Brown Dress Home

This post is from the Blogs previous owner, which I decided to leave in case any of the old visitors are coming back to the blog!This page is no longer associated with little brown dress blog!

  • brown dress
  • a year-long performance project
  • 365 days. one brown dress. a one-woman show against fashion.
  • devised, built, and performed by Alex Martin
  • launch – July 7, 2005
  • completion – July 7, 2006

So, here’s the deal – I made this dress and I wore it every day for a year. I made one small, personal attempt to confront consumerism by refusing to change my dress for 365 days.

In this performance, I challenged myself to reject the economic system that pushes over-consumption, and the bill of goods that has been sold, especially to women, about what makes a person good, attractive and interesting. Clothes are a big part of this image, and the expectation in time, effort, and financial investment is immense.

The Seattle Channel produced a great video about the project: – video download.
My brown dress year is officially *over*. It ended on July 7, 2006. So, I don’t wear the brown dress anymore, I’ve started a new project and you can read about it here.

See the journal section for my postings on the brown dress project.

As a record of the year-long brown dress project, I am pleased to provide the photo pages.

Feel free to write to me with your thoughts!

Gotta have that brown dress pattern? It’s open source right here!

frequently asked questions

What were the “rules”? Every day, from July 7 2005 to July 7 2006, I wore my brown dress.

Did I wash the dress? Of course. About as often as you would wash anything, after two or three wearings usually. Often, I washed it overnight. One good thing about doing this project this year, while my son was an infant – there was ALWAYS a load of laundry ready for the washer . . .

Did I mend the dress? I replaced lots of buttons. And I did walk around with a ripped seam on the right side of the bodice for the last four weeks of the project, it was a badge of honor at that point : ) Didn’t need to fix anything else, amazingly enough.

Did I ever take the dress off? Yes, I took it off to sleep every night, and to go swimming. Once, about three months into the project, I flat-out *failed* to wear it out to a public event, that episode is detailed in the journal in September. I appeared onstage in a costume other than my dress in my dance opera project, The Onion Twins, and that episode is detailed in the journal in January.

What about all those layers? The dress was designed and built to layer for warmth, since I knew I had to make it through all four seasons. Whenever temperature allowed, I wore the dress solo. Over the entire brown dress year, I spent under $20 on clothing — I had one emergency run to Goodwill for sweaters when the weather turned cold. Aside from those two sweaters, all the shoes, hats, jackets, and other layers you see in the photographs were already a part of my wardrobe when the project began, and I estimate 90% of that original wardrobe was second-hand in origin.

What did people think? People almost universally loved it, or at least that’s what they keep telling me . . .

Did I look crazy? Most people in my professional circle didn’t even notice that I was always wearing the same dress day after day — my take on that is that we’re all too busy with our *own* appearance, family, work, etc. to keep a tally on everyone else’s wardrobe rotations! But Most people didn’t even notice that I was always wearing the dress day after day — we’re all too busy with our *own* appearance, family, work, etc. to keep a tally on everyone else’s wardrobe rotations! But judge for yourself how crazy I looked by checking out the photo journal pages.

Was I bored? The challenge of the brown dress, the resulting media adventures, and all the amazing conversations with brown dress audience members here at home and around the globe created an amazing year for me. It was a broadening, terrifying, extremely creative year for me. Bored? No way. Check the journal for the whole un-edited story.

Was this a feminist thing? Probably. Also an art thing. Also a let’s stop wasting time and money thing. But on a feminist note, let’s stop agreeing that the best way for women (in particular) to “express themselves” is by purchasing new wardrobe items and putting together daily outfits.

What was the best part? The conversations and comments and stories from the everybody — see the comments page for some of them! Secondly, I miss the strange, mundane and yet completely revolutionary moment every morning when I reached for the dress and put it on . . . again. The mix of stubborn determination, excitement of what the day would bring, physical familiarity as the dress settled and buttoned over my ribs. As I write this I haven’t seen the dress for almost two weeks, and I miss that daily moment of renewed commitment.

The most difficult part? The weather turning cold in the fall was a shock, I admit it sounds silly but I just hadn’t prepared at all, and it took me a bit of improvising to figure out my winter layering strategies. Similarly, it was a shock when someone stole the dress after I took it off at the culminating “Un-dressing” party & performance at the end of the year, and started their own project with it. I’m still arranging my mind around that — it’s certainly not a negative development for the story, but it was just so unexpected!

How did it change me? That answer is huge and long — you will get a sense of the changes if you have time to read the journal. But I know that I’m even more engaged and interested in this whole line of thinking than I was when I started the project. I don’t know whether to call it the “intentional wardrobe” or a “fashion de-tox diet” or a “slow clothing movement”, but I am swimming deep in this topic and not even considering a return to a normal wardrobe at this point.

What now? The brown dress is gone, and I’m continuing the investigation with my new project for the coming year. I will wear only clothing, shoes, under- and outer-wear, bags, jewelry and accessories I have built myself, and make new pieces only from recycled materials. This piece is a little more pure conceptually, and keeps me completely out of the stream of consumer goods.

Stay with me.

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