The Litte Brown Dress Project

Imagine wearing the same dress, day in and day out, for 1 year.
Pretty hard to imagine, right?
Not if your Seattle mom Alex Martin.
Martin wore the same brown dress, a dress that she made herself, everyday from July 7, 2005 to July 7, 2006 and chronicled it in her blog/journal called The Little Brown Dress.  Washing the dress every two to three days, she paired the dress with cardigans, stocking, for both practical and stylish reasons.
And, for the most part, no one noticed that she was wearing the same dress everyday.
Martin states on her blog/journal:

I challenged myself to reject the economic system that pushes over-consumption, and the bill of goods that has been sold, especially to women, about what makes a person good, attractive and interesting.  Clothes are a big part of this image, and the expectation in time, effort, and financial investment is immense.

While she’s right, we are pushed and prodded to buy “stuff”, often to emulate a certain lifestyle, as seen in the numerous celebrity fronted fashion and beauty lines, most of us aren’t going to stop shopping at Target and make our own biodegradable brown dresses either.  I would love to know is how much money did she save by wearing the same dress everyday for a year. If I took a guess, I would say probably enough for a down payment on a house.

So, inspired by the Brown Dress project, I’m going to try to wear the same thing, everyday, for the month of June. Fortunately for me, I don’t work in an office setting where I see the same people day in and day out, but I would love it if someone who does would join me in this project and post their comments below and tell me how the project worked for you. How much did you save? Was getting dressed in the morning easier? Did anyone notice? What did your husband/boyfriend/partner think?

Note: Alex’s current project involves creating an entirely new wardrobe from recycled clothing from her own closet. Love it!

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    Catherine Brock

    As a Southern California transplant now living in the Midwest, Catherine has turned layering into an art form and accepted that UGGs actually do have a place in the stylish lady's wardrobe. She's been featured in Woman's World Magazine,, Refinery29, and has made appearances on ABC7 Chicago, FOX2News St. Louis, KCAL9 Los Angeles, Fox19 Cincinnati, WGN TV Chicago and WCPO TV Cincinnati.

    Blog Comments

    I did “The Black Pants Project” a couple of years ago, when money was tight.  I wore the same black pants to work day after day for months with different tops, jackets, cardigans, etc.  I worked in an office where I was “seen” every day.  Nobody noticed or commented, especially not my husband.  (He generally only notices what top I’m wearing, anyway!)  Black pants & skirts are the workhorses of my wardrobe!

    The Brown Dress Project reminded me of my nana telling me stories about when she came to this country and literally had only one dress.  She would wash it and wear it the next day.  Later in her life she became a salesperson in the women’s dress section in a department store.  Everyone loved her because she had such a good “eye”.  I think she really appreciated good clothing after her one-dress youth.

    WOW!!!  This is incredible.  If I did this, I dont think anyone would really notice but I also work out of my home.  I doubt my husband would even notice.

    My husband speaks fondly of the days when he traveled around the country with nothing but a backpack.  He feels that even with our somewhat limited furniture collection we have “too much” stuff.

    A few months ago he started talking about wanting to go camping on a semi permanent basis.  Basically living outside if we move to Colorado while we are building a house.  Nothing but a couple of pans, spices and food that he hunts.  I told him there was no way I could run a household that way.  He told me I could make a meal out of belly lint and a bar of soap if I tried… (I think that was supposed to be a compliment)

    After reading a few entries on The Little Brown Dress blog, I am still stuck at “Maybe?”…

    This reminds me of a lady who passed away recently in my area.  She always had on the same brown dress, and everyone noticed.  Now, it wasn’t actually the same dress, what she did was buy one sewing pattern, and an entire bolt of cloth.  She would then make herself as many identical dresses as she could get out of that bolt of cloth.  I knew her for over 15 years, and she alwasy wore the same dress.  She always looked like a bag lady.

    That said, she was extremely rich for this rural area.  She owned, yes OWNED solely, a local chain of banks.  People still tell stories about when her and husband (who also looked homeless) went to buy a new car.  The salesman kept tellig them that the vehicle they were looking at was out of their price range.  That is until the owner of the car lot saw them.  They bought their vehicle with cash and left.  How funny!

    Maybe I should just wear the same dress all the time.  After all, who cares what other people think?  Nah… I just can’t do it.

