1 dress - 365 days
June 10, 2009 5:45 PM   Subscribe

The Uniform Project - "Starting May 2009, I have pledged to wear one dress for one year as an exercise in sustainable fashion. Here’s how it works: There are 7 identical dresses, one for each day of the week. Every day I will reinvent the dress with layers, accessories and all kinds of accouterments, the majority of which will be vintage, hand-made, or hand-me-down goodies... The Uniform Project is also a year-long fundraiser for the Akanksha Foundation, a grassroots movement that is revolutionizing education in India."
posted by You Should See the Other Guy (74 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Previously - 365 days. One brown dress. A one-woman show against fashion. "So, here's the deal - I made this dress and I'm wearing it every day for a year. I'll throw snowballs in it (wearing additional clothing layers in cold weather for health & safety), garden in it, rehearse in it, travel in it, dance in it, cook in it, prune my pear trees in it, drink wine in it, sing my baby to sleep in it." The project was launched July 7th of last year and is nearing completion.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:50 PM on June 10, 2009

I liked day one. It's all downhill from there.
posted by monospace at 5:51 PM on June 10, 2009

(that was 7th July, 2005)
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:51 PM on June 10, 2009

I've gone months wearing the same couple of black hoodies everyday, I should have thought to make it a fundraiser.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:52 PM on June 10, 2009 [10 favorites]

I've gone months wearing the same couple of black hoodies everyday

Two hoodies at once? Either you're exceptionally fashion forward, or you're conjoined twins.
posted by dersins at 5:57 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

The fact that the seven dresses are "identical" doesn't really make them any more sustainable than wearing seven nonidentical dresses. Having a different outfit for every day or the week plus a shitload of nonidentical "accessories" (many of which turn out to be other items of clothing worn over the dress) would seem to quite a lot of people, even in First World countries, like plenty.
posted by yoink at 5:59 PM on June 10, 2009 [35 favorites]

Or both!
posted by The Deej at 5:59 PM on June 10, 2009

And people think I'm weird for wearing the same pair of pants for a week...
posted by strixus at 6:00 PM on June 10, 2009

I knew someone was gonna point that out to me! I'll admit it, I was too lazy to fix the sentence.

This woman seems like she's quite the snappy dresser, so I'm guessing wearing the same article of clothing everyday is an actual challenge. For me the challenge is resisting the urge to put the same outfit on as I did the day before because, hey, I already know I like it.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 6:03 PM on June 10, 2009

hm, i did that for about 7 years, 7 different pairs of dickies, varying the tshirt and accessories. oh, and then also in catholic school for about 9. uniforms are nice.
posted by fuzzypantalones at 6:04 PM on June 10, 2009

strixus beat me to it. I've been wearing clothes over and over and over over and over for most of my 45 years. I always thought I was lazy, turns out I was cutting edge and socially conscious. Cool.
posted by crazylegs at 6:04 PM on June 10, 2009 [8 favorites]

crap... I wear jeans and a tee-shirt nearly every day to work.... have for about 30 years.... (other than a couple of years of an on the road sales job where the boss would ask me every day on the phone if I had a tie on, I lied to him most of the time)...

so... the big deal is what?
posted by HuronBob at 6:13 PM on June 10, 2009

Yeah, what everyone else said.

I wear the same pair of jeans and the same half-dozen T-shirts almost every day, and I've never felt like I'm sacrificing anything. I'm just, y'know, lazy. And I certainly don't feel like my clothing habits deserve to be trumpeted loudly on their own website.

If overconsumption of clothing in pursuit of fashion is an environmental problem, then it seems to me that the solution is to stop being so fuck-all obsessed with fashion.

But she's raising money for poor Indian kids, so it's okay maybe. I dunno.
posted by ixohoxi at 6:16 PM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Ditto what yoink said. She isn't wearing the same dress every day, or even seven of the same dress on a weekly basis. In practice, it's basically ended up the same as if she happened to wear the same coat every day, or seven of the same coat on a weekly basis—she's still wearing a whole lot of other clothes underneath.

What's worse, she's probably had to expand her wardrobe quite a bit thus far in order to vary it in an exciting way for the camera. Doesn't matter if a lot of the items are "vintage" or "handmade" or bought on eBay and from local boutiques—refreshing your wardrobe (I mean, "accessories") this often still isn't a sustainable way for most people to live.

