One Dress Protest is me, Kristy Powell, wearing one dress for one year in order to protest the ideas and motivations behind how and why I wear my clothes. Over the year I aim to challenge the ways identity is constructed through clothing, what sustainability means for consumption, how our perception of others is so often based on external presentation, and what “fashion” ultimately means for me going forward.



Aug 23 12
{day }

Well, Hello There!

It’s been nearly 8 months. I’ve meant to write an update post so many times but there’s something about absence that encourages continued absence. At least that’s my experience of it.

So just a couple days ago I posted the blog I wrote that was to be posted on January 2nd, the last day of my 365-day protest. It was written and ready to post then. I did in fact complete my protest, all 365 days of one-dress-wearing. Nevertheless, I still can’t believe I made it through the entire year and then managed to not post my final, “I did it!” post.

But I’ve been a bit preoccupied ever since that last day of my protest. Let me explain.

On January 2nd, the 365th day, I woke up to learn that I was pregnant! Holy mix of emotions. The day one thing was ending, my knowledge of another beginning jumped front and center. I was beyond elated; I wanted to be pregnant very much so. But I was also beyond overwhelmed with the amount I had to process.

 

Talk about moving from one great upheaval to another. I was on my way to being a mama! The one thing I’d wanted as long as I could remember, with every ounce of my being, was happening.

And my protest ending, something about which I had many mixed emotions, was happening at the same time.

The following weeks were admittedly more about processing the news of our growing family. I washed my dress, hung it to dry a final time, unpacked boxes of hardly-remembered clothes and was immediately greeted with a stressor I had come to live without: without my one dress, what would I wear next!?

I decided I would wear whatever fit. I’ve had a really wonderful pregnancy, relatively symptom-less in fact. No morning sickness for me, just weight-gain right from the start. For maybe a few short weeks I had my pick of my recently unpacked closet (talk about overwhelming!). But at that point I didn’t want to wear what was in my closet. I was so frustrated that I had to choose something to wear. I felt spoiled by my dress, and like all of a sudden I was being punished. I would find myself complaining my way through getting dressed. Sometimes I would lay down on the bed half dressed, exhausted at the thought of finishing the day’s outfit. I think I even made Russ pick out clothes for me to wear a time or two. Once an outfit was picked I’d wear it for a day or two just to avoid putting myself through that daunting process of choosing something else.

What I found myself most frustrated by was the fact that whatever I put on all of a sudden felt like it was supposed to say something about me, about my last year’s experience, about my intentions moving forward, about my preferred style, etc. And really, all I wanted it to say was, “I’m not naked, I had to do this to be acceptable in public.” If I put on tattered sweats, that sent a message. If I put on a cohesive and relatively stylish outfit, that sent a message. If I dressed of a certain style or of another it felt like that was what I had emerged from my year desiring to present myself as. I didn’t. My complex relationship with clothing had apparently not been resolved by wearing a dress for a year. While I learned so much about myself and society, it was incredibly apparent that I still had my work cut out for me and that, in many ways, the hardest work was just ahead.

Of course, this new process was slightly stifled by my quickly-changing body and some new thoughts that began to cloud my brain.

As I said above, I began gaining weight pretty quickly, and though I wasn’t noticeably pregnant, I was certainly plumping up. So as I said, I soon began wearing whatever fit. With this I found myself deep in an emotional mess of body image issues. For an entire year I wore a dress that pretty much hid my body, whether I wanted it to or not. And then all of a sudden my clothes displayed my body differently, and daily my body was changing right before my eyes. It was as though I had entered a strict rehab and was attempting to detox from my one dress wearing. The aftershocks were more violent and ugly than much of what I had experienced while under the influence. Because this was rather unpleasant (my heightened body image issues, that is), I attempted to sweep as much of it under the rug as possible and focus on the prospect of becoming a mom to the little person growing inside me.

A couple wise folks who had supported me throughout my ODP invited me to process my previous year with them. A few conversations and opportunities to share my story locally proved incredibly cathartic.

And then all of a sudden, a few months had passed, some issues had resolved themselves with time or I’d managed to attend to them with appropriate processing. My body continued to grow to support the life inside of me. And we found ourselves making more major life decisions, like where would we move for Russ to begin his doctoral studies

Just a few weeks ago I left my most cherished place of employment teaching Pilates in New Haven, CT, packed up our home there, said goodbye to dear friends who supported us through a very unique and in many ways particularly challenging time in the life of our young, and growing family, and moved the three of us to Princeton, NJ. Here I sit, 38 weeks pregnant, awaiting the arrival of our daughter, in our new home, ready as I can be to mother this sweet babe and welcome her to a world that we hope is able to care for her as much as we do, and as much as we hope she cares for it.

 

Aug 20 12
{day 365 - give or take 7+ months}

Dear Dress

*This was written and intended to be posted (but clearly never got published) on the last day of my ODP, January 2nd, 2012. Better late than never?! I thought I’d finally publish it just prior to sharing an update. Stay tuned.

