If this is your first time hearing about the October Dress Project, here is the basic idea: for thirty-one days, from October 1st to October 31st, you will build all your outfits around one single dress. You will put this dress on in some way, shape, or form, every time you get dressed.
Why? There are a lot of a different women participating, and each participates for different reasons, but the motto sums it up as 'anti-consumerism, pro-simplicity, anti-conformity, pro-imagination.' This can translate into a lot of different motivations, from an out-of-control wardrobe to a concern for environmental sustainability, from an intellectual exercise to a deep rethinking of what you do with your clothes and why. It encourages thinking of your clothing more creatively as you use one dress as a canvas for the other clothes you have in your wardrobe. It prompts dressing more responsibly as you begin to reevaluate the versatility of a single garment. It helps you to cut away the clutter surrounding personal worth, body image, and consumer culture (one of the first thing many people notice is that no one else notices them wearing the same dang thing every day!) It gives you a starting point to begin challenging cultural norms of buying habits and our perception of needs.
Below, we've answered some common questions to first-time participants in the ODP.
How did it start?
An offhand comment by my (Avery's) Grandpa four Septembers ago that in his day girls wore 'one dress for weekdays and one dress for Sunday' inspired me to try it out that October. The next year there were eight of us. The third year, I think it hit the hundreds. Obviously, there is something in us that recognizes the need to change, to practice more frugality, simplicity, and creativity.
We also drew some inspiration for the Little Brown Dress and other similar projects on the web.
Do I have to wear a dress?
While the project is technically the October Dress Project, we welcome girls who want to practice the ethic of the project but either don't feel comfortable or can't for practical reasons wear a dress on a day-to-day basis. Try giving yourself one pair of jeans and two or three shirts. Or a giant coverall. Evaluate what changes you need to make and how this one-month exercise can help you.
Do I get to wash the dress?
Please, by all means, wash your dress. But, do it on a Saturday morning while you're still bumming around in your pajamas, or overnight so it's clean and fresh for the next morning. Try at all costs to avoid using "It's dirty," as an excuse not to wear it. (That said, emergencies do happen. No need to appear in public all splashed in mud or anything.) Also, most of our participants don't feel the need to use it, say, while housepainting or going on long runs. A dress is not always appropriate for all your activities, so give yourself a little flexibility in dirty or sweaty activities.
What kind of dress should I pick?
In our three years of experience, we've picked up a few tips along the way. Here's a handy checklist:
-Try to find a balance between versatile and interesting. You want to be able to mix-and-match it with most of the rest of your wardrobe, but not make it so neutral that you're going to despise it (too much) by the end of the month.
-As far as length, you want to hit that sweet spot between 'short-enough-to-wear-over-jeans' and 'long-enough-to-wear-with-nothing-under-it-and-not-feel-uncomfortable.' Remember that you'll be doing everything from going to work to going on dates to gardening in this dress so make sure you can dress it up or down.
-If you have a pet, try to avoid a colour that will show all their hair.
-Pick something with a sleeve that you can layer over. If the sleeve is too poofy it will look silly under cardigans.
Wait-- should I buy a new dress for the project?
This is a bit of a tricky one. The object of the project is not to eschew all shopping for a month (I'm sure someone else is doing that project), but at the same time, if you hurdle all the difficulties of the project by buying something new, you haven't really learned anything, have you? If your closet really is lacking in a versatile dress that you could wear for the project, buy something. Don't break the bank with it, though. You're trying to move away from consumerism for a month. Try to avoid shopping except for actual needs for the month of October. Remember to redefine 'needs' based on what you're learning as the month goes by!
It seems too easy.
Maybe you're already practicing the ethics of the Project. If so, that's wonderful! Don't look down on our other participants who are still learning, but we'd love to hear your encouragement.
It seems too hard.
It is kind of hard, weaning yourself off the spending habits and mindset you're used to. But there's a lot of support to be had in the form of other girls going through the Project-- both first-timers and seasoned vets. 30 days feels long, but it's actually peanuts. If you feel like giving up, check in with some other participants. Better yet, find some people near you to do it with you. Nothing like a little solidarity and accountability to keep you going.