This is absolutely an interesting and even inspiring fashion experiment, but as an experiment in sustainability, it fails.
posted by limeonaire at 6:18 PM on June 10, 2009

If anything this is less sustainable, what the hell is she going to do with all those socks? It's a half decent personal challenge wrapped in some 'consciousness' malarkey.
posted by mike_bling at 6:20 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

In solidarity I'm going to wear a polo shirt and blue jeans every day for a year.

posted by 0xdeadc0de at 6:21 PM on June 10, 2009

This girl is amazing! She's got mad creativity, an awesome fashion sense, and is cute as all hell! The poses are rad. I got tons of ideas just looking at the main page.

I dunno, I got nothing bad to say. This made me happy.

I'm going to go repurpose my wardrobe now.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:26 PM on June 10, 2009 [7 favorites]

Is it just me or does she have like every color of $18 american apparel tights? (not tightist)

Must be nice to be a cute young attention seeker though, think of all the cred she'll get for donating some money to charity or whatever!
posted by shownomercy at 6:28 PM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

it reminds me of one of those "what do our writers have in their handbags?" photo pieces, that i saw in an expensive fashionista magazine recently.

amongst all the iphones, designer cosmetics & accessories, and similar kinds of expensive trendier-than-thou doodads, one of them was proudly carrying around a copy of Adbusters magazine.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:36 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

So being a cute hipster girl is art now?

*goes to grad school*
posted by cmoj at 6:40 PM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

*goes to enrols in grad school, but instead of attending, spends most of time in cafes & bars; one posturing opportunity to another*

fixied that for you.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:08 PM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

I love the idea, but wearing a dress over the dress seems a bit like cheating.
posted by betweenthebars at 7:10 PM on June 10, 2009

My sister did this in preschool! And she didn't even use multiple dresses- she just wore the same white flowered dress every day.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:10 PM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

"So being a cute hipster girl is art now?"
only if you play a Uke...
posted by HuronBob at 7:13 PM on June 10, 2009

ok... i swear I didn't think of this before my last post.
posted by HuronBob at 7:15 PM on June 10, 2009

Certainly an interesting project. But I'm also not getting how it's sustainable, especially when some of these outfits could be worn sans The Dress.
posted by chiraena at 7:22 PM on June 10, 2009

Her self-conscious adorableness gets a bit tiring after a few photos. I did like the first picture, though. It's a cute dress.
posted by not that girl at 7:23 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oooh, you can donate your accessories to the cause! I wonder how much all the accessories she's accumulated are worth. More than the $1,191 she's raised so far?
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:36 PM on June 10, 2009

um - is anyone else reminded of this?

(sorry, yes, I'll pay for your mindbleach)
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:36 PM on June 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm sure no one will notice.

posted by Clave at 7:42 PM on June 10, 2009

Ha! I don't even own one dress, never mind seven! I must be seven times more sustainable than Ms Moptop.
posted by Sova at 7:52 PM on June 10, 2009

cmoj: "*goes to grad school*"

A lot of my classmates at grad school wore the same clothes everyday but they weren't trying to be hip, they were just engineers with no social skills.
posted by octothorpe at 7:57 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

There are 7 identical [outfits], one for each day of the week.

For some women, this project would be a sacrifice, a serious limitation.

For most men, a project like this would triple their wardrobe.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 7:57 PM on June 10, 2009 [4 favorites]

I've always admired Seth Brundle's closet full of identical suits.
posted by cazoo at 8:07 PM on June 10, 2009

Andrea Zittel started her "longest running continual artwork, the 'Uniform Project'" in 1991, and she's been doing it for the past 18 years, in one permutation or another. The original idea was to "design and make one perfect dress for each season, and would then wear that dress every day for six months." She did it to make a statement about consumerism and "the tyranny of constant variety," but also just out of necessity: she was a young artist, working at a gallery in NYC where she was expected to dress nicely every day, and she didn't have a lot of money to blow on an extensive wardrobe.

After four years of her handmade six-month dresses, she decided to simplify the process even further, by making her dresses out of single, uncut rectangles of cloth. Next, she moved on to her "single strand garmets", which she crocheted herself-- out of single strands of yarn: "I liked crochet because it required the least number of implements possible in the construction of the garment-a single crochet hook. (I would break the yarn rather than cutting it with scissors)." Currently, she's making her six-month uniforms using felting, so she can go directly from fiber to clothing without any intermediary step in between.

This is all part of Zittel's relentless mission to examine, simplify, redesign, and make art out of the usually mindless habits and accouterments of everyday life. She picks and plays with her home and belongings, and puts together strange apparatuses like the "'body processing unit,' which boldly puts kitchen and bathroom together in one top-to-bottom that packs into a carrying case." And then there's her Pocket Property, a 44-ton floating concrete island anchored off the coast of Denmark, where she lived for a month in isolation.

