Thursday, August 4, 2011

Clothes and Justice

Last week my husband put the following John Wesley quote up on facebook:
Every shilling which you needlessly spend on your apparel is, in effect, stolen from God and the poor.  And how many precious opportunities of doing good have you defrauded yourself of!  How often have you disabled yourself from doing good, by purchasing what you did not need.
This quote provoked a bit of conversation as some of his friends wanted to know how many clothes were too much?  Some thought that the price of something indicated that it was "too much."  Another friend commented that she wanted to do the right thing but she also didn't want to wear the same outfit every day.  

Although there is no formula for telling us how much is excessive, it does help to remember that the average American only wears 20% of the clothing he or she owns.  So I suppose it would be fair to say most people have 80% more than they need.

My eyes were really opened to how far overboard we have gotten when it comes to clothing was when I was listening to a Tranquility du Jour podcast which featured author Tina Sparkles.  Tina, who wrote Little Green Dresses did some research on clothing use in the United States.  She discovered that in 2008, 19 billion new garments were "consumed" by Americans.  In addition, 17 billion pounds of textiles and clothing were discarded.  Add to those statistics the fact that department stores such as H&M completely change the styles in their women's departments every two weeks, tells me we've gone too far.  

Think about it.  Even if every single one of those 19 billion new garments was only $1, that is $1 billion that could go to do something good.  And you know the value was much, much higher.  Further, most of those clothes were not purchased because they were replacing worn-out garments.  They were purchased merely because most of the buyers wanted something prettier, shinier, hipper, etc.  Purchasing those items meant fewer personal resources available to help the poor.  So, I think Wesley was right.

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