Friday, January 20, 2006

In Which I Save America by Shopping

Ever since January 1, I’ve been meaning to post something about my resolution, but it’s not a very exciting resolution, and I can’t think of a way to make it funny. And maybe I’m a little worried that it won’t last long – not because of my lack of will power, but because of its lack of practicality in 2006-world.

Resolution 2006: I promised myself that I would try to buy products made in the USA whenever I had a choice.

This isn’t such a challenge in the supermarket or at the paint store, but the clothing thing is way different. Look in your own closet and try to find two pieces of clothing made in this country. What happened? Yeah, I’m old, whatever, but I remember those union commercials – you know, it was a bunch of garment workers singing, “Look for the union label, when you are buying your (something about clothes),” Then they would sing about how they are working hard to feed their kids and stuff. Is there still a garment workers’ union in the US? Glancing at the labels in the mall today, they must be a lonely bunch.

Dean told me about a store downtown (Portland) called American Apparel that sells clothes made in LA. He took me over there last weekend so I could check it out.

First, let me say that American Apparel is exactly what I was hoping to find and support – an apparel company dedicated to providing sweatshop-free clothing while supporting family-wage jobs in a constructive (vs. service) industry in this country. It’s good for people, the environment, and the economy.

That said, walking into American Apparel is – well, it’s a cross between Term Project Day at Home Ec class and a look at the first clothing shop to open after a Mad Max-like apocalypse where the only thing left is one sterno-powered sewing machine and a truck full of jersey fabric, hijacked after being mistaken for a load of hooch.

Everything in the store is made of jersey. Everything is sewn using the simplest of patterns, with the most basic of serged hems. And we’re talking basic. One of their signature pieces is a piece of fabric. Honest. It comes with a video which shows the lucky (i.e. gullible) customer how to tie the piece of fabric onto one’s body to resemble a shirt. This, I guess, in place of an actual shirt.

In the interest of research and my New Year’s vow, I bought a shirt (an actual shirt, not the piece of fabric) for about the same amount of money I could have spent on a DVD player at Wal-Mart (no, I don’t shop at Wal-Mart. Just allow me the joke). Since American Apparel seemed to be going for the crowd that is too cool to shop at Abercrombie and Fitch, I decided to go with a Large, knowing that although I am a Medium Mervyn’s/Small Ann Taylor, I am most definitely a Large American Apparel.

At home, I wore The Shirt, which feels kind of tight, under a sweater (it’s not quite jersey weather in the Great Northwest. It’s tarp weather). It was okay.

Okay, that was a kind of lame ending to that story. The shirt didn’t blow up, or stab me, or give me a rash. Actually, it was pretty comfy.

I’m going to give American Apparel another year or two to evolve past the Mad Max stage and go back. I probably won’t buy anything next time, merely because I will be one year older and their target audience will not have aged at all.

I’ll keep you posted on my quest to Save America.


Drew said...

Better not be shopin' at Wal Mart Baby...

Dean said...

it's tough unless you want to sped 50 bucks for a shirt. I'm going overseas, but environmentally sustainable.