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Pre-2008 Posts

And One Dress to Rule them ALL: 365 days. one brown dress. a one-woman show against fashion

Ohmygoddess on high.

Those of you reading who do not know me well yet, and who haven’t been my  good friends throughout my reinventions of myself over the past 30 years, will not appreciate this as much as those who do know me well, including all my self-reinventions. Which does not at all mean you won’t appreciate this!

Feminists should love this project!  I cannot imagine why we would not!  It is the best!  And fundie women, all kinds of fundie, will love it!  And progressive, socially conscious women!  Around this project, so many women can enjoy a thoroughly satisfying group hug!

Alex Martin, the woman who is the subject of this post, is beyond a woman after my own heart!  She rocks!  She rules!  I cannot say enough good things about her and her project!  I  also cannot believe I did not hear of this project until today on my busride home from work, when I read about it in the Seattle Times.  And most of all, I cannot believe I didn’t think of this project myself!  It’s so obvious!  It’s perfect!  It’s brilliant!

Alex Martin’s project?  (And, as she describes it, “performance”)? She designed, made and wore one dress for 365 days straight.  Every single day.  She designed it with the idea that it would work alone, would be comfortable, durable, reasonably cute, would work when she was dancing (she is a dancer), gardening, cleaning, taking care of her baby, would work spring, summer, winter, and fall.

Here is the “mission statement” she wrote one year ago, when, on her birthday, she began wearing her dress:

I am making one small, personal attempt to confront consumerism by refusing to change my dress for 365 days.   

In this performance, I intend to reject our sweat-shop-supporting economy of over-consumption, and the bill of goods that has been sold, especially to women, about what makes a person good, attractive and interesting.  Clothes are certainly part of this image, and the expectation is immense.  The economic resources required to regularly purchase newly-manufactured clothing in retail stores are staggering – a hundred dollars for one new shirt? 

As a brand new working mom with a new family budget, these economies are coming sharply into focus for me.  Even my beloved second-hand shopping requires time, effort, and energy that saps my attention from the more vital parts of my life – being with my family, making artwork, tending the garden, growing my community, keeping a watchful eye on the government, reading new books, learning new skills, singing new songs . . .  I intend to make good use of my energy saved!

Influences – The project is influenced in part by the art/anti-fashion movement “Grey Sweatsuit Revolution”, in which participants attend a social event or public gathering wearing un-flattering sweatsuits as a statement against fashion trends and dictums.  It is also inspired by my view of our brothers and sisters who are citizens of the third-world, many of whom literally do not have a change of clothes.  Historically, I am bolstered and supported by the generations of human beings living in every part of the world before the industrial revolution, who wore day after day, year after year, only what they or their family members could weave, sew, or knit by hand.

For those of you who have known me for some years, this is real and true “simple living,” as I have believed in it, and taught it to thousands of women, and lived it myself, however imperfectly.  This is “what do I have in my hand?”  personified.  This is beautiful, responsible, and so, so freeing.  If you read Alex Martin’s journal, her journey is the journey of all women who — in whatever way it happens, including via patriarchal religious systems — find themselves free of concerns about clothes, fashion, how they measure up, their own personal appearance.  Projects like this, entered into voluntarily as opposed to imposed, coerced and enforced — a whole ‘nother kettle of fish — can free us from looksism.  They are a way through, and out, of patriarchal beauty standards.  Lived out day by day, they are consciousness-raising like no other. 

Well, you owe it to yourself to read Alex Martin’s journal of her 365-day journey.  On her birthday, coming right up, she is taking off her dress in a performance that is open to the public.

Read!  She is awesome!  And make sure to read the comments!  Then visit the Grey Sweatsuit Revolution!




5 thoughts on “And One Dress to Rule them ALL: 365 days. one brown dress. a one-woman show against fashion

  1. You know, that Grey Sweatshirt Revolution site is tongue-in-cheek, but there are some really interesting statements on that site:



    The battle against fashion needs to be fought differently. We cannot simply dress weirder than the mainstream in an attempt dull our sense of complicity with western consumer society. Dissent through conscious differentiation simply feeds the fashion system by providing it with fresh expression to appropriate.

    Look at trucker hats. Artists rip off the blue-collar worker because it’s cheap, edgy, ironic, kitsch, whatever. Subsequently the fashion system rips off the artists. Thanks for coming out rebel!…

    The fashion system operates as a parasite on the body of authenticity. It feeds off cultures and subcultures. The pattern is obvious and so should our reaction. Stop fanning the flames. Let that shit burn out. It’s boring anyway.

