Your clothes are about to get more expensive

As the pandemic recedes and we make our first forays back into the world, many of us are thinking about putting aside our sweatpants and picking up some new outfits. But I have some bad news: Clothes are getting more expensive.

The price of clothing in the U.S. has gone up 5.6% over the last year, according to the consumer price index released by the Labor Department last week. And that’s across the board, from mass-market retailers all the way up to luxury brands. It’s part of a broader wave of inflation that’s causing the prices of everything from washing machines to furniture to creep up. There’s no single, straightforward reason for these increases, and when it comes to clothing, the causes of inflation are particularly complicated. Two retail experts help break down why shirts, dresses, and sneakers are pricier than ever.


The problem started during the pandemic. In March 2020, when stay-at-home orders first went into effect in the U.S., Americans changed their shopping habits drastically. With nowhere to go and a possible recession on the horizon, apparel purchases ground to a standstill. In April 2020, clothing sales fell 79%, which is the largest-ever recorded decline.

Fashion labels began to panic. It was unclear how long the pandemic would last and, by extension, how long consumers would continue to not buy clothes. So many brands radically changed their operations, starting with worker layoffs and slashed prices on merchandise to unload existing inventory. Many canceled orders for the rest of the year, leaving overseas factories in a lurch. In turn, many factories had to fire garment workers.


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