What to wear

Here’s how I knew I need to go on a clothing diet: Yesterday I read about Six Items or Less in the New York Times, and, while I felt inspired by the people who restricted their wardrobes to a bare minimum of items for a month, I felt more inspired to buy more clothes.

Specifically, I felt that I needed a pair of jeggings — an item of clothing I’d never heard of before, denim-ish leggings. Clearly the perfect thing to straddle the line between casual and hip. I also thought I would do well to get some more black tank tops, and a versatile black dress that could be accessorized to be dressy or day-to-day. I started searching online for an ideal pair of jeggings, ignoring the nagging thought that my closet is crammed to full to fit even a tiny pair of jeggings or leggings or even flip-flops; my two bureaus are overflowing with clothes; and I have yet more dresses and coats and stuff in the basement and garage.

Eventually I convinced myself that I would rather attempt a six item clothing diet with only clothes I already own. I consider this bit of shopping self-control a major win already.

The idea of a clothing diet is this: Choose 6 items of clothing and wear them, and only them, for a month. Underwear, socks, and pajamas don’t count; I’m also not counting workout gear, nor clothes for yardwork (still have a half a yard full of forsythia and regrown weeds to battle in the next few weeks). If you have several duplicate items, like white t-shirts or black tank tops, you can count that as a single item since it really just reduces your laundry efforts. Accessorize in any way you please.

I’d previously thought of trying something like The Uniform Project, in which a woman wore the same dress (actually multiple copies of a dress) every day for a year. But the focus there was on creativity, whereas I’m more interested in simplicity and focus.

I’ve thought often of adopting a uniform, like Steve Jobs and his black turtleneck/blue jeans, or like habits worn by the nuns at my grade school. How lovely it would be to not fuss each day about what to wear, I’d think. Over time I have in some ways simplified my wardrobe, color coordinating it so that it’s easy to mix and match. Even so, it still takes time and mental effort each day to choose an outfit. And I’ve hesitated from making a commitment and really sticking with a uniform of my own.

No more. Starting today I’m wearing these items for a month:


Long black skirt
Light-weight khaki pants
Brown knit capris
White t-shirt
Black tank top
Crinkle-dyed embellished top

The big decision was whether to include a jacket, for client meetings. In the heat of this summer I haven’t worn a jacket in weeks, so including one would feel like a waste of an item for this project. And over the next few weeks I don’t anticipate many meetings with new clients — we’re mid-project on several jobs. If a meeting does come up I may be able to squeak by with the embellished top and skirt, or black tank and a scarf.

One of the interesting points that the Six Items of Less participants made was how few people even noticed that they were wearing the same clothes over and over. In part this may show how clever folks are at accessorizing, but I think it’s also true that people on the whole don’t notice what others wear. Will anyone notice that I’m wearing the same clothes every day? I’ll let you know.

Want to join me on the diet? We can be our own support group, ready with a calming word when the compulsion to buy just this one awesome pair of pants feels too much to bear. We can do it!

3 replies on “What to wear”

  1. No, I will not join you! I’ve already been living out of a suitcase—containing probably more like twelve items of clothing—for the last two and a half weeks, and while it’s not been terrible, I can’t wait to get home and have more choices again.

    Which is not to say that I don’t desperately need to go on a clothing diet. I have enough clothes that as long as I neither grow nor shrink significantly, I could probably make it through the rest of my life without ever buying anything new except underwear and wool tights. But I take too much pleasure in dressing like a kook to whittle it all down to six, or even sixty, items. Though maybe that should become a goal . . .

    Good luck!

  2. I suspect this experiment would be easier for boys than girls, since girls are expected to look interesting every day while boys are rewarded for simply matching their socks.

    Also, I’m impressed that you opted to avoid the utility of jeans, which would have created 1 or 2 more slots for non-pant items. Or a PodCamp Pittsburgh t-shirt, which is suitable for business meetings, weddings and funerals.

    Best wishes on the battlefield of perception. I look forward to hearing just how few people notice anything.

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