1970s Pictures Reminds Us When Clothes Were Made in the USA
Montgomery Wards. Mervyn’s. Gemco. Liberty House. Bullock’s. Emporium-Capwell. Gottschalks. 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.