Wear only 6 items of clothing for month? No problem ... almost

Six looks by Melinda Mawdsley


Try on Six Items

Registration is going on now for a Six Items or Less challenge at sixitemsorless.com.

Six Items or Less, the brainchild of Heidi Hackemer, a strategic business director at the advertising agency BBH, and Tamsin Davies, head of innovation with Fallon London, has attracted plenty of international attention, so, you won’t be dressing alone.

You can even follow along as other challenge participants post comments about their experiences.

In addition, the Six Items or Less creators and participants stay in touch on Twitter, @sixitemsorless.

I thought this was going to be among the easiest things I have ever done.

Turns out, it was one of the more difficult.

Nearly two months ago, Laurena Mayne Davis, The Daily Sentinel’s managing editor, asked me if I would be up for trying Six Items or Less, a challenge in which participants wore the same six pieces of clothing for one month.

Before you get grossed out, I dug a little deeper at sixitemsorless.com and learned that underwear, swim wear, workout clothes, work uniforms, coats and jackets, shoes and accessories don’t count as any of the six items.

Trust me, I said, “Whew.”

Then I think I laughed out loud. This challenge sounded super easy. Being a competitive person, I decided I was up for the challenge just to prove that I could do it.

I started Aug. 3 and finished Sept. 3.

The only people who knew I was doing the Six Items or Less challenge were Davis and my features editor, Ann Wright.

I didn’t even tell my husband.

More on that later.

On Aug. 2, I went through my closet. We typically don’t wear jeans or shorts at the Sentinel, so I decided not to waste any of my six items on those.

Instead, I chose a denim skirt and a khaki-colored skirt that would work on weekends and for work.

I picked nothing appropriate for camping or hiking. Note: this challenge may be difficult for an outdoors junky with a job requiring a suit.

The shirts I selected were: a black sleeveless top with some beading at the neckline, a green cotton shirt with a few fake buttons, a blue T-shirt with a V-neck and a red, loose shirt. All have different looks. All are lightweight. The four shirts went with both skirts. I could dress every outfit up or down with different shoes and accessories.

I was pretty pumped about my choices.

Before we go any further, I would like to state that I am not a high-maintenance dresser. True, I pay attention to fashion, and I certainly don’t want people disgusted by the way I look, but I am not a fashionista.

Davis didn’t give me this challenge because I’m a shopoholic. She gave me this challenge because ...  actually, she never told me why she picked me.

Anyway, I made it through the first week of the challenge no problem. I threw all my clothes into the washing machine that Friday but didn’t bother to dry them that night. I didn’t anticipate that my husband would want to leave on a road trip early the next morning.

So, yes, I cheated on my first weekend.

In my defense, I had no clothes. Because I felt bad about cheating, I didn’t do my hair or makeup. I thought that evened things out.

From that point on, I made a mental note that laundry needed to be done more often and be ready for weekends.

The next 10 days, Aug. 10–20, went pretty smoothly. I even gardened one morning in a skirt.

The only significant incident during that time was on a Wednesday when I spilled coffee on my green shirt. I would like to apologize to my husband, who saw me get pretty angry and told me, “Uh, just change clothes.”

Normally, I would agree and would not have turned into a crazy person. However, in this instance, throwing the shirt in the hamper would have cost me an outfit, so I wore it anyway.

For the most part, though, the first 19 days of the challenge were pretty easy. I mixed up my shoes and accessories and got ready for work in less than 45 minutes. It was fantastic.

But after that is when things took an unfortunate turn for the worse.

My fantasy football draft was on Aug. 22 and I just wanted to wear pants, particularly my fleece Iowa Hawkeyes pants that feel — and look — like a blanket. I didn’t care that the pants weren’t one of my six items. So, yes, I cheated. Again.

The good news is that this moment of weakness powered me through the next work week. Although, by that point I was complaining about the challenge on a daily basis.

On Aug. 31 with just days left in my monthlong quest to take a stand against my wardrobe, I was ready to crack.

I actually had this internal conversation at the gym.

Me: “I probably shouldn’t wear my exercise clothes back to work.”

Me to Me: “I don’t want to put that blasted red top back on.”

Me: “Maybe, I’ll put the denim skirt back on but leave my exercise top on.”

I actually walked out of the locker room wearing the denim skirt and the white Hanes T-shirt that I worked out in.

Thankfully, for me and everyone who sits near me in the newsroom, I turned around and changed into my red shirt.

For the rest of the challenge, three more days, I was fine. In fact, on the final day of this challenge, I woke up early to do my hair.

Once I got to work, I asked my coworkers if they had realized that I spent the past month wearing the same six pieces of clothes.

Most looked at me blankly. Even Davis admitted it hadn’t dawned on her, and she gave me the assignment.

Honestly, I hadn’t really expected most of my coworkers to notice.

However, I did think my husband would notice.

When I asked him, he said, “You were?”

He shrugged his shoulders and acknowledged he pretty much does that himself, but all the time and sans a challenge.

So maybe no one really cares what we wear every day? Except us?

The challenge certainly makes you think about how much money you spend on clothes and what clothes are really necessary.

I will say, though, it felt amazing, and a little freeing, to get dressed after the challenge was over. It was like shopping in my own closet for a whole new wardrobe without spending money.

By the end of the challenge, I just hated those four shirts and two skirts, and I think that feeling would have held for anything I picked. (The only change I might have made to my six pieces would have been to substitute a longer skirt for the shorter khaki skirt to mix up the looks more.)

I admit I probably did not approach this challenge from a fashion angle. I selected comfortable clothing that could be worn in the summer.

But to address the fashion side of things, I asked Ivy Parnasius, owner of Pollux Clothing Co. in Grand Junction and Montrose, what she would have done.

Once she got over the shock of such a challenge, calling it the “worst diet” she could imagine, Parnasius digested her options for one week.

Here are Parnasius’ suggestions for separate summer and winter six-piece wardrobes:

• Summer — Five solid-colored dresses — black, gray and three brightly-colored to reflect the season — and one wrap that works with each dress.

• Winter — Five solid-colored dresses and one pair of leggings. The colors the dresses would be neutral to pair with the leggings.

The key to these outfits? The accessories.

“I would wear more than usual just to spice things up,” Parnasius said.

In case you’re wondering, because Parnasius was, outerwear doesn’t count unless it’s worn indoors as part of an outfit. For example, a black jacket that’s part of a business suit counts as an item, and the suit pants count as another.

In addition, per the terms of the challenge at http://www.sixitemsorless.com, multiples of the same item are acceptable for laundry purposes. For example, if you own several pairs of the same black pants, they all count as one item. But different colors of the same cut of pants — one pair is brown, one pair is black — count as two items.

Or, to paraphrase Six Items or Less co-creator Heidi Hackemer, make up your own rules. After all, she and a friend didn’t create this challenge with some social agenda in mind. She did it simply to see if she could.

Well, I did. Woohoo!

When I e-mailed Hackemer to tell her that I tried this challenge for a story, she was impressed.

Well, I’d like to think she was impressed when she wrote back, “way to take one for the story.”

Thanks, Heidi.

After all, who doesn’t like a challenge?


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