a peek inside the fishbowl

I was at a book launch downtown last night and reactions to my 1Dress challenge varied from “what the heck” to “WOW you rock.” I felt I was appropriately dressed and had zero regrets or bouts of regret or shyness about it.

Someone asked me on Twitter if I was bored of The Dress yet. Surprisingly I am not! In fact, I am enjoying the predictability of it. This might sound dull, but it’s actually quite liberating to wear the same thing every day, in a way, because I’m released from the “oh no, what am I going to wear today” question. Related: I have the same breakfast every day and do the same workout every day, which makes my morning routine a total no brainer. I like to think that this frees up my brain cells for other things.

Misty brought up an interesting point in her comment on my previous post about the 1Dress challenge: germs. Now, if I worked in a doctor’s office, hospital, school, or other setting in which there are a lot of people walking around every day I might give germs more consideration but as I mentioned before, I work from home most of the time, so germs aren’t exactly top of mind.

Interestingly, the maker of the dress, Tangente, left a comment on one of my Instagram posts about the challenge. They wrote: “Thanks so much for choosing my dress for your challenge. I’m also in strong agreement that people wash their clothes too often.” I am glad they agree with me!

The other day I took my mother to the doctor. She lives in the Peterborough area and I go there and back in one day. It makes for a lot of driving but I’m happy to do it.

Washing the dress after I got home that night was a bit of a question mark, especially since I had washed it the night before. My mother is a chain smoker (thankfully, not in the car) so there was that too, in addition to any germs I might have sat in at the doctor’s office. So what’s a gal to do?

When I was in university and my friends and I came from bars and clubs reeking of cigarette smoke (back in the day when smoking was allowed in these establishments!) I’d simply take my clothes off at home and leave them outside. This was especially useful for hard-to-wash items like coats and jackets. By morning the smell was always gone. So that’s what I did the other night. I hung my dress outside until I went to bed. I figured it would kill some bacteria as well. When I brought it back indoors it smelled as fresh as before, if not better.

So what about the question of killing bacteria? Well, I found this story about it online. It seems as though putting clothing in a freezer only renders the bacteria dormant, but then Rachel McQueen, a professor of human ecology at the University of Alberta, who is quoted, says “airing your jeans outdoors in the sunlight would be a more effective method of getting rid of odors and a lot of bacteria.” Something to think about!

Here’s another interesting bit: One of McQueen’s students wore his jeans for 15 months straight without a single wash and then tested the level of bacteria on them. The unwashed jeans carried nearly the same amount of bacteria as those same pants after they had been washed and then worn for 13 days.

As for me, I’m just on my way out the door for an International Women’s Day event. The dress is getting seen and my cost-per-wear is going down every day. I’m pretty excited about that.

This post is about the “One dress, thirty days” challenge. You can readthe kickoff post right here.

So I’ve been on the receiving end of some positive feedback about the challenge so far, which is nice. Some people have asked me if I’m washing the dress during the 30 days. Er, yes! I am definitely washing the dress. As per the label it needs to be hand washed and laid flat to dry. I’ve washed it twice this way (albeit on the delicate cycle in our front loader). Once I laid it out to dry overnight on the bed in the eldest daughter’s former bedroom and the second time (just last night) I lay it flat on a drying rack in the basement. I will admit that it was a teeeeny bit damp when I put it on this morning, but no biggie. Next time I’ll definitely lay it out to dry in the bedroom.

1dress30days, day 10

I feel compelled to point out that I wear PJs for sleeping and gym gear for sweating in, whether I’m at the gym or on the treadmill here at home. When I’m dressed, I’m wearing The Dress. Someone also asked me if I’m wearing a layer underneath the dress, and yes, I wear lightweight undershirts and camisoles every day. It goes a long way to keeping the dress clean because it’s not directly on my skin. I’m also reaching for that apron when I’m prepping dinner a little more frequently.

