American-Made Clothing

A few weeks ago, one television program changed the way I shop. “China Blue“, a documentary that is part of the “Independent Lens” series on PBS, has made it very hard for me to buy clothes made in Vietnam, China, Macau, Korea, Mexico, and other countries where sweatshop labor is common. In the documentary, a film crew follows a young girl named Jasmine as she starts work in a jeans factory at the age of seventeen to help fund her sister’s education. She loves to write and dreams of home, but her optimism and imagination are slowly subjugated by round-the-clock work and delayed pay.

This program might not have made much of an impression on me, except that, as you can tell from virtually all of my other posts, I have two daughters. Two daughters who are imaginative, and joyful, and optimistic, just like Jasmine. And because of those similarities, I can’t help but feel a strong empathy for her and her coworkers, and for her family. How must her mother feel, unable to pay for Jasmine’s schooling, watching her leave and missing her at home? What if it was my daughter whose soul was slowly crushed by tedium, subjugation, and borderline human-rights violations so that a teenager of a similar age in America could have a cheaper pair of jeans?

And Jasmine is just one of these workers. I encourage you to visit the “China Blue” website to learn more. There are also many other websites out there that highlight this human (and especially women’s) rights issue, and in the next few weeks, I’m hoping to post them and some websites where American-made clothing is available.

So. I love to shop, but after that one program, I find myself paralyzed. Gap is stealing childhood from children like mine, Gymboree doesn’t have a single American-made product in its store (not even the Fourth-of-July-themed line that’s in stores right now is made in the United States), and even my favorite place to browse and to buy from, Target, carries only clothes made outside of this country. I’m left with a choice; I can buy from companies that do not use sweatshop labor, I can buy used and thus not support such practices directly, or I can make stuff myself. Buying from companies that are pure as the driven snow as far as labor practices are concerned is quite difficult; although they do exist, they’re hard to find, expensive, and it’s difficult to prove without a doubt that they’re not exploiting workers at some point in their manufacturing process. Buying used isn’t as hard, but sometimes it can be hard to find items in good condition that are still in style. So, that leaves me to crafting. Bummer. 😉

So you are all witnesses. I’m going to try to stop buying non-U.S. made items and to make most of my children’s clothes. I don’t know how long I’ll do it or how strong I’ll be, but I’ve already passed up $1.00 pants at Target and the 30% off sale at Gymboree, so I know it can be done. Baby steps, after all. And it’s not that I’ve never made things for my kids to wear before. But now I have to step it up so that, rather than augmenting my children’s wardrobes, gently-used and handmade items will make up the vast majority of what they wear.

And my dear husband, who supports me in this, gave me a subscription to Ottobre. You might have read other posts where I’ve mentioned this Finnish magazine, but they really do have the cutest, easiest, trendiest children’s patterns out there. I went back to dear Ottobre last night after I found some black plaid knit and gray jersey fabric at Joann’s for $3 and $2 a yard, respectively. I managed to make my oldest an outfit for school next year and my youngest and I both skirts from that single two-yard length of gingham fabric.


The pattern is a very adapted form of the “Kerrtu” tunic from Ottobre Spring 1/2009. I used knit instead of a woven, omitted the pocket and hem panel, and used shirring (sewing with elastic thread to make a permanent, stretchable gather) instead of a drawstring casing at the waist. I also added a red knit fabric rose.

I used a pair of tights that are just a bit big for her as a pattern for these, and the tunic is a bit loose as well, since this outfit is really school clothes for when my silly little doompus goes to kindergarten next year.

This little baby skirt is based on the Elastic-Waist Skirt Tutorial from Freshly Picked. It is a very simple, very, very fast pattern that I’ll post more about in the coming days.

This little headband was my own design. I love the way it turned out.

Oy. I think I’m probably going to regret posting pictures of myself on my blog, but we must be proud of ourselves wearing the things we make, right? Handmade is beautiful, and so are we. This skirt is also based off of a tutorial from Freshly Picked, the “Mama” version of the child’s elastic-waist skirt.

