Ethical Fashion

Undertaking the Six Item Challenge? Here Are Some Helpful Tips From Someone Who Has Accomplished It

Undertaking The Six Item Challenge? Here Are Some Helpful Tips From Someone Who Accomplished It
Frederique Gulcher
Think you can wear six items of clothing for six weeks? Six Items Challenge veteran, Frederique Gulcher from My Good Emporium, has advice for those considering it…

There’s a major trend toward minimalism. It’s not even environmentalists and activists anymore who are espousing the virtues of mindful consumption and living with less. Mainstream though it has become, even the most mindful among us would find wearing only six items of clothing for six weeks challenging, if not downright frightening.

That is exactly how I felt this time a year ago. I had made a commitment to myself and others that I would take on the ‘six items for six weeks’ challenge.

The initiative started by UK-based Labour Behind The Label asks participants to wear only six items of main clothing for, you guessed it, six weeks. Starting on February 14, the six weeks last the length of Lent, the Christian fasting and penance period before Easter. It is in effect a fashion fast against fast fashion.

Collectively, challenge participants raise funds and awareness about fast fashion’s ugly face, that of sweatshops were so many mostly young and female women work under terrible conditions for very little pay. Money raised goes to the charity’s garment worker rights campaigns.

Taking On The Six Item Challenge? Here Are Some Helpful Tips From Someone Who Accomplished It

Frederique wearing Breton top and skirt during the Six Item Challenge. There two garments made up her six item wardrobe. All images supplied by author.

At this time a year ago, I was having almost sleepless nights trying to figure out the best six items to commit too. In the challenge, you can wear unlimited activewear, underwear, shoes and accessories, as well as your uniform. Some people wear activewear out and about when not even being active, but that’s not the idea. This is truly about testing yourself, questioning the status quo, and forcing a different kind of mindfulness. It’s a diet, a detox, a cleanse, a purge, a true test of willpower, but I can tell you it is worth it! Why? Here’s why…

My six reasons for why you should do the challenge.

1. It’s always good to challenge yourself. If like me, you are passionate about sustainability in fashion and influencing change, then this is the fast for you.

2. You can shift attitudes. We really can live with less and make change for good, and this is the way to prove it to yourself, and perhaps more importantly to others. I told work colleagues, friends and family to beware that I was going to only wear the same six items of clothing for the next month and a half. They all asked why, which presented the perfect opportunity to spread the word about the problem with fast fashion. I truly believe I influenced people’s opinions about fashion and consumption as a result of doing the challenge, some of whom have made life changes.

Related Post: Ethical Fashion 101: The Top 5 Ethical Fashion Issues in the Fashion Industry

The 6 Item Challenge - Frederique wears Breton top and dress

Wearing the Breton top and dress.

3. You will have a lot of incredibly cool epiphanies as you do this. I don’t want to share too many as it’s about self-discovery and my epiphanies will be different from yours, but the one I had, which is frequently echoed by other challenge participants is this: people forget you’re wearing the same clothes! That’s right. People forgot I was wearing the same clothes day after day, week after week because what we remember and notice about people has more to do with our emotions and attitude and less about external appearance. I wrote on my blog that I felt people were more likely to remember a smile than what a person was wearing.

4. This is a holiday from the daily “what to wear” conundrum. You will actually learn to appreciate having more time in the morning because deciding what to wear is made easier with a minimal six-item wardrobe.

5. You have an opportunity to raise funds toward a very good cause. You win. The charity organisation wins. The garment workers they protect win. Get in touch with Caroline at Labour Behind the Label to sign up to the challenge.

6. You learn to care for your clothes. When clothes are worn every two days they wear out quickly, so you will learn to look after your fabrics incredibly well, ingraining a life-long useful habit. For example, I dabbed off stains to avoid having to wash and sewed up unravelling seams. I also learned about the benefits of organic cotton, and how it keeps shape, colour and doesn’t smell as much.

The 6 Item Challenge - Breton top layered over dress

Donning Breton top layered over pinafore dress.

The six items I chose to wear for the six weeks.