Dear Dress,

You’ve been worn for 365 days, straight, as of today. I’ve worn you for every day of my 26th year of life. Tomorrow, I’ll be turning 27 and that means… a new age and a new article of clothing or two. You’ve been exceptionally reliable, and for that I’m both amazed and thankful. You’ve served your purpose, plus some. You’ve stuck by me and caused me very little trouble, with the exception of your shrinking at the beginning of this year. Now you have a hole or two near the seam where I had you lengthened, and you’re greyer than you are black, but you’re still a perfectly acceptable article of clothing that I, for one, appreciate.

With you by all my sides I’ve learned how little I’m happy living with. You’ve helped me work towards a more minimalist home and lifestyle all together. I’ve reconsidered finances and priorities. My husband and I have envisioned and re-envisioned what our family priorities and goals are. We’ve changed and grown as a couple. We like the path we’re on much more. We’re excited to bring children into this family equation, rather than being fearful of their financial impact and our ability to provide. We’ve discussed appropriate balances of work and play. I resigned from a job in order to live on less, work less, and enjoy a more balanced life. I delve more deeply into the world of environmental sustainability as a result of your impact on my life.

I became an activist with my husband as an outgrowth of my environmental convictions. I sat in jail for 3 days, on a very cold floor. In that particular instance, I wished you were a long dress, or pants, or a sweatshirt, or anything else to keep me covered and warm. But still, when all the other women were uncomfortable in their clothes after having worn them for three days, I was able to think… I’d be wearing this anyhow. And perhaps I wished you were something other than what you are more than just that once, but alas, you remained exactly what you are and exactly what I needed you to be. That degree of reliability and consistency is rare; it was nice to experience.

I wore you to meet my first nephew. I wore you on business trips. I wore you on interviews. I wore you to hike and to the beach. I wore you to grocery shop and to dates. I wore you to a wedding and through feet of snow. I wore you to garden and to parties. I wore you to work day, after day, after day, around colleagues that thought I was a bit too eccentric for my own good and assumed this was some juvenile antic. My husband has seen me wear workout clothes, boring pajamas, and you…. every day for 365 days. Talk about acceptance and support!

Ultimately, you’ve impacted me in some major ways. Certain convictions have been deepened, some relationships tested, some strengthened, my confidence shaken, uprooted, and re-rooted elsewhere. My marriage is stronger in, I think, noticeable ways. My bank account less depleted by mindless consumption, and thus, my planner less full with hours to work. I’ve realized that no matter the fringe quality to my desires, they are worth pursuing and worth being ostracized or judged for. Also, I’ve learned that when I step out and speak up for things I believe in, I’m likely to meet other like-minded folk that are likely to become dear friends, even if it means loosing a few others that don’t understand or accept some of my choices. With that, I’ve also lost friends and gained many with you by my sides.

I’ve affirmed in myself that I’m a bold person, whether I live a life that I share on the internet or not in the future, I’m likely to take alternative paths and challenge the status-quo. That’s nothing new, but I think in my early twenties I began to sink into the backdrop of mundane, all-too-typical—or rather, inauthentic—life. No more. You’ve provided just the right material and cover for me to explore and expose my truer self.

I know not where tomorrow leads, but I know that you’re on your way to your next destination, where ever that may be (a box under my bead, a compost pile – I don’t know yet, I’m still wearing you) and I’m entering my 27th year of life, forever changed thanks to your reliable cover. You’ll be missed, my one dress.

With love,
Kristy

Jan 1 12
{day 364}

The End is Near (Hardly)

I have worn this one dress for 361 days. That means I have 4 days left (as of today, I have 1 day left) to experience and fulfill this year’s intent. I’ve been rather silent as of late, but mainly out of necessity. While I left my last job in order to work less and do what I love more (Pilates, among other things), in the meantime I have overcommitted myself, filling all my time with work-related things. Somehow it seemed appropriate to commit to all sorts of projects that were of great interest to me; that is, until I somehow found myself working—and I use the term working loosely as much of it was volunteer or pro bono—as much, if not more, than before I left my position at the Child Study Center.

Anyhow, as of Christmas much of my work has subsided, and with 4 days left in my protest I find myself with the opportunity to write again. Over the past couple months I’ve had some of the most interesting thoughts with regard to this whole project/protest that I still intend to share. I’ve written them down and while I may be typing in jeans next time I write, I intend to document much more than I’ve been able to from these last couple months.

Honestly, it is sort of surreal that in 4 days I can bring the boxes of clothing up from the basement to sort through, I can wear jeans, I can wear a different black dress, and I can wear long skirts again! My husband can finally replace his now all-too-holey jeans with a new, less-drafty pair. Additionally, I could purchase clothing if I so choose, I could wear colored tops to work, and I could dress up for a date or down for a hike. I could return to the old me that wants all sorts of things, longs for the things she can’t have, and purchases what she can manage. I could fill my closet in far less time than I emptied it.

But, thankfully, I have few of these intentions.

