made in china

the above outfit, while quintessentially about as american as you can get, rrl chambray and levi's, all of it was made in china.  and while i'm at it, almost my entire wardrobe is too.  and price points don't matter.  i have a few vintage pieces but for the most part every single item was made in china or india or malaysia.  i am woefully under-educated on this subject but for the last few days have been reading quite a bit about it.  it is a tangled and twisted story and there is no real simple answer.  it's easy to say shop u.s.a. but there are sweat shops here too.  and even labor experts don't want to close those b/c they at least provide jobs that would otherwise be shipped out to china. one option would be to sew your own clothes but you better check where your sewing machine and fabric is made. my singer machine was made in china.

i love this solution.  miranda left a comment that said... 

I look for local artist designers and I have gotten back into designing and sewing, which is a lot of fun. I recently found old draperies from the 30’s and made them into modified kimono jacket. I lined it with the silk from a dress I wore in the early 90’s. I can’t express how satisfied I feel when I wear something beautiful and I know whose hands made it. Old clothes can be made into new clothes, artisan fabrics milled responsibly can be found on line. I just ordered a bolt of un-dyed linen for a summer dress and pants. There will be a lot left over for other projects! This has been my solution to a problem I could not be comfortable with. 

if you cannot sew then the basic options are to google clothing made in the usa or free trade clothing.  you will be surprised at the number of manufacturers out there.  etsy is another option.

i for one will be more careful and considerate when making my choices. 

here is a small list of ethical retailers that either make garments in the usa or around the world.
i'd love to grow this list so feel free to add ones that you know of in the comments and i'll add them to the list.

shabby apple dresses
steven alan
lesley evers


mary ann just sent me this link..

premiering on the planet channel on april 19th - earth day
i don't have cable but it sounds really good.

dresscue me



  1. Thank you for the links, Janet--especially the shabby apple one (LOVE!). This is a subject that I have thought a lot about too. I sell a "made in china" product through home shows. I usually mention where the items were made. At my last show, a woman kind of scoffed about it. I gently asked her, can you tell me what you can buy that isn't made either in China or abroad? She didn't answer. As consumers, it is good to be informed and make as educated a decision as possible when buying. xxBliss

  2. Just this morning I caught a clip on one of the morning talk shows (can't remember which)and they were discussing an upcoming 20/20 program on this exact thing. They went into a typical American home and removed everything not made in the U.S. The family was surprised that almost everything was gone, then they had to replace everything with only American made items. It proved harder than one would think....there are no American made televisions by the way! I really loved this post. Look forward to reading more.

  3. Thanks for the food for thought Janet! The links are lovely.

  4. Love this post - and love the chambray shirt. Still need to get me one.

  5. Thank you for posting this list. I do try to purchase clothes made in the US.
    BTW, nice turquoise bracelet!

  6. I too am very un-educated when it comes to what "made in China" can really mean for the people that made it. This is a great post, and I admire you for putting the topic out there!

  7. I remember a co-worker and I talking about where things are made a few years back and we sat in my office and looked at all of our clothes, office supplies, etc. All made places other than here. The more I read your blog, the more I absolutely love it. My teenage daughter and I became vegan in the past year (after 10 years as a vegetarian) and have enjoyed several of your recipes.

  8. Hi Janet - I am also woefully under educated on this matter. But even your list of American manufacturers has some problems. I'm really uncomfortable with the American Apparel website, for instance. The girls on there appear to be about 14 and they are always very scantily clad and posed very provocatively. I'm not a prude, but as a mom of two beautiful young women, who I've tried to raise to think they have more to offer the world than a pretty face and body, I'm offended by how these young girls are presented. The owner of that company is alleged to have taken advantage of several young woman who modeled for his company. I don't know if I could buy clothes from there, even if they are made in America. It's a tough issue. One we should all be more aware of. Thanks for talking about it.

  9. p.s Thanks for the list, btw. I have purchased a few things from CandC and they were really nice. I'm looking forward to looking at the other sites.

