As part of HuffPost’s “Reclaim” project, HuffPost Style will focus the month of September on simple ways to educate yourself on becoming a better consumer to address the problem of fashion waste.
This fall, The Huffington Post is taking a hard look at the negative environmental effects that result from our excessive shopping habits.
We’ve reported on the sheer volume of waste we create ― America produced 15.1 million tons of textile waste in 2013, and 85 percent of it ended up in landfills. We’ve cringed over the reality of what happens to our clothing once it’s been donated. We’ve also educated ourselves on ways to shop smarter and take better care of the clothes we already own.
But everything we’ve learned is for naught if we can’t practice what we preach. Can we, ourselves, stop buying excessive amounts of clothes and make do with a smaller wardrobe? We’re putting ourselves to the test with one seemingly simple experiment.
Two editors at HuffPost, a man and a woman, were each asked to wear one outfit of their choosing to the office every day for an entire week. The goal was to discover, once and for all, if one can truly get away with repeating the same outfits over and over again. Would it be socially acceptable among their colleagues? Would our male editor have a different experience than our female editor? And would anyone dare make rude comments to them?
And so, swallowing their pride and stepping into the same outfit every day for an entire week, they set off to find out.
ANDY CAMPBELL, REPORTER
I’ve always been a champion of frugal fashion.
As a reporter who spends his time between the office and the streets, I’ve built a career toeing the ever-thinning line between excellence and hangover. It gives me a reason to be a lazy shopper ― my closet is half-full of button-down shirts and pants that are viable on both a midnight drunk and a morning meeting with my boss (sorry Karen).
So when I got the call to do a piece of investigative journalism, one that would finally test my skill of looking fresh despite myself, I breathed a sigh of relief. I’d be able to put off laundry for yet another week ― my entire wardrobe can fit in one load, anyway ― and my smell wouldn’t get me fired because it was a directive.
For any of you who have 250 shirts on standby to avoid wearing the same thing twice in a fiscal quarter, take it from me: Nobody really notices. Sure, I was wearing a variation of the blue shirt and gray slacks that I’ve worn exclusively for most of my five-year tenure at The Huffington Post, but the point remains. I didn’t stink, I spoke with our CEO while wearing “dirty” clothes and didn’t get fired, and I even went dancing one night and didn’t smell like booze the next morning.
The only real “problem” came on day four, when some of my peers thought I got laid. One colleague who was visiting from our London office grinned at our Thursday meeting as she thought out loud, “Andy, are you wearing the same outfit for the second day in a row?” Others pointed out that my cheeks were red, a clear indication that I didn’t spend the night in my own bed last night and was embarrassed about it.
Some fledgling journalists might cave and say, “NO. Nuh uh you guys, I stayed at home watching ‘Narcos’ and finished an expired pint of Ben and Jerry’s.” But not this reporter, dear readers. I kept the integrity of the story intact, and now everyone thinks I had sexual intercourse one time.
There have been worse weeks.
Wearing the exact same outfit for an entire week is a bit excessive (though doable!), but we’ve proven with our experiment that we don’t have to be slaves to fast fashion. Little stylistic changes can go a long way without the need for a closet full of clothes you’ll never wear. I’ve been doing it for five years, and it took four full days of the same outfit for anyone to notice. Suffice it to say, nobody is keeping tabs on your daily getup.
JAMIE FELDMAN, FASHION AND LIFESTYLE EDITOR
Working in the fashion industry, I’m often asked by friends and peers if I feel pressure to dress a certain way. I chose my apartment based on the fact that it was the only one I’d seen with a big enough closet to fit all my clothes, so you can probably answer that one for yourself.
When I was challenged to wear the same thing for a full week, I wouldn’t say I was relieved, but I was intrigued. Not ever being one to fly under the radar, I picked my loudest, boldest Tracy Reese dress. And not being one to ever plan ahead, it also happened to desperately need cleaning. “Oh well,” I thought. “No turning back now.” This was going to be interesting.
On day two, I was actually grateful that my outfit was already picked out for me. I was hungover from drinking one too many glasses of debate wine and as a result was running late. Easy peasy.
Unlike Andy, no one suspected that my repeat outfit was a consequence of sexual escapade. Or, maybe they did and didn’t say anything for fear of making me look a certain way in front of my peers.
By day three I was itching, both because I was sick of this stupid dress and also, perhaps, because it really does need to be freaking cleaned. I found myself switching up my makeup, accessories and hair ― anything to feel a little different from the day before. As I rode the subway to work, I couldn’t help but notice people staring at me. “They know my secret,” I thought.
Though I was self-aware and self-conscious about my repeat look, my colleagues, as far as I could tell, were completely oblivious. Things didn’t take a turn until someone privy to the experiment stopped by my desk to loudly compliment me on my dress. “Didn’t you wear that yesterday?” he said with a smirk, cluing in my surrounding peers to my secret. One of my row-mates, who had just the day before complimented the dress, said she noticed I had been wearing it again but didn’t feel the need to say anything. “What is there really to say?” she said.
The elephant in the room (aside from my odor) of course, is the fact that I am a woman. Mark Zuckerberg famously wears the same casual outfit every single day, while it’s been pointed out that Sheryl Sandberg regularly wears different pairs of stilettos while working for the same company. I was delighted and surprised though, that even wearing something as memorable as this dress, I wasn’t judged, treated any differently or questioned about my decision.
On day four, I was finally asked about it, but in the most polite, private way possible. It came via Google chat:
“so I have a question to ask you
and I don’t exactly know how to ask you
so I’m just going to ask
don’t hate me
have you worn the same dress all week?
or am i imagining that?”
Will I ever wear something for a full week again? Probably not. Would this experiment be quite as effective if, say, I worked in an office with more fashionable people? (Sorry Andy). Maybe. But at the end of the day, I wore a dress that I love a few times, I spent way less time worrying about getting dressed in the morning and no one got hurt. I’d call that a win.