Have you ever wondered why things cost so much? Let’s think about a simple shirt, for instance. Basic style. Polyester/cotton material.

Polyester begins life as a syrupy liquid, pushed under pressure through a nozzle with a very small opening. It falls in a thread-like strand through a very long vertical tube, drying on its way down. At the bottom it is wound on a bobbin or spool. Cotton is combed and is also wound on a spool. Both are fitted to a loom, mechanized these days of course, and woven into a fabric.

The fabric gets wound on an axle with wheels on the ends similar to a railroad wheel. The fabric is rolled out on a very long table, guided by tracks on the table’s sides to assure it is taut and straight. This is repeated multiple times, stacking the fabric several layers high. The pieces to the shirt are cut, several at once, by electric scissors a few years ago, now replaced with laser cutters. Although much is automated, there are many hands out for payment.

The pieces get taken to an assembly point where seamstresses actually assemble the shirt. Even though oftentimes the assembler are women from third world countries, working in intolerable conditions for very low wages, they do an incredible job. Look closely at a shirt as low as $20. You’ll find very neat stitching. In addition to the above, designers who are responsible for making the patterns using a computer aided program, must also be paid.

Often there are labeling steps, pressing and folding, pinning and bagging costs involved. If made overseas, they are boxed, then shipped here, where the freight is transferred to semi trucks that take them to be warehoused.

Salesmen sell them at wholesale to stores who need to add the profit margin that pays the store’s rent, sales, and overhead costs. With the costs of getting a product to the finish line, it is truly amazing the prices are as low as they are!