  10. I love this. Thanks for posting the list.

  11. Please consider a thought for the people in the countries who actually make the clothes - they are paid a pittance. I watched a programme on TV here in the UK a few years back about the same subject. We have several huge high street 'cheap' clothes retailers who source their products from China, India etc. A lot of the workers are women or children, and their alternative sources of income are not great!!
    A fundamental change is needed, and 'fair trade' in clothes as well as food.

  12. Hi Janet, Thank you for mentioning me in your post. The subject of fair trade and sustainable products is a tough one. Even in buying my bolt of linen I ran into some issues. The first place I contacted about linen, was a company I used to do business with when I still designed high end table linens. The linen was listed as French linen. I called the company office to ask where in France (just curious) the girl at the front desk told me that was just the name they gave that line of fabrics. It all came from China. Where the uncontrolled use of herbicides, pesticides, toxic dyes prevail and people work long, low paid, hours in this toxic soup. It took some searching to find organic linen, made somewhere I could be comfortable with. And really, I only have their word that I’m getting said fair trade, organic linen. Thank you for your wonderful blog, it is always so interesting.
    SF Bay Area

  13. I thought I had a great recommendation for you. I was going to suggest Trashy Diva, mis-believing that their vintage-inspired dresses are made in the USA. I wrote to them and it seems that they too manufacture in China.

  14. karin - i absolutely agree with you. aa objectifies young women and the ceo is reportedly a scumbag. i included it b/c they do pay their workers a v decent wage. next post will be scumbag ceo's? it's not easy being me.

    dan - absolutely. i think that is why even labor advocates don't shut down more sweatshops here in the usa. better some work than none.

  15. i'm a believer in second-hand clothes. i like re-using them, and buying second-hand isn't supporting deplorable labor practices. it often supports a non-profit that jibes with my values.

    i feel lucky that in LA, seems like women wear something once then donate it, so i get lovely clothes that i couldn't afford right from the source (and often get things that are this season.

    we do what we can, in ways that fit our families and life situations. thanks for bringing up this important issue.

  16. Very inciteful post. I usually buy 2nd hand. I'm not always sure where it was originally manufactured, but at least Idon't have to pay out-of-country twice!

    Something to consider - I saw a doc on American Apparel and the owner is said to be quite a lecherous character with his very young, slim female staff. Since then, I've had a problem with promoting their clothing! Still, the man has not been charged or convicted of anything; so, we make our own choices.

  17. It is very frustrating. Every time I look at a piece of clothing or a pair of shoes they are manufactured in China or some other country. I worry about child labor. I worry about poor working conditions. But I also know it is a source of income for these workers. What to do?


  18. This was one thought provoking post!
    Wow, Stacy's reply blew me away!

  19. Janet,
    Thanks for doing the research for us on this topic...I'm actually shocked how small this list probably really is. I'm also torn between giving the workers the small wage they make and buying only American made. I think having a global economy is a good thing but only if all practices are fair, ethical and hopefully, green. I also saw the show where they went into the couple's house ... all that was left after removing the foreign made items was a glass vase!
    I would happily buy from these companies and look forward to learning about any more.
    Thanks Janet for all the wonderful things you bring to our attention!

  20. Same happened here in Chile, and all the fabric and clothing undustries are broken or closed!!! everything is made in China or imported from there, korea, india, malasya same as in usa... hand manufacturing and workers are payed much less in those countries but the qualities are stil being supervised by brands that are very known in the world.

    There is now a whole new generation of clothing designers that are doing a very nice work here.

    sending you lots of hugs my dear Janet

  21. Same woeful predicament here in Australia Janet. It's hard to find goods manufactured in this country, we've outpriced ourselves through high wages, taxes etc. As a nation we pay heavily even for cheaply made in China items. Visiting China is an eye-opener and I feel greatly for it's population who struggle to earn a living by any means. You are so right there is no easy solution.

  22. I know it's a dodgy market out there...
    vintage is an easy answer...but not always practical.

    There needs to be more people buying local in order to have an effect on the marketplace

    my lovely daughter ordered from Forever 21 and the clothes were all made in the USA...! .

    We were both surprised by this, I hope that they are not sweat shops.
    Keep on your mission fits with your ethical eating.


