While you can always find clothes on sale or in the bargain section of a store, there’s no doubt that if you want high-quality clothes, you’re going to need to pay a high price.
Clothes have come a long way since simple animal hides and dresses.
Materials have changed and technologies have changed.
Clothes are also heavily associated with culture and status.
They’ve transformed from something we simply wear to something that adds to our identity.
When you’re out on your next clothes shopping spree, you may realize that the cost of clothes has increased over time.
Here are 10 reasons clothes are so expensive these days.
Why Are Clothes So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
1. Industry Meltdown
One of the biggest reasons that clothing prices have increased over the past few years has to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the virus started to spread across the country, lockdown orders took effect.
People were unable to leave their homes and go shopping.
Since clothes aren’t essential, at least not clothing-specific stores, many of them were unable to do business.
Only those who had an existing website or made a website to sell clothes online were able to perform some business during the lockdown.
This left a lot of retailers with a lot of inventory and no way to make a profit.
They responded by laying off employees and slashing the prices of their clothes to help move inventory along.
As time went on and the lockdowns lifted, some people returned to the stores.
The stores suddenly found themselves with customers loaded with cash thanks to the economic stimulus checks they had received from the government.
With little stock, it’s become an issue of supply and demand.
The demand skyrocketed as people were eager to buy new clothes to start their post-pandemic lives.
The retailers had only a few options left to offer.
Because demand is high and supply is low, the prices of clothing are also high.
The problems that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to the increased prices.
2. Factory Shutdowns
Another reason clothes are expensive is the factories that shut down during the pandemic.
When the retailers had to lay off employees, they also stopped putting in orders from clothing and textile factories.
This left the factories without business, too.
For their survival, they also had to lay off employees and reduce production.
This left them in a vulnerable position once business resumed.
They found themselves with several big orders from retailers but without a workforce to support their production.
As a result, their production process was slow.
They haven’t been able to match demand with their supply.
As such, they’ve also increased their prices on the limited supply of goods and materials that they can produce.
Those added costs make their way to the consumer who has to pay the retailer for their increased costs of buying from the struggling factory.
Until factories are able to work at full production levels and meet demand, it’s unlikely that the price of clothing is going to decrease.
3. Continued Lockdowns
While the United States and many European countries are coming out of lockdown, some countries are still in lockdown.
In particular, India, Cambodia, and Bangladesh see themselves facing new waves of COVID that force them to go under lockdown.
The problem is that many clothing brands get their clothes from these countries.
Whenever they go back into lockdown, it means no one is producing their clothes.
As a result, the supply remains limited for the clothing brands.
Since demand is still high, they can increase their costs to help reduce demand until they can increase their supply.
The biggest issue is that no one is sure when the pandemic is going to end.
With new variants and waves always emerging, and with some people refusing vaccines, the virus is likely to remain a part of the world for some time.
The disruption to the clothing industry is endless, which means it will take some time before things go back to normal.
Clothing prices will remain high until the pandemic rides through the countries that clothing brands are reliant on for goods.
4. Shipping Congestion
Because demand has increased for clothing and other goods, shipping has also increased.
Online retailers, in particular, saw an incredible increase during the pandemic.
That hasn’t slowed.
As brick-and-mortar stores reopen, they need supplies and goods, too.
This further strains shipping.
One of the problems that the global shipping industry is facing is congestion.
With the increased demand for shipping services, many shipping companies have switched to using larger vessels to carry their increased shipping containers.
While this allows them to carry more goods to ports, it also creates a problem with traffic.
It isn’t just one company that switched to using large vessels.
Many have made the switch.
This creates a problem at the ports because larger vessels take longer to unload.
That increases the amount of time that other ships have to wait to unload their goods.
It also means there are fewer parking spaces at the port because the large vessels take up more space.
With increased unloading time and fewer parking spaces, it means fewer boats are unloading each day.
This creates a bottleneck, which also slows the time it takes for retailers to receive their goods.
Ports have also been in dire need of investments for improvement.
