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The Modern Guide to The Thing Before Preppy

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Thoughts on Worn: A People’s History of Clothing. By Sofi Thanhauser

A reader question:

I recently read a review in the Economist for the book, “Worn: A People’s History of Clothing” by Sofi Thanhauser. I’m curious if anyone within the community has read the book or similar titles and their opinions. 


  1. I haven't read Ms. Thanhauser's book yet but I recently encountered a review of it that certainly intrigued me. She recently wrote something for Vox about appalling human rights abuses in the Chinese cotton industry that supplies the material to the fast fashion industry. Considering the substance of her article and, as I expect, her book, I imagine the SWNE community would find further evidence (as if any more were needed) that buying quality over quantity, enduring style over trends, ethically-sourced and manufactured by people earning a livable income over sweatshop or even slave labor, is the only ethical way to buy new clothing and accessories. That, or buying secondhand. Might have to get that book, though I anticipate getting a dispiriting education from it.

    1. I appreciate your concerns but human rights abuses aren't only in the Chinese cotton industry, neither only in China. Sad, but true. If you were experienced in production of anything, you were probably very well aware of it. This exists in every type of business, in many W. European countries which are manufacturing anything and have possibilities of import of cheap labour from Balkan countries, E. Europe or China. You may not know that there are towns in Italy with smaller factories in which only Chinese are working, almost same abusive conditions as in their motherland, but you get the label "made in Italy". You don't need to look too far for manufacturers, look at amazon, workers at many facilities are being treated not much better than workers in German working camps during WW2. It is not only about the cotton industry, it's everywhere. We lost the battle on "quantity over quality" I am afraid. I am writing it from the manufacturer perspective and I know only Chinese and European realities, no idea about South America or Africa, it's happening there too. The customer rarely wants to pay more and buy less or buy excellent quality. People got into this culture of getting a lot for so little, no matter if it's about clothes, food or children's toys for instance, keeping very high standards, moral and in business terms, became very hard.

  2. Sounds to be a very interesting read. Thank you!

  3. "Consumed" by Aja Barber, is book that tackles the topic of clothing industry but from a different angle. I'm reading it right now and it's very informative.

    This book also sounds very interesting with its historical angle.

  4. I have it in my Audible queue. There are many good podcasts available relating to sustainable fashion, mostly centering on buying quality, classics, and taking care of one's clothing.

  5. I think issues like this are laughable. There was a time not so long ago--well, maybe it has been a while. I'm 75 and I remember. Anyway, there was a time when nearly all clothing and most of everything else was made here, in the U.S. Maybe not where you lived but somewhere just the same. China, Japan, Europe were in ruins after the war. Does that mean that everything was cheap and of high quality? Well, there was cheap stuff and there was expensive stuff. There's a market for cheap stuff because wages were low. The minimum wage the year I was born was 40 cents per hour. The women at the bottom of the wage scale (most clothing is made by women) weren't buying the expensive stuff. There was a union, but you know how corporations hate unions. Nixon opened up the China trade, but clothing is imported from lots of places besides China.

    Look for the union label.


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