This Thanksgiving I had my husband bring up a very large box of my clothes from the basement to go through. Having a day at home, I figured I should use it to begin going through all my old clothes. I was eager to go through my long-unused wardrobe. And over the past year as I’ve thought on what sort of clothing I like, what “my style” is, etc., I’ve come to a bit of clarity that I didn’t have before.

First, I should say, I do intend to return to my old clothes. For the longest time during this year I thought I would just continue to wear my dress after this year’s end. Yet sometime over the past three months I came to the conclusion that my continuing to wear my little black dress would be hiding behind the point of this entire enterprise – to learn to approach my clothing and consumption in a reasonable way.

Before I started my ODP I wanted so much, and I wanted it in every different style. I would sometimes even purchase things with great patterns or material or details, regardless of the fit of the clothing, and I figured I’d wear it enough to justify spending money on it. But after wearing the same dress every day for a year, wearing something enough to justify purchasing it has taken on a whole new meaning.

So while I intend to return to my old clothes—and to especially go through them so as to work from a much more minimalist wardrobe than before—I’m not limiting myself to any specific number of articles of clothing. I mean, I already proved to myself that I could make my wardrobe work for a year on one dress (plus a couple pair of shoes, and winter accessories). But to be incredibly honest with you, I miss v-neck tops; I miss dresses with waistlines; I miss pants that aren’t leggings.

Coming to grips with what I’ve missed over the year and what’s ahead after January 2rd comes and goes, I’ve decided to narrow down my wardrobe to something simple, manageable, and more “me.” Although at the beginning I thought my trajectory in this process would be to wind up wearing simple, earth-mother-y, boho-not-so-chic, granola, outdoors-y clothes, I’ve come to a greater self-understanding that that just isn’t me. I mean, it’s a small and authentic part of me, but not enough of me to justify having all these options for clothing, for each season, in addition to what I already have. What I am with my clothes is: classic, clean, feminine, elegant, artsy (I feel like this has to be included, but I’m not even sure how I mean it—I don’t mean like painter overalls or Williamsburg musician-chick). But if it doesn’t fit these categories, I don’t need it. And from here on out, I don’t need very much of it either.

But when I started going through my clothes, I immediately found myself exceptionally overwhelmed and putting it all back in the box as quickly as I could. Back down the box went to the basement. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to pair down at first glance of all my old clothes, many of which I hadn’t thought of or seen in my mind since the day I packed it into that box. Out of sight, out of mind.

It was truly a blessing for an entire year to not be influenced by my old clothes, or the option to consume more. I’ll have to pull those boxes back out any day now and re-attempt to go through them. I’m not sure that I expect it to go any better than it did before. I’m anxious about it.

Knowing me I’ll likely make some sort of master plan to help myself stay organized and sane through the process. I’ll be posting how it all goes as this process unfolds. I’m excited to return to a more typical clothes-wearing existence, as after a year of extreme action I welcome a more moderate, thought-out, reasonable and environmentally sustainable approach to clothes wearing and consuming.

Oct 27 11
{day 298}

“What’s Next” Anxiety

I am not a lazy blog writer. I am avoidant. There is a big difference. Let me explain.

Laziness requires little to no energy; in fact that is precisely the problem, not enough energy devoted to the execution of an activity. Avoidance on the other hand, requires an exceptional amount of energy. Do you know how much time I’ve spent in my own brain avoiding getting my thoughts out on paper?!

You’re probably wondering, naturally, Why has she avoided writing…? Let me first say this: no, I did not stop one-dress-protesting. With that said, I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed with a range of new feelings and anxieties about this whole endeavor. Allow me to enumerate them.

What began to creep into my brain with greater frequency about the time I posted last was, What on earth does next year look like for me in terms of how I’ll dress myself? What will consumption look like from here on? Honestly, I’ve been anxious about this since before I began my one-year protest.

For the first part of the year I was able to put these thoughts aside for the sake of presently engaging my ODP. It was a productive time. I experienced the day-to-day of wearing one item, it’s impact on my self-confidence, my thoughts on consumerism, my environmental awareness, etc. In fact, it was such an enjoyable and profitable time that up until recently I planned to wake up on January 3, 2012, and put my black dress on for day 366. Official protest or not, I planned to keep wearing the dress – not to gain attention or to continue a formal ODP, but simply because it was working! It was achieving what I desired (simplicity, self-confidence, sustainability, etc). I was content.

After the novelty of this thought passed, I began to think I’d just expand my wardrobe to a minimal number of similar, neutral, simple articles at the end of the year. This sounds reasonable and still provides plenty of room for growth (within limitation).

But then all of a sudden… I wasn’t content. I felt limited by my one dress (Isn’t that the point, Kristy?!). I felt boring. I felt mundane. I felt like what at first felt effortless, now felt lazy.

After a time of such growth and contentment I surprised myself that I was seemingly “over it.” Now to clarify, I’m not in the least over any of the reasons why I’m ODPing. And I’m not actually over wearing the dress. But my spirits have finally faltered.

