Finding Supergarment

A few days ago, I went to my favorite clothing store. I’d seen a particular jacket in the Sunday ad and thought it might work for me. I started daydreaming about what outfits it might work with, how I would look in it (fabulous, of course!), how this one piece would be THE key piece of my summer wardrobe, the one that worked with every other item of clothing in my closet. It was Superman, disguised as a green jacket with a drawstring waist, god-like in its power to rescue my outfits from banality. Supergarment!  

I searched throughout the store. It wasn’t in the expected department, so I spent a while hunting it down. I was determined to find Supergarment. Finally, I spied it hanging on a rack. I drew closer, breath bated, eager to try it on. The tag in back read:

Made in Bangladesh.

I didn’t move. Suddenly, my mind filled with the images I’d seen on television about the garment factory disaster: the rubble, the searchers, the dead, the miraculous (and far too few) survivors. Over a thousand people died there. Died, while doing their jobs. Died, while making clothes like this jacket.

Was Supergarment made at that factory? I had no way of knowing. Did the woman who cut that fabric, pieced it together, sewed those seams–did her body now lie in a grave? Was she being mourned? What had her life been given for? So that I could have a cheap piece of clothing that, frankly, I didn’t need?

I didn’t try it on. I didn’t touch it. I couldn’t.

Because if I had, I would always wonder if my seamstress was dead.

I’d wonder if paying a low price for clothing was worth a human being’s life.

I”d wonder what part my obsession with the lowest price played in that disaster and other, ongoing, tragedies that I don’t see.

I’d wonder, and I’d grieve, and I’d touch that fabric and wonder how many tears were woven into these threads.

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Categories: humanity | Tags: , | 17 Comments

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17 thoughts on “Finding Supergarment

  1. On the other hand, what if the lady who made it was still alive and her family depended on her for the income? Maybe her income from the garment factory was better than most jobs for the region. Maybe we need to help them build a better factory?

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    • Good thoughts, Annette. I wish I knew which scenario it was, because I would be willing to pay more for clothing if I was assured that the factory workers were working in safe and healthy conditions!

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  2. Frances Akridge

    I’m grateful for your sensitivity. (and I like the supergarment image)

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    • Thanks for reading, Frances. I’m constantly amazed by how I expect some inanimate object to “save” my wardrobe (me, really) from boredom, as if boring clothes was the worst thing in the world!

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  3. It’s a good post Laura; many people buy cheap clothes in England where I live and come from simply because they can’t afford to buy expensive ones. Levi jeans in one superstore can be £85 a pair (they used to be £25 in one store but Levi’s took them to court and stopped them; how nice for Levi’s and their wealthy shareholders!) but other brands can be from as little as £4 or thereabouts and usually about £10 to £12 pounds. Guess which brand you’re going to buy if you are not made of money? And likewise with t-shirts, trainers (sneakers), shirts, shorts and so on. When that tragedy happened, there was a noted tendency for Right-wing newspapers to blame it specifically on poor people in the West buying cheap clothes; no mention of the companies here buying these cheap goods or the factory owners ripping off their workers, oh no, blame someone else but the profiteers! One of the arguments is that if we paid more for our clothes, it would somehow filter back to those factory workers; hmmm. I suggest that many of our more expensive clothes are already made by the same low paid workers anyway, and the companies shareholders merely make more money. Global capitalism, combined with a lack of morality and basic human greed, is the real problem. You may be interested to read about the beginnings of industrialisation and the factory system in England to see the same stories only a few hundred years ago. It will be eye-opening.

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    • I’m wondering what exactly I, as a middle-class American, can do to stop the profiteers from profitting off these poor people’s labor. It’s been going on for far too long, and every solution that I come up with (as far as what I personally can do) seems ineffective. You’re right; the basic problem is greed and lack of morality, and that’s a problem that can’t be solved with legislation or boycotts.

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      • It’s certainly first-off that you as a consumer should not feel guilty in any way, regardless of background or level of affluence. Most Westerners are affluent compared to those Bangladeshi workers; they really are on subsistence level wages. It is true however; whatever we do, however we might compaign, or protest, especially by signing petitions for politicians to respond to, just doesn’t seem to do anything. And although we have Fairtrade (I guess you have that in the US too) here, chocolate, tea, coffee and the like which is supposed to give the growers a fair price for their products they sell to the West, just how do we really know they are getting all they are due? My problem goes deeper with them; they are paying people in SE Asia very low wages for long hours to make sneakers like Nike, Adidas which in the West they sell for vastly overrated prices AND they are dodging tax as well; so they rip off the workers, they rip us off here and they rip off the governments both in the West and East. If we boycott those corporations, do you think the rich shareholders and owners will really suffer? Won’t it just effect the poor so and so’s at the bottom as usual? There’s no simple solution at all, it is just the times we live in. In the past it was feudalism, and wars of religion and clans fighting for control of nations. Then it was colonialism and slavery, then it was industrialisation. And now wage slavery. What can we do?

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      • I guess we have to pray for a solution and act on what God leads us to do.

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      • I think asking God is the beginning of finding a workable solution; and all of us learning to live within our means too. Need before greed!

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  4. Sobering, Laura. You brought me up short with that clothing tag. Choices have consequences. Thanks for the stark reminder.

    Tim

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    • Actually, I have to thank YOU for the reminder. I remembered the title of your post on the Bangladesh disaster when I looked at that clothing tag. (I hadn’t had a chance to read the post at that point!) That’s what triggered my memory of the pictures/videos about the tragedy.

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      • Glad to have prompted the thoughts, then, Laura. Did you see that ‏@SandhuBhamra tweeted a link to this post?

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      • Cool! I’m not on Twitter, so it’s hard for me to know who tweets me. I knew someone had, since I had referrals from Twitter.

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      • I did first, then Sandhu picked it up from me and tweeted to her followers. More people should be reading your stuff!

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      • Thanks for the tweet! I appreciate it.

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  5. I realize this post is from a few weeks ago, but I was just checking out your blog. Thanks for swinging by mine recently. Something indirect I do regarding this issue is to try and buy most of my clothes used from charity thrift stores. My money is then supporting a non-profit group rather than the big corporation who had the clothes made in these overseas factories. A thrift store I love near me supports a local Christian ministry that helps the homeless and addicts to drugs and alcohol. Of course, this doesn’t get to the core problem that these terrible factory conditions exist, but I at least feel my money isn’t supporting the system directly. Good post and thanks for calling attention to this issue.

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