Why Is So Little Apparel Made in the USA?

By Guest Blogger, Britt Nicole La Hue @bnicolelahue with Diaries of a Domestic Diva 

In 1960, 95% of clothes purchased by the average American household were made right here in the United States. Today, that number has plummeted to just 2%. 

Why are so many American fashion brands sending their items overseas to be manufactured?

A (Brief) History Lesson

Prior to the 1970s, it just made economic sense for American brands to manufacture clothes in America. After all, cotton was plentiful in the South, and states like North Carolina (where Hipstik tights are manufactured) gained well-deserved reputation for churning out high-quality textiles. 

But in the mid-1970s, global trade agreements led to countries like China, Bangladesh and Mexico offering cheap labor, rock-bottom prices on raw materials and an abundance of large textile mills and factories to American fashion brands. By 2011, 750,000 apparel jobs in the US had moved overseas.

The Downside of Overseas Production 

The average garment worker in Bangladesh makes just 1/38 what a US garment worker makes, saving companies tons of money on wages. The richest brands in the world paying Bangladeshi adults - and children - poverty wages and getting away with this exploitation. 

In the USA, we’re now losing out on a valuable skill set, as there are increasingly fewer Americans with the skill sets to sew, cut, make patterns and design. Where will the next generation of American apparel makers come from, with no veterans left to train apprentices and no jobs left to employ them? 

Revitalizing the American-Made Fashion Industry 

Pictured here is Perla and she's been in U.S. manufacturing in N.C. for 14 years. She started sewing from the beginning and is responsible for sewing the lace on Hipstik.

But the news isn’t all bad! A new generation of Millennial fashion-lovers, motivated by patriotic pride in America and a dedication to eliminating slave labor overseas, are driving the revitalization of the American fashion industry. New York’s historic Garment District is on track to contribute $2 billion annually to the economy and is currently employing 7,100 skilled apparel workers. Raleigh, North Carolina and Fort Wayne, Texas are becoming hubs for American-made denim, using technology to streamline their manufacturing processes and cut costs without moving overseas.  

What can you do to support the resurgence for American-made? Start by looking for companies with that coveted “Made in USA” tag! 

Hipstik is one such company - the body-shape leading tights and pantyhose lines are entirely designed and manufactured by women in Asheboro, North Carolina. The company is also certified with distinction by Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), the largest certifier of women-owned businesses in the U.S. and a leading advocate for women business owners and entrepreneurs. With each purchase, you’re actively contributing to US manufacturing and wages, and boosting women in business, too. 

Now, go out and be the change you wish to see in America - and slay that outfit!

Shop U.S. made Hipstik Legwear here.

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