I just returned from returning a pair of pants to H&M. They looked uncannily like another pair I own (You could even say identical, in black) except I didn’t try them on before I bought them. So, naturally they didn’t fit. On my stroll back to H&M (we are having the loveliest Fall) I began thinking about how it could come to pass that a pair of pants, with pockets, and a waistband and even a zipper! could cost $17.95.
I wanted to see what else I could buy for $17.95. .
These are the veggies I bought for $17.95. No joke
Granted, they are all organic and a couple of things I bought at my local market where the can of beans was $3.00, but you get the idea. How can my pants have cost as much?! They had to grow the cotton, harvest and process it. They had to build the sewing machines! They had to grow a human being to cut and sew them. Then they sent them on a ship across the world to get here. Etc, etc.
My brief foray into sewing myself things this summer did nothing if not remind me that 1. I am not a skilled seamstress and 2. Shit be expensive! Granted I was shopping at the infamous Mood fabrics in Manhattan, but even making a T-shirt for one’s self will cost you more than $9.95 (based on recent T-shirt price comparison). And that’s not including labor. Just the subway fare to Mood and back is $4.50.
As we all know from watching Project Runway All Stars Episode 10, the bulk of what we are paying for isn’t textile or labor based. We pay for Lana Del Ray to wear a pink cashmere-blend sweater on a giant poster above the register. And most importantly for H&M (or Zara, or Forever 21, or Old Navy etc) we are making sure that they are making a profit.
Checking the tags I notice my pants were made in Indonesia. The average daily wage for a garment worker in Indonesia is around $0.35 US per hour. Most of us are aware of the concept of sweat shops and child labor in the developing world. We know they keep our clothing costs down. We know the conditions suck and that the environment suffers from the industrial production of the goods we consume. But we still buy pants for $17.95.
Just like we still buy produce that doesn’t cost what it really should. If you’ve been to a farmers market lately, you know it costs more to get out of there with your dinner veggies. But it’s delicious! And isn’t covered in DDT (we hope). And best of all, the produce tastes like it did when you were a kid when people grew vegetables instead of agribusinesses.
The average American buys 64 pieces of clothing per year. Disposability is king. Large chain supermarkets will not buy perfectly edible fruits and veggies that are not uniform in shape. So growers routinely dispose of up to 50% of their crops. Why are we throwing everything out? Because it’s cheap! Because we can! Because everyone else does!
In the last year I have overhauled the way I look at produce and the global ramifications of what ends up on my plate. So, even though they are delicious I don’t eat some things anymore. I guess now, and it won’t be overnight, I am going to have to re-think what I buy to wear over the body that eats food.