The “are you washing the dress” question makes me wonder if the idea of cleanliness (or lack thereof) is people’s number one issue when they hear about this challenge. Is it the first thing that springs to mind when I tell people that I’m wearing the same dress for 30 days?

The question of whether our clothes are dirty or clean is an interesting one. On one hand, detergent manufacturers would have us washing our clothes every day with additives for every cycle – in addition to regular detergent – such as laundry scent boosters (yes, it’s a thing), bleach, spray n’ wash, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets. It’s in their best interest to instill a fear of dirt, germs, and bad smells. That’s what gets us to buy more products, right? Ahd someone who is germophobic probably washes their clothes more than other people.

In past years, these same manufacturers used shame as a key motivator. Readers of an, ahem, certain age might remember the “ring around the collar” commercials.

I have a feeling that if we did a nationwide survey we’d learn that most people are washing their clothes too frequently. Over washing uses extra water, flushes detergent down the drain (not to mention microfibres along with it) and shortens the lifespan of our clothing.

My current approach to laundering my clothes is this:

  • I wash all of my clothing on the delicate cycle and hang most of it to dry on the laundry line in our basement. Even socks! This has made a huge difference, especially in the bra and underwear department. All of my clothing lasts a lot longer now that I’m not throwing everything in the drier. (I can’t tell you how many bras I’ve ruined this way.)
  • Clothing items such as sweaters and hoodies are washed on an as-needed basis. In other words, if they’re stained, dingy, or less than fresh. Same goes for jeans. I wear them a lot between washings (and I only have two pairs!).

This article published in the Guardian got me thinking about how often we wash things around the house. It’s interesting to note that different experts have wildly different ideas about cleanliness depending on their angle e.g. whether they approached the question as an expert cleaner or environmentalist. Some people would have us wash our jeans every day because of germs, others say the time to wash is when the item fails the sniff test.

There is no wrong answer (is there?), but I do think it’s important to be just as mindful of our laundry as we are about our recycling or turning off the lights when we’re not using them. What do you think?

02 Mar, 2019

Weekend reading: March 2 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

01 Mar, 2019

One dress, thirty days

By andrea tomkins in Challenge me, challenge you

A long time ago I remember hearing a story on CBC radio in which a woman wore a plain grey track suit everywhere she went as a personal challenge. I don’t know how long she did it for – I’m guessing it was a month or longer – but she wore her sweats to work, on dates, to fine dining establishments… everywhere. I was fascinated. Talk about gutsy! I wish I could hear the story again because the idea has stayed with me for a long time even though I don’t remember the details.

What happens when you defy the norm as it pertains to clothing and people’s’ expectations related to them?

CLOTHING is so weird when you think about it. How would we explain it to a race of naked aliens? We drape our bodies with fabric to hide some parts and reveal others. We dress up for work, we dress for ourselves, for others. We dress to impress, to relax, for special occasions. There are clothing-related traditions, unwritten rules, and in some countries, laws. The way we dress depends on where we live, how old we are, how much money we have. Some of us try to dress older when we’re younger and dress younger when we’re older. Clothing reveals rank and privilege, and some people will pay any amount to look like they have that same rank and privilege, even going into debt to do so. A large industry decides what’s trendy and we follow suit, spending hard-earned dollars on covering ourselves. We wear clothing to express ourselves but if you wear the wrong clothing in the wrong place, you open yourself up to judgment and ridicule. If you wore your grey track suit to your job at the bank and then to the opera, people will think you’re off your rocker. But why? It defies logic, really.

I’ve been trying to figure out how I’m going to write about my ‘one dress’ challenge here and how to articulate my thoughts about it. Perhaps I will start by saying: I bought a dress that I really like and I’m wearing it for 30 days in a row.

