A couple of you have asked about this mysterious pledge I’ve made recently: to buy no clothes for one year.
Two years ago I became enamoured with The Little Brown Dress Project by Seattle local Alex Martin. In a one-woman attempt to subvert the consumer hamster wheel of fashion, Alex made two identical brown dresses and wore them for one whole year. She layered in the winter, and stripped down in the summer, but the whole time she just wore just the one little brown dress.
The past 18 months I’ve been living in Copenhagen, Denmark, where the cost of living is roughly 30% above that of Seattle, which was already one of 10Â most expensive cities in the U.S.Â Unlike Seattle there are no well-stocked affordable thrift stores, and new clothes are expensive. At home when you pay more for something you can usually count on better quality. But here more is just, more.
Because of this, I went on a shopping spree this Summer in Seattle. Target, thrift stores, Old Navy. Now I was stocked on the basics. When I got back to CPH I was confronted by two American TV ads on Hulu. One for a designer discount store in which the spokeswoman said “Just because times are tight out there doesn’t mean you should have to stop wearing designer labels!” The second was for Target and featured the new term “frugalistas” and designer NinaÂ Garcia from Project Runaway. She encouragedÂ an average- looking shopper to buy bright blue and pink jeans, because “This season denim is all about color.”
WTF?! People are in foreclosure and designer labels are a priority? Soccer moms need to buy jeans they won’t be caught dead in next year because “this season” demands a color we abandoned circa 1985?!
Look, beauty is a deep value of mine. I love self-expression, and I think clothing is one of the ways we differentiate ourselves to others. But this endless cycle of disposable clothing designed to last “this season” and be out the next, it is absolutely ridiculous. And as much as I adore Project Runway, I’m sorry sweetie but Â fashion, at least as part of consumer wheel of fortune, is not going to change the world.
The madness must stop. So for this year, no new clothes. I have a good coat and boots, couple nearly-new black long sleeve t-shirts, jeans in two sizes (you know how it is), and enough socks and undies to last me the duration. I’m a little worried that my two-year-old sweater from Old Navy may not make it through the winter. But for the most part, I think I’m set. I just want to see what it’s like, to not be beholden to the trends of the “season,” to get off the hamster wheel and just make-do.
Thankfully there’s a new riff on The Little Brown Dress, The Uniform ProjectÂ in which a black dress is serving as the “school uniform” for Sheena Matheiken for one whole year. Now, this women appears to have more clothes than god, butÂ her point is a good oneÂ — clothing as self expression doesn’t have to follow the consumer code, it can play out side the box.Â I’m keeping tabs on her crazy get-ups in case my uniform starts to drive me crazy ’round about February.
I’d like to say that I’m diverting all my clothing expenses into a donation to some wonderful cause. Â (TheyÂ were really never that much to begin with. I hate shopping.) But alas, my daughter Eden grows about two inches a month and it’s all we can do to feed an clothe her right now. So Mom’s clothes money will become her clothes money. (Ay! The cost of winter footwear when you have no car in Nordica!) But I am donating a symbolic amount to myÂ dear friend Shelley and Corrigan ClayÂ in Haiti, who run the Apparent Project — an organization which tries to keep poor families together, and also runs an orphanage.
Regardless of the funds,Â I am curious to see what this will do for me. Will I become more determined to stick to my other goals as well? Will my core sense of self become strongerÂ if I have to show up to some event in the “wrong” clothes? Will my creativity blossom as boredom sets in? Will I start an accessories exchange with far flung friends? Will I finally use my sewing machine to re-purpose clothes? We soon shall see!
Wanna play along? Stock up on undies and let’s do it!Â Here’s the deal,
1. Stop buyingÂ on Buy Nothing Day (November 27th).
2. BuyÂ no clothes for one year.Â
3. Make up your own rules about if you can buy fabric, yarn, etc for re-purposing the things you have.
4.Â Make a symbolic donation to theÂ Apparent Project to clotheÂ some of the children living with Shelley and Corrigan in Haiti. (Chip In below — or pick a charity of your choice!)
5. Get ready toÂ celebrate together on Thanksgiving 2010 with a gridblog about the experience
What say you? Anyone in?
I’m In! A Year Without Clothes!