Many are surprised I’ve enjoyed the personal and practical aspects of ODP as much as I have. Perhaps everyone thought I was just a glutton for punishment. But that’s not even close to what this has been like for me. Its been exceptionally liberating! Hence, to all of a sudden not feel content, it has, well, scared me, quite frankly.

I found myself wondering… “Did I fail?! … Is ODP a joke?!”

Now perhaps it seems like I’m skipping a few steps ahead with such bold questions. But I wanted this year to not be some wacky experiment for the year and then to resume previous habits and patterns. It was so funny to me that on every radio interview I’ve done for ODP I’ve been asked some version of: “Are you going to go on the craziest shopping spree of your life at the end of this year?!”

(Silent pause.)

Response: “You clearly haven’t read my blog.”

Yet as I’ve explained, all of a sudden I’ve started to feel boring, and bored with my one dress. I, all of a sudden, want to explore other avenues of self-expression through my appearance, which I’ve not needed to subdue for the previous 8 months.

Yes, I’ll complete ODP as it was originally planned, and I’ll do so with great excitement (I mean, one dress for one year? I’m still pretty stoked that I’ve gotten this far!). This year has been nothing short of absolutely fantastic.

But what I’ll do next year… I just don’t know.

Though I feel like I’m nearly over with this thing, I still have __ days to go! Which is plenty of time for more great change, so long as I can quell my anxieties and learn from the first half of my year of living presently and changing greatly as a result of taking on this crazy project.

That’s the plan for now. I’ll keep you posted on where I go from here once January 3rd, 2012 rolls around. Until then, I plan to keep posting on what’s happening while wearing the dress, not what I plan to do once my year is complete.

Sep 22 11
{day 263}

Fasting From Fashion

Apple picking to welcome fall!

I began my ODP with a clear thought in mind. That is, that ODP was not intended to simply be an exercise in radical minimalism. I wasn’t purging my closet to own less stuff for the sake of simplicity or minimalism. Rather, ODP, from its very conception, was meant to be a fast. I use that word fast to convey the message that I am intentionally abstaining from buying or wearing clothes other than my one dress. I’ll elaborate, but let me just tell you what an illuminating, powerful, challenging facet this has been to my ODP!

For me, fasting is not just abstaining from something for a predetermined amount of time. It’s a spiritual discipline utilized to remove false idols so as to reveal aspects of God as well as myself that are otherwise hidden by previous practices and ways of being.

Last March I posted an article—“Lent and the False Self”—that best explains my understanding of and reason for fasting. Perhaps some of you weren’t around at the time I wrote it, so I’d love to invite you to read it here. Below I’ve included something of a “cliff-notes version” – a section of that post that I often return to for personal reflection on my ODP:

Hence, Lent [or fasting], as I take it, is to somehow signify, to some extent, our willingness to become less of who we are with the comforts and luxuries of daily life and more of our genuine and given self. The more I think about it, the more of Lent’s significance begins to shine through to me. Thomas Keating, the great Trappist monk and spiritual teacher, once wrote that Lent is a time of “confrontation with the false self.” His idea was that in our normal day-to-day, we are prone to adding innumerable things to our lives to make living more bearable, to keep up with whatever standards we’ve set for ourselves, to better adhere to cultural norms. In short, to diminish our vulnerability as people, we add layers of stuff to ward off the painful bits of real life. The problem is this, though: when we add lots and lots of stuff to ourselves and our lives, under all those layers we forget who and what we really are. Under the clothes, the food, the house, the car, the job, the roles, the political ideologies, etc, we forget that our true self is covered up by mistaken impressions of what makes us… us.

Six months after writing this post, this is the most personally relevant message I’ve attempted to process and share with you. More specifically, I often reflect on the revelations of my true self in relation to the person God created me to be, absent of all material possessions (including my one dress). So here I am many months later to share that message with more of you and further process just what “Fasting from Fashion” means to me.

Over the last eight months I’ve realized the power of fasting more than any other point in my life. At times the experience—of not buying or wearing any other clothes than my one dress—has been explosive and overwhelming. Other times it has been confusing, quiet, subtle, and seemingly… absent.

I suppose I’m in a place now where wearing one dress is relatively mundane. If I’m not on top of myself to reflect upon my experiences, it can be easy to slip my one dress on in the morning and forget that that’s the same thing I’ve done for over 263 days, and that it has been the catalyst for some pretty major changes that have taken place over that time.

Perhaps the mundane nature of my ODP means that it is complete, but it doesn’t feel quite right to say that. I mean, I have over three months left of fasting! Yet, these days I hardly think of fashion, have no desire to wear anything other than my dress, and think very little of my radically limited clothing options. I’ve simply begun to exist in my one dress with little desire for much more.

My fast from fashion will, of course, continue. Though I suppose it feels like it doesn’t deserve a blog or much attention… at this point, it just is. I no longer feel like what I’m doing is all that radical at all. Wearing one dress is simply part of my routine, and fasting from fashion consumption is just who I am.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still have every desire to share plenty of thoughts relating to why I’m protesting with you. I do! Plus, I am still experiencing continued change when it comes to my ideas on clothes and the clothing industry. Hence, my ODP is hardly complete… for either of us! And to offer a different perspective, I sometimes wonder if it ever will be. Where will I land? Will I land? And so follows the thoughts on what I’ll do when this year ends (I’ll attempt to answer that relatively soon, I think of it often, and haven’t the slightest, truly.).

