Why I hate the #OctoberDressProject

You wouldn't expect it of an eco-crusading, habitually opining, gimmick-embracing (Commuter Challenge, anyone?!) person such as myself, but I don't like the October Dress Project.

It's an initiative, usually celebrated with daily pictures on social media, to wear the same one dress every day for the month of October.

What's not to like about an event described as "anti-consumerism, pro-simplicity, anti-conformity, pro-imagination"? Why do I object to promoting the humility (in Western culture) of wearing the same article of clothing day after day?

Its execution entirely misses the point.

If only the single dress wardrobe actually meant simplicity, I would champion the project, but  iterations of the dress project I've seen have instead been a celebration of excess. They become a celebration of how many different ways you can dress up that garment so no one will even notice you've been wearing the same one dress for 31 days.

One dress, yes, but 15 different scarves, 5 pairs of pants, 10 pairs of shoes, 31 sets of earrings, a rainbow of coloured tights and a handful of hair accessories. Not to mention different shades of lipstick to match the various colour schemes. And the likelihood the one dress was newly purchased for the project.

If this is a taste of paring down a closet and cutting down and the stuff one owns, I hate to think what the full meal looked like.

And then there's another October project where the same ostensibly virtuous principle is obviated by the execution. This time, to celebrate clothing and conscience, buy a $20 outfit at a thrift store and take a picture of yourself wearing it. Yay, thrift stores.

But the emphasis is still on more, rather than reduce, it's on new (albeit to you) rather than make do (with what you already have).

I'm reminded of a saying usually applied to houses, but which I think holds a kernel of truth for a variety of arenas: the greenest* house is the one that is already built.

As long as our educational initiatives intended to create awareness of simplicity and making do with less are predicated upon getting or showing off more, we haven't learned anything and no real change in our behaviour will occur to help us lead to lasting change in our world.

*(most environmentally friendly/sustainability minded)


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