Over the past few years, I've become more and more disillusioned with the modern clothing industry. "Fast fashion" has made clothing cheap and virtually disposable to the consumer -- a fact that is exploited by swiftly changing trends that keep consumers coming back for more...and more...and more. Quality has plummeted along with cost, and sources suggest that for every five garments produced, the equivalent of three end up in a landfill. According to the EPA, 1.3 million tons of clothing and footwear were discarded by Americans in 1960. By 2018, that number had climbed to over 9 million tons, even though the population hadn't even doubled since 1960! As someone who values the resources God has given us, it saddens me to see so much waste. Cheap clothing may be easy on the wallet, but its ecological cost is high.
But far worse are the inhumane manufacturing processes used to keep those prices tantalizingly low. Many factories (even some in the US) pay workers shockingly low wages, sometimes pennies per garment. And even in third-world countries where American dollars stretch further, that's far from a living wage. Working conditions are unsafe, benefits limited or nonexistent, and any worker who dares to complain can be easily replaced (because sadly, these jobs are better than many other options in third-world countries!). So much suffering, just to ensure that consumers can stuff their walk-in closets with garments they may never even wear before discarding them.
I've learned to realize that if a garment on the rack seems cheap, someone is still paying the price -- it's just not me.
And quite honestly, it's not just "budget" retailers that exploit garment workers. We've probably all heard of the infamous sweatshop, but may not realize that so many upscale brands rely on them (even if indirectly, by not making adequate efforts to ensure that their entire production chain is ethical). Mid-level brands like Gap and Anthropologie -- and even many luxury brands -- are guilty of this. So higher prices don't automatically guarantee workers were paid a fair wage.
One of my dearest memories from our time in Virginia was a women's Bible study that I attended. It was there that I met my friend, Peyton Roberts, who (besides being a delight!) encouraged me and helped me grow in my walk with the Lord. She invested so much into each of the women in that group. We had some fun connections, too -- we are both military spouses, both seamstresses, and the church I attended as a teen was across the street from her grandfather's house.
|A happy reunion in March 2020!|
So imagine my delight when I found out that Peyton was publishing a social impact novel about the fashion industry! I was blessed to read an advanced copy of Beneath the Seams -- which is being released today!
The story is so powerful, and I was amazed by how seamlessly (no pun intended...) Peyton wove the dark truths about fast fashion into her writing. Even though I had done some research, I was horrified to find out just how dangerous and inhumane sweatshops can be. Shelby, the protagonist, was someone I could relate to in many ways, from her love of sewing to her struggles with secondary infertility and miscarriage. And I had a sewing business myself once upon a time! As the final few chapters unfolded, I couldn't stop reading; I was so invested in the characters that I had to find out how their stories resolved. I'm eagerly awaiting the copy I pre-ordered, which will soon have a home on my bookshelf.
I'd highly recommend Beneath the Seams if you'd like to explore the consequences of fast fashion while reading a great story!
Peyton's Instagram and Linktree have some helpful resources, as well as more background for the novel and its author. And you can read the first few chapters over at Scrivenings Press.
In my next post, I'll share my own (imperfect) journey toward more ethical fashion.