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Carol Perkins: Store Bought

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By Carol Perkins

A store-bought dress was a luxury when I was young. Few of us girls had plentiful clothes, but we protected what we had. We ironed our cotton summer dresses and pressed our wool skirts with a newspaper over the top. Occasionally, we sent them to the dry cleaners. My aunt Clarice could sew like a professional, so I remember several pieces she made. I was proud of them because they looked "store-bought."

I am a fan of "Project Runway." Watching it takes me back to when my mother (and other mothers) sought local seamstresses to sew for us. We could have more outfits because fabric and patterns were inexpensive. However, young girls longed for those outfits on mannequins in store windows. It was a sign of "money" to have a store-bought outfit, and most of us were materialistic. Teenagers usually are. Even those whose mothers could sew beautifully often longed for a department store dress.

My first encounter with an attitude about homemade clothing came from a woman sitting in a chair at a local beauty shop, and I was also there in the next booth (separated by a thin wall).

She was bragging about her daughter's formal for the Jr. and Sr. Banquet (now a prom), which she bought at Stewarts in Louisville. I can hear her now telling her hairdresser, "You know how it is with those homemade dresses. You can spot one a mile away."

My aunt was making my dress, and suddenly, I wished she weren't. I didn't want to look "homemade." Silly girl. My dress was as pretty as hers, but those words stuck.

The first year my daughter went to the prom, we searched for the right dress. When she arrived, another girl was wearing the same dress. The following year, she said, "Mom, will you make my dress?" I didn't have enough sense to know back then, but having a dress sewn for me was the same as having a designer make clothes for a person now. Homemade means one of a kind, and aren't we all-one of a kind? Project Runway reminds me of my sewing days and when I "got over" the idea that store-bought was better.

You can contact Carol at

This story was posted on 2022-01-21 07:44:15
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