The fashion master cleanse
As summer swings to fall, a fashion challenge arises: Can you make the transition on six pieces or less — six pieces already in your possession?
Heidi Hackemer, one of the co-founders of sixitemsorless.com, models her monthlong, six-piece wardrobe. (Photo courtesy of Heidi Hackemer / August 21, 2010)
But irony hangs even heavier in the air this year, with the approach of a second round of what started as a double dare between Kenosha native Heidi Hackemer, who works in advertising in New York, and colleague Tamsin Davies. Through Twitter and Facebook banter, the two became intrigued by the notion of a uniform — as a means of enhancing creativity.
"My friend and I got into a conversation about how much superfluous time we spend on what we wear," Hackemer, 31, said. "We were looking at Tom Ford and Steve Jobs, who have these uniforms that remove that stress from their life. Tamsin Davies said, 'Do you want to wear one outfit for a year?' I said, 'Are you crazy? No!'"
Reasoning their way to six items or less, Hackemer and Davies pledged themselves to that number of garments for 31 days. Exceptions and exclusions applied, including undergarments, pajamas, workout clothes — "items we wear out of necessity," Hackemer said — as well as that pillar of personal style, accessories (including shoes).
Launching sixitemsorless.com, they invited others to join the exercise.
Although austerity and advertising wouldn't seem to go hand in hand, many of their colleagues at other agencies elected to participate. So did non-advertising disciples as far-flung as Mumbai and Seoul, who posted "pain points" and paradoxes of wearing the same garments day in and day out.
On the positive side, some said they looked more polished because of an added brooch or belt to distinguish Monday's attire from Tuesday's. Among the pitfalls was trading one kind of hassle/consumption (clothing purchases) for another (frequent laundering/water usage).
"Six items or less was something we could wrap our heads around but would still test us," said Hackemer, who alternated among a black dress, black jeggings, black tank top, black blazer, gray skirt and gray cutoff jean shorts for the first cycle.
It ended in July, to some initial relief — "the dress I got sick of, even though it's a great dress," Hackemer said. But what resonated in the aftermath were testimonials of Zen-like enlightenment, expressed by the 100 or so "Sixers," as they came to call themselves.
"Probably my biggest takeaway so far is the concept of wanting what you have versus having what you want," said Stephen Riley, a 34-year-old creative director at the Leo Burnett ad agency in Chicago, who participated in the first round.
On the prosaic side, Riley said clothing quality and durability — or lack thereof — became more obvious. "This stuff isn't made to be worn this much," Riley said. "T-shirts, especially, and my poor button-up shirt are beginning to get messed up."
Jeans, however, withstood frequent use. "A lot of us found that we only wear one or two pairs of jeans total," which makes for an obvious purging prospect, along with "tons of shirts" that he already has donated to charity. "It taught me I need far less than I have or think I need."
He and Hackemer said no one even noticed they were on a fashion diet, "which I think was a common thing, which I think was funny," Riley said.
"If anything, this improved my personal appearance," he added. "I probably spent a little more time with upkeep. Sometimes I ironed. I tried to keep things fairly sharp."
Within the first week of the experiment, Hackemer said, "one thing I experienced was how much calmer my entire day was."
Now that she's back to a closet full of dilemmas, "I'm really getting annoyed with myself," Hackemer said.
Mid-September is the target kickoff for the second cycle. More than 1,000 people have pledged participation, with a variety of agendas and backgrounds.
"The thing that's funny is neither Tamsin nor I are modern hippies by any stretch. We're not into recycling our shower water," Hackemer said. "We made a very conscious point not to make this a finger-wagging exercise. Because of that, it's effected more change than if we had a 'consumption-is-bad' appeal. It gives everyone the freedom to bring their own motivation to the table. That's where change starts happening."