Portland prides itself on being a city that is aware of the manufacturing chain. With examples like our farm-to-table restaurants, small recording studios and local manufacturers like Portland Garment Factory we like to know the evolution of how things go from Point A to Z. But, according to author Elizabeth Cline and her book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion she points out how little most of us actually know about that t-shirt sitting on our shelf.

Cline says she wrote Overdressed to uncover the true nature of the cheap fashion juggernaut, tracing the rise of budget clothing chains, the death of middle-market and independent retailers, and the roots of our obsession with deals and steals. She travels to cheap-chic factories in China and Bangladesh and looks at the impact (both here and abroad) of America's drastic increase in imports. She even explores how the pressures of cheap have forced retailers to drastically reduce detail and craftsmanship, making the clothes we wear more and more uniform, basic, and low quality.

Cline shows how consumers can break the buy-and-toss cycle by supporting innovative and stylish sustainable designers and retailers, returning to custom clothing, refashioning clothes throughout their lifetime, and mending and even making clothes themselves. Overdressed is meant to inspire you to vote with your dollars and find a path back to being well dressed and feeling good about what you wear.

On Tuesday, September 4, Cline will be in town to have this discussion with interested fashion folks. The event (spearheaded by Crispin Argento, of local menswear company PINO) is an effort to instigate thoughtful discussion about our local fashion scene and how purchasing items made to last from a local designer (yes, at a higher price than fast fashion items) is not a new idea, but an old one that’s been forgotten.

In fact, Cline says that in 1929, the average middle-class man might have had six outfits, a woman nine. When she set out to begin researched her book she was shocked to catalogue the contents of her own closet included: 61 tops, 60 T-shirts, 34 tank tops, 21 skirts, 24 dresses, 20 pairs of shoes, 20 sweaters, 18 belts, 15 cardigans and hoodies, 14 pairs of shorts, 14 jackets, 13 pairs of jeans, 12 bras and on and on. All told, she owned 354 pieces of clothing.     

Author Elizabeth Cline
Author Elizabeth Cline

If you’re interested in hearing Cline speak and meeting other like minded individuals “Portland Undressed: Dinner and Conversation with New York Author Elizabeth Cline on the Future of Sustainable Fashion in Portland ”takes place at 7pm on Tuesday, September 4, at The Cleaners at Portland’s Ace Hotel (403 SW 10th Avenue). Signed copies of Overdressed will be available for purchase at the event and a fancy delicious dinner (and beer/wine) will be provided by Clyde Common. Tickets, which include dinner and drinks, can be purchased until September 1 for $85.00.

For additional event information visit the Facebook event page and for more about Overdressed visit the author’s site.