TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Tess Vigeland: The Great Recession has prompted lots of us to take a second look at our spending habits. Cut a little from the budget here, trim expenses there. Go a few weeks without new purchases… But an entire year? Welcome to the Great American Apparel Diet. It began a year ago this week, the brainchild of Seattle resident Sally Bjornson. So, as participants get ready to fall off the wagon, I asked Bjornson where the idea came from.
Sally Bjornson: Last summer, I was a little distressed about all the news about people overspending, just this consumptive lifestyle that we as Americans had bought into. It caused me to kind of look at my own habits. So I floated this idea out to a couple friends, saying, “Could you go a year without buying clothes?” And most of the women I spoke to were just outraged at the idea. But there were about five women who responded. So I said, “OK, we’ll start this blog and we’ll see how it goes.”
Immediately, we started getting news about it and followers. And now we have over 300 dieters from 12 countries around the world. So, we hit a nerve.
Vigeland: Was there something that sparked this specific idea? I mean, there are a lot of things you can do to cut back on a consumer lifestyle, but this is hard core. Was there something happened that you saw and you just thought, “You know what? I gotta do something about this.”
Bjornson: You know, it’s really my own personal habits. For most of my job, I work out of my home. And I was still buying for a corporate lifestyle. So what ended up happening, you know, it’s almost like an out-of-body experience and realizing that I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt and boots — it was kind of a uniform. And yet, I kept going out and buying all this stuff that just wasn’t what I was wearing. And so, I cleaned up my closet and gave away so many clothes — and some of them still had tags on them.
Vigeland: Oh boy.
Bjornson: And I thought, “This is just gross.” But after I actually talked to a lot of friends about it, they were in the same boat. I mean, most of us have an entire closet that could probably last us 10 years.
Bjornson: But people stop wearing things, because it feels old.
Vigeland: Well, OK, so you’re making all this sound very easy. There must’ve been some hard parts.
Bjornson: I have a very good friend and she and I went out to dinner one night. And I left my house feeling like I looked cute, and she was fabulous wearing something that she had just bought in Asia and she had this great jewelry on. And I felt so frumpy. And when I came home, I was really ready to go off of it, and you know, it’s like, “This is a really dumb idea. I don’t feel good.” That was a tough moment, and I did call her the next day and said, “I don’t think I could see for another six months.”
Vigeland: I guess that’s one way to approach it. So you couldn’t buy anything new. Could you go to a used clothing store or was this just…?
Bjornson: Technically, no. It was really interesting, as the diet grew, people would send me e-mails like, “Now, what are the rules?” I didn’t encourage people to do it, but this was really a social experiment to stop and reflect.
Vigeland: You mentioned earlier that part of it was that you wanted to cut down on the amount of money that you had been spending on clothing, so have you been able to calculate how much you saved over the last year?
Bjornson: About $5,000.
Bjornson: Yeah. And you know what? That’s not a lot compared to some of these people. I mean, there are people who spend $10,000 a year, and they’re not like “Dynasty” people.
Vigeland: Right. But if you’re not calculating it, then you don’t realize how much it adds up.
Vigeland: So you’ve been on a diet for about a year, anything planned for the one-year anniversary?
Bjornson: Well, I’m going to be in Alaska in a cruise, so there’s not going to be a lot of opportunity to be shopping there. But, I get back on the fourth of September, and on the fifth, I’m going out to buy a pair of jeans.
Vigeland: You are.
Bjornson: Mmhmm. What’s been really fun is I’ve worn out two pairs of jeans, and now I can get a new pair.
Vigeland: Well, have fun shopping and congratulations on making it through the year. And thanks so much for talking with us.
Bjornson: Thank you.