Clothing Cutback: Paring it down

How many dresses do we really need? This article in yesterday’s New York Times profiles several groups of people who have taken that question to heart – and taken steps to find the answer. With the continuing interest in sustainability confronting our current moment of financial crisis, many individuals are finding themselves wondering exactly how much is too much? How many outfits or articles of clothing does one person really need to feel satisfied? And another related question: isn’t having so much only making the dilemma of getting dressed much more complicated?

Although the magic number of garments varies, it seems like the number is often much smaller than we think.

The NYT piece particularly highlights folks who engaged in a “clothing diet” – limiting themselves to only wear six items of clothing for a month. Could you do it? Would you do it? And do you think the exercise would help us learn to scale it back in other areas of materialism as well? Readers, thoughts?!

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  • Kb July 22, 2010 03.15 pm

    I could scale back my clothing to six Items but I wouldn’t want to. Since I am in the fashion industry I am inspired by colors, fabrics and interesting cuts. It seems so boring to limit a wardrobe to six pieces.

  • Mellissa July 22, 2010 05.50 pm

    I tried something similar a few years ago when I spent a month in Paris living out of a backpack. I was able to exist with a black tube dress and a few other basic layering items. I have to say, it was extremely liberating both in that I wasn’t dragging around a huge backpack of unnecessary items, and also that I didn’t have to think about my clothing that much. What I did think about, however, was how to personalize the dress and how to change the look from day to day. It’s amazing what scarves, stockings, a few pieces of jewelry, or a change of shoes and hairstyle can do to makeover a look.

    I also have worked in fashion for a several years, and have a predilection (and weakness at times!) towards buying clothing and accessories. I think that limiting oneself from time to time though, and trying things out like a “clothing diet” every now and then, can be really beneficial. It does make you stop to think a little more about consumption and excess (and maybe where things are coming from and how they are produced), but also on a more fun note, its a great exercise in practicing personal style. Anyone can buy the latest trends of the season, but to develop your own unique look and means of personal expression through fashion requires more than just quantity!

    I also noticed while I was there, that many of the few clothing & accessory items that I brought with me, were given as gifts, or designed by friends, or had some other type of sentimental value attached to them. While packing for a solo trip in a foreign country, I hade subconsciously surrounded myself with things that were dually valuable and comforting to me. That was one of the most interesting observations about the experience that I had, and one thing that I find particularly intriguing about clothing. How we relate to it personally, and how the things that we wear play such an interesting role in how we identify and perceive ourselves. It’s really interesting to think about how forcing ourselves to limit our wardrobe may affect those ideas about identity…

  • roe July 26, 2010 03.52 am

    For the summer, I chose to participate in the Green By Design Summerlight Challenge (10 pieces for 91 days) and knew I was going to hate it. I DREADED the start.

    It may be true that women wear, on average, 20% of their wardrobe, but I love(d) my awesome sliver of materialism. No one had to tell me the 91 days was going to be hard, I KNEW it was going to be. 10 pieces?! Do you know how little that is?!?!?!

    But, I love a challenge even more than clothing. I love sustainability and simplicity even more than fashion hubris. I had to. I felt like GbD was calling my bluff and asking me to rise to the occasion. So I did. I picked items that would get me through for practicality’s sake. And hated every minute of the first three weeks. In the strange parallel universe I am now living in, not only have I begun to enjoy it and feel released from that “what do I wear” mania, but people compliment me more often now on my clothing than they did when I wore more than one t-shirt color.

    I think every woman should try it once. It’s good for the pocketbook, the ego, and the soul. ^_^


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