I first came across the ‘Uniform project’ this morning via city heart vintage, and then again on the Guardian website. In case you haven’t come across it before, the Uniform Project is a girl, Sheena, wearing the same dress every day for one year. Here is what she says:
“Starting May 2009, I have pledged to wear one dress for one year as an exercise in sustainable fashion. Here’s how it works: There are 7 identical dresses, one for each day of the week. Every day I will reinvent the dress with layers, accessories and all kinds of accouterments, the majority of which will be vintage, hand-made, or hand-me-down goodies. Think of it as wearing a daily uniform with enough creative license to make it look like I just crawled out of the Marquis de Sade’s boudoir.”
What found interesting is the way it was presented in the Guardian article: They really very strongly emphasised the sustainability/ethics/climate change angle, much more so than Sheena herself does (the reference to sustainable fashion in the quote above is the only mention, and the website is much more focused on the fundraising as the project’s key objective).
The reaction from the commenters on the Guardian website was generally fairly critical, mainly towards the claim that this project is in some way an exercise in ethical living (there were also some idiotic comments about Sheena’s looks which obviously out of order and I will not engage with here). Many many people pointed out that she is not actually ‘one woman, one dress, one year’ (the article’s title) but one woman with seven identical dresses and more shoes and other accessories than most people will ever own in their entire life time and that all these other things also have an environmental (and monetary) cost.
This really resonated with me, because the claim to ethical superiority often made by thrifters and crafters is one that I do find problematic, and I have posted about before. I felt compelled to comment on the Guardian’s website, which I have never done before, both to defend the project as a worthwhile thing to do from a creative point of view, and to say something about the environmental argument. Here is what I wrote:
“As a creative challenge, I find this fun and inspirational. And she does look cute! In the fashion/thrifting blogosphere, there are a lot of challenges like this, although they usually last for a much shorter period of time. I occassionally participate in them and really enjoy the way they make me think anew about my wardrobe. Wearing the same dress for a year without repetition is quite impressive, although possibly less so given the constant inflow of new donated accessories [note – people can donate their accessories for this project].
As an ethical project this is a lot of rubbish of course. If you’re going to have seven dresses, it really is irrelevant whether they all look the same or not. And something being handmade does not actually make it resource neutral. If the person only hand makes a few things each year, but buys all the gear (sewing machine, dress form, pattern books etc.), it is almost certainly less resource intensive to just buy the clothes from a shop.
I buy about 90% my clothes from charity shops (minus underwear of course), customise them myself or very occassionally buy them off etsy, but I would never say that I live this way for environmental reasons. I do it because its fun, its cheap, its creative and individual. It’s my hobby. I occassionally get quite annoyed with my fellow thrifters and crafty folk for implying that they are in some way saving the world, when really they are just channelling their consumption into different, slightly less harmful, avenues.”
I don’t know, what do you think?