    I am just curious to why the same dress. She could have easily just not bought any clothing for the year and wore what was in her closet. Why just the brown dress?

    i dont like this concept. unless you are really really tight for money, there is no reason to deprive yourself of clothing. this whole blog is designed to promote shopping on a budget, so why not do that. if i wore the same thing every day i would go crazy and be miserable. especially if i wore an icky brown dress everyday.

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    If you are spending enough for a down payment on a house on clothing, that is ridiculous.  The average house in Seattle cost over $354,000 in 2004 (that’s the first data point I could find online). A small downpayment of 10% is about $35,000.

    I doubt very much that this woman, who was probably quite frugal and consumption conscious to begin with, has spent $35,000+ on clothing in the last year. That would be nearly $3,000 per month.

    Really interesting concept! I don’t think I could do it, though.

    I’m trying to think if there is something in my closet that I love enough to wear every day for a month for a good cause. The answer is no, which probably proves how materialistic I really am. I really enjoy owning a variety of things to chose from whether it be shoes, bags, earrings, books, mugs or bath towels.

    Perhaps it is because I was a poor kid, and we didn’t have wiggle room for much variety. (In 1982, during the recession, we had potatoes as a side dish every single night. The next year it was white rice.)

    Perhaps it is some type of societal brainwashing that in order to prove how well you are doing you must have a lot of things to show for it.

    I have black shift dress that I could conceivably wear for 30 days straight with sneaks, sandals, pearls, over a tee shirt, under a tunic, etc… but then I’d have to wash it out every night. Frankly, I’m not that energetic. TBF, I’m rooting for you.

    Er I did something similar out of necessity from Last august until this month. I had three skirts, two dresses and a pair of pants that I wore once a week until my friend commented that I wore the same outfit every Tuesday.  When she found out what I was doing she gave me some of her old clothes.  This month my ‘big kid’ job kicked in and I bought a new wardrobe.

    Well for me.. I don’t work in a traditional office (I am writing the second book) so besides my guys at the corner bodega and Tobias, no one would really know if I was wearing the same thing.. which is why I am trying to wrangle some of my corporate friends into doing this..

    as far a downpayment- if you just think about how much you spend on stuff- not just clothing.. you could save enough for part of a downpayment. Say you purchase just a pair of jeans for $50, two shirts, and some make-up- all of which could run up to $200 a month- $2400 a year. In places outside of NYC, Seattle, etc this can go a long way towards a down payment. Not every place is as ridiculously over priced as the coastal cities- in places like detroit you can purchase a nice house for $75,000.

    I have WAY too many clothes. There’s no way I could wear the same thing everyday for a period of time. Everything influences what I wear – my mood, the weather, what shoes I feel like wearing, what unmentionables I feel like wearing, how my hair looks, am I feeling fat, am I feeling skinny, do I have a date after work, do I have meetings at work, etc. I could see myself selecting an outfit for each day of the week, but that’s as close as I could get to wearing the same thing each day.

    Unless you only own one outfit, you’re not saving any money.  I’m just curious about the motivation to wear the same outfit every day, other than to show it is possible.  I think it will be interesting to hear your experience though 🙂

    I know a lot of people do wear clothing more than once before washing it, but wearing the same outfit three days in a row before washing seems a little unsanitary to me.  What if it was hot out and you had to ride the subway or wanted to exercise?  You’d be either sedentary or smelly.

    I always wear my jeans 3-4 times before washing them. Its seriously cut down on the number of jeans I own. Plus I only buy new jeans when I lose a pants size as a “treat” for myself, its helped me convince my husband that a nice pair of jeans not neccessiarly designer will go a long way.

    I always wear my jeans 3-4 times before washing them. Its seriously cut down on the number of jeans I own. Plus I only buy new jeans when I lose a pants size as a “treat” for myself, its helped me convince my husband that a nice pair of jeans not neccessiarly designer will go a long way.

    I’m sure people noticed that she was wearing the same dress, they were just too polite to point it out.

    While I think the notion of shunning over consumption is wonderful… if you are an athlete like myself, this is just not practical. I sweat through my workout clothes pretty badly and would think I’d at least have to have several different recycled outfits to survive… and not insult others with my stench.

    Also a little black dress would have been easier to use and reuse without people being any the wiser. Still hat’s off to her for her ingenuity.