Back to fasting. I’ve begun to see fasting as a sort of math equation, to both simplify and complicate it all in the same metaphor. Prior to ODP I was adding all sorts of things to my life, overfilling my closet, my heart, and my mind. It took me a while to realize that I was only creating a big ole’ mess.

When I cut out all the clothing and fashion consumption mess from my life at the beginning of this year, I found myself with lots of empty space and a void to fill. I actually remember thinking, What are you going to do on the weekend if you can’t shop? I’m actually embarrassed to share that with you at this point. But it is totally relevant, and the truth. The void, superficial or not, felt enormous.

However, that void is exactly what I needed. Not having so much clutter in my closet, head, and heart, I learned how much fashion and the pride I derived from it was contributing to my sense of self. I learned the true extent to which I noticed, possibly evaluated and valued what others wore, what my friends wore, what my husband wears, and of course, most importantly, what I wear. Messy and ugly it was.

Creating that space allowed me to invite God further into my life. Where I was empty, God imbued me with a feeling of embrace. I was different without all my stuff, and I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that in the beginning. It all seriously contributed to what made me me before ODP, or at least I thought it did. But these days I experience God and God’s love more fully, more in-depth. I am more open to God and God’s creative possibilities in my life.

I write this knowing I have lots of ways to grow in the new ways God has entered the dark corners of my heart and mind, corners that used to teem with all the stuff I could buy in stores. Though I can see the end of my fashion fast on the horizon, I know that this work of renewal and self-discovery is not done or complete. Not hardly! Yet as Jesus said, to find and grow in relationship with God, you must continually be reborn.

(Editors Note: Not sure what happened with the spacing when I first posted this… it was one big block of text that I didn’t notice for a bit. Yuck!)

Sep 5 11
{day 246}

Putting ODP into Focus: Past, Present, and Future

It’s hard to believe, but I’m two-thirds of the way through my year of one dress protesting. Wow! I can hardly believe how much has changed in such short time. Over these eight months I’ve struggled through new feelings, thoughts, urges, etc, all related to clothes and identity and sustainability. Today I thought I’d take stock of these struggles by writing on the kind of person I was before ODP, who I feel like I am right now, and also who I hope I’m becoming.

Eight short months ago I would have described myself as an incredibly well-intentioned, curious, introspective woman with a husband, many jobs, little money to spend, and lots of windows to shop. I was self-conscious about my body, the ideas I had of beauty, and the clothes I wore. I was also mildly concerned for our planet, and half-heartedly invested in my responsibility to care for it. You know, I’d buy “greener” products and went to the local farmers-market.

Back then I would have considered a picnic an outdoor adventure. And I derived a notable amount of my confidence from the efforts I put into my looks and moderately-fashionable exterior.

After wearing one dress for 243 days, let me make a new attempt to describe myself. I am … (deep breath) … still incredibly well-intentioned, yet less naïve. I feel more alive and less inhibited. I’ve gone from three jobs to one, and that means I have even less money to spend than before. Yet I’d like to think I’m much happier because of it. I am less self-conscious about my body and beauty, and due to my lack of choice when it comes to my outfits, I don’t think too often about my clothes these days.

(Quick note: sometimes when Russ is getting dressed for the day he will ask me what he should wear. I guess it’s just to spur a little conversation in our morning routine. After I respond, I usually assert, “And I think I’ll wear my black dress today.” I wonder how much longer I’ll make myself laugh with this sad joke?)

This year I have become deeply concerned for our planet and wildly invested in my responsibility to care for it. I’ve even engaged in a bit of non-violent civil disobedience, and hope to experience more possibilities in political and social activism.

Additionally to my budding environmental interests, I’m hoping to get out-of-doors to immerse myself in a true outdoor adventure. I’m slowly learning new ways to connect with God through my love for the environment, and I’ve become someone who derives a considerable amount of confidence from the efforts I put into care for my family and our shared planet.

Yet I also have high hopes for what I hope to become in the remaining four months of my ODP and beyond. Looking ahead, I’d like to be: (still) an incredibly well-intentioned person, yet less naïve, more alive, uninhibited, curious, gracious, gentle, wildly passionate, wise, introspective woman (that feels a bit self-indulgent to write, but a woman can have aspirations right?!). I hope to work and live in ways that provides us enough money to support ourselves and be able to help others.

I’d like to become even more content with my body and self-perceived beauty (an uncomfortable thing to share publicly).

