MS. REBECCA SHEIR
We turn now from drinking to sewing, two activities I don't necessarily recommend you try doing at the same time, but anyway, Lauren Talley grew up sewing. She made sleeping bags for her Beanie Babies, she even designed her own prom dress. But now, Talley says she's alarmed at the poor quality and high prices of so much fashion out there. So she's decided to go on a diet, a clothing diet, meaning no buying clothing for a full year. Emily Berman checked in with Talley six months into her challenge.
MS. EMILY BERMAN
The thing about making a New Year's resolution, especially a big one like this, is that it can be tempting to fall off the wagon. For Lauren Talley, that moment of near collapse came just a few weeks ago.
MS. LAUREN TALLEY
My jeans ripped and I can't buy new jeans.
And it's okay for now, she says, because it's warm out, but thinking ahead to fall she started to worry.
It's possible to repair them, but it's going to look kind of weird because you're going to have the patches.
She called her mom in Ann Arbor, Mich. to ask if she'd buy the new pair as a present.
And she said no. She said that that would be going against the whole idea of what I was doing.
Talley has since recovered from that moment of weakness. And other than bras, underwear and shoes, if she wants something, she has to make it herself.
So this dress, I tried it on and it was too big. So I'm taking in the sides.
The dress is knee-length, with a floral pattern and pink shoulder straps. Talley started it a while ago, but now that it's summer and she could use more lightweight clothes, the time has come to finish it. A year ago she could have just gone out and bought something new.
I calculated how much I spent in the last year at clothing stores. It was over $2,000. I was shocked and then I was kind of embarrassed that I had spent that much.
And it was on a shopping excursion in New York late last fall that this all started to come into focus.
I went to Bergdorf Goodman in New York for the first time. And I had never been there before, and so it was like a museum of really expensive clothes that you could touch.
She walked around the store, examining the way skirts were lined, and the blouses were stitched. She held up a beautiful dress, and looked at the price tag. $500. Her heart sank.
To see that it was cotton, but it was also made in China, it was like, I just don't understand why you'd be spending that much money on something that is the same quality as something that you could buy for much cheaper.
So she decided to take a time out.
I can't change that our clothes were made in China. I can choose not to participate in buying them.
Talley rifles through her closet looking for the very last item of clothing she purchased.
This sparkly top is from J. Crew and it's sequins with polka dots.
It was a steal, she says. And certainly not something she'd be able to make herself, but since January her sewing's really improved. Take this turquoise party dress she made.
This I wore to my cousin's wedding. And I finished it the morning that I left. It was really down to the wire, but I put in bust darts and this little puckering. I have never made sleeves before.
The way she sees it, making your own clothes, is a lot like making your own food.
You know, you could easily just like go to a restaurant or a fast food restaurant and grab your dinner or something. It's another thing to go like a farmers market or to the farm, in the same way that, you know, you can just like run to H&M or any department store and pick up an outfit. But to make something, like you really have to want to make it.
We return to the sewing table where Talley finishes taking in her dress.
Okay. Now, I'm going to go try it on.
She runs into the bathroom to change. And when she emerges there's a big smile on her face.
I probably actually could wear this to work, even though it's, you know, more casual. I could wear it like on a Friday. Or I'd wear it on a date or maybe anywhere.
It's kind of fun, she says, knowing that this is the only dress like this in the world. She's more conscious of what she's buying, where it comes from and how it's made, which, like this dress, suits her just right. I'm Emily Berman.
To see pictures of some of Lauren Talley's creations visit our website, metroconnection.org.
Up next, why the National Mall once symbolized the Great Depression.
MR. PAUL DICKSON
Some poor guy who'd lost his job with a bank or as a clerk, shows up with his three-piece suit and goes and cuts wood so he can get enough money to buy dinner for his family.
That and more is coming your way on "Metro Connection," on WAMU 88.5.
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