Share to Google Classroom

Is affordable ‘fast fashion’ clothing worth the ethical cost?

Fast fashion is inexpensive clothing mass produced by big retailers in response to fashion fads, and it keeps business profitable and consumers in the trendiest threads. However, this business model has a large environmental footprint because of the cheap, raw materials used to create clothing, and in many countries where clothing is made, underage labor and gender discrimination remain issues for the industry. Consumers, often young people, appreciate fast fashion for its cheap and up-to-the-minute styles. But is it worth the environmental and ethical risks?


What Happens When Fashion Becomes Fast, Disposable And Cheap?

Additional resources to think about

Fast Fashion, Explained
This article from Vox outlines what fast fashion is, how it works, and what it means for the economy and the environment.

The True Cost of Fast Fashion | EcoSense for Living
This video and lesson plan from PBS LearningMedia explores the environmental and human cost of the fashion industry.
The Neurological Pleasures of Fast Fashion
This article from The Atlantic takes a look at how the fast fashion industry has changed how we think and feel about shopping for clothing.
Is fast fashion catching up to real time?
This story from Marketplace highlights the Chinese and ‘fast fashion’ powerhouse Shein and what makes them so popular.  
The Afterlife of American Clothes
In this episode of Planet Money, a lacrosse jersey from Denver, Colorado ends up in Sierra Leone - like many other items of used clothing from the United States.
Why Isn't Sustainable Fashion More Affordable?
This article from Vogue looks at why many people choose fast fashion, including the price tag.  


Who created this message?

  • What kind of “text” is it?
  • How similar or different is it to others of the same genre?
  • What are the various elements (building blocks) that make up the whole?


What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

  • What do you notice (about the way the message is constructed)? 
  • What’s the emotional appeal?
  • What makes it seem “real?”
  • What's the emotional appeal? Persuasive devices used?

How might different people understand this message differently from me?

  • How many other interpretations could there be?
  • How could we hear about them?
  • How can you explain the different responses?

What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?

  • What type of person is the reader/watcher/listener invited to identify with?
  • What ideas or perspectives are left out?
  • How would you find what’s missing?
  • What judgments or statements are made about how we treat other people?


Why is this message being sent?

  • What's being sold in this message? What's being told? 
  • Who is served by or  benefits from the message
    – the public?
    – private interests?
    – individuals?
    – institutions?

5 Key Questions of Media Literacy used with permission from the Center for Media Literacy.
Copyright 2002-2021, Center for Media Literacy,


Is affordable ‘fast fashion’ clothing worth the ethical cost?

How was your Thinkalong experience?

We actively use feedback to provide better resources to students and educators, so please take 1 minute to provide feedback and help us improve.