By Nicole Eno
The Story Before the Store
So you’re at the mall with your best friend when you finally spot that cute skirt you’ve had your eye on all summer. It’s perfect: the right size, the right price, and it totally captures the classic glam style that you’ve been rocking all season you head to the dressing room to try it on, and as you’re changing into it the tag catches your eye.
You make it a point to remember the brand of your perfect back-to-school skirt, but a different set of words catches your attention. Made in China? What? You emerge from the dressing room, skirt in hand, and continue to browse around the store. Each time you pick up a cute item, you check to see where it was made. Before you know it, you’ve realized that nearly everything in the store was made in another country. Is this right? How can it be that the clothing carried in our American malls is made not only in a different country, but often on a different continent?
Now take a second, have you ever really thought about how your clothes are made? Where they were before they ended up at your favorite store in the mall? Who actually made them?
Although many shoppers may not realize it, around 98 percent of the clothing purchased in the United States is imported from abroad. I’m sure if we all took a good look around our closets, most of the labels would reveal that our clothes are made in distant countries. Though some economists claim that U.S. manufacturers shouldn’t bother trying to compete, many companies have found success making clothing in the good old U S of A. Even if it means shelling out an extra dollar or two, there are plenty of reasons why we shopaholics should consider buying more items that say “Made in America.”
Some of the benefits of buying American-made clothing include getting higher quality materials, helping the U.S. economy, and the fact that American clothing manufacturers generally have safer methods and working conditions than other facilities abroad.
This all sounds great, right? Not so fast. There is a reason why a lot of American companies still choose to have their clothing made overseas: money! It costs less to have clothing manufactured abroad, but this money-saving mentality comes at a price.
If companies choose to have their clothing made abroad, this means that workers from abroad are the ones who actually make the clothes. Unfortunately, in many cases these workers have to survive in poor and even dangerous working conditions and they are paid very little for their trouble. This situation begs a very important question: should American companies be responsible for the workers who are making their clothing? Would we be willing to pay slightly higher prices in order to improve the working conditions abroad? Should we even care?
Ah, if only there were an easy answer!
While we can leave the heavy debating to the clothing companies, it still may be a good idea to be a little more knowledgeable about the source of our clothing. Next time you’re on the hunt for that perfect first date ensemble, take a minute to check your tags and think about your sweet little sweater’s journey from the factory to your favorite store.