What Wearing The Same Dress For A Year Really Taught Me

What Wearing The Same Dress For A Year Really Taught Me - Jessica Bohme
Written by Jessica Boehme

When I started the experiment of wearing the same dress for a year, I felt the need to let go of caring about my outfit. I have always loved fashion but I was also well aware of the ecological and social problems it can cause.

So I made the decision to do something about it.

Little did I know that I had no idea about the implications this would have on my life.

For a year, I have written and talked about the benefits of wearing the same dress. Next to saving money, what I enjoyed was light traveling and having more time for other important stuff.

Instead of listing all the benefits though, I want to talk about the real essence of the project.

Fashion history.

Why was fashion even invented? What was it good for?

At first glance, fashion can seem superficial.

But what became clear to me during the year was that the meaning of fashion goes way beyond its external appearance.

It offers a wealth of sociological and cultural insights. It reveals the dominating beliefs and thoughts of generations. An easy-to-grasp example is gender roles. When inequality was an issue, women weren’t allowed to wear pants. Coco Chanel was one of the first designers to promote pants for women all the way back in the 1920s. It was a time when it wasn’t just women’s fashion that became emancipated, but their lives in general.

Since the middle of the eighteenth century, fashion had been an issue of increasing importance, especially in the upper class. This privileged part of society were the only ones who were able to afford the costumes made of fine materials. It was not until the middle of the 20th century that fashion became accessible to a larger social class.

Industrial mass production made it accessible to the wider society. 

Fashion today.

Today, fashion has taken on more meaning than just where one sits in the social ladder.

Its meaning encompasses our identity, how we communicate to others and how we relate to our clothes. It’s about the how and where it was made. And under what conditions. Fashion is not just our outfit; the garments with which we step on the street, but also, its accessories, like the takeaway coffee cup we hold in our hands. And how the coffee in it was roasted.

Fashion is about the bike or car we ride and in which restaurant we eat.

Fashion is whether we eat vegan or raw or carbohydrate-free.

Fashion is where we decide to go out; it’s what we decide to read. It’s whether we drink alcohol or not, whether we are Buddhist or decide to practice yoga.

It’s whether we decide to have tattoos or not.

All these seemingly little decisions are important because they represent us – individually and as a society. Because we talk about it and we judge other people by it. And on the flipside, we’re also being judged by other people on our fashion decisions.

Fashion is about appearances, yes. But it’s more than that. It’s about revealing our personality to the external world and expressing who we are.

Throughout our life, we ponder existentialism: What should I do with my life? Who am I? How do I want to live?

Such questions are not trivialities – we are constantly concerned by them.

Day 196 of 365 days in one dress.

A post shared by Jess (@boehme_jess) on

And through our “fashion” decisions, we can learn so much more about ourselves. Fashion gives you a glimpse of what you are and what you want.

It is an essential part of life.

So even though I was wearing the same dress for a year, fashion was still very important to me.

Because through fashion, I share my lifestyle – and my lifestyle is fashion.

The pitfalls of fashion as a lifestyle

As fashion is a lifestyle, I asked myself, what remains?

What is left if every aspect of our life is fashion?

Because fashion has a high degree of standardization, the fashion world propagates diversity and eventually irons it out again. Trends are for the masses and not for the individual.

Fashion can become so powerful that it is no longer a matter of whether the clothing fits the body, but how the body can be adapted to the clothing.

Essentially, fashion and lifestyles focus on what happens on the outside – but its influenced by what’s on the inside.

After a year in the same dress and finally becoming free of my outfit as an extension of me and my lifestyle, I had an epiphany about fashion: it’s about balance.

Jessica Boehme - wearing the same dress for 365 days eco fashion challenge

Balance is the solution.

It’s an answer that makes it hard. Not just for me, but for most people who love to follow strategies and advice. Balance is nothing we can learn from others.

Balance is individualistic. It emphasizes to follow one’s own needs, wants and ideas.

But isn’t that what fashion should be about?

With all the meaning fashion has – both overtly and subtly – wearing the same dress can easily be thought of as a lack of possibilities. For me, it opened up more possibilities than I had ever considered before. It was the perfect way to express myself, my ideals, and my ideas – without getting wrapped up with society’s expectations.

Wearing the same dress for a year became my expression, it became my lifestyle, it became my interpretation of fashion.

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About the author

Jessica Boehme

Jessica is doing her PhD abut the connection of inner transformation, sustainability, and digitalisation. For the past four years she did scientific and lifestyle projects connected to this topic. She writes about changing the world and how to turn a sustainable lifestyle into an art form: unique, unconventional, self-determined.

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