  23. Good Morning Janet,
    (well here it is morning, and I've just read your comment chez moil) woke up with the blah blahs (copywrite Linda in Chile), and knew if I popped over here, it would be sweet and gorgeous, and a real cheer up. Thanks for always having such beautiful photos and words, even when you approach contentious issues, you are so gentle and ladylike. (Like My Annie, who is Anne Marie to you guys).

    Getting around to cutting and pasting the age email as a blog soon. (Soon in Broken Back time - and remember I'm 90- could be quite a while.)

  24. It's hard to keep track of where it all comes from. I bought a pair of Justin American Made boots and when they arrived they said Made in China!

    For now I have been focusing on food. Local or at least this continent, and if shipped, boat, not plane. I make a fuss at the grocery store all the time because despite the fact garlic is grown all over Ontario, they only stock Chinese garlic. They think I am the crazy Garlic Lady. It's all very frustrating.

  25. Janet -- I have mentioned several times how interested I am in your 333 project. I've decided to try it myself and created a blog to help me plan and see the clothes together. I stole almost wholly from your spring wardrobe since I didn't know where to start. I hope you don't mind! I'll have to work on the locally sewn clothes for summer...this was hard enough! But glad to see your list as reference when the time comes.

  26. Hi Janet, Sorry-- I posted the link to the actual list and pictures here:


  27. I think it's only when your consciousness is raised on this matter that you realise how truly unbalanced the world has become. A thought provoking post.

  28. It's like me complaining to Sears that their call center is in India. Why not in the USA?

    No place to build it here,they say and no one would take the jobs?

    Why not build it in Detroit I say, they would give you the land, there are no jobs there.

    Why can't there be clean, well lit clothing manufacturing plants here? And call centers?

    Why is the response Americans won't do those jobs?

    I think sewing clothes should be a valued profession.

    Confusing world.

    xo jane

  29. I read a book a several years back called A Year Without Made in China (or something like that). Checked out at my favorite library (wonderful thing we have in common). Anyway its not just clothing and I have struggled with this for years. I had a child test positive for lead...which took it all to another level.

  30. Hi Janet,
    I'm so naive about this topic. By the time you're done with me I'll be a nudist/vegan living in a commune somewhere. Keep up the good work raising awareness on important issues.

  31. this is an excellent post, Janet. I once went into a Long's Drug store to find a blow dryer that wasn't made in China. To my dismay, I never found one. I began to look at everything in the isle; all was made in China. I have found there are some retail stores that only purchase from china for various reasons. H&M has clothing not made in China, but in Indonesia, Turkey or elsewhere.

  32. Janet, you know my opinion. The people in China need to work. The people who work the land in that country have been hungry for generations and generations. That said, I believe we should buy from global companies that we know will manage humanely, and pay on the upper end of the scale.

    Why? Global companies transfer information to China. Not only manufacturing, or technology, but a code of conduct and a way of doing business. It's slow, but if global companies DON'T manufacture there it's a worse outcome for more people. Because the factories will then exist in a vacuum, in a system not known primarily for respecting individual rights.

    On the other hand, if you have political feelings about China's system, and want to send a signal, that's a separate issue.

  33. You have two of my favorite retailers on your list: Brora, made in the UK where their employees are paid decently and BedHead, which is in fact owned by my Father's cousin!
    I think about this quite a bit, though of course I still buy Made in China. LPC has an interesting point of view too, I like seeing different sides.
    Thanks Janet!

  34. Thank you Janet for this post, I have often "mentally" shopped American. I frequent garage sales to find classic American Coach or my Dooney bags,or classic 50-60's purses all the rage now but all those were made by American craftmans. Today, prices are outragous for designer bags, so why should one pay $100's for made in China?
    Even leather shoes are made there?
    Can you imagine Louis V or Hermes being made in China and not France?
    So now I look closely at vintage clothing as well, for me and my husband, and he is liking the vintage Hawian shirts I have found....and if one comes in my size, we can be a matching pair!
    Again thanks for the post

  35. Thanks for the list! I started my own apparel line this year, all USA made. Please check out my hoodies at



kindness is never out of style.

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