So that’s it. The start of my adventures in American-made clothing. Thanks for reading. I’m going to post more examples of items you can make from free tutorials around the internet as well as places to buy American-made clothing in the future. That way, if you like, you can explore avoiding buying items that were likely made in sweatshops, too. We can make this journey together, because when we truly consider the people who are wearing the clothes we buy, it’s easier to make good decisions about whether or not we support the practices inherent in producing those clothes.

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18 Responses to “American-Made Clothing”


  1. 1 Matthew June 4, 2010 at 9:25 am

    This post would have been better if you complained about my photography. 🙂

  2. 2 Diane June 4, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Cute! Love all the items you made. I had the same type of reaction after watching Food Inc.

    The thought I had was regarding the origin of the fabrics as many of them are made in the same places that the clothes are made.

    • 3 everydaychaos June 4, 2010 at 3:45 pm

      Diane, I’m currently researching that. From what I’ve found so far, a lot of the fabrics we use are actually made in the United States. And those that are not are made in factories that are for the most part automated, so they do not require a large underpaid labor force.

      • 4 everydaychaos June 5, 2010 at 10:27 pm

        Edited to add: But, you’re right, a lot of the fabrics we love to use ARE made outside of the U.S.; I’m looking into that now to see exactly where they’re made. Check out my next post for a few answers to that question. You make a really good point.

  3. 5 delilah June 4, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    I love your skirt, i love the pockets, your daughters clothes are also so cute. I love making clothes for my daughter, so much fun!

  4. 7 Leslie June 4, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    you all looks so great…my daughter would be thrilled to match like that

  5. 8 Carla June 4, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    I can understand where you are coming from. I see it all the time and hear about it in my family. I have tried doing USA made only and it got difficult at times. Some of the fabrics I wanted to purchase to make clothing was also made in those countries. So I do my best to buy USA. Thank you for the reminder and you and your girls look simply adorable in your matching outfits. 😀

  6. 9 Jennifer S. June 4, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    I’ll have to check that one out. This year I am trying not to buy any new clothing for myself – and I’m doing well! So far so good! As for my 2 boys, like you, I’m taking baby steps. I’ve started making things for them and I’m hoping that next year I can also buy none for them too. Next it’s on to my husband :). I have a 3 year plan, you see 🙂

  7. 10 Caci June 4, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    That is a super cute week of sewing! I love the matching clothing…TOO CUTE!

  8. 11 Jennifer June 4, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Aww I love that they all match! Especially the skirts! Adorable!

  9. 12 karen June 4, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Cute outfits! Good luck with your sewing.

  10. 13 Dolly June 4, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    You all look great in your matching plaid……….and I had a hard time “coming-out”……showing my face on the Internet.

    But God is my refuge, and I will fear NO EVIL ! That includes the world-wide-web………of course, he gave me a little good common sense right up front !
    Sounds like you have lots of that too, praise the LORD !

  11. 14 pinksuedeshoe June 4, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    Wow, what a lot of info you have to think about. And your skirts/dresses turned out SO cute. I love that elastic waist tutorial and have made a few myself! Nice work.

  12. 16 Miri June 5, 2010 at 4:38 am

    Fantastic post! I remember when all you had to was check the label and you’d know that your garment was made by a United Garment Workers of America sewer.

    I totally agree with you-the human rights of textile workers is a serious issue. Its not just clothes either-bedding also exploit the workers and the conditions are often terrible. The worst part of this for me is that it isn’t a new issue-already in the 1980s the problems were known.

  13. 17 Andrea June 10, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    I love the clothes you make!! Great post. I hope you’ll link up your clothes to my weekly blog party Make It Wear It over at TheTrainToCrazy.com some time. I host it ever Thursday.

  14. 18 Leggings for women In canada September 25, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    I usually do not drop a comment, however after reading through a ton of remarks on this page American-Made Clothing | Everyday Chaos.
    I actually do have a couple of questions for you if it’s okay.
    Is it just me or do some of these comments come across like they are written by brain dead folks?
    😛 And, if you are posting on other online sites, I’d like to keep up
    with everything new you have to post. Would you list of every one of your social networking sites like your
    Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?


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