Stories My Mother Told Me, Part 1

I was shopping for slacks yesterday at Nordstrom’s Rack and came across a nice beige pair.  However, it had a weird fabric content: 65% polyester and 35% viscose.  I didn’t know anything about viscose, so I called my mother.

Mom is an expert on all things fashion.  She earned her Master’s Degree in the late 1970s and taught fashion in college.  She also spent some time working in the fashion industry in downtown Los Angeles.

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“You don’t want to buy viscose,” Mom said over the phone.  “It’s just like rayon.  It’s going to fall apart.”

I shook my head.

“Why in the world do they want to make clothes like that?” I asked.

So she proceeded to tell me a story from when she was working as a patternmaker in the fashion industry in the early 1980s.  A designer brought her a design that she wanted her to make.  It used rayon.

“How long is this going to last?” Mom asked.  “It’s going to fall apart after about three washings.”

“Yeah, probably,” the designer said.

“Why do we want to design something that’s going to fall apart so fast?”

“Because when it falls apart, they come back and can buy something else that we make.  If we made things that lasted, Sally, we’d go out of business.”

That’s why my mother has always avoided 100% synthetic fabrics other than polyester, and why her clothes have remained intact and vibrant for years.

“Mom, that’s like defrauding people,” I told her.

“Yes, it is.  But there are people who don’t mind it.  They like throwing out clothes after three washings.  That way, they have an excuse to go out and buy more clothes.”