A new exhibition in the costume gallery at Whitby Museum is called The Cost of Fashion and gives you the chance to discover how fashion has affected our environment and wildlife in the past and continues to do so today.
Curator Alison Roberts explains: “The global fashion industry is one of the top five most-polluting industries in the world, alongside the oil industry and produces 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year from the use of fossil fuels for light, heat, power and transport
All clothing used to be made by hand. The introduction of machines transformed the clothing industry making clothes cheaper.
Historically, the fashion industry has always come at a human cost. People have been exploited in the making of garments and textiles, slaves were traded, animals and birds killed, rivers polluted with chemicals, air polluted with fumes, global warming exacerbated with the burning of fossil fuels for energy, power and transport and our water reserves used up in the production of cotton.
In the 17th and 18th century fabrics were made by hand from natural fibres derived from animals and plants (wool, cotton, flax, silk). Mechanisation and new inventions transformed the textile industry. By the mid-19th century steam power had largely replaced wind, water and animal power leading to a rapid expansion of the textile industry. Manchester became a world centre for the production of cotton fabric, while Macclesfield produced silk and West Yorkshire woollens.
Looking back at previous centuries we can see that new techniques in dyeing fabric, unregulated waste dumped by factories into water courses, fumes damaging air quality and causing acid rain and people working long hours in sweat shops around the world all affected the environment. Though we have moved on, the fashion industry has a lot to answer for today.
People are buying twice as many clothes as they were 10 years ago due to new fashion trends advertised in the media. Cheap clothes sold by high street shops are creating a ‘look and chuck’ attitude. Eighty percent of used clothes ends up in landfill.
Globally 100 billion garments from new fibres are produced every year.”
The exhibition runs until November and the museum is open 9.30am-4.30pm throughout the year except for Mondays. Last admission to the museum is half an hour before closing.