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For the last nine months, I have been wearing one dress.

Last year, I sewed a little black dress and launched #JustOneDress. The goal was to rely on this one garment for (almost) all of my sartorial needs and the campaign was meant to be an exercise in sustainable fashion.

However, I knew going in that another, more personal challenge was awaiting me.

Our Relationship With Clothes

Clothes have a considerable impact on our self-esteem, confidence and happiness. According to University of Hertfordshire professor Karen J. Pine, we tend to embody the widely-touted characteristics of a certain outfit. …

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Image Credit: Rene Asmussen

When #JustOneDress launched 8 months ago, it was intended to be a study in sustainable fashion. Along the way, I felt certain that epiphanies about minimalism, feminism, consumerism, and fashion would reveal themselves, providing me with an abundance of socially charged content.

And so, I bought a clean new notebook, its crisp white pages waiting for some profound revelations. The big discoveries took time, research, reflection and plenty of peer-to-peer discussions — no surprise there.

However what I wasn’t expecting were the small, almost imperceptible changes that were coalescing on an emotional and mental level:

1. Building My Self-Esteem, A Little At A Time

For years, clothes were my armour. When I wanted to feel powerful, beautiful or sexy, my clothes did the talking for me, Now, this one dress has to do all the communicating and its information feed comes directly from me. I had to get my act together and find my voice, fast! That means embracing who I am, a little bit at a time, everyday. …

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I am a feminist. And for a long time, I’ve been very sure of my feminist principles as they pertained to the world around me — we must work to dismantle an inherently sexist and discriminatory system which has oppressed women throughout history.

My outward gaze was resolute and unwavering in its conviction. However, internally, I was far less critical about how I personally lived my feminist principles.

I’ve written before about how fashion affects feminism. My attitude towards beauty, sexuality, sensuality and fashion has undermined my own feminist values over the years.

Am I Lacking In Beauty?

Before #JustOneDress, I was heavily influenced by mainstream representations of beauty and style — tall, skinny, light-skinned women who exuded an effortless ‘cool girl’ vibe. As a child and then later in my teenage years, I resented my brown skin, curly hair and decidedly un-delicate features. I would never be able to fit into cigarette-thin jeans, have luscious flowing hair or pore-less skin (is this a real thing??). In short, I would never be conventionally beautiful. …

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The #JustOneDress protocol is fairly simple and straightforward.

For a whole year, my black dress will be a steady daily companion, aside from a few exceptions:

  • During physical activity — running, hiking, jumping, cleaning, swimming, yoga… you get the idea. This includes my weekly soup kitchen duties which sees the whole team rushing around madly, trying to beat the clock.
  • When I’m at home, on the weekends, and when I reluctantly decide to go to the shops for some milk on a lazy Sunday.

There are no hard and fast rules. But this black dress will be the only dress I wear for a year. If I’m not in jeans, sweats or a swimsuit, then I’m wearing the #JustOneDress dress!

You can follow along with #JustOneDress here and read more about it here. Questions? Email us at

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And so it has happened. Three months into #JustOneDress and the question I have been anticipating has finally been uttered. After a week back in Singapore at my parents’ home, my trusty black dress is starting to elicit curiosity (and some worry!).

A few nights ago, I was preparing to head out for dinner with friends. As I put on my socks, my father watched me with a puzzled look on his face. On hindsight, I think he was unsure how to phrase his question, so worried he was about possibly insulting me.

“Don’t you have any other dresses?” he finally asked, bewildered and ever so slightly concerned for the sanity of his daughter. …

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There are so many crazy reasons to wear just one dress for a whole year. But today, let’s talk about the sane ones.

Longtime Curiosity (aka Inspired By The Uniform Project)

In 2009, I learnt about the Uniform Project, which was helmed by Sheena Matheiken. One dress for 365 days?! Impossible, I thought adamantly, But with lots of thrifted and donated accessories, plenty of colour and a super creative sense of style — love this tribute to the King of Pop — Sheena rode out the whole year wearing one little black dress. …

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Who are we really without all of our clothes? And I don’t just mean naked people running around, trying to avoid the police.

I mean, what happens to all of our passions and interests, likes and dislikes, political alignments and cultural connections? Do they suddenly disappear into thin air?

Surely, not. Surely, they reside resolutely inside of us, fused into the very core of who we are. Even if we were completely and utterly naked, we could still talk enthusiastically about our beliefs and principles, passions and interests.

Still, our clothes allow us to manifest our identities in concrete ways. Colours, shapes, styles, slogans, prints, patterns, materials, accessories — all different mediums to bring to life who we are. …

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Streamlining one’s life is a privilege. It’s an absolute pain in the bottom but it’s a privilege all the same.

Best to keep this in mind when we’re in the throes of fretting about the black hole of things that patiently (sometimes aggressively!) wait to be organised. This is a choice we make, and these are things we can forgo without any grievous consequences to our well-being.

The idea of less has many forms— minimalism, simple living, self-sufficiency, streamlining, essentialism, intentionalism and some other synonyms thrown in for good measure.

As a lifestyle, minimalism is about voluntarily cutting back on material possessions and decongesting all aspects of life. …

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While doing some research for an article, I came across this opinion piece published on The Hill.

I must confess, the title left me sceptical of the content to follow and I struggled to reconcile what I considered to be two diametrically oppposed concepts — a feminist side to sweatshops? Not possible, I stubbornly decided.

In her article, Chelsea Follett talks about the economic opportunites that factories provide for rural women.

In developing countries, sweatshops can and do offer an escape — or at least, the beginnings of an escape — from poverty. …

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It’s a baffling ritual at the turn of every season — a virtual stranger or an algorithm deciding what masses and masses of people will look good in. Statement stripes, head-to-toe fuchsia, inner-wear as outwear and other unrealistic trends are all packaged into neat little lists, punctuated by photos of immaculately preened models.

The digital feedback loop then validates the same sartorial options, and as a trend spreads like wildfire through social media, it balloons in visibility. Suddenly, the same cut, colour or shape is everywhere.

But I shouldn’t be too critical, having been seduced by these very lists when I was younger. More than the trend itself, it was the allure of being stylish, feeling stylish that I fell for. …


Fashion Is Freedom

Founder of Fashion Is Freedom. Women’s Empowerment. Labour rights. Responsible Consumerism. #JustOneDress

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