Who made my skirt?


Who made my clothes?

A question that Fashion Revolution have been urging us to ask since the Rana Plaza tragedy, in order to achieve greater transparency in the fashion industry. After watching The True Cost it’s something I want to know the answer to as well.

When I saw that Fashion Revolution had developed a short online course with the University of Exeter, I couldn’t wait to get started. This first week has been about how the Rana Plaza disaster was reported around the world. We have also been focusing on clothes we have in our wardrobes.

For one exercise we took an item of clothing from our wardrobes to consider how many people were involved in creating it. It really got me thinking about how, potentially, a massive number of people have come into contact with our clothes.

Who made my skirt?

A fair amount of my clothes are made by me, but there’s no point in using those for these tasks. Instead I pulled out a skirt. I apologise for the image quality, I really should have ironed my own skirt!

Embroidered magpie skirt
Image credit: Very

This skirt was bought in 2011. I remember because it was after Eleanor was born and I was sick of the sight of maternity wear. I wanted to feel like myself again. It is from a catalogue I had at the time, along with the light grey t-shirt it was pictured with.

Who I think made my skirt

“My skirt is a powder blue colour. It has a large embroidery of two magpies sitting on a blossom-covered branch. It’s a knee length, three-quarter circle skirt, consisting of two main pieces, two lining pieces, two waistband pieces, an invisible zip & a hook and eye.

The label tells me it was made in China. I immediately imagine a large, crowded factory with women all hunched over their sewing machines. All of the women responsible for their own part of the skirt before passing it on to the next woman in the assembly line.

I imagine that at least 8 women handled this skirt, each having their own job to do. Someone cutting the fabric; pressing; sewing the seams; sewing in the lining and labels; attaching the waistband; sewing in the zip and hook and eye; overseeing the machine embroidery and hemming the skirt. They work at lightening speed, with little time for breaks or even chatting.

The outer layer of the skirt is 100% cotton, and the lining is a mix of 85% polyester and 15% cotton. I wonder where the cotton was grown? The cotton was grown, harvested and probably sold to a textile mill where it was woven. I wonder if the fabric was dyed at the textile mill or at the factory?”

So much to consider

I ran out of space, which is just as well because I could have written so much more! I started thinking about where the zip might have come from, and the hook and eye. Potentially each component of my skirt could have travelled some serious miles before reaching the factory in China where it was all put together. Then of course the skirt would have been inspected, packed and shipped over to the UK, before being picked, packed and sent to me.

The sheer number of people involved in this journey astounds me, and yet I’d never considered any of these people before. I assume they were mostly women, as 85% of the world’s garment workers are, and I do wonder what their lives were like. Did they enjoy their work? Were they treated well? Paid fairly? So many questions that I’m hoping to unpick a little over the coming weeks.

Interested in joining the course? You can still sign up!


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