Friday, February 25, 2011

Slow Fashion: Of Fashion Diets & LBDs

Slow Fashion can mean many things: a timeless or flexible cut that means you can wear it for longer; the use of high-quality and/or environmentally-sensitive fabrics, and socially- and environmentally-sensitive production techniques; buying vintage or swapping with friends; incorporating local crafting traditions into the design, or using local labour for the manufacture; making, embellishing, or mending your clothes yourself; or having your clothes custom-tailored (or knit or crocheted). Essentially it involves taking the principles of slow design and applying them to your closet.

Lots of people are blogging about their slow fashion resolutions, which have been dubbed 'fashion diets'. Kim at Preloved Reloved (via the Jorg & Olif blog) is going to buy only second-hand clothes for a year. Participants in Six Items Or Less are blogging about whittling down to, and living with, only 6 items of clothing for a month. Participants in The Great American Apparel Diet are not buying new clothes (but are allowed new accessories and gifted items) for a year; Australian blogger Kate from Fashion Fasting tackled the same challenge last year. Participants in Project 333 wear 33 items or less for a 3-month period. I'm sure there are many more individual bloggers I haven't discovered yet, since fashion diets and fasts have become popular enough that the idea has been covered by Trend Central and the New York Times. (Please, feel free to mention anyone I've missed in the comments!)

Perhaps the best-known fashion fast involves something most women already have in their closet: the essential Little Black Dress first designed by Coco Chanel. In year 1 of the Uniform Project, Sheena Matheiken wore a single versatile LBD (well, 7 copies of it) every day for a whole year, styled to create hundreds of different looks using only items that were already in her closet, or donated items that were either vintage or handmade. She was inspired, in part, by how kids who wear school uniforms always manage to find an inventive way to make the look their own - and she used the project as an inventive fundraiser for the Akanksha Foundation, who educate children living in slums in the Indian cities of Pune and Mumbai and are co-organizers of the InspirED conference on innovation in education for India (I highly recommend that you check out Sheena's TEDxDubai talk - hugely inspiring stuff.). Now that Sheena's year in the LBD is done, the Uniform Project has moved on to one-month Pilots where people wear one outfit for a month to fundraise for a cause of their choice, with the new outfit design (mostly LBDs, but also a jumper and a two-piece suit, so far) being sold on the site. They also sell a new version (tweaked for fit) of the dress that Sheena wore (and a sewing pattern for it). That is also the dress that One Dress Protest's Kristy Powell is wearing (without accessories) this year; Kristy's year in an LBD also differs from Sheena's in that instead of posting daily fashion photos, she's blogging about her thoughts and peoples' reactions to the sociological and philosophical implications of the project. 

Meanwhile the designer of the original version of the Uniform Project dress (Eliza Starbuck) also is selling it as part of her capsule collection through her Bright Young Things website, and profiling buyers who are doing one-month Wear-a-thons. 

You don't have to go on a full-on fashion fast to take a slow fashion approach to your wardrobe, though. Start simply, by going through your closet, keeping the stuff that fits well and makes you feel great, donating what you never ever wear, and thinking differently about what you buy. (Recent stories in UK newspaper the Daily Mail suggest that the average woman has 22 things in her wardrobe that she never wears, 12 of which don't fit. Wow.). I think the advice for creating a timeless capsule wardrobe in these two posts is a fantastic place to start (boys, try this link instead). 

Inspired by what Sheena of the Uniform Project has done, a friend (hi Asia!) and I planning a ladies-only fundraiser tweetup where everyone shops their closet, and wears a basic black outfit, accessorized creatively to showcase their personalities. We thought a cocktail party like this could be an amazingly cool way to simultaneously fundraise for Uniform Project's charity of choice and a local charity  (Like, cool enough to inspire copycat events in other cities.). We're calling it the Little Black Dress Party (or, #yegLBD using the hashtag convention of #cityEVENT); likely in April, with the date to be announced once we nail down the venue. I'll do another post with all the details then.

I'm also following my own advice and cleaning out my closet, and plotting which fashion diet to join. The prospect of using a big purge and one-month-or-more challenge to help define my personal style and explore my relationship to fashion and consumerism is really exciting!


  1. I'm trying not to buy new clothes for 6 months although I'm allowing myself to get some accessories. For a shop-a-holic like myself, this is a huge step :) Can't WAIT for LBD!

  2. @Judy: Wow, good for you!!! I'm not a shopaholic, but I do have trouble saying no to thrift-shop scores. And Etsy finds. Ok, maybe I am a shopaholic too. =D My first step is to clean house and take inventory, with the help of Angel and Nicki and a big bottle of wine - aren't they amazing friends? Once I've done that I'll have a better idea whether I have the makings of a capsule wardrobe without further purchases, and which of the challenges would best suit me...

    #yegLBD is going to be amazing!

  3. Just found another fashion diet site: - but you need to log in to their site to even read their about page, because they are JUST starting out and looking for beta users. Also check out their twitter feed @tenpieceorg

  4. Thank you for including me, Deborah. Great article and I love what you're planning.

    PS. There is no option for me to post as using my blog address, so I've had to use my personal gmail account.

  5. A twitter friend just alerted me to ...she's taking cheap, fugly thrift-store finds and remaking them into fabulousness. Great stuff.

    @Kristy - My pleasure! Yeah, that's the trouble with using a ready-made platform like blogspot, it doesn't come with a lot of options... =(

  6. One more link I just had to share in relation to this post. Genius stuff at

  7. Another link to share: the 30 For 30 Remix Challenge for fashion bloggers. There might be lessons in what these bloggers are doing for those taking part in Project 333.