This month, five USF students, four current and one former, are fasting their fashion.
The females wear the same dress – from dawn until dusk – everyday for a month. It’s called the October Dress Project.
Senior fine arts major Jessica Luttrull started the group with four of her friends. They got the idea from The Curator, a magazine and blog that “seeks to inspire people to engage deeply with culture that enriches life and broadens experience,” according to its Web site.
According to a chart compiled by the New York Times, the United States spends more money on clothing than any other country.
In her blog entries on Curator, author Tala Strauss describes the project as “anti-consumerism, pro-simplicity, anti-conformity (and) pro-imagination.”
The students said the project reflects the importance of simplicity in a world of consumerism and excess.
“It has taken the focus off of what I wear. I used to be a big shopper who depended on clothes for happiness,” said Megan Oleary, a senior majoring in elementary education. “Earlier this year, I gave away a majority of my wardrobe. There was a lot that I never wore. It was a big step for me in becoming more conscious of material possessions.”
The girls do not sleep in the dresses. They wash them regularly and sometimes wear them with other articles of clothing or embellished with accessories.
Luttrull said she has learned “there is creativity in limitations and beauty in the unexpected.” Wearing the same dress daily pushes the participants to explore their creativity, she said.
The group members meet regularly to look at photos of themselves and share the experience together. For Luttrull, the project is about deepening friendships.
“One common goal can grow a friendship. We’re all in this together, and it’s great to know that someone’s got your back,” she said. “I’ve learned that we really are all very beautiful girls – regardless of what we wear.”
It hasn’t been easy, and Oleary said it’s been good to have her friends by her side.
“If I had set out in this alone, I would have quit within the first week,” she said. “The group has given me accountability, encouragement and support.”
Oleary said some of the group found the project difficult.
“We thought about the major commitments in life, like the level of commitment in marriage. This project is just wearing a dress for 31 days. Big whoop, it’s not that big of a deal in the scheme of things,” Oleary said.
Oleary said the Dress Project sends the message that “women can join together to encourage one another in an effort to combat their own vanity and materialistic nature.”
“That is more beautiful and rewarding than any outfit you can find at the mall – and (it’s) cheaper, too,” she said.
With society’s “dress to impress” mantra, it may be expected that sacrificing variety in garments would result in ridicule. However, Oleary said she thought the project was going to be harder than it has been.
“After 19 days of wearing the same dress, I thought I would have self-confidence issues, wanting to look cute and wear something new,” she said. “Surprisingly, I have not had that desire. I do not feel the need to turn to a new outfit to feel good about myself. Without the project I would.”
The girls said it has been a beneficial experience with its emphasis of simplicity and creativity, but Luttrull said it also values thankfulness, which she thinks is important.
“God has made this amazing world just for us, and it’s these little things that give us a better reason to celebrate it,” she said.