmanship and use of cheap chemicals that give the materials a temporary softer feel and brightens colors which wash off quickly.

Dry Cleaning services are, also, on the decline because people don’t want to pay for a service that costs as much as the original price of their cheap clothes. Disposable clothes is the order of the day. The Fashion houses could never even had anticipated this, they were happy when people would buy clothes for every new season.

The New Solution

Disposable clothing isn’t good for you, it’s not good for the landfills, it’s not good for the environment, it’s not good for American manufacturing. And, at this very moment, giant ships with tons of disposable clothing from overseas are landing on our shores every hour. The new solution is to buy good quality garments and goods. By paying a little more now, you will get years of service, saving yourself a quite a bit of money in the process. To spot a quality garment, check the label, if it says “Made in USA”, you greatly increase your chances of buying quality, compared to Made in: China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, India, etc. Buy American, buy quality.

Article from Grist: H & M wants the clothes you throw out to be more sustainable.


3 Responses to “Disposable Clothing – Filling Up The Landfills”

  1. July 26, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Nice article, Jack. It’s a good thing to aim for quality rather than quantity. I try to remind myself that my goal is to minimize with pieces I love rather than inundate with items that I think are okay.

  2. 3 JJ
    August 7, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    My quest for quality clothing is coming along nicely. Articles like this just cement my “pay more (or not much more on sale) for stuff made in the US (or EU, Japan, and other high living wage countries) and your stuff will last forever.

    As a result I have slowed down my buying, but I picked up a leather wallet made by Duluth Pack (USA)….9 months and no wear yet. the $20 wallets made in india i have had over the last 4-6 years (3 total) started breaking down around this point. I also went to a local botique called Hammer Made and picked up a dress shirt. Woven in Italy (the ones not from Italy are made in Turkey which im on the fence about, but at least its not China). Very high quality. Worn 3 times with no fade or seam wear.

    Thanks again for running this blog. Always love reading it when I can.

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