the rag trade, clothing is not garbage




Shmatte: an old article of clothing, a “rag” in fashion and clothing-industry slang, shabby, cheap stuff. Hence, the “rag trade.”

Shmatte, a wonderful Yiddish word derived from Polish, and until you’ve heard it said by an old Jewish lady, shopping with her friend on the Upper East Side, you can’t really get a feel for it. Trust me. 

I saw a lot of shmatte today, it was on the rack at ZARA. 

Once again, I found myself shaking my head, wondering why anyone would buy these things, even though in the past, I’ve bought them myself. 

At first glance, through the plate-glass window, the garment looks good, stylish even.

I know better though, upon closer inspection, the things they sell here, and at other fast fashion stores, are actually quite ugly.

I had the overwhelming feeling that what I was looking at, was clothing made from cheap upholstery and lingerie fabrics. It’s the kind of material you find in the fabric shops on the outskirts of the garment district, here in New York.

It’s a shop where the bolts of fabric are as dusty as the floor, and the things displayed in the window have been there so long they’ve faded. 

The store smells like something chemical, because the fabrics in the store are made from chemicals. And sometimes the chemical fabrics are treated with more chemicals to make them fire retardant and “long wearing.” 

Most of what I saw at ZARA was made of either polyester or viscose, aka rayon. The bottom line—both of these fibers are produced using highly toxic chemicals. We don’t have to be rocket scientists to understand what that means for us and the environment.

To the touch, these fabrics feel like the couch in your old dentist’s office, or the upholstery in your grandfather’s Buick.

They’re rough and scratchy or slick and greasy feeling. This is hell for me because I don’t want either touching my skin!

The Psychology Of Fast Fashion

But let’s talk aesthetics and the psychology of shopping fast fashion.


Do you really want to shop a brand that treats the things it makes like this?

Having grown up in a family with not much expendable income, a respect for one’s belongings in general, and a deeper respect for clothing, I’m thinking even shmatte shouldn’t be treated like this.

That’s the point though, as long as this lasts until you get it home, you wear it 3 or 4 times, then toss it, it’s alright by the store, because tomorrow there’ll be a new load of cheap, disposable clothing on the racks for you. Is that alright with you?

By the way the brand treats their own product, they’re teaching you how to disrespect it yourself.  


Sometimes they don’t even bother to steam the garment, because they’ll just shove it into a bag at the POS, (point of service) and you’re on your way!  

You may think this is a stretch, but I believe that this cycle of drop, shop, throw away, buy more, results in a kind of disregard for ourselves. How can we possibly be content with anything when we so willingly jump on this treadmill? 

After all, we do know that self-care should extend to the things we eat, wear, and otherwise surround ourselves with.  

Clothing Is Not Garbage

Clothing didn’t used to be garbage, but it is today. When we adults consume it like kids in a candy store, what else can we expect? 

There are plenty of good trends in the fashion industry, and tomorrow I’ll follow-up with some of them. But if this was an ugly kind of post, I’m glad, it should have been. Fast fashion is ugly in most ways, and clothing is not garbage.




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