I've typed all this up because I like Zittel, I like her work. She started doing these "lifestyle projects" long before it was cool to do them and make blogs about them. Sure, she's made some money at it and gotten some art-world cred, but she hasn't hit the jackpot in either regard. And I sense that there is a real, genuine vein of curiosity running beneath what she does, that has motivated her decades of experiments.

I'm okay with this girl's project, and I think she probably didn't intend to be so derivative (speaking of which, hey look, Andrea Zittel even has a charity associated with her dress projects). But I'm not terribly impressed with the way she's slapped a poise of austerity over her vanity and called it "an exercise in sustainable fashion."
posted by bookish at 8:21 PM on June 10, 2009 [30 favorites]

I'm reminded of David Byrne's advice, which always makes me feel better about my limited fashion palette: "People will remember you better if you always wear the same outfit."
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 9:26 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

She sure has a fuckload of other stuff to wear with her black dress. She might has well be wearing one of ten identical black dresses every day for her "exercise in sustainable fashion."

But if she sends money to these people, I don't care how she gets the money.
posted by pracowity at 9:33 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I dunno, I like the idea of having a uniform to wear to work everyday. I wear jeans and tees nearly every single day, but the tees are cheap and need to be replaced pretty often as I wear them out or get bored with the style. Getting just 7 good-quality, classic shirts and wearing them all year would definitely be an improvement on my current waste.

I like that the extra clothes are all second-hand, preventing them from going to landfill. Otherwise she'd be buying new things all the time. It's not the greenest project I've ever seen, but just because Mefites wear the same thing day in and day out, doesn't mean it wouldn't be inspiring to a lot of fashionistas who'd never consider it if they weren't set a good example like this.
posted by harriet vane at 9:37 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Bah. I've been wearing the same pair of underwear for the last year and does anybody call it "art"? No. They don't. They call it other things. I will not repeat these other things.

Nobody appreciates my art.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:39 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

This makes me mad. I am apoplectic like John Cleese as the chef with the dirty fork. There are a billion kids in the world that own one tshirt (each, not collectively), and nothing else and here is some fundraising charity self-absorbed ouch fuck off.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:45 PM on June 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

But I'm not terribly impressed with the way she's slapped a poise of austerity over her vanity and called it "an exercise in sustainable fashion."

Yeah, this bugged me too. There was a lot of potential in the project, but it's like she undermined each point she might have made.

First there's the whole ecological-sustainability concept. How is what she did that 'sustainable'? I assume she's still washing the clothes normally; except that maybe she can do fewer loads because they're all the same color, no savings there. She's still washing the same volume of clothes as a regular person would. Plus, she didn't really wear the individual articles that heavily; each dress only got 52 wearings, which doesn't strike me as very much. When I used to wear suits to work, I'd probably average just over one wear per suit per week, and you can keep that rate up for years. (And dresses don't have thigh panels to rub against each other and wear like pants do. Come to think of it, what actually wears on a dress, anyway?) All I see is that she managed to restrain herself from buying new clothes before her old ones were worn out — great. That ought to be, and still is in some quarters, common goddamn sense, not something really worthy of applause.

Second there's the whole concept of voluntary nonparticipation in the culture of 'fashion,' embodied in wearing the exact same outfit for a year. This could have been quite interesting; had she really done it, I'd wonder how her friends would have reacted over the course of the project — people are sometimes quite hostile to a unilateral rejection of shared culture. To a certain extent I think the "opt out of [aspect of modern culture] for a year" thing is cliche, but there's still a lot of directions she could have gone with it. But that was all undermined by the use of accessories. If the point of wearing the same dress every day was uniformity, why customize it? That's the opposite of a uniform, pretty much by definition.

So she had two really interesting concepts that she could have worked with, but she nerfed both of them. If she'd wanted to do "sustainability", she could have worn the same article for a year, handwashing it or something at night (not impractical with modern quick-dry materials); that would have been impressive. If she'd wanted to explore 'fashion' as a social construct, she would just have needed to ditch the accessories and actually wear her "uniform" in a uniform way. But she really did neither, and so I can't find much love for the project.

Interesting concepts, but poor execution.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:52 PM on June 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm reminded of David Byrne's advice, which always makes me feel better about my limited fashion palette: "People will remember you better if you always wear the same outfit."

Those were the same liner notes that told me that toast was the national dish of Australia. Don't believe his pretty lies.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:53 PM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

well, if the outfit you always wear is an oversized suit with ridiculous shoulder pads, i think people would tend to remember you.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:55 PM on June 10, 2009

he probably also meant *vegemite* toast (fair enough) only he couldn't stomach vegemite, so ate his toast plain.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:59 PM on June 10, 2009

This isn't really that astounding. Lots of nerds do this already. Myself included.

