a peek inside the fishbowl

02 Apr, 2019

One dress, thirty days: the wrap up post

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Challenge me, challenge you

So I did it! I went the distance and wore The Dress for 30 days. In fact, I tacked on a bonus day so I can say that I wore it for 31 days. (Thanks for the suggestion, @Ryanwright!)

I wore it at home. I wore it to work. I wore it grocery shopping and skiing and to the Ottawa Gatineau Auto Show. I wore it to Kingston to visit the eldest daughter. I wore it out to lunch and dinner. I wore it to meetings. I wore it to an International Women’s day event at Twiss & Weber. I wore it to a book launch. I wore it to visit my mother. I wore it when I took her to her appointments. I wore it to an Ottawa Public Library consultation meeting. I wore it to the movies. I wore it everywhere except to the gym and to sleep.

So what did I learn, other than the fact that I’m terrible at selfies?

I undertook this challenge to prove to myself that I could wear a dress for 30 days in a row and drive the cost per wear way down. I also wanted to get people thinking about a few different things:

– The issue of “fast fashion,” that is, trendy clothing items made and sold on the cheap and usually only worn for a single season.
– Related to this: cost-per-wear. If we buy fewer, better quality clothes, they’ll last longer, which is better for our wallets as well for the environment.
– The textile industry uses a lot of water and is a big polluter, so buying fewer items and wearing them more is good for the planet.
– In addition to this, the fashion industry uses a tremendous amount of resources. What’s the impact of shipping, storage, and delivery? How many extra trucks and cars are on the road because we ordered something that caught our eye on Amazon?
– Many of us are probably washing our clothes more than we need to. Over laundering wastes water and adds more chemicals and microfibres to the system. (For the record, I did launder my dress a few times!)

What is the true cost of fast fashion? What the real price of convenience? There is no easy answer, but they say that you cast your vote for the kind of world you live in with every dollar you spend. So this is what I’m doing. I’m casting my vote, or trying to.

Lest you think otherwise, you should know my closet does not contain an expensive capsule wardrobe. Someday I’d like this for myself, but that day is not coming along anytime soon!

The fact that I’m in a position to buy a nice dress that’s made in Ottawa and sold in an independent boutique isn’t lost on me. (Shout out to Flock Boutique and the maker of said dress, Tangente!) I am fortunate to be this privileged. Perhaps it’s about balance? I buy a significant amount of my clothing at Value Village. I have PJs from Joe Fresh. I bought an undershirt at Giant Tiger the other day. Do I really expect people will spend big bucks on an undershirt and wear it until it’s frayed to bits? That’s a tough sell at this point in time, but I believe there will come a day when climate change forces our hand. Maybe droughts and disappearing water tables will destroy cotton farms and put an end to denim and white cotton t-shirts we all love to wear. I know it’s doom and gloom to say this, but this is where we are heading. No one wants to be a downer and no politician is willing to make bold moves that will leave people feeling deprived.

A reader emailed me what she perceived to be “the same” dress as mine on the Walmart website. It was five bucks. It’s not the same dress. Tens of thousands of these dresses were made in some factory in Bangladesh and distributed across North America. We have to ask ourselves, why is it so inexpensive? Is it because someone on the other side of the world isn’t being paid a living wage? Is it made out of cheap material that will disintegrate in the laundry machine? Is it because Walmart doesn’t even pay its own retail workers a living wage? My guess is that it’s a loss leader mixed with all of the above. This is not the kind of world I want to live in.

But if fast fashion goes extinct tomorrow, where does this leave the most vulnerable among us? What if the only dress someone can afford is $5?

These are big questions, for sure. As for me, I will continue to wear The Dress every once in awhile, continue to buy second hand, and be mindful of the new clothing I do buy.

One one hand I feel depressed because we are destroying our planet, but at the same time I’m hopeful that we can do something about it.

I asked my Twitter followers if the One Dress challenge prompted them to consider or change their shopping/daily wardrobe habits and 58% said that it did. I was glad to see this! Maybe I’ll live long enough to see the tide finally turning.

Click here to view the other One Dress posts, if you missed them the first time around.

p.s. I talk a lot about this in my book about our Shopping Embargo. If you’d like to be notified when it’s ready to download, add your name to the list right here.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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