What Should I Wear?

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What should I wear?

Choice is simpler when closet holds six items or less


document.write(‘For one month Kenosha resident Stella Brennan went on a fashion fast, wearing only six items of clothing, which are pictured here on and around her. ( BILL SIEL )’); For one month Kenosha resident Stella Brennan went on a fashion fast, wearing only six items of clothing, which are pictured here on and around her. ( BILL SIEL )

ShowShortDate(“20100818145042”); 8/18 2:50 p.m.

BY KAREN MAHONEY

Kenosha News correspondent

Despite all the pieces of clothing in Stella Brennan’s overstuffed closet — some still with tags on them — she tends to gravitate towards her favorite cluster of outfits each day. So, when childhood friend and Kenosha native Heidi Hackemer hatched an anti-consumerism plan to wear just six items or less for a month, Brennan and about 100 others from around the globe signed on for the challenge.

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“I follow Heidi on Twitter and watched as she started signing people up for this clothing diet,” said Brennan, 31, an insurance agent and mother of two who lives in Kenosha. “All I saw at first were these single, spoiled New Yorkers and I thought to myself that they had it too easy, so I told her to sign me up.”

The rules were simple: Wear only six items for a month from those already in your closet, not counting shoes, underwear, pajamas, swimwear and accessories. For her six, Brennan chose a black business suit, one black and one pink blouse, a pair of jeans and a seasoned pink T-shirt. Each piece of clothing needed to allow her to transition from her role as businesswoman, to wife, to mother of two young children, to pet owner (the family has a golden retriever and three cats).

“I had to have something that would juggle between taking care of my kids and wouldn’t stain from food or get covered in animal hair,” she explained. “I also needed the items to look professional for work and still be OK for play with my 8-year-old son, Tommy, and for tea parties with my 3-year-old daughter, Audrey.”

Freeing up time

While the challenge was tough at first, especially with Brennan’s multiple responsibilities, the most amazing revelation for her was that nobody noticed. No one. Not even her husband, Kelly, a machinist, who is in charge of the family’s laundry duties.

“He still doesn’t know,” said Brennan, who participated in the fashion fast from the end of June to the end of July. “In fact, he saw me out working in the yard one day in my pink flowered pajamas and tank top and he never said a word. That still amazes me.”
Surprisingly, not even her mother, Elin Lansdown, or sister, Steinunn Seay, who she sees daily, noticed her recurring clothing repertoire, leading Brennan to believe that people don’t really pay attention to what you wear.

“I finally told my mom the other day that I did this, and she just said, ‘Well, I just thought you really liked those jeans,’” Brennan said with a laugh. Then she added, “And you know, I can’t tell you what my mom or sister wore yesterday or what my husband wore either. I think we believe that people notice, but they really don’t. What we wear just isn’t that important.”

For Hackemer, a New York strategic business director at Bartle, Bogle & Hegarty advertising agency, the concept was born following a discussion with a friend about the excessive time and energy involved in choosing daily attire.

“We thought it would be pretty cool if we could get our own wardrobe down to a ‘uniform’ set of clothes that looked great,” she said. “We had a hunch that we might free up our minds and lives in other ways. At first, we didn’t think that many people would join us, maybe two or three, max. But after a few days of talking and Tweeting, we had about 100 people from around the world sign up.”

Too much stuff

Logging in for the Web challenge at Six Items or Less (sixitemsorless.com), participants joined from the United States, India, Europe, Dubai, and Brazil. Each checked in at least once a week to describe their experiences with the challenge. Through it all, Hackemer learned that most people have a difficult relationship with their clothes.

“This experiment gets people thinking, and, for those who participate, unshackles them a bit from the clothing treadmill that a lot of us are on,” she said.
For Brennan, the challenge gave her time away from shopping to think about simplifying her lifestyle and uncluttering her closet, and her children’s closets.

“No 3-year-old should have 26 pairs of shoes and so many clothes in the closet, especially when she will grow out of them in a month,” Brennan said. “My son has too many clothes, too, and I am just not going to buy anything more unless they need them.”

The six-items-or-less challenge will be repeated in the fall, and so far, Brennan is on board to do it again. The only changes she would make would be to choose better quality clothing this time.
“Some of my clothing began to fall apart, buttons fell off, and there were threads hanging out,” she said. “And the suit — I just can’t wear it again. It sits in the back of my closet and I feel sick looking at it.”

Although she hasn’t yet parted with any of her 72 pairs of active shoes (she has boxes of seasonal shoes in storage), Brennan donated numerous bags of clothing to charity and plans to donate some of her business attire to Dress for Success, which provides professional clothes for disadvantaged women as they search for work.

“I would feel better about myself knowing that those items went somewhere like that, to help other people trying to find a job,” she said.

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