Examination of Two Decades in Used Clothing Trade: The Case of the United States and Selected Developed Economies

  • Lee, Youngji (Dept. of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management, IowaState University) ;
  • Zhang, Ling (Dept. of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management, IowaState University) ;
  • Karpova, Elena (Dept. of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management, IowaState University)
  • Received : 2016.03.25
  • Accepted : 2016.09.27
  • Published : 2016.12.30


This research examined two decades of the U.S. used clothing exports to the world. All countries (209) were classified into four groups based on the level of economic development. Between 1996 and 2012, U.S. used clothing exports shifted away from low-income economies to high-income economies. For the first time, our research demonstrated that the majority of used clothing discarded by American consumers is exported to high-income economies instead of poorest nations of the world. Next, used clothing exports and imports by volume and value in seven high-income countries were analyzed. The high-income countries not only exported but also imported significant amount of used clothing, which indicates a growing demand for worn apparel in developed nations. The demand might be at least partially attributed to the popular vintage clothing trend and increasing consumer environmentalism. Implications regarding development and implementation of a new classification system of worn clothing and recommendations for future research are presented.


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