    The grey sweatsuit is our Trojan horse. We create a street trend, a visible statement, the system co-opts it without understanding it’s significance and then… BAM! Grey sweatsuits all up in the area! Our symbolism spreads like anthrax across the anorexic bodies of fashionistas everywhere! They look frantically for the next trend but there is nothing. Only grey sweatsuits. What’s hot for next season? How about the death of your vanity?

    The ultimate rebellion is to be generic and very comfortable. Fuck using clothes as a form of expression. Think of something more valid, like what you do with your time or what you have to say. See what happens when your clothes don’t speak for you. Oh shit! How will I be cool? Maybe I’ll have to participate in something…


    Then on Alex Martin’s FAQ, this statement:

    Is this a feminist thing? Probably. Also an art thing. Also a let’s stop wasting time and money thing. But on a feminist note, let’s stop agreeing that the best way for women (in particular) to “express themselves” is by purchasing new wardrobe items and putting together daily outfits.”

    Heck yeah.


    Posted by womensspace | July 8, 2006, 3:13 pm
  2. Okay, I have totally missed this whole entire blossoming movement. Dang. I love it.

    Here is an excerpt from Judith Levine’s book. She decided to go an entire year without buying anything beyond absolute necessities. Her book is entitled Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping.


    “Since September 11 the Consumer in Chief had been exhorting us to keep our chins up by keeping our wallets open. In his second post-attack address to the nation, he rooted for “your continued participation and confidence in the American economy.” Executive Vice-President Dick Cheney was more direct, expressing to NBC’s Tim Russert his “hope” that the American people would “stick their thumb in the eye of the terrorists” and “not let what’s happened here in any way throw off their normal level of economic activity.” In New York only a day after the towers fell, Mayor Rudolf Giuliani counseled his trembling constituents to “show your confidence. Show you’re not afraid. Go to restaurants. Go shopping.” The world was proffering succor, asking what can we do for you? The Mayor spoke as a true American. “I have a great way of helping,” he said. “Come here and spend money.” 1 The flaming buildings and falling bodies had momentarily turned the meaning of fortunes, even lost fortunes, to dross. After the attacks, people were talking about community and charity. Buying stuff lost its appeal. But rather than congratulate America on her newfound thrift and selflessness, the President and his minions were not so subtly making us feel irresponsible for staying out of the stores.

    “It was impossible to remember a time when shopping was so explicitly linked to our fate as a nation. Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the U.S. gross domestic product, and if the gross domestic product is what makes America strong, we were told, the marketplace is what makes us free. Consumer choice is democracy. A dollar spent is a vote for the American way of life. Long a perk and a pleasure of life in the US of A, after September 11 shopping became a patriotic duty. Buy that flat-screen TV, our leaders told us, or the terrorists will have won.

    “All this floats to mind in mid-December as I stoop to fish a glove from one of the little arctic seas that form on New York street corners after a snowfall. In the act I dip my paper shopping bag into the slush, allowing its contents to slump toward the sodden corner and begin to drop through. Frigid liquid seeps into the seam of my left boot. 1 “Merry fucking Christmas,” I spit at a foot pressing one of my purchases to the bottom of the filthy soup. The foot is attached to a leg bulwarked by its own supersized shopping bag. A mass of bags buffet me about the head and shoulders as I struggle to stand. I flash on the WalMart victim. This is freedom? I asked myself. This is democracy? As I heave my remaining shopping bag to dry land and scramble after it, I silently announce my conscientious objection: I’m not buying it.”


    Posted by womensspace | July 8, 2006, 3:26 pm
  3. Oh I love this. It inspires me. I’m in a hurry so i can’t comment more for now, but i iwll be back! Cheers, Pippa x

    Posted by Pippa | July 8, 2006, 6:43 pm
  4. I love this.

    So gald you posted about it, because I caught it in the paper out of the corner of my eye yesterday, but didn’t get a chance to read!

    This just RULES.

    Posted by Heather | July 8, 2006, 7:49 pm
  5. That is so awesome, Alex. I am so proud of you! I wish I had the self-control to do this, and also some sewing skills so I could make myself a dress like that!

    Posted by Katherine Smith | March 17, 2007, 12:54 am

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