My uniform is a pair of 5.11 TDUs and one of about eight mildly offensive or ironic t-shirts. Sometimes I buy new shirts. And I only have two colors of pants.

I "accessorize" with various warmth-retaining overgarmets: vests, coats, dusters, etc.
posted by Netzapper at 11:47 PM on June 10, 2009

I don't know if it's true or not, but the story is that Einstein's wardrobe consisted of ten or so of the same button-up shirt, 10 or so of the same chinos, 10 or so of...everything. So that he would be able to focus on his work and not have to waste time and brain cells on something as silly as fashion.
posted by zardoz at 12:06 AM on June 11, 2009

Her hats are ridiculous.

I can't make any claim to be good at fashion or sustainability, but most of the stuff I have I've owned for years. Lots of my clothes are schwag. I patch everything I own, and hand-wash a lot of it. I think that's doing quite a bit for sustainability already.
posted by saysthis at 12:29 AM on June 11, 2009

Re: Einstein's wardrobe: If thinking of trivial and silly things wastes brain cells, I think I've just figured out how Matt can sustain the "$5 for lifetime membership" business model.

He's going to make it up in turnover...
posted by Pinback at 12:48 AM on June 11, 2009

Lady, I've got shoes older than you...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:00 AM on June 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

My dad wears trousers and a shirt every day. Plus jacket and tie for work. When the shirt or trousers start to get worn out my mum writes 'GARDENING' on the label and they are not allowed to be worn for work. Once they are beyond mending they get used as dusters.

I'm writing this wearing 'pyjamas' that are normal clothes too worn out to be worn outdoors.

So, yeah, I'm unimpressed with this, but this is nothing to how unimpressed my mum would be!

(I also still have the letters home to my mum detailing my many and varied school uniform violations and punishments for them; a proper variation on a uniform has to be able to be done on the bus to school for deniability)
posted by Coobeastie at 2:19 AM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Very 'meh' about this whole thing.
But thanks for the heads up on Andrea Zittel - I had never heard of her work, and my day has been enriched for now knowing. MeFi strikes again.
posted by Megami at 2:21 AM on June 11, 2009

well, if the outfit you always wear is an oversized suit with ridiculous shoulder pads, i think people would tend to remember you.

Twenty years ago, perhaps, but I thought he'd switched to wearing Brazil's cultural output and a "This is how you appropriate world music, Mr. Simon" lapel pin...

I love me some David Byrne, but...well.
posted by kittyprecious at 4:32 AM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

(sorry, yes, I'll pay for your mindbleach)
Holy crap, the Peter Pan guy got married.

posted by Houstonian at 5:05 AM on June 11, 2009

She has a cute sense of style, confused sense of what sustainability is. But hey, if she's raising money for charity, good for her.
posted by bettafish at 5:06 AM on June 11, 2009

Agreed with bettafish and many others...this is an interesting exercise in how to stretch fashion, but it isn't terribly sustainable. Wearing the exact same dress, with only small accessories (a scarf here, leggings there), every day for a year would be closer to the goal but still not perfect.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 5:55 AM on June 11, 2009

Yeah this is a totally effed up version of sustainability, I mean, who does she think WAIT are those Doc Martens? *swoon*
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:13 AM on June 11, 2009

WAIT are those Doc Martens?

yeh, bought on eBay. hope they were from her locality, otherwise the shipping would be yet another accessory nail in the coffin of 'sustainability'.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:22 AM on June 11, 2009

This is me caring about that---> :-/
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:52 AM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Has someone called dibs on the plain black T-shirts with pockets that come three to a pack? No? OK, I'm good to go, then.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:03 AM on June 11, 2009

Didn't Marge get into trouble doing this?
posted by orme at 9:10 AM on June 11, 2009

Metafilter: I got nothing bad to say

(dividing by zero)
posted by yoink at 9:17 AM on June 11, 2009

I agree on the point that it's probably not the most sustainable project one could undertake.

It's a pretty interesting fashion experiment, though; like a self-limited wardrobe_remix.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:18 AM on June 11, 2009

Ok, isn't not buying cheap, readily replaced clothes *hurting* the poor people she wants to help? ecologically sustainable maybe, but economically, not so much. and that clash is a huge problem in general.
posted by Maias at 9:56 AM on June 11, 2009

This would be a lot more interesting if she struck a pose or two.
posted by monospace at 10:09 AM on June 11, 2009

Yeah, I wouldn't go with "sustainable" either. But that's THE BUZZWORD these days that gets attention (example: oh, a Metafilter post), so...yeah.

