On sartorial identity, gendered clothing, and cargo shorts with Stanford senior Sarah Evans, who wore the same Little Wool Dress for an entire school year
Marin Reeve: First, do you want to tell me the story—Why you decided to wear the same dress for a year and what that entailed?
I’ve always had a complicated relationship with clothes, because I like
them a lot. I notice clothing, and I find certain kinds of clothing really aesthetically pleasing. Since I was little, I used to design clothing in my head. I would usually use a large portion of my allowance on clothing. Eventually, this was something that I became really uncomfortable with, especially when I was a freshman and sophomore learning about the impact of clothes on the environment and the social issues that surround clothing.
The first couple years of college, there’s a lot of pressure to present yourself in different
ways. I was exhausted from all of that by the middle of sophomore year, especially because I was in computer science. There was a lot of implicit pressure to dress like a man, but then there was also pressure from other places to be an attractive woman. So I was just like, f*ck it, I’m going to wear the same thing every day! And it worked surprisingly well. I got a wool dress from Ibex. It didn’t smell a lot. I would wash it maybe once a week. In the wintertime I wore it with more underclothes, and in the summer I just wore that.
Reeve: Did you put energy into accessories, or were you set on practicality and getting your mind off of outfit crafting?
Evans: It was inevitable that I still crafted outfits. There was this one light purple turtleneck that I thought looked good underneath this dress. But it gave me a way of narrowing the bandwidth for that kind of thought, because there weren’t as many options.
Reeve: How did people react?
Evans: I was actually just talking to a fairly close friend who didn’t notice until Spring quarter. Most people don’t see you every day, so they’re like, oh, she just wears that a lot, or maybe she has two of them. And if you wear different shirts, you can definitely throw off at least guys. I had zero people in eight months ask me, do you wear the same thing every day.
Reeve: Why did you stop?
Evans: It got warm. I started in the summertime, but I was still super gung-ho, so the warm was okay. Wearing the same thing every day stabilized my sense of self in a very funny way. It pulled a lot of my self-awareness inwards and helped me develop more of a core sense of self that was separate from what I was wearing. Once I strengthened that, then I started wearing other clothing.
Reeve: What’s your relationship with clothes now?
Evans: I’ve always had an affinity for uniforms. When I was in third grade, I spent all my clothes money on five matching skort and t-shirts that were lime green. So I think that my relationship with clothing is characterized by pendulum swings between asceticism and reveling in feminine flamboyancy. I’m closer to the middle now. I’m going through a phase where I always wear cargo shorts, even under skirts, because I had a purse stolen recently. It really bothers me that when I look at men wearing clothing, even if they’re super gender-fluid, clothing on men always looks natural to me. It looks functional. Their pockets work. It’s higher quality. I feel like men are almost never found in clothes they’re uncomfortable with, whereas it’s very often you see women wearing short shorts because they wanted to feel sexy. Women’s clothing doesn’t seem native to their bodies. So when I got my purse stolen, I was like, f*ck this sh*t, I’m always going to wear cargo pants. I’m always going to have what I need in a convenient way. I’m doing it right now. I learned how to sew over the summer. I was thinking about putting a reinforced strip on the inside of a skirt that ends at the outer thigh where you can have a hidden zipper pocket.
Reeve: Would you recommend your dress project to someone else?
Evans: That would be a weird thing to recommend, because people’s relationships with clothing are very different. For me, a lot of the first two years of college was trying to develop past adolescent self-awareness, and it definitely helped me deal with that. It was also empowering to not be obsessive about weird cleanliness standards that we have. I’ve stopped washing my hair with shampoo, which is a really popular thing on the Internet, but I think it’s empowering to occasionally do weird self-maintenance things and figure out that it’s actually okay not to follow the rules.