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  • Writer's pictureAnn Donahue

Watch This: "The True Cost"

Updated: Jan 11, 2021

As part of my pandemic entertainment plan, I decided to teach myself how to sew. (Given that the sewing machine I ordered took weeks to arrive, I'm obviously not the only one.) I love it, and have progressed from making clunky cloth napkins and tea towels into actual garments.

For a newbie, the amount of fabric options for garments is overwhelming, and I realized pretty soon on that it was important to me to make sustainable choices. I wanted to stick to natural fabrics as much as possible, but the alphabet soup of classifications, brands, and certifications was confusing. (GOTS-certified! Higg MSI! Tencel! Piñatex!) I am still very, very much muddling through all this, and as part of my education I watched the documentary "The True Cost."

It's a hell of a documentary, a condemnation of fast fashion and the capitalist, classist attitude that dismisses the very real human and environmental cost of mass-market clothes production. Watching it in the middle of a pandemic — five years after it was first released — is particularly jarring, because you know that the situation has only gotten worse in the interim.

It's so disheartening and devastating that so much of day-to-day American life is based on the unthinking exploitation of people and resources. The documentary caused me to redouble my efforts to be more sustainable in my clothing choices, and to educate myself further as to the fabrics I buy. The fact that there is no easy, obvious, and perfect answer to fashion sustainability doesn't let me off the hook.

It's a huge subject, but "True Cost" is definitely a tremendous catalyst to inspire personal change. I hope all those other people who delved into sewing while sheltering at home watch the documentary and take it to heart.

The DVD can be purchased through, or you can stream the documentary at Amazon Prime Video.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. This commission will be donated to the NRDC.

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