Does Congress buy Made-in-America clothes?July 13, 2012: 5:08 PM ET
I would really like to know where members of Congress buy their clothes.
If you haven't heard already, the U.S. Olympic team's Ralph Lauren uniforms were made in China, and this has triggered quite the uproar among lawmakers. Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner have all weighed in.
Why is anyone surprised by this?
Twenty years ago, U.S. manufacturers supplied about 50% of the clothing sold here. But since then, American garment factories have slashed more than 700,000 jobs.
Today, Americans import about 98% of their apparel and 99% of their footwear from foreign countries, according to the American Apparel and Footwear Association.
Do finger-wagging members of Congress shop at the other 2% of manufacturers? Really, was every blouse, blazer and boot in their closets made in America? It's doubtful, but I asked anyway.
Sen. Harry Reid's office tells me all of his suits are made in the USA, but declined to mention where he buys them. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand's office pointed out that she wore a made-in-New York, Nanette Lepore dress to the White House Correspondents Dinner.
Rep. Steve Israel's office tells me his suits and ties are from Brooks Brothers.
That's all well and good, but where are average Americans supposed to be shopping to get made-in-America clothes?
For the record, even Brooks Brothers doesn't manufacture all of its products in the U.S. anymore. Much of the clothing on its website claims to be "imported." Many of its silk ties are woven in England or Italy and assembled in the U.S.
Similarly, L.L. Bean and Levi's jeans sell an awful lot of imported products, considering they promote their made-in-America heritage so proudly. (Levi's classic 501 Original Fit Jeans? Imported. L.L. Bean's Classic Fit Chinos? Imported.)
Where are the patriotic, made-in-America clothiers? One major retailer that comes to mind is American Apparel, but not all of us can pull off the neon lycra-spandex look. I suppose it could work for the gymnastics team though.