I bought it with some cash I got for Christmas from my mother-in-law. I bought it at a local shop called Flock and it’s made by Tangente, a local designer. (Here’s the dress on their website.) I knew I was going to buy it the moment I pulled it over my head. The cut was very flattering (if I do say so myself) yet the drape of it also very forgiving. As an added bonus, it is super comfortable AND, if that wasn’t enough, it was on sale. (YAY.) It was a done deal.

That being said, it hung in my closet for a few weeks before I finally pulled the tags off and put it on. You see, I had bought it with work in mind, as something to wear to the office and to work-related events, but the truth is that I am only in the office a few times a month and attend work meetings and events once or twice a week.

Some of you may recall the book I’ve been working on about our family Shopping Embargo. (In a nutshell, our family refrained from buying anything other than groceries and essentials for a full year.) I thought and wrote a lot about the things we buy, and why. Of course, one of those things is clothing. Once upon a time, the process of obtaining clothing was a lot more complicated. Someone made fabric, fabric was purchased, a pattern was designed, and clothing was made. That item of clothing had to last for a long time. Women updated dresses by taking them in, letting them out, or switching out collars and buttons and adding accessories. If something on the dress wore out, it was mended. Of course I am oversimplifying, but you get the picture. People definitely did not have closets of clothes that were full to bursting. With the advent of technology, fabric prices went way down and the production of clothing went way up. Fast fashion is now a way of life. We fork over pocket change for a fun t-shirt that’s made somewhere far away and wear it a few times before consigning it to the rag bag, a donation bin, or a landfill. This is not sustainable.

The textile industry is really bad for the environment, not just for the amount of resources they use, the conditions some people are forced to work in, but textiles themselves take up a lot of space in landfills. This is something we should be worrying more about.

The first day I wore the dress was to show it to my mother-in-law. It was only fair. After all, it was her cash gift that bought it for me! The next day Mark and I went to the National Gallery to catch the last day of the Anthropocene exhibition, so I wore it again. And that’s where I decided I could probably wear this dress for 30 days straight, if only to make a point to myself. This fabulous dress should not be saved for work days or special occasions.

The rules of fashion and clothing seem so artificial to me. It’s as if the “rules” themselves were made up by the clothing manufacturers themselves. Why is it considered weird to wear an item of clothing out in public multiple times in a row? Or the same dress to the office Christmas party five years running? Is it because we don’t want other people to think we’re poor, or dirty, or unoriginal? This deserves some investigation.

So I guess if I really drill down, the idea behind the ‘One Dress, Thirty Days’ project is to buy less clothing and wear it more. So that’s what I’m doing.

I’m on day seven and I’m already seeing some advantages. Getting dressed in the morning is a no brainer. I’m not spending extra brain cells or time standing in front of my wardrobe… which is a rather pleasant and unexpected benefit. I’m getting some high-fives from people on Twitter, which is where this is all taking place. (Follow #1dress30days if you’re keen to follow along.)

I’ve also confirmed (at least to myself) that I am terrible at selfies, but maybe this is the opportunity for me to step up my game a bit.


I confess that feel like I’m cheating a bit because this would all be a lot harder if I worked in an office every day, or a school, like this teacher does. She wore the same dress for 100 days. Now that’s something!

That’s all I have to say about this for now, but there may be more down the line. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about this issue, here are a couple of good articles to read:

24 Feb, 2019

Weekend reading: February 23 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading


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  • measured survey: If you are going for finest contnts like me, just go to see this web site everyday since it gives feature contents, thanks
  • Bridget: LOVED this post & so glad you enjoyed the dress! (-:
  • judi: can i use instant yeast
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  • andrea tomkins: Hi Judy! The oven should be at 450 and you don't cook the dough before the toppings. You put the rolled dough on your pizza stone or baking sheet, add
  • Judy: What temperature for oven for pizza dough, can I cook dough before the toppings
  • Judy: What temperature for oven for pizza dough. Should I cook dough before adding toppings or not

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark. We have two daughters: Emma (19) and Sarah (17). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. 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, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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