Results & Discussion
I'd like to use this section to dissect just how much of a difference crafting makes qualitatively, as opposed to purchasing ready-made clothing. In this section, I ask: is it truly better to craft than to buy? If so, for whom? And can we as artists effectively use crafting as an escape from the hegemonic form of capitalist society?
Cost: $49.00 + tax
Labor: Performed by factory workers in Vietnam, possibly at Nam Phuong Co., Ltd., a clothing supplier located in Thuận An. Although it's hard to tell whether this particular factory operates under sweatshop conditions, Urban Outfitters has suffered many a scandal over the conditions in which their employees work, and their complete lack of transparency does not encourage confidence that they have fixed their ethical problems.
Time: For the consumer, 30 minutes back and forth from West Farms mall.
Waste: Fabric scraps (quantity unknown), electricity used to power sewing machine, gasoline used to fly product from Vietnam to LA (~61,200 gallons, according to calculations based on information from this site and this site), gasoline used to fly product from LA to Connecticut (~21,600 gallons, according to the same), gasoline used to visit the West Farms mall (13 mi, <1 gallon).
* Chart based on analysis of this dress sold at Urban Outfitters.
Labor: Performed by me in my kitchen.
Time: 7 hours, over the course of 3 days.
Waste: Fabric scraps (pictured below), electricity used to power sewing machine, gasoline used to go to Michaels (7.5 mi, <1gallon), gasoline used to transport materials to Michaels (quantity unknown).
After calculating the various ethical, environmental, and numerical costs of both a purchased dress and a crafted dress, it is clear that crafting is a superior way to get new clothing. Although crafting might not be weaponized by the masses as a form of protest against capitalism, it seems to be effective at taking power away from consumerism: by crafting a dress, it's possible to not only avoid supporting a system that has historically demonstrated a willingness to employ child labor in sweatshop conditions, but also to cut down on the total waste created by the project.
Of course, the resonance of this realization is lessened by the fact that I myself did, in fact, buy a dress from Urban Outfitters. Therefore this chart is not, in effect, showing a choice to be made, but rather the full array of waste that I have produced, as both consumer and artist. This is extremely disheartening, but it is not the only flaw in my schema. I also have no way of taking into account the labor of the people who made the materials I used in this project—who's to say that the labor practices at the Urban Outfitters factories are any less humane than those at the factory that made the thread I used? None of these manufacturers are traceable online, a fact that limited my research. If I were to complete this project again, I would make sure to use ethically-sourced materials, despite higher prices that make the act of crafting harder to justify.
My tentative delight at the success of this project as a protest against consumerism is further suppressed by my position as a college-educated white woman in the crafting world. I am only capable of using this art form as protest due to that position; there are precious few people who would use seven hours off of work in order to make themselves a cocktail dress, and I must be cognizant of that fact even as I embrace the radical potential of crafting. Of course, this will not dissuade me from doing further crafting myself; rather, it must factor into my understanding of why not everyone is capable of sewing as subversion. In order to employ crafting as a subversive act, it is necessary to understand every step of the production process, along with the structures of power that shape crafting as an art form. Only then can sewing truly act as protest.