Sounds like a fashionista’s worst nightmare. And yet, Aimee Lambert Poor ’84 dreamed up the idea for herself last fall in an effort to suspend the mental energy spent thinking about what to wear and to simultaneously raise awareness and money for those who may only have one outfit because they are homeless. She asked friends, family and colleagues to pledge money for each day she completed wearing the dress. She then donated the funds to a Swedish charity.
A government major while at Wheaton, she teaches fourth grade at a bilingual school in Stockholm, Sweden, where she has lived since 1995. Her effort, which she dubbed “One Dress 50 days: Uniform Hunger,” took place from September 1 through October 20, 2010.
Her model behavior became all the rage in the media, including in Metro Stockholm, a Swedish national public radio program; on a morning TV show; and on fashion blog scandinavianfashion.net/2010/09/03/one-dress-50-days-uniform-hunger/.
“Several years ago I decided it was time for me to support a local charity in a concrete way. I have been so lucky in my life, and had made a new friend whom I greatly respect, and she influenced me in this regard. At about the same time, I read about a young designer who created a dress that could be worn for 100 days. I thought that was really interesting. I kept that idea in mind and casually wondered if I could find a dress I could wear for 100 days. After consideration, I thought 50 days was more realistic. I also decided it was time to examine my relationship with clothes and the excessive time and energy I spent on thinking about clothes, shopping for clothes, dressing in the morning, packing for trips.
The frock of choice?
A $40 Calvin Klein gray jumper, purchased at a Marshalls in Bedford, Mass., where her parents live.
“I didn’t check the material when I bought it, and overlooked the need for dry cleaning! But I couldn’t dry clean the dress due to the project constraints, so after about 10 days I took a big risk and washed it by hand one night. All was OK…. I am a teacher and work up a good sweat nearly every day, so out of respect for my class, colleagues, friends and husband, I felt I had to wash it. The very first day I spilled some lunch sauce on it!”
There were some other challenges, too.
“I vowed to wear the same dress for 50 days straight. The only exceptions were when I slept and when I went to the gym. I quickly realized I couldn’t ride my bicycle to work, as the cut of the dress was too tight and I didn’t want to have an accident and damage my dress until the project was completed. So I usually walked to work.”
She raised nearly $1,500 for Föreningen Ny Gemenskap (New Community Association), a non-profit civic group in Stockholm that helps vulnerable, disadvantaged and homeless people.
Was it worth it?
“Absolutely! ‘One Dress 50 Days: Uniform Hunger’ has become one of the best experiences of my life. During the project, conversation with colleagues, friends and family became more interesting. Nearly everybody has an opinion about clothes, uniforms, the project, wearing clothes for a long time, the role of clothes in their lives, our consumer-based lifestyle. The project gave me so much to think about. I kept a daily diary of issues, thoughts, emotions, ideas and opinions that were raised. I noticed how much less laundry I had. That meant using less water and draining less detergent into the water pipes. One colleague wore the same top Monday through Thursday in solidarity. My mother has decided not to buy any clothes for a whole year. I felt an odd sense of freedom during the project. It was so easy to dress in the morning, and my class and school where I work were fantastically supportive and excited.”
Photo by Bruce Henry Lambert