Educating Consumers About Apparel, Textiles Is Necessary, Says Univ. of Missouri

From favorite T-shirts to sheets, the significance of textiles and apparel in our lives is often overlooked in American education. Now, University of Missouri experts say that the near elimination of education about nutrition, child development and clothing production in grades K-12 disempowers American consumers in a global society.

"K-12 family consumer sciences classes are among the first to be cut in addition to art and music lessons when school districts evaluate their budgets, so many kids have not learned basic personal and home management skills," said Jung Ha-Brookshire, an assistant professor in the MU Department of Textile and Apparel Management (TAM). "Then, as adults, consumers don't know how to evaluate potential purchases or care for apparel, and they don't know the conditions in which clothing was made or its impact on human lives."

She says the study of textile and apparel management originally focused on domestic science skills that benefitted individual families. However, the discipline now emphasizes a global supply chain framework that considers the needs of consumers and businesses through product development and environmental sustainability and social consumer responsibility efforts.

TAM department chair Jana Hawley says the implications of textiles and apparel in ordinary people's lives are extensive and include more than high fashion or international labor issues.

"Consumer education is necessary for our earth to be sustainable for future generations," Hawley said. "Textile and apparel management students learn to consider how their choices will affect people domestically and internationally and in short and long terms."

Ha-Brookshire says the location of the textile and apparel management department in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences is unique; most other higher education programs of the kind have transitioned into colleges of education or agriculture as a result of changes in the industry and the role of women in American society.

"The textile and apparel industries are different from the past, but we are still a very important discipline in today's society," Ha-Brookshire said. "Our industries are the most globalized in the world; other trades follow changes in the textile and apparel industries when they want to innovate because it offers a portent of future trends elsewhere in business. Positioning the discipline of textile and apparel management within a human environmental sciences setting allows us to focus comprehensively on human factors including implications for humans involved in agriculture, business or education."

Ha-Brookshire and Hawley authored an editorial about the role of textile and apparel management departments within human science units, "Envisioning the Clothing and Textile-Related Discipline for the 21st Century Its Scientific Nature and Domain From the Global Supply Chain Perspective," that was published in the Clothing and Textiles Research Journal.
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