I envision myself being deeply concerned for our planet and wildly invested in my responsibility to care for it, cultivating a rich personal history in non-violent civil disobedience, with a knowledge of and heart for the deep wilderness. I have dreams that I will someday invite my own children into my love for creation, allowing them to respond to God faithfully through our family’s care for the earth

Ultimately I believe the first eight months of ODP have allowed me to become a person who derives confidence from the ways I take care of my family and planet, and not my clothes. From my faith in God, not my seeking after material beauty. From the significance of living in community, with lives interwoven with those whom I’ve joined to do the good work before me, rather than the fleeting promises of conspicuous consumption.

If I could die having become even a glimpse of this woman, I’d say I was immeasurably blessed.

So this is where my ODP has brought me. And I just hope I have the courage to take whatever measures can inch me closer to the woman I hope to become as my days continue to move along.

With these changes, my take on my own ODP has morphed a bit. So I’ve decided to spend some time addressing where I find myself presently as it relates to both the tagline “fasting from fashion” as well as the blurb at the top to the right of my photo. I’ll be spending time on the new developments in my ODP over the next few posts. And from there, I’ll do a little redefining of what you can expect from ODP in the last quarter of my time in my dress. I hope you’ll join me!

Aug 25 11
{day 235}

Finding Freedom in Prison

Photo by Milan Ilnyckyj

Last Saturday I got arrested. Having never been arrested before, it feels strange to write that. Like most Americans I associate getting arrested with committing egregiously unlawful acts that require punishment … or, you know, getting drunk in public and being picked up by the cops.

For a short video clip that happens to feature my anxieties leading into the action, see below:

In my case, though, I was arrested for willfully breaking the law for something I believe in. Together with 60-some others, last Saturday I plopped down in front of President Obama’s front lawn in Washington D.C. Normally you’re allowed to sit down on a sidewalk on a summer morning. However, due to security laws, you can’t do it in front of the White House. Yet, when the D.C. Park Police told our group to go, we all stayed put. We were there to commit non-violent civil disobedience.

I’m generally a law-abiding citizen. I do all the things normal people do in their everyday lives to keep from breaking the rules of my city and our country. Yet last Saturday, that changed.

Starting on August 20th, me and over 2,000 others committed to risking arrest over one of the most important environmental issues of our time. TransCanada, a Canadian oil company and one of the most powerful organizations in North America, if not the world, has proposed building a pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to the oil refineries in Texas. This 1,700-mile pipeline would pump some of the dirtiest crude oil through some of America’s most pristine wildernesses and farmland. The oil extraction process in Alberta has already destroyed miles upon miles of majestic boreal forests and the ecosystems that once inhabited them.

James Hansen, a NASA scientist and the foremost climatologist in the world, recently wrote that if a pipeline is constructed to begin maximizing on all the oil under the ground in Alberta, it is essentially “game over” for our efforts to stem global warming and allow the earth to heal itself. In short, this pipeline is a huge issue. Hence, when I sat down in front of the White House last Saturday, I was standing up for an incredibly important issue.

As an example of the significance of this issue, I’ve not found a more poignant video than this one. It was created by Josh Fox, the Oscar-nominated director of Gasland:

As many of you know by now, last January I made the decision to wear one dress for one year. Over the last 235 days, you have followed along as I’ve sorted through confronting issues such as our culture’s understanding of beauty as it relates to clothing, how fashion contributes to my identity as a woman, and the overall sustainability of the fashion industry, an industry that flourishes when we are convinced that we need more, more, more.

As I sat in jail this weekend, being held on charges of “failure to obey a lawful order,” I thought about these issues and how they’ve contributed to my development during the last eight months of my one dress protest. While sharing a holding cell with thirteen other absolutely inspiring women who joined me for protest at the White House on Saturday, I specifically thought about the prisons I had been locked up in before I donned my one dress last January. Those prisons were, of course, mental and psychological ones, but their power in my life before doing my one dress protest was no less confining than the iron bars I sat behind over the weekend.

Since January I feel like I’ve taken huge steps to liberate myself from the constrictive prison of self-abnegating ideas of beauty, such as the belief that I need to look a particular way or keep up with the latest fashions to feel as I have worth in society. I’ve confronted the prison of my identity as a woman, and how it is a blatant fallacy to believe that my womanhood can somehow be affirmed by the status symbols of the clothes I wear. And perhaps most importantly, I’ve woken up to the prison of environmental unconsciousness, where in my striving to be beautiful through the clothes I used to adorn my body I really just became comatose to the environmental impacts of my fashion consumption.

To put it plainly, my one dress protest has begun to liberate me from the oppressive prisons of mundane life as a woman in the 21st century. Its taken wearing one dress for eight months to realize the extent to which these prisons have confined who I am, told me lies about my worth as a person, and caused me to neglect my most important responsibilities to live in peace with the earth.

There is a great irony to my journey of self-discovery and liberation through my one dress protest, though. That is, by undergoing this transformative experience of wearing one dress for one year and engaging the prisons that have heretofore confined my life in extraordinary ways, I gained the courage and clarity to do something that landed me in prison for the right reasons.

By taking the initiative to emancipate myself from the prisons of my life, I ended up in a real prison for actively living into the freedom that my one dress protest has provided me.

