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06 January 2016

Ethical experiment: one outfit for one week

Ethical experiment: one outfit for one week

Do you know how many slaves work for you? Take this quiz here to find out. Today, 29 million people are trapped in a life of slavery. Many of the clothes we buy on the high street were made in sweatshops. 

To see what we can all do to consume ethically - taking into account environmental factors and the slave trade - members of the idea team challenged themselves to a week-long ethical experiment. First up was editor Amaris Cole, who wanted to cut down on the amount of clothes she buys, as she now knows many could have been made by slaves. Follow her blog here. 

When I took the Made In A Free World quiz about the number of slaves who work for me, I was disgusted to see the number 67 flash up. I knew that I had to do something to change it. While I love fashion and enjoy buying new clothes, nothing can be worth the forced labour of people working in awful conditions to make me a new top, which I may only wear a couple of times. So, in a bid to train myself into buying less and wearing what I already own more, I'm going to wear the same outfit for seven days in a row. If an image-concious person like me - who many colleagues have today revealed they don't think ever wears the same thing twice - can do it, we can all cut down on our consuming, and use our money and time for more beneficial things, like campaigning for companies to make their supply chains slavery-free.

DAY ONE - Monday, 11 January

And so it begins. Last night I tackled the difficult task of finding an outfit that would take me from days in the office to meetings with PRs and on to birthday drinks. I settled on black trousers and a white shirt - inspired! - along with a jumper and long waistcoat for colder days. Pictures to follow.

I haven't entered into this lightly. I love fashion and I guess I use clothes to express yourself - whether we like it or not, our society still makes its first assumptions on us before we've even opened our mouths. In the last week I've read many articles about people who choose a 'uniform' for work, buying multiple version of the same outfit in the belief it boosts productivity and cuts their morning routine down amazingly. I've also read about others who mix it up slightly, but still just wear variations of the same look each day, believing a consistent style has professional benefits - think Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, Anna Wintour. But the main purpose of my challenge is to show me I don't need to buy quite so many clothes, as the ones I have can be worn more often and in different ways. Will it work?

It's only day one, but I've already created a list of pros and cons about wearing just one outfit for an entire week. 

Pros:

  • Getting ready in the morning takes about one third of the time it usually does.
Cons:
  • I chose a white, cotton shirt. See below.  
  • You can't eat soup because you're so scared you'll stain your white shirt that you have to wear for another six days.
  • Ditto coffee. 
  • And red wine. (I'm guessing, don't worry, I haven't tried that one. Yet...)
  • The shirt was covered in creases approximately five minutes after being put on. My iron is going to be very busy this week.  

Here's to another six days... 

DAY TWO - Tuesday, 12 January

Again, I was up and out of the house in record time this morning, and the panic that filled me about spillages yesterday has been quieted by the addition of my chosen jumper for the week. Colleagues that know about my challenge gave a little chuckle as they eyed me up and down this morning, but those who are unaware are yet to notice. It will be interesting to see when/if they notice. If they do, will they say anything? I will keep you posted.

The biggest problem I have today - outfit-wise - is how on earth I'm going to get my shirt washed, dried and ironed in time for tomorrow morning, as the Evangelical Alliance netball team a late game at I won't get home until after 9pm. Why, oh why, didn't I choose something doesn't need ironing... 

While my experiment may be an extreme, today I discovered the #30wears campaign on social media, which is a great way to view clothes and how we wear them. It's encouraging people to go through a thought process before buying something; first, ask yourself if you need it. If the answer is yes, go and buy it. If it's no, then ask yourself if you will wear this item 30 times or more. If the answer is no, put it down - however much you want it. But, if this is going to be something that you cherish and something that you will wear a reasonable number of times, then you can buy it. I'm sure to many of you this will seem common sense, but in an age of fast fashion and getting whatever we want, this could be a really useful way for some shoppers to change their behaviour. 

DAY THREE - Wednesday, 13 January

As the alarm buzzed at 6am, I once again asked myself why on earth I'm doing this challenge. But I didn't have time to ponder for long. I usually pack my bag in a few minutes, head to the gym, get ready for work there following my work out, and then head for the station. This week though, laundry is king. After waiting up until 11.30pm for my clothes to come out of the washing machine, I had to iron my outfit. Safe to say, my thoughts about this shirt are becoming increasingly impure... 

Once the deed once was done and I was on my way to work, though, I stopped thinking about it. In fact I got through most of the day without giving my appearance any thought. I realised on my journey home that I hadn't looked in a mirror all day, which is a rarity, as I usually sneak a self-concious look in a reflective service whenever I can, for fear of some disasterous wardrobe mishap or a slick of lipstick on my teeth. Perhaps a work uniform really can be beneficial, after all. 

DAY FOUR - Thursday, 14 January

I'm bored. Yes I can get ready in minutes. Yes I'm becoming increasingly less concerned with my appearance and yes, I don't think anyone had even noticed I've worn the same thing for four days. But I'm desperate for a change! Three more days to go... 

DAY FIVE - Friday, 15 January

I can't believe I'm admitting this, but I'm not wearing clean clothes. In fact, I've got a feeling they've crossed into the 'dirty' category. The washing just got too much, and I decided instead to just wear my jumper today and use a lot of perfume. Yuck! But aside from the cleanliness issue, day five is going well. I'm rather bored, but I'm surviving. 

A colleague asked me yesterday if I'd consider adopting a work uniform after this - a less extreme version of this challenge, where you stick to one style or colour, but can have multiple outfits or versions of the same outfit. I read about it here, and while it seems like a fantastic idea to cut down on stress and perhaps increase productivity, I do miss the creativity of my wardrobe. 

I'm sure I sound like a drama queen to many of you. And I am. But I really do feel like the clothes I wear say a little about who I am. And that changes day to day. 

The challenge has been easier than I thought emotionally, but logistically a real pain! I have just two days to go, but those two days are the weekend. Will I get through brunch, a birthday party, church and a Sunday roast in my trusty black trousers and white shirt? Here goes...

DAY SIX - Saturday, 16 January

Text from friend: "What are you wearing tonight? xx" Hahahahaha.

DAY SEVEN - Sunday, 17 January

I MADE IT. After being housebound for most of yesterday - this cold snap means my shirt takes forever to dry - I celebrated with a lovely roast dinner at a local pub. As it was the last day of my challenge, I didn't even have to worry about spilling the gravy.

While I'm in no rush to repeat this challenge, I've learnt a lot. I won't be wearing the same outfit for days in a row again, but I am going to change the way I shop. In an ideal world, I would only buy clothes produced ethically. I'm planning to try to do this where possible, but to also implement the 30 Wears idea. My eyes really have been opened to huge injustices of the fashion industry, and I'm going to try to do more to right these wrongs through my consumer choices. Will you join me?