The Dress Maker

Iíve lived in this small Northern Alabama town all of my life. Never have I thought of leavingÖever. Well, I guess that is kind of a lie. From time to time it crosses my mind, but never as a real option, kind of like winning the lottery does. Everyone thinks ďwhat ifĒ from time to time, but the odds of someone actually leaving are close to the odds of someone actually leaving are close to the odds of someone winning the lottery. Its just that everyone has their place. The corner store has been owned by the same family since it first opened back when my grandpa was a little boy. Same goes for the shoe stores, cheese-makers, and just about every other aspect of life that can be bought, sold, supplied or demanded.

††††††††††† My place in this neatly drawn scene? I am the dress-maker. I outfit all of the girls for their debutante balls, for their proms, and eventually for their weddings too. Because our little town is a good five hours from anything that could constitute as urban life, business has stayed pretty constant, and styles donít seem to change much or quickly.

††††††††††† I get my fabric from a local producer, coincidentally owned by my best friendís family. While she oversees production, her main duty is to choose the colors; pale pink, egg shell blue, pearl white, etc.

††††††††††† Life has been like this for years, and to assume it would change is both ignorant and naÔve. But I was, and it did. Quicker than I could imagine, my life, my ignorance, and my naivte came crashing down around me.

††††††††††† The Walter;s had no children, and when it came time for them to give up working, they shut down their little hardware store on Main Street, and they sold their space. It didnít take long for someone to buy it either. No one knew who the mystery buyer was, but everyone watched the weekly developments with the utmost attention. New carpet, new paint, new wallpaper. The store was almost unrecognizable. Almost a month to the day of the sale, two large trucks pulled up in front of the store. Both of which were so large that they blocked the flow of traffic down the narrow, two-lane street.

††††††††††† The man that stepped out of the first truck was thin, tall, and had daHe unlocked the door for the moving men to start unloading their trucks. Boxes upon boxes came from the trucks which filled the store. The sinister man hung up a sign in the window that read LuLuís. To my dismay, it was a female clothing store.

††††††††††† Within a week everything was set up, and within two weeks the store was having their kick off opening up event. It was the place to be seen, and of course I went just for the sick pleasure. With each rack that held fashionable clothing, the pit in my stomach grew bigger and bigger. This man did not make his clothes, instead he received shipments from clothing manufacturers. Most of his merchandise came from abroad, where the cost of labor, the cost of manufacturing, and the fixed costs of production were lower than here in our small town, or anywhere else in the United States.

††††††††††† Around February, he began to receive shipments of white dresses. Many of the skirt-lines were shorter, and many of the neck-lines were lower, both influenced from the latest fashion. Again, around March, prom dresses started streaming in and took over one whole wall of the store. I had watched my business go from a staple part of the town and then dwindle down to almost nothing. I had become a price taker. LuLuís could now set the prices and that he did. The prices that the sinister man set were so low that I felt as if I could not compete. His cost of labor, and production, remained low thanks to the mass quantities that the factories abroad produced, and due to the new demand for the latest fashions, I no longer could stay in business unless something happened and fast.

††††††††††† I had not been the only one to experience grave losses do to this alien invader that came in from nowhere and spoke with a northern accent. My best friend who specialized in textiles too faced challenges. She no longer sold as much volume as she had before, because do to LuLuís, people could now buy clothes at the same price that they could buy the fabric without the time and effort of actually sewing. To us older folks, it was almost as if our town had been slightly defaced. LuLuís seemed to be the beginning of corporate America slipping into the small towns; somewhere where we thought their influence could never reach.

††††††††††† We all seemed to be in agreement. While the younger generations seemed to enjoy the new ďway of lifeĒ that had been introduced into their tiny bubble, the older generations seemed to shy away from anything that didnít come from their own. That is how small town people are. They donít trust you immediately, trust is something you must earn, and it is a long process. Meanwhile, as he is maximizing his profit, mine is dwindling. I stayed up at night to try to figure out a way to remedy this situation.

††††††††††† It wouldnít take much planning, just waiting for the rainy day took time. Then when it did, thanks to the wetter than normal spring, I could capitalize on my opportunity. It wasnít even that difficult to make it look like an accident, he just happened to be coming back from lunch, as he did everyday, and while crossing the street, the rain and fog impaired my vision, at least that was my defense, and I failed to see the pedestrian until it was too late.

††††††††††† He had no family, and thus LuLuís went up for sale. The people that bought it owned the restaurant next door, and decided to use the space to expand their restaurant.

††††††††††† However, I found that the results were unexpected. My business did not return to the way it had been before, but it did improve. I fault this lack of complete restauration on the fact that many of the town citizens became used to the idea of cheaper clothes due to cheaper costs and cheaper labor, and the mass manufacturing which made it easier to stay current as far as style is concerned. No new clothing store came into the town, but instead the residents began turning to catalogues and other such means of obtaining what they wanted.

††††††††††† As for me, I could no longer live with the heavy burden of my actions. I had selfishly killed an innocent man, as sinister as he may have seemed from afar. Using slow business as my reason for leaving, I cashed in my ticket, and I left town. I decided that it would take me too long to get used to another small town, and I donít know if I had it in me to earn all of their trust, seeing what I had done. Even if they did not know, it would come through in some way. Guilty consciences always shine through any faÁade put up to hide them. So, I moved into a big city, and spent the rest of my life there. It was a relatively poor existence. I made few friends, and my labor could not fetch as much as it had back before the industrialization of our small town. Someone was always willing to do it better for cheaper. Maybe one day, I will gain the courage to return back, after all that is my home.†††††††††††† †††††††† ††††