In the next few weeks President Obama will make a decision on whether to sign off on the construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Over 2,000 people have committed to risking arrest in front of the White House to let the president know that he has the support to make the courageous decision to say “No” to this pipeline and make good on his prophetic promise that under his administration, “the oceans will begin to slow their rise and the planet will begin to heal.” Join me in supporting President Obama, as well as those turning out to sit-in in Washington D.C., in the work to prevent this pipeline and live into a new world of freedom and possibility.

Photo by Milan Ilnyckyj

 

Aug 18 11
{day 228}

Protest the Keystone XL Pipeline

Tomorrow morning I will be taking my own protest to Washington DC to join another. Beginning Saturday, August 20th, Russ and I will join others to protest the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, which is being proposed for construction from Alberta, Canada, to the gulf oil refineries in Texas. The tar sands project, a massive extraction process that pulls natural tar from the ground of Alberta’s boreal forests and refines it into oil, has been called “the most destructive project on Earth.” If you look at the picture above, a before and after shot of the tar sands land, then you can see why its earned such a title.

Mark Ruffalo, the actor and environmental activist, does a really great job explaining why preventing the construction of this pipeline is so important. Check out his short video:

The reasons I have decided to take part in these actions have affinities with my reasons for one-dress-protesting. For one, this is obviously a huge environmental issue. I see demonstrating against the Keystone XL pipeline as an opportunity to take an important step towards acting on the fact that if we don’t stand up to land degradation and climate change now, our children will inherit a world drastically less majestic, fecund, and diverse as the one we are currently stewards of. Secondly, the tar sands oil pipeline is a human rights issue. Some measures tell us that First Nation peoples in Alberta, due to the effects of the tar sands, experience cancer levels almost 400 times that of other Canadians. We must come together with these people, as well as the people whose lands and livelihoods lay in the path of this pipeline, to speak up for justice. And finally, this is a religious issue too. Jesus, the gospels tell us, began his ministry by going to the wilderness. What does it say about our culture when the wildernesses we have, we destroy?

Over the next two weeks, people from all over the country will be sitting in front of the White House as an act of civil disobedience in order to gain the attention of President Obama and Congress. The object is to let them know how bad a decision this pipeline is for the earth, its people, and our nation. If you wish to learn more about the tar sands and the Keystone XL pipeline, as well as information on how to join the next two weeks of protests in our nation’s capital, check out the links below.

For a great NY Times editorial saying “No” to the tar sands pipeline, click here.
For more information on the tar sands demonstrations, check out tarsandsaction.org.

A simple google search for “Alberta tar sands” will yield many resources as well.

Aug 15 11
{day 225}

From One Dress to One Job

 

For some time now I’ve been working like a maniac. As you may know, Russ is a full-time graduate student, so I’m our family’s worker bee. Actually, Russ is quite the worker bee too, he just doesn’t get much honey to bring home. This all means I have to make enough honey to make the Powell-family go round.

For two years I’ve been very capable of this. I’ve just put my head down and worked, worked, worked. Yet somewhere along the way I went from work-work-working to feeling like I was totally missing out on some really sweet time in life. So I’ve decided to trade in some money-honey for the real good stuff – more of life.

You may have picked up in a previous blog or two that I’ve been trying to simplify in my work-life. A couple of weeks ago I made a big step in that process when I resigned from my job at Yale, where I’d been working as a therapist-of-sorts at a children’s Inpatient Psychiatric Hospital. It was really intense, and required every bit that I could muster to give those children my best self, which was exactly what they deserved.

I learned A LOT at this job, mostly from the children that were there. One main thing I learned was that without my job at the Pilates studio, which provided the ability to move and help others move, I would have burned out far sooner. Teaching Pilates seemed to be my saving grace. Even after a long day at the hospital, thirty minutes into my first session I’d find myself refreshed and content to be right where I was.

Slowly I clued into the revelation that was making itself apparent in my daily schedule. That is, I realized that I WAS MADE TO TEACH PILATES.

Nevertheless, I fretted over the decision to leave my job at Yale and concentrate on Pilates full-time. BIG TIME. Despite my love for one job over the other, despite my exhaustion, and despite my missing out on time with my husband and friends, I carried on with the assumption that every free hour of the day should be filled with work. I have a very strong feedback loop in my brain that says, “You work, you make as much money as you can, and you save money as much as you can.”

I wish I could tell you that I am an amazingly chill or faithful person that trusts in things working out and ends always meeting and trusting that I will be provided for… but I am NOT that person. I am very strongly a product of middle-class America that works and works until it’s time to retire. (And if you did a good job, you worked your way just beyond middle-class and you get to retire a little earlier.)

But am I happy doing this? Am I fulfilled? No. I realized that I don’t want this for myself. I don’t want this for my family.

During our young marriage Russ and I have tried to move through discerning the kind of life we should lead when it comes to work. So far we’ve decided we’d like to work for what we need, for as long as we are able, doing things we love while living a modest life. I want to live an inspired life. I want to do things I believe in, to work with people that inspire and encourage me. I want to contribute and impact and empower those and that which is around me. I want to learn from the things that require me to slow down, to have time for them. I want to be present.