  1. Pair of black harem style pants with a silky texture. Great for dressing up and down.
  2. An obligatory white cotton shirt – this one with subtle blue and purple dying. It had capped sleeves with a small button, and a hemmed waist. It was perfect to cover the belt that cinched in the dress to make a skirt.
  3. A black V-neck organic cotton shirt from popular eco-fashion label Kowtow.
  4. A 100% pure linen lined peasant skirt at midi length that once was blue but had faded to a purple-blue.
  5. A black round neck, sleeveless button up pinafore dress, with cocoon silhouette from Kiwi label Kilt.
  6. A Breton-stripe, three-quarter length organic cotton top from Kowtow. Good for layering over and under everything.

Because of the change in season, the challenge does allow an extra item such as a jacket. I used the opportunity to make the most of a gorgeous statement piece – a bomber jacket with an embroidered floral tapestry. Because it was black-lined, I cut off the label and wore it inside out.

Related Post: Living With Less: Understanding Our Wants and Needs

Reversible jacket blk top & pants

Wearing the reversible jacket, black top and pants.

More than six tips to help you successfully complete the Six Item Challenge.

Tip #1: Go with what you already know works for you in terms of style, personality and practicality.

Are you more about comfort than style, figure-hugging or loose-fitting clothes, bright colours or sedate tones? I started the challenge with a rather stylish six items, one of which was a figure-hugging denim pinafore bought brand new for the challenge. After a week, I realised that this dress and other items were not suitable. What I found so interesting was that four of the six items I ended up with were all more than five years old. In fact, the dress and white cotton top were both more than 10 years old.

Tip #2: Create a capsule.

This means the six items should be interchangeable in terms of colour and style. Check out this post for guidance on how to build a capsule wardrobe.

Tip #3. Think versatility. 

I had a dress and two cotton shirts that could be worn over and under other items. My dress could be belted in to double as a mini-skirt under the white cotton short-sleeved shirt and look great. A quick note on this though – don’t try to be too clever. There’s no point creating transformer-like clothes if you wouldn’t be seen in them.

6 Item Challenge - Wearing Cotton top and skirt

Wearing cotton top and skirt.

Tip #4: Black is your friend.

My black harem pants and organic cotton v-neck were staples. With white trainers provided weekend wear, whereas high heels, a clutch and a gold necklace took me out.

Tip #5: Consider the weather.

You need at least one pair of trousers and one jersey item. I would’ve loved a cardigan, but it only has one use, whereas my three-quarter top had greater range.

Tip #6: Build to last.

You are going to be wearing these six items for six weeks, and washing them at least once a week (when you have a baby, it’s more), so choose items that will last the distance.

Tip #7: Accessorise.

I’m not big on accessories as I have a natural tendency to lean towards minimal, clean and modest looks – but when you have little choice, accessories such as belts, jewellery and even makeup can really change a look and offer you variety.

Breton top and pants

Add accessories to your six item wardrobe for more variety.

Tip #8: Don’t be too hard on yourself.

I changed four of my six items after the first week. I was disappointed in myself but I didn’t feel I was cheating. And one day I wore my puffer jacket because I was just too cold. This is about challenging yourself, not putting yourself through misery.

Tip #9: Use the opportunity at the end of the challenge to keep up your newfound minimalist habits. 

Curate your wardrobe carefully. Focus on quality and natural fibres, ideally from brands that have high standards of sustainable and ethical manufacturing practices. A smaller wardrobe that lasts longer is easier on you and the environment.

Have specific questions for me? Feel free to get in touch with me or leave a comment below.

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About the author

Frederique Gulcher

Frederique Gulcher

Frederique Gulcher is a freelance journalist and PR consultant based in the beautiful adventure capital of New Zealand's Queenstown. Through her master's research she has learnt a lot about what's wrong with fast fashion, and wants to change it. Passionate about the Kiwi sustainable fashion scene, she now specialises in supporting brands to grow successfully. Fred still writes content for mainstream and independent press, and also blogs about her own journey to sustainable and ethical style at My Good Emporium.

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