Happy medium or nurturing the beast?
October 28, 2009 6:28 PM   Subscribe

I can't seem to find sweatshop-free or second-hand clothes in the style that I like. How about this alternative?

So I really wanted to make a push to purchase sweatshop-free clothing and started to do some research into what was available. Read a lot of discussion with a lot of valid points being made on all sides of the argument.

Not to mention, the style of clothing that I am looking for is more dressy and I can't seem to find any stores or Websites that sell dressy, sweatshop-free clothing.

So then I thought to myself, what if I bought my clothes regularly, but for each article of clothing I buy, I make a donation to a charity in the country where the clothes were made (we're talking about 30-50% of the price I pay for the clothes)?

My rationale is that when I make the donation, I have a pretty good idea where it's going; but if I buy a dress shirt that says "Made in Wherever", I have no idea what the conditions of the factory are like.

So on the surface, it seems like an interesting idea, but is it a good idea or is it the equivalent of whipping a child and then feeding him/her?

I want to do what's right, but damn it I'm still wearing the clothes I bought when I first met my better half, and that was 11 years ago!
posted by bitteroldman to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Etsy handmade.
posted by cachondeo45 at 6:37 PM on October 28, 2009

Etsy handmade.
posted by cachondeo45 at 6:37 PM on October 28, 2009

I tend to disagree with your whole premise, but instead of derailing, I'll point out that charitable donations are most effective when you make one big donation instead of lots of small ones. Instead of donating a few dollars with every clothing purchase, it might just be better to pick one good cause you really care about, and give all the money to support that.

While this doesn't exactly offset whatever harm you think you're doing to the people of Wherever by buying the clothes they made, it could still offset the harm you're doing to the world as a whole (and it would have a greater net benefit). You could make one donation each year (for example), and pick a different charity every year to spread the benefit around.
posted by k. at 6:42 PM on October 28, 2009

Buy sweatshop-free or nationally made clothing, find a good tailor to alter them. Etsy is excellent.
posted by variella at 6:56 PM on October 28, 2009

Try to find a tailor: the influx of immigrants from Vietnam and Mexico has provided my neighborhood with a level of talent and professionalism in the construction of clothes that compares favorably with the quality of high end stores. At a minimum a good tailor could rework what you find at a thrift store to fit you better.

I have had to wrestle too between my inclination toward good (and sweatshop produced) clothes and a social conscience that keeps me from buying them. I am lucky enough to be able to find good clothes at local thrifts stores, and my conscience stays mute (I know, very irrational) if I buy them used.
posted by francesca too at 8:15 PM on October 28, 2009

My understanding is that tailors only modify existing (possibly sweatshop) clothing, is that correct? If not, how about posting a "Help Wanted" on your local Craigslist, asking for a sewing expert* to hand-sew your clothes?

Find someone with mad sewing skillz, have them take down all of your measurements, then start commissioning wardrobe pieces. You will make a huge difference in the life of someone local, for whom the extra income will be very meaningful.

(I have a soft spot here, because one of my best friends is a professional costume designer. She does the occasional job like this, and is over the moon when this kind of work comes in.)

* I didn't want to sound like an ass, but I'm too tired to Google the gender-neutral form of "seamstress."
posted by ErikaB at 9:55 PM on October 28, 2009

Maybe you would like to support the Clean Clothes Campaign. They actually work to improve the lives of the people in the garment industry.
posted by davar at 2:01 AM on October 29, 2009

One of the big problems with charities is that they are generally unable to confront and reorganize the structures of inequality. In general, governments are far more equipped to do this than either charities or corporations.

So, my alternative suggestion is that you could get involved in political action within your home country that is focused on increasing the policy support for fair-trade. Off the top of my head, labelling clothes from Special Economic Zones (where labour laws are suspended) differently from the country they're located in, and union shops differently from non-union, would go a long way towards helping consumers manage the kind of quandary you are currently in. Trying to get such differentiations included on labels wouldn't require changing the whole apparatus of international trade, so perhaps it would be a good place to start.
posted by carmen at 5:51 AM on October 29, 2009

If you want someone to make your clothes for you, you should look for businesses advertising themselves under rubrics like "Custom Tailoring," "Made-to-Order Clothing," and "Unique Clothing Design."

It will be really expensive compared to off-the-rack purchases, but if you have the cash on hand, you'll also be likely to get amazing clothing that fits you perfectly, compared to off-the-rack purchases.

You could learn to make your clothing yourself, but it's very time-consuming and requires a certain level of spatial-relations facility and manual dexterity that not everyone has.

Sweatfree.org has some good resources and links that might help you in your decisions, and in targeting your charitable contributions most effectively.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:01 AM on October 29, 2009

what kind of dressy clothing are you looking for? duchess makes some beautiful things, all for men, despite the name.
posted by dizziest at 9:56 PM on October 29, 2009

posted by BrotherCaine at 5:29 PM on February 1, 2010

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