Approximately six months ago my husband made a new health commitment and started exercising. Recently he has had trouble figuring out what to wear. He asked my help as sounding board, and we went through all his clothes to see what still fit. As it turned out, very little did.
This week, in celebration of the new body shape he has developed, we went shopping at JC Penney’s to buy a few things – more socks to match the colors of pants that still fit, underwear, belts, and tee shirts in large. We also bought seven bagged Stafford “classic style” shirts on sale. Six of the shirts were a size 15 ½” neck, and 32-33 length sleeve, or short sleeved, and one shirt was a size 15” neck, accidentally switched at the counter when we used it’s label to identify the shirt we wanted.
We had read the size chart on the back of the bags, and verified the dimensions against those we had taken of him. He was worried they would be too loose around his chest, and around his neck. As it turned out, there was a different story that unfolded. At home he tried them and the shirts were too tight, especially at the shoulder blade, or scapula, and around the neck. Something was wrong.
Being the inquisitive types that we are, we wanted to know why shirts didn’t fit. Upon inspecting the shirts we determined that two were manufactured in El Salvador, two in Sri Lanka, two in China and one in Taiwan. We measured the shirts at various locations. Of all seven shirts, the two Chinese shirts came the closest to what we speculate are the correct measurements. One measured 15-1/2” and another measured 15-1/4” around the inside of the neck. The remaining 5 shirts all had a neck measurement of 15”.
Taking another measurement across the chest, under the arm, and doubling it, the size 15 measured 42”, while all the 15-1/2” sizes measured 46”- quite a difference for shirts only a half size apart.
However, the third measurement was the kicker. The yoke is that double fabric that extends from sleeve to sleeve, across the back and below the collar. We measured the point at the middle of the back, from the bottom of the collar to the bottom of the yoke. The Chinese shirt yokes measured 4”, the Sri Lankan and Taiwanese measured 3” and the Salvadorian shirt yokes measured 2-1/2”.
To understand why this is important, visualize the difference between a flat-bottomed grocery bag and a large manila envelope. No matter how big the envelope, a can of coffee will always fit better in the grocery bag.
A larger yoke on a shirt helps to provide volume and room, especially for the shoulder blade.
The Chinese shirts were barely useable but we returned all the shirts. The same nice young woman attended us and cheerfully refunded our money. In our exchange we came to understand that for her, this was a common occurrence. Things don’t fit.
As customers we tend to be brand loyal. Penney’s has sold us many a satisfactory product over the years. We bought several satisfactory items the same day that we purchased the shirts. We are unlikely however, to purchase Stafford “classic cut” shirts again. It’s too bad. If the shirts had been marked as “irregular”, or, open on a hanger, we would have checked each one individually.
How does this story apply to “Earth Day”?
The global economy that has produced the lack of uniform standards between countries of origin, the inadequate Inspection, quality assurance, and quality control, all trumpet of our loss of pride in product and homage to the profit line. The sale and prostitution of century old American brand names has not helped.
We are wasting our planetary resources.
Someone grew the cotton and manufactured the chemicals that made and dyed the fabric, thread and buttons of these shirts. Others supplied the machines and folks that did the sewing, and the folding and the poly bagging and the tissue paper and the cardboard and ink for the collar supports and the labels. Someone boxed, loaded and fueled the trucks and ships and trains and planes. Someone drilled and processed the oil from the ground to supply the fuel.
What was the real cost to get those seven shirts to my local Penney’s? How much energy did we waste in their purchase? What will happen to those shirts? How many of those shirts were sent to ALL Penney’s stores everywhere and how many returned? How many customers will simply stop shopping at Penney’s and fade away quietly? Either Penney’s knows how bad the Stafford brand has become, and chooses to ignore the issue, or they don’t, and they need us to tell them.
This Earth Day, as we plant a tree, change a bulb, or start a garden, let us be mindful that these efforts are tokens of our commitment to change. As we dispose of the mountains of salmonella suspect pistachios and peanuts; that our trees, legumes, people and bees labored to produce, let us be mindful of our mistakes and the distance we have yet to travel. We must clear on the interconnectedness of our behavior; we must be active; and, we must be vocal!
Happy Earth Day!