A Sweatshop of Our Own - An Exploration of Post-Slave-Labor American Fashion
Monday’s shower-curtain dress. Photos by Jill Thompson and Courtney Turnball.
I’m Canadian, but if there’s one thing I know about Americans, it’s that they love buying products manufactured by impoverished foreign people. Hardly any of the clothing sold in the United States is made there; everybody knows it and no one really has a problem with it except for a few uptight weirdos who dress either really well or, more likely, like an incontinent grandmother’s shitstains. But what if, one day, the crap-manufacturing industry collapses, and all of the indentured servants the US employs there are no longer able to produce an endless supply of cheaply manufactured flashy garments? What sorts of atrocities would Americans be forced to wear?
To illustrate this hypothetical predicament, I committed to hand-making my own wardrobe from scratch and wearing a different outfit each day of the week. Like most Americans, I know very little about fashion design or sewing, so this process was overwhelmingly tedious and took approximately 5,000 times longer to complete than it would have taken anyone who works in an actual sweatshop (that’s why the system exists, duh). I did attempt to make decent-looking garments so that I had a chance of passing as a sane person. If one of the Olsen twins can walk around in a furry trash bag, what did I have to lose? So I pressed on and am happy to present to you a rough approximation of how shittily Americans and other spoiled Westerners will be dressing in a future where sweatshops don’t exist and we are forced to improvise our own clothing.
MONDAY: SHOWER-CURTAIN DRESS
I thought it was important to use as many recycled fabrics as possible in this experiment, so the shower curtain I selected to make my first outfit with had been hanging in the bathroom of my parents’ house for several years. This explains why the inside of the dress was coated with furry black mold, but I just pretended it was lined with rabbit fur so it wasn’t a big deal.
It took a lot of cutting and sewing (which, again, I had no idea how to do), but I’d say the end product was quite a success, especially if you happen to be into the whole Sears-maternitysadness type of look.
Speaking of maternity sadness, my mother invited me out to dinner the night I finished the dress, and when I walked in the door she insisted that I change. I told her that it wasn’t a possibility because it was “my job, Mom.” A family friend dined with us and told me that my shower-curtain couture reminded her of when she was pregnant. My mother, of course, chirped in and said that I looked like I was on welfare and that she was embarrassed to be sitting across from me.
TUESDAY: TURTLENECK/OWL VAGINA
I know people are divided about wearing realistic pictures of animals and animal prints on their bodies, but fuck those toilet bugs. To me, wearing animal-themed clothing is the same thing as wearing a band shirt, because I’m a big fan of animals—I want to be around them, I want them on me, and I want them inside me, all the time, forever. This owl-print pillowcase was also unearthed at my parents’ house, where it had been banished to the back of a closet. My grandmother bragged about how she had bought it before there was a Walmart in the city, which seemed appropriate considering Walmart goes with sweatshops like owls go with my vagina.
The combination of the turtleneck and the owl skirt worked really well and made me feel more confident than anyone probably ever should, although I did catch myself in a mirror and for a second thought I had a pillow resting on my lap. I wore the outfit to a nursing home, where I felt extremely sexually attractive (if you’ve never felt like you’re hot stuff around a bunch of old people, you’re really missing out).