They barely functioned before the pandemic, and now, under the strain, the cracks in their procedures are starting to show.
Thanks to the use of large shipping vessels, congestion has grown at ports, which has slowed the ability of retailers to get their supply.
Since supply remains low, it increases the prices of clothing.
5. Decreased Number Of Dock Workers
The other side of the problem at ports is the reduced number of dock workers.
When the pandemic raged, many docks had to let go of employees because there weren’t that many ships coming in.
When businesses started to return to normal operation, they found themselves with a sudden increase in shipping but without the working force to handle it.
In particular, there’s a massive shortage of crane workers at the docks.
They’re essential to hauling shipping containers from the ship and placing them in the designated storage area.
Until their numbers get back up, the dock is unable to act as quickly as it usually does.
This also adds to how slowly retailers receive their merchandise to sell.
Since supply is trickling towards them, they’re unable to meet demand.
The price of clothing increases as a result.
6. Increased Worker Wages
As employees returned to work, they found a changed world.
They had received stimulus checks and were a bit more self-reliant than dependent on their jobs for wages.
Because of this, they were able to be choosier about who they worked for.
Many workers also faced betrayal from the companies for which they had worked for some time.
When the companies were starting to feel the pressure of losing out on profit, they chose to fire their employees instead of paying them wages or half-wages.
Not looking to return to a company that cut them loose when they needed it the most, workers have been pickier about who they work for.
That means that many are looking for higher wages than most companies offer initially.
As businesses reopened, they struggled to find workers who were willing to work for the same pay that they had before.
The world had changed and workers recognized their worth.
This has led some businesses to increase the pay for their employees but at the expense of their customers.
While there are ways to give employees a living wage without raising prices, many retailers have chosen to let their consumers cover the costs instead.
Clothing is more expensive because clothing brands have started paying their employees what they’re worth at the expense of their customers.
7. Cotton Crop Failure
About 70% of clothes use cotton in some form in their production.
Some items are entirely made out of cotton while others use it for specific parts to add comfort or durability to the piece of clothing.
When cotton struggles, then most of the fashion industry feels it.
In the past few years, the US West, which provides a bulk of cotton production, has struggled with extreme heat conditions and drought.
The soil and climate haven’t been able to yield cotton in as high amounts as they used to.
Like any other plant, cotton relies on a particular amount of water and temperature to grow best.
Without it, the plant either dies or only yields a low-quality amount of cotton.
Because there’s less cotton coming out of the US, factories have fewer materials to work with.
It comes back to supply and demand.
The supply of cotton is low.
Since 70% of the fashion industry needs cotton, the demand for it is high.
The demand is even worse due to the rising use of cotton in China, too.
Because there’s a lot of demand for cotton and little supply, the price for cotton increases.
This means that factories have to pay for their materials to make the clothing.
This then means they need to sell their finished goods at higher prices to make up for the cost.
Retailers then need to sell at a higher cost to make up for their own costs associated with buying the more expensive goods.
Whenever cotton prices increase, you can also expect clothing prices to increase.
Unfortunately, since it’s related to the climate and environment, there’s no telling when cotton prices will decrease again.
8. Recyclable Clothing
More and more consumers have an interest in buying recycled clothing.
There’s no question that the fashion industry sees a lot of waste.
The United States also has a reputation for being incredibly wasteful with clothing.
With an eye on practicing more sustainable methods, many consumers are asking fashion brands to start using recycled clothing.
The problem is that not many factories have made the transition yet.
This has led some clothing brands interested in using sustainable methods in their business to start their own.
The problem with starting your own factory is that it costs a lot of money.
It’s an entirely different business, too.
The brand has to hire experts in the field to ensure they’re doing it the best way lest it fail.
Because they’re making the investment themselves, it means they have to make up for the costs in another way.
The easiest way for them to fund their ventures is through their clothing sales.
As more clothing brands start to turn towards running their own sustainable factories, you can expect prices for their clothing to continue to increase for a time.