So I decided to leave a stable job for myself and my family for a job with no benefits and no promised security to live more contently, more presently, more joyously, and most important, more relationally. I’m actually quite ecstatic about my decision at this point. Still anxious when I think about the finances, but it wasn’t a totally stupid decision, so I just have to remind myself that re-working those super strong feedback loops is going to take time and a lot of faith in our decision and our new lifestyle.

As we looked to others for wisdom around this decision our mentor, Ched, so wisely said to us: “One God, One Dress, One Fin (surfboard reference), One Job.” This was posted on our refrigerator for weeks. I looked to it numerous times for encouragement and support as I inched towards executing my resignation. It was just a wonderfully simple reminder of that which were yearning towards.

If it weren’t for my having done this One Dress Protest, I would not be at this point at this time in my life. In fact, where I would be is right where I was last year at this time, which is burnt out and determined to keep my head down to keep truckin’ along in my 60+ hour work weeks.

This dress has done A LOT for me. If I hadn’t had the last 7 months of simpler living, I wouldn’t have had the impetus to make holistic changes to simplify other aspects of my lifestyle.

So with that, let other slowing commence.

Jul 12 11
{day 191}

Who You Are is More Than What You Do: ODP Style

One of the blogs I keep up with is named All Of Us Revolution, written by Kristin and Shannon. I’ve mentioned them here before; if you aren’t familiar with what they do, definitely click over to see what they’re at work on to bridge fashion, sustainability, and minimalism. Their curious and passionate personalities are really a lot of fun, so it’s fun to keep up with them.

Anyhow, last week the two of them wrote little blogs about who they are outside of their clothing blog/company and I really enjoyed reading more about their everyday goings-on. I love little windows into the lives of those I distantly connect to. In the wide world of blogging, it’s kind of nice to read that actual people exist beyond their missions of their websites. Without that kind of realization, it’s easy to forget that it’s real people doing the typing, thinking, and challenging. So I stole Kristin and Shannon’s title and thought I’d share just a bit about myself outside of my ODP.

So… I’m a 26-year-old, wife to Russ, Pilates instructor, therapist, cat-lover, type-A, introverted, ex-ballernina, vegetarian, granola-making, red wine enjoying whole foods junkie who is deeply concerned about the environment and my role in it. I’m a novice eco-enthusiast, dress-wearing cyclist, a curious, passionate, convicted to a fault, overly serious, moderate level feminist Christian who happens to think she is much funnier than others take her to be. Though I’m wearing a dress for a year and am attempting to blog about it, I don’t fancy myself a writer. In fact, I really struggle to be as transparent with you about my experiences, as I often have difficulty finding the words.

I work a lot. A bit too much actually. As I mentioned above, I am a therapist-of-sorts at a children’s psychiatric hospital. I teach Pilates, which I love. And I do a lot with Pilates in terms of teaching and running a certification program at the present. As of a couple months ago, I went from working 40-ish hours a week to 60-ish hours a week. If you were paying attention on the blog, you could probably tell when this was happening based on the frequency of my weekly posting.

My husband, Russ, is a student at Yale Divinity School. His work is all about the intersection of Christian theology and the natural world. I dig it. He’s also getting ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

We like doing lots of things together, but lately it’s been eating. We like food… and wine, and chocolate. A lot. We’re pretty serious about food politics in that we take our vegetarianism seriously, enjoy our dates to collect our weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) treats, dream about Caseus (a local restaurant here in town), and try new recipes constantly with the seasonal foods we get from the farm.

In our free time… well, we don’t have much. Actually, we have next to none. But I’m working on that, namely by doing a little schedule re-arranging. But still, when we do have some time off we like to fill it with pot-luck dinners with friends and day trips to explore natural places nearby.

Russ reads non-stop. I read some. We watch a lot of documentaries and listen to a lot of music. Lately it’s been a lot of bluegrassy folksy stuff – I think Russ misses summers down South. We dance a lot in our living room, too. We don’t watch much TV, except for So You Think You Can Dance. Russ would wholeheartedly own up to liking it, too.

We want a family, but not yet. We actually want a lot, but are working on wanting less. In fact, this year has been really fantastic for us in that way, mainly because we’re slowly becoming happier and happier by wanting and owning less and less. We’re slowly rewriting the dreams of our future with smaller houses, fewer children, and less of what’s being sold to us out in the world. For that I have my ODP to thank; it’s given me the necessary momentum to rewrite a lot of the ways we’ve planned to live our lives. This also means we’re currently spending many stolen moments to sit together discussing what living with less “security” looks like, or what living in response to our passions really looks like.

It’s interesting – as I share about myself (and thus my family) with you, I’m reflecting on how we’re in transition… which I suppose is fitting. I mean, I’m halfway through my ODP, and leaving my past life of consumption and security in my wake. A future life of goodness-knows-what is up ahead.

So that, friends, is who I am… Well, in less than 800 words.