Wait—All Clothing is “Hand-Made”?
"Wait—you’re saying that all clothing no matter the company—requires a person to sit down and put together each garment? Even the places that mass produce clothing?”
This was my reaction during a conversation with Veronica that just about broke my brain open to the reality of the fashion industry.
Have you ever looked at a description of a garment on a website or perhaps the tag inside the garment that mentions it was “hand-made” or perhaps “hand-sewn”?
Our immediate (and understandable) response might be “Wow! How unique and special! Someone took the time to craft this garment. Someone actually stitched it together!” Regardless of what the tag or the website says, did you know nearly every garment that required stitching or sewing (*cough* that’s all of them) is hand-made?
There are many fabrics that are able to be created through factory machines, but the actual composition of a garment? Someone was sitting, humming, sewing with twitching hands (possibly with painted nails), putting together the garments we wear. Time consuming, right? A lot of labor, endurance, and meticulous stitching goes into every piece—whether fast fashion companies or an Etsy shop—they are hand-made or better yet, person-made.
Embroidery is often machine made, thanks to technology, but the bulk of the process to create a shirt, dress, shoes, or pants requires many hands. Many people’s stories are behind what we are wearing. The long hours and careful folding these artists give so that someone else might have the opportunity to express their soul. Knit and swimwear fabrics have to be laid out by a person before it is cut because it will shrink—someone has to physically sit there and cut it. https://victorypatterns.com/blogs/victory-patterns-blog/jackie-sewalong-how-to-cut-knit-fabric
There is another person who is in charge of quality control—going through a check list with EACH garment to ensure that they have a consistent product. But wait—if all clothing companies involve people putting in careful time and labor—why are the fancy sustainable shops or small business owners sell clothing at a price exponentially more than big companies?
Many companies in the fashion industry have forgotten the dignity of the human person. Too often fashion industry workers are overlooked and forgotten, not to mention the unethical ways they are treated by the industry. The workers are treated as less than the product (read more in our articles “Who Made My Clothes? https://www.litanynyc.com/post/who-made-my-clothes and “Upholding the Dignity of Garment Workers” https://www.litanynyc.com/post/upholding-the-dignity-of-garment-workers).
I realized in my own experience as a customer, I would treat every article of clothing as if it is made by a machine, because the company has told me (by the way they treat their employees) that these people have the equivalent dignity of a machine. In the past, I would ignore the tag that instructed me how to properly care for the garment so it could last longer than a year. Little did I know how many stories I was holding in a single article of clothing.
A similar reaction is shared in, “Sewstainability”— “Ultimately, isn’t the problem that clothing is so cheap people assume machines are making them? People don’t want to face up to the fact that their $3 t-shirt was made by a person who was probably paid very little to make it. That $3 has paid for fabric, thread, dye/printing, transport costs, storage, tax, profits AND several people’s wages to make it, seems like they probably weren’t paid much!” https://sewstainability.blog/2020/09/29/all-clothes-are-handmade/
At Litany, we seek to uphold the dignity and stories of those who work within the company as well as bring to light the importance of seeing the whole person (read more at “Turning Our Supply Chain Into a #LitanyofLove” https://www.litanynyc.com/post/turning-our-supply-chain-into-a-litanyoflove).
What ways will you cherish your clothes and the stories you hold?