June 22, 2011

Do American Women Buy 52 Items of Clothing a Year?

In a recent article on Get Rich Slowly the author stated "The average American woman now buys more than 52 items of new clothing each year".   The number seemed crazy high.   I figured it was numerical fiction.   I decided to go about proving it wrong but ended up proving it right instead.

The figure 52 items of new clothing came from Juliet Schor,   In her paper Cleaning the Closet: toward a new fashion ethic she says on page 9 that : "In  2000 alone the US imported  12.65 billion pieces of apparel, narrowly defined (i.e., not including hats, scarves, etc.). It  produced  another  5.3  billion  domestically.  That’s  roughly  47.7  pieces  per  person  per year. (Women and girls’ rates are higher; men and boys’ lower.)"

U.S. Clothing and Textile Trade with China and the World
In 2005 we imported $80B in clothing and exported $5B.  29.1% from China in 2006.

American Apparel and Footwear has some figures on clothing imports.   In 2009 we imported about 21B square meter equivalents of apparel at a cost of about $63.1B.

The report Textile and Apparel Imports from China: Statistical Reports from the United States International Trade Commission has counts of the number of individual items imported from China as well as the percent of imports that come from China.    Table 3. in the document gives "Quantity of U.S. imports from China by category, for indicated units, 2003–09"   Then in Table 4 we can get the "Quantity of U.S. imports from China as a share of total U.S. imports by category (percent),"    If you combine these two figures you can get the total quantity of items that the U.S. imports worldwide for each category.

Here are major clothing item categories numbers from Table 3 and the % of total imports from Table 4.   THe far right column is the total number of imports worldwide.

# % tot tot
Hosiery, including baby
socks: cotton, wool, and
116 39% 297
M&B cotton knit shirts, and
W&G cotton knit shirts &
53 14% 379
M&B cotton trousers,
breeches & shorts, and
W&G cotton trousers, slacks
& shorts
47 26% 181
Underwear, cotton & MMF 34 15% 227
M&B MMF knit shirts, and
W&G MMF knit shirts &
19 24% 79
Sweaters: Cotton, M&B
MMF, and W&G MMF
10 77% 13
Brassieres & other body
supporting garments, cotton
25 56% 45
M&B MMF trousers,
breeches & shorts, and
W&G MMF trousers,
breeches & shorts
11 22% 50
M&B not knit shirts, cotton
and MMF
9 28% 32
Trousers, breeches &
shorts, silk and veg
6 82% 7

The total numbers are in millions of dozens.   If you sum up the totals you get 1,310 dozen million or 15,716 million.    Thats 15.7 billion items of clothing we import annually.    Divided by approximately 300 million people in the U.S. and that gives us a total of 52 items per capital.

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