Wearing 33 pieces for One Year.
Fashion, Fashion, Fashion. As long as I can remember I was interested in fashion. Interest doesn’t cover it. Love. Or Obsession comes closer to the truth.
As a four-year-old, I decided pants are no longer fashionable. It had to be a dress or a skirt. I stubbornly refused to wear any pants, even leggings. To avoid these when it was cold outside and adults tried to make me wear them, I convinced friends in kindergarten to hide with me inside the bathroom, when the other kids went outside to play. Daily.
When I was eleven one of my favorite activities was to go through catalogs for hours and hours to pick out clothes.
As soon as I was old enough I started working in a retail store selling clothes. I loved helping people pick out outfits and showing them unconventional choices.
By the time I had a drivers license my favorite activity was to take my friends, drive to the next big town, and go shopping. My style has always been eccentric and different. Which inevitably lead to many questionable fashion choices.
When I moved to a big city, shopping was limited due to the financial situation of being a college student.
As soon as I had my first job though, money was no longer an issue. I was able to fulfill myself every fashion wish I had.
The Turn When I changed my career to sustainability research, it took quite some time to really grasp the connection between sustainability and my shopping habits. And even when I grasped it, it took even more time to actually take action.
In the beginning, the action was limited to buying clothes in certain shops that I considered “evil”. Learning and understanding more I noticed though that it wasn’t just about WHERE and WHAT we buy. Shopping second hand or at sustainable brands is a great first step. But what this doesn’t change is the underlying notion of what fashion has become. What’s even more questionable is WHY we buy.
I got more and more interested in the underlying psychological effects of fashion. Yes, fashion has been important to people for a long long time. But never to an extend like today. Today, marketing determines our relationship to fashion. It tells us: “We need fashion in order to look good. And we need to look good because otherwise people are not going to like us and we are never going to achieve anything in life.”
The message works so well, that we don’t even question this belief anymore. In my search for answers, I started doubting, and I started asking, and I started making changes and aligning my lifestyle.
My first step was to reduce my wardrobe to a capsule of 25 pieces. Inspired by the uniform project, I decided I’ll wear the same dress for a whole year. From my birthday onwards in 2016, I wore one dress (which I had twice to wash it). Every day. I wore it to weddings, interviews, presentations, hiking, partying, hanging out on the couch, to a fetish party, to birthdays, to walks, to meeting friends, to meeting colleagues, on Sundays and Wednesdays.
After the year, it took me almost three more months to wear something else again. I didn’t know what to wear. But eventually, I did change into different clothes. Jeans, t-shirts, long dresses, skirts. And I seemed to be back at where I started.
It took me not even another year to figure out that I am done with following the standard guidelines of fashion.
This time, I decided to make a final decision. This time, I decided to wear the same dress for the rest of my life. Only, it didn’t last.
Trying to Wear One Dress for Life I made the decision around October 2017. In contrast to wearing a mass-produced dress from the rack that fits ok, I decided to have a tailored dress that fits my body, as well as my social and ecological standards. I worked together with talented designers and tailors from a small atelier in Berlin. The fabrics were kindly donated by a producer in Italy, who follows high social and ecological standards whom I told about the project and who loved the idea. For another year and something, I was wearing the same dress.
A Capsule Wardrobe of 33 pieces Then life got in the way. A lot of personal changes led to me wanting to not just change my life, but also my wardrobe. Inspired by Courtney’s 333, in which she picks a 33 piece capsule wardrobe every 3 months, I decided to wear the same 33 pieces for a year.
Why it Matters
- Health Few studies have been conducted to directly link chemicals in clothing to the body’s health. Yet, the chemicals found in garments, and used in their production, have been linked to neurotoxicity, liver, kidney and lung disorders, cancer and more.
- Style “ Going out of style isn’t a natural process, but a manipulated change which destroys the beauty of last year’s dress in order to make it worthless.
- Behaviour Every German buys an average of 60 pieces of clothing a year. One every six days. Germans have over five billion pieces of clothing hanging in their closet. That makes around 95 items per person. Apparel sales worldwide have doubled over the past 15 years, while the average life of a garment has decreased significantly. We don’t even keep one piece of clothing on average for a year.
- Time We spend an average of 8 years on shopping
- Emissions The fashion industry is the second largest polluter on the planet. In one year, it causes more greenhouse gas emissions than all international flights and ships combined. All textile production generates over a billion tons of CO2 in just one year. The fashion industry, as part of the textile industry, is responsible for five percent of global emissions alone. They arise from the extraction of plastic fibers, further processing and long transport routes.
- Waste 75% of old clothing ends up on the landfill.
- Microplastics According to a study carried out in 2018, fiber abrasion during washing in Germany results in an estimated 77 grams of microplastics per person and year – this corresponds approximately to the amount of 25 sugar cubes.
- Water 22,500 liters of water are used to produce one kilogram of cotton in India. This means that more than 80 percent of the population could be supplied with 100 liters of water a day.
The Challenge in Detail
33 pieces for one year. Self-designed Dress, jeans long, jeans shorts, black blazer, golden blazer, pink blazer, white blouse, black shirt, black t-shirt with text, white t-shirt with text, black t-shirt, white t-shirt, red t-shirt, tube top red, yoga top, west, warm west, jacket, coat, leggings (3x), BH (2x), slips (5x), socks (5x), hat (3x), scarf, belt (3x), suspenders, necklace (3x), rings (3x), earrings (5x), bracelet (2x), shoes (5x)
Sources My clothes are from sustainable brands or second hand. Certified organic cotton and natural fibers are best, since less toxic waste water is produced during their production. Synthetic fibers, which include polyester, polyethylene and elastane contain toxic chemicals which are released into the wastewater during the manufacturing process and later, when washing. Second-hand has the best ecological balance in terms of water consumption and pesticides.