This Blouse is from Bangladesh, But I’m Broke

bangladesh collapse

My new job requires “business casual” attire, and I need a new wardrobe. Seriously, an ENTIRE new wardrobe. I wore a company-provided uniform in my last position, and I don’t have any “work appropriate” clothes.

I also don’t have a lot of money.

I trucked it down to my local H&M for some $6 pencil skirts, blouses, and other basics. I’m in the dressing room squeezing into trying on clothes when I see the tag “Made in Bangladesh.”  In case you missed it, the Rana Plaza factory building near Dhaka collapsed on April 24th and killed more than 1,100 people.

My mind filled with images of twisted metal, death, and the profiteering negligence that contributed to (some say, caused) the death toll. So what do I do? Do I buy the clothes?

H&M is the world’s largest buyer of clothes from Bangladesh. Am I buying clothes created by someone whose body was pulled from the rubble? I need the job. I don’t have a lot of cash.

How do I reconcile my working-class status with feminist advocacy, and what I know is tacit support of an unethical system of production?

Would you buy the clothes? What are the alternatives?

 

Comments

  1. My understanding is that, unfortunately, most clothing we find here in the U.S. is from places like Bangladesh and China. It is almost impossible to find clothes made here in the U.S. This isn’t an excuse, but I wonder where to find ehtically made clothes. Is there a website that rates various companies and/or countries?

    • slcfeminist says:

      I’m not sure if there is a centralized place to look, but it would be nice if there was. It is difficult to keep informed for the average consumer!

  2. Mr. 1rst World Problem says:

    If you truly believe in your cause, then don’t buy it. Go purchase clothes elsewhere, get used clothes, raise a little money to buy elsewhere, borrow some, etc. Buying it because you don’t have “a lot of cash” seems like just giving in without exploring other options.

  3. Second-hand clothes are a good option if there are thrift stores near you. The money goes toward whoever owns the store, instead of toward the brand/distributor/producer.

  4. Buy the clothes consciously , keep your job and start budgeting for a few expensive, good quality, durable, ethically made clothes, instead of a lot of inexpensive, cheap, disposable clothes for future purchases. Write letters and emails to clothing companies urging them to review the safety of the factories their clothing is produced in, and the possibility of producing a line of ethically made, fair wage, fair trade clothing so that americans who refuse to buy clothing that contributes to terrible work conditions have another option.

  5. So here’s the thing. I started feeling this way, and then I was presented with the argument that sometimes, that clothing job is the best in the city. Sometimes it’s what keeps the little bit of food on the table. We move all factories to the U.S. and not only does clothing cost a LOT more, but 200 + people just lost their jobs.

    Is there a way to research which companies support fair wages, keeping in mind that fair wages in many places will be vastly less than our minimum wage? That’d be what I’d look for – not necessarily where it’s made.

    Personally, I like to hunt for exceptional deals on quality clothing. Nordstrom is frequently listed on top ten companies to work for in the country, so I at least know they treat their staff well (unlike, say, Wal-Mart). It’s only a small, small piece, but it’s something. And if you learn to identify high quality, you can find the amazing deals better. Also, even if it’s made in a similar factory, you can keep it for way longer, meaning you can at least settle for not contributing as much.

  6. Allison says:

    I’m a big fan of consignment shops–easier to find nice clothes, and still a lot cheaper than most stores. I’m in your boat though–when you are barely making ends meet, you have to draw a line somewhere. Organic food, fair trade coffee, super cars, ethically produced goods. I don’t think you are the worst person in the world if you take an honest look at what you can afford, and continue to do your best to improve the way that you buy in the future.

    • slcfeminist says:

      Thank you to everyone for your insightful, polite contributions to this dialogue! Does anyone have some favorite local thrift shops they can recommend? I’d love to share them with readers who find themselves in a similar bind.

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