I just admire it as an exercise in creativity and trying to make the same old thing look pretty drastically different. I don't know how sick of it she'll be in a year, but a month's worth of work is looking pretty cool so far.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:58 PM on June 11, 2009

So many haters harping on her perhaps uninformed notion of sustainability seems really overblown. She barely describes the project in those terms (she uses the word exactly ONCE on the website that I can find).

Too often we hold people like this to unattainable expectations of moral consistency, ready to dismiss them as failures when they can't measure up:

a. "I ride my bike everywhere I go instead of driving a car."
b. "You don't know anything about sustainability. That bike was make using harsh industrial processes and materials, and anyway, all your groceries were driven to the store by a bunch of big trucks, so big deal if you ride a bike."

I wonder why such focus there and so little comment on the fact that in just over a month she has raised nearly $2,000. That's more than I've contributed lately. I find this project laudable, and and her boundless creativity sweet and fun to watch. I also think the crazy creativity will seem easy in the beginning and I'm curious to see where it goes by day 100.

Most people don't do dick for sustainability--or for the education of children. (Or for fashion and creativity, for that matter.)
posted by ViolaGrinder at 3:14 PM on June 11, 2009 [4 favorites]

My dad has worn uniforms out of personal choice since I was born. That's almost twenty years, and while he has multiple pairs just like this girl, he doesn't wear any "accessories".

Do those even count as accessories? She should just try to hook a modeling gig - or better yet, become a stylist - and make some charitable donations.

This sustainable business just seems kind of insulting.
posted by Griffinlb at 4:30 PM on June 11, 2009

It's not a bad project and I think her heart is in the right place, but I agree with what some others have said -- in some outfits, the "dress" isn't really the major player and sometimes doesn't need to be there. Yeah, it's interesting to see how versatile one piece of clothing can be, but I'm not sure what her ultimate point is.

I think we all end up with uniforms of a sort. I wanted to do "the red sweater project" for a while where all I'd wear for period of time is, yes, that's right, red sweaters. I did it for a work week once, just to see if anyone would notice. No one did.
posted by darksong at 5:33 PM on June 11, 2009

Most people don't do dick for sustainability--or for the education of children.

no, they usually do dick just for the sheer fun of it. either that, or maybe sometimes for money.

but sustainability is almost diametrically opposite in principle, and "educating children" strays into territory that is usually considered illegal.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:48 PM on June 11, 2009

I think we all end up with uniforms of a sort.

one time, i decided to wear to work only identical plain white business shirts, black trousers, and the exact same tie every day for the whole year.

it got a bit boring, though. these days, it's all near-identical lightly pinstriped trousers, a bunch of similar shirts all from the same principle of bluish-hued vertical stripes, and a dozen or so pretty & colourful silk ties that i pick up on the cheap in thailand.

still a uniform, really, and six years of suit-and-tie high school taught me nothing, if not that it's great to avoid having to put any real thought into what to wear each day.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:59 PM on June 11, 2009

I was really intrigued by this post until I realized that the dress-wearer was female, and not male, as I had inexplicably assumed. Hm.
posted by elizardbits at 7:38 PM on June 11, 2009

Zittel's one thing, but this girl and her concept... are cute and perhaps inspirational in a fashion sense, and that's about all. Not a model for anything but her ability to mix accessories- I'm not sure what, if anything, she's sacrificing here, or doing better than the average non-self-promotionally-inclined Westerner can do with their regular salary if they try. It's great that she's able to raise money, but most people don't spend a great deal of time on composing a cute package for their charitable donations and calling it a Project- they just give.

And I guess I'm less impressed because my entire wardrobe at current count (and for the past few years with not much fluctuation in size) consists of two pairs of pants, two pairs of shoes, four shirts, and coat/hat/gloves/scarf. The rest wore out naturally or has been donated. I love fashion and being feminine, but there's no point in having stuff for which I have no current and pressing need. Part of not being able to buy more on my admittedly crap salary is a commitment to giving 5% of it away every month without fail (I'd like to do 10, but it's not possible right now). Being able to even think of doing that is a type of luxury in itself, but one that comes right after shelter/sustenance/emergency medical care and before everything else. To echo Kadin2048, she's basically maximizing a small wardrobe and getting full wear out of her clothing- hurray for actually using things to the extent of their intended purpose.
posted by notquitemaryann at 7:55 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Black jeans (I get a new pair from my aunt every Christmas). Black T-shirts (I buy new ones from webcomics I like).

posted by rifflesby at 8:59 AM on June 12, 2009

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