‘One cedi! One cedi!’ I hear people shout. For those who do not know, one cedi is the equivalent of about 25 cents. Hawkers line the streets selling swimwear, pants, socks, shirts, dresses, and other miscellaneous clothing items that did not make it through the doors of the Goodwill or Salvation Army. In fact tons of clothes every year are shipped to Africa and Asia because there is such an excess that they cannot be resold in the United States. I have worked hard to build a wardrobe to my satisfaction, so it shocks and bothers me to see the booming second hand clothing industry here in Ghana. After buying tailored clothes for several years, generic clothing sizes have begun to bother me. In fact, the clothing industry in general is starting to bother me.
The little black dress in my closet fits perfectly, and it was designed by me!
Here in West Africa I can pick out fabric of my choice, and have things sewn, and tailored to my exact body size and shape. I can pick the quality of fabric (generally high end, so it will last longer), as well as choose the exact design I want. This allows me to create timeless, fun pieces that can remain in my wardrobe for years. The little black dress in my closet fits perfectly, and it was designed by me! Not to mention that it will never go out of style. It’s a shame this opportunity isn’t available on a wider scale. But the economic impact is clearly a huge risk, and our taught behavior of short attention span.
When I think about the garment industry, so many questions weigh on my mind.
First of all, how are people getting rid of so many clothing items every year? Why spend money on something only to get rid of it the next season because it is ‘out of style?’ The wastefulness of this practice alone causes me distress. Not to mention the effect on the garment industry in Ghana. Instead of buying fabrics and having tailor made high quality items, people are instead purchasing and wearing the same, slightly more used, shoddy materials that someone in the United States has discarded. These actions have repercussions on the economy and on the environment.
When I try to shop for foreign clothes I feel frustrated when certain parts do not fit properly.
Clothing sizes are clearly an issue as well. Is this an American practice? Garment Industry? Media driven? Self-selecting into a medium, large, or small is impossible. In fact, labels serve as hardly any guide to what my true size might be. A small of one brand may fit and a large of another. I have to try everything on before buying it. Trouser sizes obviously do not measure your waist’s actual size, or else a zero would not even exist. When I try to shop for foreign clothes I feel frustrated when certain parts do not fit properly. Sometimes the waist fits but not the bust (I have small boobs) other times the waist is too loose but it is too tight on the back (I’m also a swimmer). I could easily have the same thing made for me and tailored to my exact size and shape.
The take away here, I suppose, is that I am frustrated. Frustrated and yet still hopeful. If I can encourage you to think about your clothing choices, and their bigger impact that would be a great step. What is the need for waste? Why purchase something that is not well made, locally made, or going to last more than ‘one fashion season?’ I’m honestly writing this to humbly encourage people to think about the impact our clothing habits are making globally. As a lover of Ghanaian made pieces, I know what a happy wardrobe looks like, and I don’t think it is one that necessarily needs to overflow to Goodwill every year.
Also published on Medium.