Shirts: People Wear and Make Them

Who would wear a shirt proclaiming MIDTOWN NEW YORK? I have toiled in midtown more than I care to admit in my dozen years residing in NYC. It is a craphole with a lot of boring lame stuff. Is this what the kids of today like? Cheap suits and salad bars? Or is this a joke I am too old to get?

Speaking of shirts - I wanted to share this call to action for garment workers I saw on the ever-awesome Sewing Rebellion. (Sewing Rebellion is the entity that hosted the mending circle.)

graphic from Sewing Rebellion's post

It's an interesting action that involves "shopping" in sweatshop stores while wearing a t-shirt with statements about garment factory conditions, hoping to spark some conversations. I think there's research out there somewhere that shows that the guiltier the outreach material makes people feel, the more they divorce themselves from the idea that they're actually participating in the behavior that's being condemned (also known as denial). So just advertising the negative working conditions might make some people shut down and not hear what you're saying.

I believe in outreach that offers a positive hand-delivered solution for the lazy public. (Hey, we're not all activists. I get it.) Which means I'd need to go out there in a shirt with awareness statements but also present a positive solution. As if I'm wearing a 5" button saying "Ask me about ethical shopping!" While I think general awareness campaigns are a good tool to give the issue visibility, people sometimes need to be handed a positive solution to get them to do anything. And not depress the hell out of them.

This begs the question: What kind of information would you give out?

New Yorkers -
if you're interested in "shopping" together, let me know.

{text from their blog post, linked above}


Infiltrate contemporary garment manufacturing by commemorating the Triangle Shirt Fire of 1911. 101 years ago, the US garment industry was rocked by a factory fire which killed 146 workers. This tragedy transformed the garment industry in the United States forever and it was the catalyst for establishing the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

Fast forward 101 years, garment workers earn less today, then their counterparts in 1911, and fires continue to break out around the world in Bangladesh, China, and India.

Take the plight of the garment worker to the streets!

Stencil a contemporary “shirtwaist”, IE t-shirts, made in Bangladesh, China or India with one of the following questions:

In your factory, are the doors locked?
In your factory, are the windows barred?
In your factory, are the elevators locked?
In your factory, do you have access to fire escapes?

On Sunday March 25 for a 12 hours shift, wear the stenciled t-shirt, go shopping at the Gap, Forever 21 or H&M, and start a conversation with anyone who reacts to your shirt. Use this opportunity to INFORM, EDUCATE and ACT!

-Frau Fiber


  1. I'm kind of cracking up that the guy has almost 1000 likes on that outfit, ha.

    I couldn't tell you the last time I bought something brand new. I've been buying used/second hand for so long now. It's the best I can do and afford right now. I broke up with H&m, Zara, and Forever 21 a long time ago. Some of the #1 culprits

  2. This is awesome. Most folks probably might have not even heard of the Triangle fire.

    It's funny, the other end of the spectrum too though, almost too much guilt.

    Last fall we were heading out to my husband's grandpa's funeral and discovered kind of midway that he didn't have a white tank to go under his only "neat" shirt. There's this awful strip mall town on the way and after a few minutes of furious debate trying to we pulled into the parking lot of JC Ps. Got out, ran in, debated for another 10 minutes on how badly he needed the tank, why they only came in packs of 3, whether one china made brand name was gonna be slightly more durable than another. Paid, left, me almost in tears, partly because because of how depressing being in a store is, partly because the store's other clientele was mostly Latino, from agriculture population of the valley and how, oh yeah, we're enslaving people in this country, after destroying their chances of living a decent life in their country, enticing them with the idea of buying crap that other enslaved people make thousands of miles away.

    I'm over-simplifying, but that's literally the conversation we have over every goddamn purchase. It's so depressing and a lot of the time there are no options. Sometimes the things we feel like we "need", turn out to really not be that necessary, but often how much we agonize over every darn thing becomes tiresome.

    This campaign on the other hand seems like an awesome, empowering event. Thanks for telling the world ;)

    And sorry for the ramble...

  3. This is clearly a great campaign. I am ashamed to admit that I am not much of a protester. I rant in the blog, I rant to the people I know, but I'm not good at taking action, at getting out there and really educating others. I have a lot of respect for people who do. Like you say, there is a fine line between alienating people with guilt, and changing someone's behavior by telling a story. I hope that this campaign succeeds in the latter.

  4. Oh, I'm going to do this. I have H&M and F21 coming up on my Window Shopping project.

  5. this is so fantastic. really love interactive activism like this - producing a positive message while educating the people! would love to see something like this happen in the bay area.

  6. So weird you posted about the Triangle Factory Fire I just watch the pbs doc & have been slightly obsessed with learning as much as I can about it. I think mostly cause it horrifies me and well if I had been alive 100 years ago I could have easily been one of those girls.

    This is a great post about the state of sweatshop labour in present time and what we can do about it! Thanks for sharing


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