I've written a fair bit about Venuses on this blog, modern and antique. But this artwork at the Tate in London caught my eye.
Venus deciding what to wear in a day and age where clothes are cheap. There's no basket, so she's not doing laundry.
Who does laundry anymore, clothes are so cheap. You just wear a top once and throw it away. (I must admit, I had piles like that in my bedroom, when clothes were not cheap.)
Last week a fire in a Karachi Pakistan sweatshop killed 264 people making our clothes (probably). La Plus ca Change.
The rumour is the doors were locked and that there was no fire escape.
In 1911, a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City killed many women and provoked American the union movement. I write about it in Threshold Girl. The doors were locked there too. Victims, some of them underage, jumped from windows, as did the Pakistanis in this latest tragedy. (I do not think child labour figured in this Modern Asian story, though.)
I doubt this fire will provoke a Union Movement: news stories, these days, are as throw-away as clothing.
Threshold Girl is based on the real letters of real Canadian women but I invent a character who works in Magog at the Dominion Textile Plant, a Miss Gouin.
In those days, Canada had its own cotton manufacturing plants. The old Dominion Textile Plant in Montreal, along the Lachine Canal, is now condos. Girls as young as 12 worked there, I can see from the 1911 census. 60 hours a week was the legal limit for workhours, and according to that same census, EVERYONE worked that amount of time. (Amazing!)
The Magog Plant lasted until just recently, under another name.
Our clothes come from places like Pakistan now.
According to the BBC
The garments industry is critical to Pakistan's frail economy. According to central bank data, it provided 7.4% of Pakistan's GDP in 2011 and employed 38% of the manufacturing sector workforce, accounting for 55.6% of total exports.BBC Karachi Fire
So, the question is, Should we feel guilty about that pile of crap clothing in our bedroom, or not?