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Garment Labels - A Broad Overview

There are 3 primary laws governing wearing apparel and textiles. They are the Textile Fiber Products Identification Act (TFPIA), the Wool Products Labeling Act (WPLA) and the Fur Products Labeling Act (FPLA). The broad goals of the laws governing label disclosures are: to prevent unnecessary harm; enable consumers to care for their purchases; and to prevent deceptive or false representations about a product. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has oversight of all of the federal labeling requirements for garments, with enforcement discretion carried out by the U.S. Department of Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC).

The requirement for both wool and textile products is that each article has a label which may include a stamp, tag, label or any means of identification affixed to it. This label

must be written legibly in a conspicuous and non-deceptive format. The information on the tag must be in English and if the goods are imported, the English name of the country where processed or manufactured must be provided. Furthermore there is a durability requirement that requires that all labels must be affixed in a manner so that it will remain attached through the regular wear and use of the product. The tag from Mason Margiela (left) is properly affixed by four stitches and uses the list of numbers with the size of the particular garment circled as the source identifier.

In addition to some form of identification tag or marking there is also a requirement for the garment's care and fiber content labels. The fiber content tag must list out the percentages of fibers that are used in the product and may split this listing between different parts of a single item. The "clean care" tag must include information on how to properly care for the garment including dry-clean instructions and other knowledge relevant for product maintenance. The country of origin, namely the country where the majority of the manufacturing or production of the item took place must be placed on at least one of these tags, as exemplified on the Margiela tag above. To the right is an example of a clean care tag that also includes the fiber content.

For products that are typically sold by more than one unit, such as pairs of socks or packs of undergarments, the labeling requirement is that the information must be either on the retail packaging or visible through the packaging. The consumers must be able to see the fiber contents and other labeling information before purchasing the product. The pack of Hanes shirts (right) will have the required labeling including the garment content on the back of the package in addition to sizing and identification on the front. These particular shirts also have a different type of label on the neckline with the information actually stamped onto the shirt itself which can be seen through the packaging.

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