Percentage of Income Spent on Apparel Drops from 12% to 3%


Those of you at either our Carolina Regional Conference this past April or our Annual Conference in May recall Barbara Zeins amazing talk on THE VALUE OF TIME.

Early in her presentation she shows a slide which reads: "1682: …”Our ships are coming to you at all times. Calicoes have become the wear of the ladies of greatest fashion…”" The East India Company begins to sell cotton apparel at a 400% Mark Up which is still 1/3 the price of Woolens. The Woolen Trade in England is DECIMATED

Another slide reads: East India Company brings in cheap Indian Calico

  • It’s not itchy
  • It’s easy to clean
  • It’s comfortable
  • It is the birth of a CONSUMER CLASS
  • You can own more than 2 sets of clothes

Consumers WILL NOT Go Back to Wool. “…Consumers at all times and in all countries will buy in the cheapest market and patriotic considerations are not strong enough to make any drastic change…”

  • International Crisis: e.g., German linen is displaced.
  • Unemployment Soars
  • Parishes are going Broke
  • Minor trades (ribbons, silk) also suffer
  • Taxes go up to cover relief for the poor

On top of this new fabric follows these radical developments:

  • England learns to print and dye 
  • Birth of the Factory System
  • Incredible Economic Change
  • Lightening Streak of Technology

Interesting that while the cost of apparel has held low and steady for many years,  the percentage of consumer income spent on apparel has declined significantly from 12% in the 1950's to 3% today. 

Several years ago the head of one automotive company said her biggest competition was the internet. Consumers are spending their money on a wide variety of instant gratification and experiences. I have no message in this post. Rather it is a byproduct of other research I was conducting this weekend. I hope you find these charts interesting: