Because I’m so terribly crafty, I dropped a little hint about this project last week, and a bunch of you zeroed in on right away, as in: You’re wearing just six items for 30 days straight? And: Are you high?
The challenge kicks off today, so here is the official deal:
Six Items or Less began as a small experiment between friends and quickly grew to become a global movement questioning the power of what we don’t wear.
The experiment is simple: each participant gets to choose six (and only six) items of clothing and pledge to wear only these six items of clothing for a month.
Logistically, there are exceptions that don’t count towards the six: Undergarments, swim wear, work-out clothes, work uniforms, outer wear (rain slicker, outdoor jacket), shoes and accessories. You can get multiples of the same item for laundry purposes, but different colors count as separate items.
Most people have asked about the reasoning behind the experiment and most also assume it’s a grand statement about consumerism. In reality, there is no dictated driving thought — it’s for you to decide its meaning and relativity in your world. It’s about putting a challenge out there and seeing what people bring to it, do with it and talk about.
And here is why I think this sounds neat/terrifying.
Over the past year+ of its life, Beauty Schooled has been about, well, beauty — as in, beauty school, beauty products, beauty services, and how we feel about our faces and bodies. But every now and then I would tangent into talking about fashion, mostly shoes, because I realized early on that the beauty industry is really responsible for just half of that pretty price tag.
In fact (because sometimes I’m a giant hypocrite that way) in retrospect, I’m fairly sure I chose to focus on beauty because I knew it would be easier for me personally — I didn’t wear much makeup or engage in a lot of salon services before I started at Beauty U.
But I did — and do — spend a possibly absurd amount of time, money and mental energy on what I wore. I’ve always been pretty clothes-obsessed. For most of my life, I listed shopping as my main hobby. I took pride in owning more shoes and purses than is entirely sane. Here is what my closet (yes it was actually a whole room in our two-bedroom duplex) looked like in 2009:
That madness is what inspired me to try to go a week without spending any money at all for ReadyMade.com. (There’s your first red flag: This isn’t the first time I’ve tried a wacky interweb experiment to get my shopping addiction under control.) My closet today looks more reasonable, but it’s a sham. All that really happened is that we moved to another house where I wanted the guest room to actually be a guest room. So this picture makes me look pretty normal, until I tell you that I have occupied a whole other wardrobe of equal size in the basement storing my summer clothes and shoes, plus half the guest room closet, where my fancy dresses and coats live.
So. There are lots of obvious mindful consumer-y reasons for me to take on this challenge, namely that it’s more or less impossible to buy sustainably made clothes (that didn’t require a huge number of precious environmental resources or the tiny hands of child laborers) if you live on any kind of budget. By winnowing down to six key pieces (plus accessories and shoes, thank goodness), I’ll be forced to get all creative and work with what I have, rather than acquiring more and more.
That’s one piece of the puzzle.
But there’s also a dark side to my clothes obsession: Whenever I’m stressed out or feeling unhappy with myself, fashion is my vice of choice. I’ve lost hours, if not days, of my life compulsively changing clothes over and over again before I’m satisfied with what I’m wearing. I’m chronically late to meet friends because I take so long to decide what to wear and how to wear it. I’ve been known to stop off en route to a dinner party or work event and buy an entirely new outfit (or at least a key piece) because I didn’t feel cute enough in what I had on.
And I hate that.
I hate the waste, because most of those stress-induced purchases end up being mistakes that are never worn again (not to mention, purchased at cheaper stores where you don’t have a chance in hell of them not being made in sweatshops). I hate the drama it inflicts on those around me. And most of all, I hate that sinking feeling when I scrutinize myself in the mirror, in the 700th possible shirt-skirt-shoes combination, and realize that there actually is nothing in my closet that will make me feel better, because I’m not really frustrated about the clothes at all. It’s the body underneath the clothes, or the deadline that didn’t get met, or whatever nerves-inducing event I’m attending that is causing all that angst.
And those are problems that can’t be fixed by finding the right dress. Sometimes they are problems that can’t be fixed at all.
I adore the creative side of fashion, where you play around with colors and accessories and come up with inspired combinations. But I’m over the self-sabatoge side, where you start “playing around” and end up in a body-loathing frenzy with the contents of your closet scattered all over the bedroom, cats cowering in the corner under piles of all those damn flowy shirts that seem bohemian and chic in the Anthropologie catalog, but really, just make you look pregnant once you get them home.
So I’m signing on for the SIOL challenge because I want to see if removing — or at least limiting access to — this vice might be helpful as a kind of mental palate cleanser. If I’m only wearing six items of clothing (several of which simply do not go together), then there are many fewer outfit permutations I can go through before I leave the house. Which means I’ll waste less time fretting about what to wear, freeing up more time to work on what’s actually bothering me. Or at the very least, to be more punctual.
So for the next 30 days, I’ll be updating you on my progress here and over on SIOL, where you can check out my profile (ahem, not much doing there — yet!) and meet other Sixers, who will also be posting regular check-ins.
PS. The site is having some technical difficulties today — stay tuned. I’ll have pictures of my six items (or rather, five plus options for item #6 that you will get to vote on!) up as soon as they get that sorted out.