Once the factory opens and they start saving money by recycling clothing, the price for clothes may decrease.
However, until then, the interest in recycled clothing is contributing to the higher prices of clothes.
There’s no question that inflation is also increasing the price of clothing.
Experts have estimated that inflation is set to rise by 7%.
Clothing, among other goods, is among those goods expected to have its prices increased as a result of inflation.
Inflation essentially makes a consumer’s buying power decrease.
Products cost more than they did before.
There are various reasons behind inflation.
It increases the price of clothing because it makes buying the materials and textiles needed to make clothing more expensive.
Factories have to spend more money when buying materials to make clothes because of inflation.
Since it costs more to make, factories sell at a higher price.
Since it costs more to buy the goods, retailers then sell at a higher price.
The consumer ends up paying prices that have at least doubled.
Experts are unsure how long the period of inflation will go on or if it will even go back down.
They also don’t know how much prices will rise.
As long as inflation continues to increase the price of materials, you can expect clothing to be expensive.
10. Designer Labels
Although the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly led to an increase in clothing prices, some clothes were already expensive to begin with.
Designer clothing comes from a specific, well-known fashion designer.
These designers have made a reputation for themselves by creating clothes that change the fashion world in some way.
It may be a look, a material, or an innovation that sets them apart.
Designer clothing is more expensive than standard clothes because it usually comes with a label.
Somewhere on the clothing is the designer’s brand or logo.
That logo increases the price of the clothes.
That’s because designer clothing doesn’t come in a high supply.
They keep their stock limited to ensure only a few people can wear the brand.
This gives the individual a form of status and prestige.
Designer clothing also tends to be made with a higher quality of materials than non-designer clothing.
Since the clothes are more expensive, most consumers expect them to last for a long time.
The designer uses the best materials possible to make the clothes durable and maintain their color.
Since they’re using higher quality materials, the cost of making the clothes is also higher.
That’s offset with an increased price tag.
Certain brands of designer clothing will always be more expensive than standard clothes.
That’s because they know people are willing to pay more for an exclusive shirt than one anybody can buy.
Since, for some people, clothes are as much part of their identity as their name, they’re particular about the type of clothes that they buy.
Designer clothing is expensive because it offers exclusivity.
How To Save Money On Clothes
While some aspects of how supply and demand are beyond your control, there are ways that you can save money on clothes.
Here are a few methods you can use to save money on clothing.
1. Thrift Shop
One of the best places to buy clothes is your local thrift shop.
Thrift stores sell all types of secondhand merchandise, including clothing.
Since people donate or sell their clothing to the store all the time, you can never be too sure what you’ll find.
In some cases, you can even find designer clothing.
Most often, however, you’ll discover hand-me-downs that may be a little worn, but they’re usable.
Thrift stores have strict rules about the types of clothes they can sell, so you can be sure that they’ve gone through a rigorous check to ensure they’re sellable.
They’re also dirt cheap.
2. Garage Sales
You can also go to sellers directly at a garage sale.
Whenever someone cleans out their house, you can expect them to include some clothes.
Children’s clothes are some of the most common finds at garage sales.
One of the best things about a garage sale is that you can sometimes get a lot of clothing for extremely cheap prices.
You may also find high-quality clothes and even designer clothing that the individual doesn’t want anymore.
Garage sales can be a gold mine for cheap clothing.
3. Recycled Clothes
As more people look for sustainable practices to add to their life, they’re turning to recycled clothing.
There are some brands and stores that sell recycled clothing.
These clothes use old textiles that have undergone a processing and treatment procedure to be made into a new piece of clothing.
Because it didn’t require new materials in its production, it tends to be cheaper to buy.
Not only can you help the environment by buying recycled clothing, but you can save some money, too.
Clothing is expensive because of the financial shakeup it received during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rising cotton prices and inflation have also impacted its price.
Shopping at thrift stores, garage sales, and focusing on recycled clothing can help you save money on your next shopping trip for apparel.