Fashion fasts and feasts

Sheena Matheiken’s Uniform Project is the latest in a series of web-documented undertakings wherein a young woman wears the same dress every day for a month, a season, a year. Interestingly, though though all the project descriptions circle the same themes of beauty, image, creativity, consumption, discipline, feminism and femininity, each one winds up having its unique angle. Andrea Rosen’s A–Z Uniforms (1991–2002) has a definite performance-art edge; Alex Martin’s Brown Dress (2005–06) called itself “a one-woman show against fashion”; Tala Strauss wrote last year about her month-long Dress Project in terms of contemplation, fasting, and liturgy. The Uniform Project, in just its 48th day, consistently puts creativity and cuteness at the forefront, perhaps bending the sustainability goal to make way for an endless parade of accessories that are at times so comprehensive as to render the actual uniform superfluous. Interesting that the repeated-dresses in all these projects were dark colored and generally simple (perhaps at least partway explaining why the participants all report all being surprised at how few of their colleagues noticed the fashion-repeats; presumably a Lime Green Dress Project might play out a little differently. Or maybe not.)

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The Idea: Starting May 2009, I have pledged to wear one dress for one year as an exercise in sustainable fashion. Here’s how it works: There are 7 identical dresses, one for each day of the week. Every day I will reinvent the dress with layers, accessories and all kinds of accouterments, the majority of which will be vintage, hand-made, or hand-me-down goodies. Think of it as wearing a daily uniform with enough creative license to make it look like I just crawled out of the Marquis de Sade’s boudoir.

The Uniform Project is also a year-long fundraiser for the Akanksha Foundation, a grassroots movement that is revolutionizing education in India. At the end of the year, all contributions will go toward Akanksha’s School Project to fund uniforms and other educational expenses for slum children in India.

The Story of Uniforms: I was raised and schooled in India where uniforms were a mandate in most public schools. Despite the imposed conformity, kids always found a way to bend the rules and flaunt a little personality. Boys rolled up their sleeves, wore over-sized swatches, and hiked up their pants to show off their high-tops. Girls obsessed over bangles, bindis and bad hairdos. Peaking through the sea of uniforms were the idiosyncrasies of teen style and individual flare. I now want to put the same rules to test again, only this time I’m trading in the catholic school fervor for an eBay addiction and relocating the school walls to this wonderful place called the internet.


from “What’s This All About?,” by Sheena Matheiken, The Uniform Project, 17 June 2009 :: via GOOD, kottke, The Curator

Originally published at culture-making.com.

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