The Weekly Challenge is a column that tackles self-improvement seven days at a time.
A couple of months ago, during a particularly star-studded event at TIFF, I was chatting with a fellow celeb watcher about how if I were famous, I would recycle my red carpet wardrobe all the time. People talk about the "daring" fashion choices of Gwyneth Paltrow and Bai Ling, but I say true sartorial bravery would be (gasp!) resporting the same outfit. It would show that, even as a super famous celebrity, I didn't take myself very seriously. It might also set a good example for all the regular women out there who are currently suffocating under the weight of their own wardrobes.
In her 2011 book To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World, British journalist Lucy Siegle reported that the average British woman currently buys almost half her body weight in garments per year, and owns a whopping four times more clothing than she did in 1980. (Before you go getting all smug, the stats for Canadian women are on par.)
Buying a new outfit is among the most common forms of instant gratification and shopping is an incredibly easy way to stoke the embers of self-esteem: I feel dumpy, I better buy a new pair of $150 butt-sculpting jeans. It never works, though.
Sure, we might feel happy in the short term, but we're always left with too much stuff, too little money and a nagging feeling that we'd all be better off if everyone just walked around in potato sacks. So that's what I decided to do. Sort of. For one week, I opted out of the fashion rat race by selecting a single outfit and sticking to it, for better, for worse, for pit stains.
Sometimes the clothes do not make the (wo)man
I'll admit it took more than a couple of minutes to settle on the one outfit that would see me through a week of activities – work meetings, a cocktail party, a night out with the girls, Sunday brunch and endless hours spent toiling away at my computer. I settled on a striped jersey dress that is as comfy as PJs, but could be dressed up with accessories. It also washes quickly and easily, which was not unimportant. After a late night out on Day 1, I hung up my dress, and felt an unexpected sense of relief the next morning when I didn't have to waste time on the old what-should-I wear-today struggle.
It's not that I'm a particularly fashion-oriented person. Start talking about cuts or fall/winter collections and my eyes glaze over, but I do enjoy expressing myself through wardrobe. Or at least I thought I did. I can remember leaving private school after Grade 9; saying so long to homogeneous kilts and ties and hello to the trends of the era: baby-tees, combat boots, parachute pants. Looking back, I'm not sure what I was so thrilled about – I guess just the chance to dress as desired rather than as prescribed. Twenty-odd years later and I was feeling the opposite form of freedom – as much as choice is liberating, it can also be overwhelming.
Fashion tips from the lord of the flies
Since I am not a celebrity, and since this was only a week, I didn't have to deal with a lot of external judgment. On the third time she saw me, my best friend asked: "What's with the dress?" But if anyone else noticed, they didn't comment. Meanwhile, I felt an exhilarating divorce from my appearance and as well as a thrill resulting from minimal laundry and a lack of discarded clothing scattered around my room.
Of course, there were times when I was tempted to cheat. Wearing a dress to the grocery store first thing in the morning was annoying, and I definitely felt a bit blah heading out to a cocktail party in my stripes on night six. Still, the pros far outweighed the cons. There is that scene in David Cronenberg's The Fly where Geena Davis asks Jeff Goldblum why he has five identical suits hanging in his closet. He answers something to the effect of not wasting time on fashion frees his mind up to contemplate more important matters. I now know the feeling (important matters TBD).
Next challenge: Attention scuttlebutt spreaders! A new documentary claims that gossip is actually good for you (at least the kind that isn't malicious). Does being a cog in the rumour mill improve your life? Find out by tracking your gab habits for the next week. Do you feel better or worse after a good gossip fest? Share your experience at fb.me/globelifestream