Montgomery WardsMervyn’sGemcoLiberty HouseBullock’sEmporium-CapwellGottschalks.

These extinct department stores eventually fell for various reasons:  mismanagement, acquisitions, wrenching recessions, big box stores, and changing consumer habits.  Many brands and stores from the seventies have been long gone.  Fast forward, and cheap fashion has taken a different tune.

It may be hard to believe, but there was a time when discounted retailers had clothes that were made in America.  Brands like Osh-Kosh and Geranimals were made in textile mills just a few decades ago.  By then many had moved from New England to the American south, but nevertheless, the clothes were made here.

But cheaper labor, the demands companies faced to maximize shareholder value, and consumers’ demands for the lowest price all had a role in the eventual shift of our textile and clothing manufacturing industries overseas.

I was recently rummaging through some old family albums, and my mother reminded me that there was a time when she would not buy clothing if it were not made in the USA.

Will the textile industry return?  Will China ever become to expensive to manufacture clothing and other items?  Will Americans and Europeans ever decide that they would rather own a few pieces of well made clothing rather than have a closet full of cheap, foreign-made apparel?

These pictures remind us of a time that seems so innocent now, and of when we bought and shopped more locally.  They also make us stare in disbelief that we actually wore clothes styled and designed as they were during the decade of disco and Watergate.  Huge flapping collars, bright geometric prints, textiles that matched wild dining room wallpaper, and wide ties all make us smirk and sigh with wistfulness at the same time.  The pictures are faded, but like seventies fashion, the memories and nostalgia are still very bright.

Would we be thrilled if clothing were once again made in the USA?

At this point, I would be thrilled if they were manufactured again in Korea, Japan, or Taiwan.

Picture of me, above left, in a Mervyn's coat taken in Bear Valley, California.

Toppled avocado tree. Jacket: Gemco.

Toppled avocado tree. Jacket: Gemco.

With kindergarten teacher Mrs. Martha Williams. My outfit: Mervyn's. Martha Williams' outfit: Awesome.

With kindergarten teacher Mrs. Martha Williams. My outfit: Mervyn's. Martha Williams' outfit: Awesome.

Go A's! Memorial Park, favored spot in Cupertino for Xmas card shots. A's shirt by GEMCO. Pants: Liberty House.

Go A's! Memorial Park, favored spot in Cupertino for Xmas card shots. A's shirt by GEMCO. Pants: Liberty House.

Overalls by Osk-Kosh, when they still made clothes in Wisconsin. Hat: GEMCO.

Overalls by Osk-Kosh, when they still made clothes in Wisconsin. Hat: GEMCO.

Little Edie Inspired even before Grey Gardens! Sweater: Sears.

Little Edie Inspired even before Grey Gardens! Sweater: Sears.

Best Christmas card shot EVER. Mean green outfit by Geranimals. Mervyn's should have paid for this JCPenney photoshoot.

Best Christmas card shot EVER. Mean green outfit by Geranimals. Mervyn's should have paid for this JCPenney photoshoot.

Ski outfits aren't what they used to be. Mel Cotton's, San Jose

Ski outfits aren't what they used to be. Mel Cotton's, San Jose

velour shirts

Say "Thursday!" Velour shirts, Mervyn's, of course.

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he is a business writer and consultant. His work is has also appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He's pictured here in Qatar, one of the Middle East countries in which he takes a keen interest because of its transformation into a post-oil economy. Other areas of interest include sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). As of October 2013, he now lives and works in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.