What is the Uniform Project?
Uniform Project was born in May 2009, when one girl pledged to wear a Little Black Dress for 365 days as an exercise in sustainable fashion. Designed to also be a fundraiser for the education of underprivileged children in India, the project acquired millions of visitors worldwide and raised over $100k for the cause. U.P then continued into Year 2 with a monthly series of select Pilots taking on the 1-Dress challenge for causes of their choice. Today, women around the world continue to take on the 1 Dress challenge and wear U.P LBDs as an expression of socially conscious fashion.”
The Uniform Project site: http://www.theuniformproject.com
Sheena Matheiken, creator, at a Tedx event speaking more about her story and this project:
My own 9 month Uniform Project experiment:
I came across this project while researching capsule wardrobes and minimalist layered wardrobe systems for my 100 items challenge. I was fascinated and wondered what it would be like to try it out. The timing was perfect; I needed to be as minimally weighed down as possible, with everything fitting on my back for travel.
I chose two outfits for my travels. One for the week, and a dress for weekends.
My weekly outfit consisted of a pair of grey genie pants found at a thrift shop for ten bucks, and a black merino wool base-layer shirt.
[Merino wool is a especially known for its qualities of being soft, breathable, keeping you warm or cool as needed (reacting to changes in body temperature), stain and odor resistant, anti-wrinkle, and quick-drying. This was important for travel and overnight washes, so I’d have a dry outfit to wear by morning.]
What it was like in the beginning:
First of course was letting go of all the clothes I owned. Tearing off layers and layers of personalities I’d developed based on surroundings, and shields I’d created to blend in and avoid vulnerability, more like it. Never an easy task. Tears were shed. Confusion ensued. Relief was beheld.
Other than that I think the hardest thing for me was resisting the urge to expand again, once I’d contracted to the simplicity of this one uniform.
As well as not feeling like I was missing out, and dealing with the blank slate confusion and lost-ness of personality withdrawal.
The other thing I’d mention was figuring out a washing schedule in the summer, and making sure the clothes dried by morning in the winter. But it was do-able.
I asked some people if they’d noticed:
For curiosities sake, I asked a couple of friends if they’d noticed anything different about the way I was dressing. The unanimous answer was a blank stare, and when I told them that there was only a single outfit sitting on my body these days, ‘I would never have known.’
I was surprised, but the explanation was how energetically I felt different from day to day, and that’s what came across, not what I wore. Accessorizing or even different hairstyles helped vary things as well.
A word on wearing an outfit multiple days in a row:
Firstly, nobody will notice, if that’s what you’re concerned about. Tried, tested, proven.
Secondly, unless you’ve been sweating buckets, splashing in muddy puddles, or playing in the dirt, your clothing really doesn’t need washing all that often. In fact, the wear your machine puts on the clothing can age and wear out materials, thus shortening their lives.
Results of my experiment:
Results. Whew! What a dramatic change to my life this one created. I felt stripped down and brought to my knees in nakedness (metaphorically of course) by this project.
The benefits I began to see of not having to think or expend extra time or effort standing in front of a closet wondering what to wear every morning was a beauty. The simplicity standard began to blossom out into other parts of my life; the food I ate became simpler and cleaner, my thinking became clearer, solutions seemed pared down and easier to find, healthy habits became easier to form.
No more shopping, no more constant changes and evolvement. Just. Simple. Me. No strings, ribbons, buttons, or beads. No colors or bows. Me. Naked. Bare. Simple. Stripped. In the same black and gray outfit day in day out.
It felt like returning to the womb, to pure existence. All my masks came off. All my ideas of who I thought I was came tumbling down. It’s amazing how much the items of clothing we put on our bodies represent different faces we’d like to project out into the world. Without them, I finally had space, space I felt like I hadn’t been privy to since birth, to discover who it was beneath those facades, what was nature and what was nurture, find out what my essence looked like, and find out who I would like to become.
Nine months to birth, and by my tenth month I felt ready to finally blossom into a few more outfits that felt aligned with my core essence. It was very magical. I felt reborn. I felt true. I felt balanced and in flow.
The greatest reflection for me was knowing that I was already succeeding at something, that I’d taken on a challenge and was succeeding at it every single day, and that gave me the motivation and steely drive and belief in my own success that helped transform other projects I had going on, habits I wanted to form, and really every single other part of my life.
A less extreme version to try out yourself:
Two outfits for the year is a lot to ask, and my own take on the original intent of the Uniform Project. For the original version, try out what Sheena Matheiken did with her Uniform Project; the challenge being to reinvent the same dress each day anew.
She matched up the one dress with hats, shoes, accessories, and different items of clothing every day for a completely renewed look. Flip through the calendar here for her daily looks the entire year of her project. It’s a pretty incredible gallery.
The key was only using recycled, vintage, donated, thrifted, or handmade items as for her this was in part an ethical challenge to transform her relationship with the hugely problematic fashion industry with its overconsumption, unethical production, and unnecessary shopping.