Could You Wear The Same Six Clothing Items For 30 Days?

Men Shopping for Clothing Accessories
Image by via Flickr

Interesting anti-shopping story from The New York Times:

This self-imposed exercise in frugality was prompted by a Web challenge called Six Items or Less ( The premise was to go an entire month wearing only six items already found in your closet (not counting shoes, underwear or accessories). Nearly 100 people around the country, and in faraway places like Dubai and Bangalore, India, were also taking part in the regimen, with motives including a way to trim back on spending, an outright rejection of fashion, and a concern that the mass production and global transportation of increasingly cheap clothing was damaging the environment.

Meanwhile, an even stricter program, the Great American Apparel Diet, which began on Sept. 1, has attracted pledges by more than 150 women and two men to abstain from buying for an entire year. (Again, undies don’t count.) And next month, Gallery Books will publish a self-help guide, called “The Shopping Diet,” by the red-carpet stylist Phillip Bloch. (“Step 1: Admit You’re an Overshopper”… “Step 9: Practice Safe, Responsible Shopping”… “Step 10: Make the Diet a Way of Life.”)

Though their numbers may be small, and their diets extreme, these self-deniers of fashion are representative, in perhaps a notable way, of a broader reckoning of consumers’ spending habits. As the economy begins to improve, shoppers of every income appear to be wrestling with the same questions: Is it safe to go back to our old, pre-recession ways? Or should we? The authors of these diets — including some fashion marketing and advertising executives, interestingly enough — seem to think not.

Sally Bjornsen, the founder of the Great American Apparel Diet (, said she was prompted to stop buying clothes for a simple reason: “I was sick and tired of consumerism,” she said.

I just spent two weeks living out of a suitcase while on vacation. I confess to taking more than six items, my excuse being….well, I didn’t need one. I flew business class so could afford to have more than 50 pounds with me. That sounds like a lot. It is a lot. But, (including toiletries and shoes and books), those ounces add up fast.

Thin summer clothes are the least of it!

If I did wear only six items for a month, they’d be:


1) black cotton leggings; 2) a black cotton tunic; 3) a white long sleeved T-shirt; 4) a gray silk broomstick-pleat skirt; 5) a dress; 6) a lightweight cardigan. Numbers 1,2,3 and 6 got the most wear in 14 days, aided by doing laundry enroute.


1) black wool trousers; 2) grey cashmere turtleneck; 3) brown cotton dress; 4) brown wool cardigan; 5) long black jersey dress; 6) a colored long-sleeved cotton T-shirt.

I like this idea, although I do think six is tough. I’d go for ten.

It also depends, for women especially, on your style, and ability and willingness to accessorize really well; (I own a gazillion scarves, which helps.)

In summer, you’ll be doing a lot of laundry (which is itself tough on clothes) and if you perspire heavily and/or live somewhere hot and humid, you’ll be wearing your undies a lot, and not much else. I just endured 90+ degree heat and humidity in three cities in a row and had to change into fresh, dry clothes every day. It’s also very difficult if you don’t have some bo-ho, home-based creative job or need to impress someone at a client meeting or job interview.

But I do applaud the notion of buying a lot less and wearing it well, cared-for and maintained, for years or more. I grew up in Canada, a land of lower incomes and higher taxes than the U.S., where credit card interest was never tax-deductible, so shopping like a crazy person — for a variety of reasons — just wasn’t something everyone did all the time. We bought clothing and shoes to last, not “disposable” fashion a la H & M or Target.

And, if you find shopping a bore and annoyance, owning many fewer things cuts that right out of your life.

If you had to pick six things to wear for a month, what would they be?

7 thoughts on “Could You Wear The Same Six Clothing Items For 30 Days?

  1. Ms. Kelly,

    Could? Did. One pair of pants and five shirts. With the caveat that I had to have something to wear while I was washing my six items! As you note, it is much easier when the weather cooperates. Of course, being as “fashion zombie” it was easy to do.

  2. Caitlin Kelly

    I bet this is easier for men, (sexist assumption, I know.) Just as long as you’re not the guy wearing only his undies standing in the laundromat…That’s a sad sight.

  3. geekysarah

    I actually do this in the winter, mostly because I’m walking around school a lot and I need to be able to do so comfortably…

    My 6 are: A long gray wool skirt (double thick and lined, it’s wonderful in the winter), 3-4 long sleeved blouses, 1-2 sweaters and sometimes a jacket. That’s about 3-4 months of cold fashion, and I’m always comfortable.

    I probably couldn’t do that for summer, only because I’ve acquired several shirts over the years which I love the colors on, and I love mixing up the colors for the week.

  4. Caitlin Kelly

    Gray is the key. Works with every color, and every neutral; black can be too harsh.

    I also love the economy of this — less time dicking around on vanity, more time to spend…doing things more amusing or interesting. I grew up wearing a school uniform and loved knowing I didn’t have to spend a minute deciding what to wear.

  5. Pingback: 10 Reasons the “Clothing Diet” is Ridiculous | Six Items or More

  6. Pingback: “Six Items or Less” Ridiculousness Scrutinized-Reason #1 | Six Items or More

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