Nadia Eghbal’s article, “Why I Wore The Same Outfit Every Day for a Year,” hits very close to home for me.
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about clothes. Not in an “I-must-own-the-latest-fashions” sense, but in a “Do-my-clothes-really-embody-who-I-am?” sense.
Firstly, I get frustrated with finding clothes to fit and flatter my body. On top of that, I feel like a very expressive person on the inside, yet the average passer-by on the street wouldn’t be able to tell that from looking at me.
So when I came across Nadia Eghbal’s piece, I could very much relate to the feeling of being disconnected from my wardrobe.
Eghbal, a self-confessed lover of fashion, started to feel overwhelmed by her own mountain of clothes and fabric. Collecting and thinking about clothing became exhausting, and she realized that she could be spending that time on something else.
So she decided to get rid of most of her clothes, and wear one t-shirt and jeans every single day for a year: “My identity had somehow become tied to my wardrobe. I didn’t want to be known for what I wore but rather what I had contributed to the world. When I took away my hobby, what did I have left?”
I have also spent a lot of time getting rid of material possessions, selling and giving away books, DVDs, furniture, and clothing before moving to a new country. So I can definitely understand the steps of letting go.
As Eghbal discovered, in the beginning it is quite hard, but once you get on a roll it becomes addictive. “You begin to realize how little you actually need to get by, and that feeling is euphoric.”
In my experience, I actually felt physically lighter, as though the burden of all my stuff had been lifted, and I could now stop thinking about it and free up that head space for other things.
After getting rid of a huge amount of clothing, Eghbal discovered that a simple tee and black jeans could work for nearly every occasion. Add a scarf and long-sleeved shirt, and she discovered a uniform that she then wore for an entire year.
She surprised herself by discovering that nobody actually seemed to care what she wore. Including herself. Which, unsurprisingly, led to caring more about conversations and actions instead.
So, let’s chalk up the preoccupation with clothing to yet another distraction that is preventing us women from reaching our potential. If we could all stop focusing on our outfits for a year, just think what we could achieve!
Eghbal imparted some final words about her experiment: “Own who you are. Don’t be distracted by small, shiny things. And reject the many, many marketing messages that try to tell you otherwise. It won’t make you less of a woman; it’ll just make you more of a human.”
Tessa Needham finished her PhD in Performing Arts at the University of Western Sydney (Australia) in 2008. Her thesis explored the potential of performance to provoke change, and part of her research was Bodily, a solo theatrical performance about body image. She loves technology and the creative arts, and is passionate about the different cultural forces affecting the body image of girls and women. She teaches computers and does freelance creative work: www.tessaneedham.com.