How do we justify that?

I have an Etsy shop.

Yes, my handmade items are not cheap.

Other than oooohs and ahhs and “Wow, you MADE that?”  The most common thing I hear from people who would like to purchase, but either can’t or won’t, is, “I can’t justify the expense.”

I debated writing this post because I’ve heard that come out of my friends’ mouths, and I don’t want to make anyone feel bad.  I know they don’t mean it to be a personal attack, and I don’t take it that way.

But I think the sentiment of the way we justify our purchases is entirely backwards.

You can pay me (or someone like me) over $90 for a one-of-a-kind ladies dress, or you can wait until something is on clearance at Target for $10.  We are taught that buying on clearance at a big store is a wonderful, holy, frugal thing to do.  I do completely understand that for many people, that is their only choice, and it sure is more justifiable on our wallets.

But what about the person who made that dress at Target?  Do you know in what kind of conditions they live and work?  I’ve heard people say, “They may not get paid much, but at least they have a job.”  Did you know that some items of clothing at Wal-Mart are marked up 2000% (yes, four zeros) over the cost of production?  These big box stores could easily double the wages of their slaves–er, employees–but they don’t.

Why should we care?  Do you recall from history class (or American Girl books about Samantha) the turn-of-the-century working conditions and child labor issues in our American textile and clothing factories?  Yes?  No?  Injuries were common.  Fires happened and kids couldn’t get out in time.  Air quality was terrible and workers often had breathing problems what with all the fluff flying around in the air.  We outlawed child labor and made laws to improve working conditions.  Well guess what–we came so far to the point where working in clothing factories was a good way to make a middle-class living, and then all those jobs got pushed overseas.  Bam.  American jobs gone, and guess what?  THE SAME ISSUES FROM THE EARLY 1900s THAT SOUND SO HORRIFYING TO US AND EMBARRASSING THAT THEY WERE ALLOWED TO CONTINUE IN OUR COUNTRY ARE NOW HAPPENING ELSEWHERE.

My question is this: How do we justify supporting that industry?

I could write a book about this subject, but someone else already did.

(I am not being paid to plug her book and the author has no idea I’m blogging about her.  Anything in my entry that should be cited probably came from that book.)

Let me propose a simple idea.  Instead of buying $5 and $10 items right and left, buy just a handful of high quality, handmade items.  Not necessarily from me.  Just a suggestion.  And read Overdressed, but be prepared to have your Kohl’s shopping bonanzas spoiled for you in a similar fashion to what happened when you found out what was REALLY in McDonald’s food.  Sorry.  (Not really.)


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