I Wore the Same Dress Every Day for a Year
Would I do it again next year?
Sometime last January I decided to codify a choice that I had been veering towards for some time: buying multiples of the same exact dress, same style and color, and wearing it every single day to work. It’s been a year now, and in honor of Fatshion February I thought I’d report back on how that’s going.
Odds are you know someone already who does something similar in what they wear, or you’ve read about the trend of wearing the same daily outfit in many of the more famous blogs like The Uniform Project or via brands that are building on the re-surging popularity of everyday basics like MM LaFleur.
Often the value of wearing the same thing daily has been historically attributed to famous men, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, or Barack Obama and heralded as a sign of genius. But this presumption belies that the people who work in industries like beauty, service industry, and retail (all of the above, mostly women) have long been experiencing the benefits and weathering the challenges of wearing a daily uniform. If you have any friends who are stylists or makeup artists who seem to have endless wardrobes of impossibly cool, artsy black outfits, you know what I’m talking about.
Why wear the same thing every day?
Being forced to wear something daily like a workplace uniform when you’d rather have the freedom to express yourself via fashion is decidedly not fun. In places that require business wear, dress codes can also highlight class divides in who can afford pricy suiting separates, reinforce gender and racial biases in what is considered a uniformly “acceptable” appearance, squash religious and cultural identities, and our first amendment right to personal expression.
Like the grand debate with school uniforms, I think it’s important to look at clothing as a way to say to yourself: which decisions in my day are removing a problem from my life, and which decisions are imposing new ones? When it’s your choice to do so, the basic benefits of a personal uniform of some kind seem to remain the same for this reason: saved time, saved money, and saved mental load.
The last benefit was a huge one for me. The opportunity to conserve the the emotional and physical energy I spent agonizing over how I wanted to look each day was the primary driver in making the jump. As a plus-sized person, I’ve found I never had the same amount of choice in trying to find things to wear as my smaller friends. I never really felt I could fully “express myself” because I was trapped within whatever cheaply-made schmatta the fashion industry decided to toss in my direction this season. I’m a half-decent seamstress, but not good enough at it to ensure I would have something durable enough for daily wear if I made it myself.
The lifelong struggle and accompanying decision fatigue of trying to find a way to look acceptable to the world every morning, especially as a fat woman, was making me extremely unhappy, the money and time I spent on failed experiments in “finding my style” even more so. It feels like a tax, and it hits your wallet like one too. When you’re in a position to be able to stop doing any individual thing that’s negatively affecting your life, the change is usually worth trying.
So here’s how I did it, explained via the FAQs I get when people find out that yes, they’ve seen that dress on me before.
How did you find your uniform?
I tried out a lot of different dresses from a brand I knew fit me well over a few weeks. Then once the Holy Grail had been found, I immediately purchased 6 to start, and then 6 more after my tax return came back.
This particular black, cotton-blend v-neck dress is machine-washable, comfortable for my climate, and doesn’t wrinkle in my luggage. At a cost of about $40 each, this brought my total wardrobe for the year to about $480 for workwear. I could have likely gotten away with maybe 8 dresses instead of 12, but it seems to lessen the wear and tear on them.
A dress may not work for your workplace, but similar can be accomplished via your usual work clothes. If you need to wear a button-down, consider multiples of each, or a skirt and a cardigan, or multiples of a blazer if your workplace is on the more formal side.
Why not different colors of the same dress?
YMMV but for me color was another daily choice I didn’t want to make, and tends to send me in to the backslide of spending energy making decisions about what jewelry coordinates, any layers matching etc.
What about when it’s too hot or too cold?
I’m lucky in that my local climate means that the addition of tights and a layering sweater (maybe a coat if I have to travel out of state during winter) about does it for my cold weather needs. Adding on a belt, some fun jewelry, ankle boots, can be a fun way to stretch the look if you desire some variation. I personally discovered via SF’s requirement of carrying a sensible layer with you everywhere that sweater vests can be surprisingly chic.
When it’s too hot for long sleeves, I swap to a short sleeve dress that… surprise surprise, I also have a few multiples of at the moment. I live in California, so a hot weather variant is a necessity.
Won’t everyone notice if I wear the same thing every day?
If anyone has ever noticed, they haven’t mentioned it to me. Do you remember what your coworkers wore yesterday? Last week? Me neither.
People just aren’t paying attention to what we’re wearing the way we think they are. Anytime anyone has found out I wear the same thing daily, I’ve only gotten compliments, and maybe a few of these frequently-asked questions.
Don’t you get bored? Do you ever make exceptions?
I don’t find that I get bored, but that’s because I definitely do make exceptions whenever doing so will make me happier (see above re: hot weather clothes.) I still have special occasion outfits, date night dresses, and other costumery I break out when circumstances warrant.
There are no rules here, this isn’t “a challenge” that you pass or fail, and taking a break isn’t “cheating.” I’m a firm believer that you should do a thing as much as it improves your life, and then stop when it doesn’t.
If it makes it happier or easier for you, you could just try wearing a uniform only on work days. You could do it for just a month. You could do it 20% of your time. It’s about eliminating the choices you don’t like making, which might be just some of the time. If you like them, keep them.
Do I have to get rid of my other clothes? What if I miss them?
After a few months of figuring out whether my uniform was working for me, I donated most of my clothing because it was taking up a lot of room in my life. Moving and caring for all those clothes was not making me very happy (are we sensing a theme here?) But yes, I do ever miss the things I donated. It’s a normal feeling, and it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.
The trick is certainly not to admonish the love of fashion as pedestrian and free yourself of any emotional attachments to all earthly possessions like some kind of ascetic monk. The trick is instead to know that you’ll ever have things you love again and maybe someone else is loving the thing you had now.
Will you do this forever?
I’ll be honest, wearing the same thing every day has been the single thing I have done this past year that I feel has most contributed to the material satisfaction of my day-to-day life.
In the last year I’ve gotten more compliments on what I’m wearing on dates, in interviews, and while running hackathons. I’ve been most grateful for this choice when I have to pack last minute for a trip, and when I’ve had to get it together to be somewhere important but short on time, or when I’ve been hungover (just the facts.) It’s been healing to my finances, my emotional energy, and limited the circumstances where I feel that my satisfaction with my body and appearance is contingent on whether or not I fit in to a particular piece of clothing.
So I intend to continue wearing the exact same dress every day, as long as it feels good and is practical for my needs for another year, maybe forever.
However the brand that sells My Dress has now finally sold out of the specific style, color, and size that I wear, which has me in a bit of a panic. But I feel I have another year left of wear in these items before I need to go on the hunt for the next dress Holy Grail.
And who knows, maybe I’ll like whatever that dress is even better. All I know for sure is that I’ll still be just as happy knowing I won’t have to choose anything else.
Many public figures wear the exact same outfit every day. Could this one decision affect the thousands of others you…www.buzzfeed.com
Uniform Project was born in May 2009, when one girl pledged to wear a Little Black Dress for 365 days as an exercise in…www.theuniformproject.com