    Wow, this is so cool.  Thanks for sharing.  I wrote out this long post on my blog to advertise this and get you some players, but blogger eat my entry.  I don’t have enough energy to re-type it.

    Okay, without reading her blog, but just what TBF wrote, the real question that I have is how much other stuff did she get? I mean, it’s fairly simple, albeit boring, to wear the same “base” everyday for a period of time, if you have a wide range of stuff to wear with it. Shoes, bags, tops, bottoms, jewellery, scarves… you get the picture. I often find myself wearing the select few pieces for a while, say a pair of jeans that I feel make me look skinnier than the others for a week (I do wash them during the week!) but I always dress them up differently… So I guess unless the “other stuff” was limited too, this is kinda useless in promoting any anti-consumption survival skills.

    as far as wearing a garmet for several days goes, EW!!!!! i’m sorry but that’s just not hygenic. Although some people seem to (mistakenly) think that they “don’t sweat” so therefore they don’t need to clean thier clothes as often. Yuk. I have a co-worker who consisantly wears the same items, and let me tell you, we all notice.

    Clothes and personal style is what people see first. If you work in a corporate environment or a place where you meet and interact with a number of people, it is really important to look your best, because then you feel good about yourself and your best self comes out too.

    Reckless splurging on clothes and stuff is silly, but buying some key pieces and giving a creative edge to your wardrobe with sensible shopping on a budget can get you a long way.

    The only things that I have been wearing every day for the past 4 years is my watch and my perfume.  I will probably still do it for the next 4 or more years.

    And…I just find wearing the same thing 2-3 days in a row without washing it (especially if it is a top or dress) impossible. Cleaness comes before everything else in my book.

    Patrice Teilmann

    I guess I’ve done something similiar, but for different reasons.  Mine would have been titled “Navy Nike Sweatpants”, which was my daily uniform for almost a year, after the birth of my first child, and then I wore them again after second son was born.  I would have worn them forever, but they finally fell apart and I had to face the fact that my skinny jeans weren’t fitting and I had to buy bigger clothes.

    I now have loads of clothes, and I’ve made a promise to myself to shop from my own closet for a few months.  I’ll never go back to wearing the same clothes everday though.  Been there, done that abd having fun with fashion is one of the great pleasures in life for me.

    i am far to shallow for this.  funny enough while i was moved out for my remodel i had only 1/2 my work wardrobe with me and i wore the same dress twice in a three week period and all the women in my office noticed.

    I don’t know… I have my doubts. I suspect she would have had to buy a LOT of other accessories- cardigans, scarves, etc to camouflage the fact she was wearing the same darn thing every day.

    And did she rush out and splurge on a post-Brown Dress wardrobe? I know I would have…

    I think this is a very thought provoking idea which, because Alex is an artist, is the POINT. It does make one think about how consumerist our society is and how overwhelming our wide variety of choices can be. There is another performance artist who has done a project based on mall shopping which I found interesting.  It is called Rosemary Goes to the Mall and can be found wwwdotrosemarywilliamsdotcom. I heard her on NPR.

    I want to know what the TBF blogger is wearing for this month? What piece are you wearing every day? Did I miss that in the post? And are you changing it up – adding jeans, etc?

    to the above post (2 above) no, her new project is only clothes she makes from old clothes. WEARD…

    There is this New York artist called Andrea Zittel and she did similar things in early 90s. Look up her six-month uniform project.

    I find it sad that most of the people reading about this project don’t get it. Or I guess maybe that was the point, that most modern people have no idea that less then 100 years ago, most people only had one dress, two if they were lucky. During WW2 there were ration coupons that were for clothing. And the manufacture of cosmetics was basically illegal. So you were more then lucky if you could go and get a dress or a pair of shoes once a year. We all take for granted the things that we have. Maybe we should all be more appreciative.

    In my mind, the last comment, from Sheryl on July 6, 2007, really sums up how I feel about the rest of the comments that look down on the challenge.
    October 2010, I and a few friends participated in our own October Dress Challenge. Our motivations were many. One wanted to fast from spending money on clothing and accessories. Another wanted to become more aware of her own materialism and desire to buy new clothes. And yet another wanted the creative challenge of restyling the same dress 30 different ways.
    The 2010 challenge was such a success that we are doing it again in 2011. So far, 14 women have accepted the challenge. Would you consider it?

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