Last week, I did something criminal. From Monday, Oct. 12, to Friday, Oct. 16, I wore the same outfit every single day. In doing so, I effectively earned myself a place on the fashion police’s most wanted list.
But don’t dial 9-1-1 just yet. And I don’t need a “What Not to Wear”-style intervention.
Contrary to what authorities of style (or people who just value hygiene generally) might say, I committed this fashion atrocity not because I’m disgusting or slothful or devoid of self-respect, but rather because I’m the slightest bit experimental, curious, and narcissistic.
“I never wear the same outfit twice” is a rather snobbish phrase uttered most typically by Prada-wearing devils, and believe me when I say you would never catch those seven words escaping my lips. That being said, I generally genuinely enjoy making new outfits.
That I fancy myself both a writer and an artist may be why I love to create new outfits; it is probably more likely, however, that my enjoyment of clothes stems from the extrinsic motivation of receiving compliments: the results, rather than process, of creating a successful outfit.
The explanation for this relationship is simple: top-notch outfits receive compliments, and compliments, no matter how small (“Nice headband!”), have a way of (a) making me feel Beyoncé-fabulous and (b) fulfilling my rather theatrical desire for attention.
I initially decided to outfit-repeat quite simply to see if people would notice and to see if they’d say something to me. After about a day, however, I realized that my true goal was related to the aforementioned theatrical desire. In wearing the same clothes in various ways, I hoped to examine just how gratifying fashion-based compliments or, more generally, attention—flattering or otherwise—can be.
Because I was to commit myself to wearing it for five days straight, my outfit of choice was composed of some of my favorite articles of clothing. Doing my best to follow the “good ensemble” criteria previously outlined, I selected pieces that were fitting both to my physical and to my personality traits and which, when placed together, would most likely be received positively.
I wore comfy, dark wash jean shorts and navy, ankle-high boots. This pant-shoe combination served the purpose of elongating my four-foot, 11-inch frame to a more respectable five feet or five feet, one inch. I then accompanied these items with a multicolored flannel and the pièce de resistance: a soft blue T-shirt adorned with a white trim and the words “Snappy Little Number.”
The personality I created with this outfit was, in one respect, self-aware, for in showcasing the words “Snappy Little Number,” the T-shirt proclaimed itself as well as the outfit of which it is a part as number that is snappy (and even calls attention to its smallness). This personality was also mildly sarcastic and ironic, for a number that is snappy is a number that is smart, well thought out, and likely more elaborate than a simple tee.
Also considering the fact that I would most definitely describe an outfit as a “number” and, accordingly, a cute outfit as a “snappy little number,” I evaluated the ensemble as a good fashion-based manifestation of my mildly self-aware, endearingly self-deprecating self. It would be my superhero costume if I were to ever become a superhero.
As I had taken deliberate steps as a compliment-fisher and, furthermore, had not yet repeated my self-portrait of an outfit, my first day of snappy-number-wearing provided me with the positive attention I craved.
There were many people who praised my thoughtful fashion choices:
“You’re a snappy little number,” one friend had said.
“That shirt is so perfect for you,” said another. “I love it!”
Many friends and friendly acquaintances also stopped me on campus to decipher my shirt, which made me feel more popular than I actually am.
“What does your shirt say?” one acquaintance had asked, pulling me aside in Usdan.
Others, however, made a more independent effort to understand the content of my clothes.
“Does that say Happy Little Bumble Bee?” asked a friend whom I approached in Usdan. “Wait no! Snappy Little Number! That’s much better.”
My favorite moment of appreciation, however, came from a fellow Long Islander who found personal meaning in the sarcastic implications of the shirt.
“I like it because it offsets the basic T-shirts that girls from our high schools would normally wear,” she said.
The next day, however, did not provide me with the same positive rush of the first day. Instead, I was endowed with a weird sense of paranoia.
On day two of project outfit repetition, people who hadn’t seen me on Monday either complimented me with remarks similar to those that had been directed towards me previously or had nothing to say at all. Those that had seen me the day before, however, were quick to comment on my repetition and, accordingly, make their judgments.
Some just stated the obvious.
“Didn’t you wear that outfit yesterday?” was what most people inquired, leading me to either respond negatively, to mess with them, or affirmatively, to give them reason for judgment.
If I was lucky, I even got people to vocalize these judgments.
“Did you have a one-night stand or something?” a friend had asked after realizing I had been wearing my snappy little number the previous night.
Judgments like this increased in throughout the week at the expense of positive ones, leading me to feel quite on-edge and self-conscious.
“Do I look that bad?” I had thought after hearing my friend’s one-night stand inquiry.
By Friday, I felt dirty and sloppy, even though I was, in fact, quite clean and, despite the monotony of the outfit, quite put together, and by Saturday I was grateful to forgo my snappy superhero garb for a fresh ensemble.
Not all attention, as it turned out, was good attention, and my so-called perfect ensemble provided me with diminishing returns of satisfaction.