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links for 2010-05-31

The $3000 Shirt

Eve Fisher:

What I always used in my class was the example of the $3,000 shirt. 1 shirt ("poet style", with yoke, sleeves, collar) takes approximately 7 hours of hard work to sew. To weave the cloth for that shirt takes approximately 7 times the 7 hours of sewing, i.e., 49 hours of hard work. To spin the thread for the cloth for that shirt takes approximately 7 * 7 * 7, i.e., 399 hours of spinning.

So, irrespective of the time either raising the wool (and the subsequent fleecing, washing, and carding required) or the linen (and the subsequent retting, hackling, etc. required), in that one shirt you have 400 (okay, I rounded) hours of hard work.  Multiply that times $7.25 (minimum wage) and you have a $2,900.00 shirt (okay, I rounded again).

After pointing out that then you'd have to figure out costs for pants or skirt, bodice or vest, jacket or cloak, stockings, etc....

I have had students who remembered that lesson for years.  And it perfectly explains why the Industrial Revolution was indeed all about clothing.