Isla Fisher as Rebecca Bloomwood in Confessions of a Shopaholic (photo via Yahoo! Movies)
Those of you who follow Kendi Everyday have probably read her recent post about the Six Items or Less project and the NYTimes article that was written about it. If you haven’t heard or read about the project and if you haven’t read Kendi’s fantastic post about it, you should. The whole idea is that everyone involved could wear only 6 items of clothing for a month (but like the 30 for 30 challenge, accessories, underwear, etc. don’t count). The project is designed to promote reflection on consumerism, or rather, overconsumerism and waste. It’s definitely food for thought.
Kendi invited her readers to comment with their thoughts about the project, but after thinking about it, I realized I have too much to say about this subject to post only a comment. First off, I would definitely agree that most people today (myself included) want more than we actually need. Yes, I COULD wear only 6 items. That said, I think my husband put it best when I mentioned this whole idea to him--“Why would you want to do that?” For me, picking just 30 items was a challenge. To be honest, I’m already starting to get a bit tired of wearing the same things over and over, and I still have 11 days to go. I agree with Kendi that what you wear can affect your mood and confidence (plus fashion is just fun). Does that make me materialistic and shallow? Not necessarily. Here’s why:
I don't think that 6 items of clothing is realistic for most people. I have well over 6 items, and I definitely rewear things. Constantly. If I like an item, I will wear it over and over…and over and over. I do have a large wardrobe, but that is largely because I’ve had most of the items in it FOREVER. (Seriously, I still wear things from 8th grade, I kid you not.) I don't wear something once and then never look at it again. Does that make for an extremely interesting blog? Probably not. But it's a reflection of my real life. Since I do a daily post, I'm bound to post outfits made up of things I've worn before--otherwise, I'd have a very short blogging life because I'd run out of money for new clothes.
As you’ve probably noticed, I tend to have a more classic approach to my style than some. This is partly because I just generally think you can’t go wrong with timeless, classic pieces and partly because it’s necessary for my career as a financial professional. I’ve also found that these pieces generally are more well-made and survive fashion cycles better than more trendy items do, so they have lasted me longer. Which brings me to my next point—
If you’re only wearing 6 items at a time, are you really cutting down on waste and how much you consume? As a finance-focused person who also happens to like fashion, I have to wonder. Say you only buy 6 items, but you also only wear those 6 items until they literally wear out and need to be replaced. These 6 items will wear out pretty quickly due to so much use. Assume that your 6 items wear out after, I don’t know, 6 months (this would obviously vary depending on the quality of the items), so you have to replace the 6 items every 6 months. Now, on the other hand, imagine you bought 24 items and you mix and match them as you like. In theory, each of these items will last you longer since you will be wearing them less often. Based on a similar rate of items wearing out, your 24 items would last you 2 years. Over time, you’ve actually purchased the same amount of clothing--and I would argue that you’d be happier while wearing the 24 items than you would be while wearing only 6 (I know I would be). You could argue that you’d be happier buying only 6 items because you would get to shop again every 6 months, but I would disagree. Following the 24-item scenario, you are bound to wear some items more than others. When the items you’ve worn most wear out, you get to buy new ones, and mix them with other items from the 24 that may not have quite worn out yet, so your wardrobe is constantly more dynamic than the 6-item wardrobe would be, and you actually have not consumed more over time--you've just had more fun remixing outfits.
All this aside, I am a firm believer in living within your means, whether that means you have a wardrobe of 6 items or 100 items. It's all about limits, people. We need moderation in shopping, just like in other aspects of our lives. If the point of the project is to make people reevaluate their spending habits, then I’m all for it. I think it’s always a good idea to periodically take a step back and rethink your budget. If you read my blog, you’ve seen that I don’t spend a lot of money on any one item. The clearance rack is my friend, and I’m always on the watch for coupons and sales. Consumerism is only a problem when it gets to the point of spending more than you have. But if you’re well within your means (and—I have to say it—you’re also saving enough money for your future), I say go ahead and buy that 7th item. :)