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The Six Items or Less Challenge: My Experience

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SheerClothesline
Photo Credit

For the past 30 days, everyone in my Intro to Retail Merchandising class has been participating in a top-secret fashion and social experiment. In an attempt to explore our personal ethics, buying behavior, and tendencies for over-consumption, all 145 of us have been wearing just six articles of clothing for the last month. Six!

The six items we chose needed to get us through every and any situation: class, parties, dates, review sessions, whatever! And, we couldn’t tell anyone what we were doing. As a fashion (…and style and shopping)-obsessed girl, this assignment totally freaked me out. What pieces would I choose? How would I do it? Would people notice? If you want to know the answers or you’re interested in participating in a challenge of your own, read on!

The Challenge Rules:

  1. Pick a maximum of six items to wear for 30 days.
  2. Once you pick your six items, they cannot be changed for the duration of the challenge.
  3. There are freebie items! These include undergarments, swimwear, workout clothes, outerwear, work uniforms, shoes, and any accessories.
  4. You’re allowed to wear “multiples” of ONE of the six items so you can do laundry. So, if you have two pairs of skinny black pants that are identical for all intents and purposes, you can wear them! You cannot, however, wear one pair of skinny black jeans and one pair of black dress pants — the items have to be the same.
  5. During the 30 days, you cannot go shopping for clothing for yourself.

The 6 Items I Chose…

MyItems

For my part in the challenge, I chose items that were simple, practical, easy to mix, and warm: a basic white tee, black skinny jeans, a drapey white three-quarter length shirt, a purple tunic blouse, black pencil skirt, and draped long-sleeve taupe sweater.

My strategy? Keep the individual pieces simple and play up shoes and accessories. The pieces I chose are cute and there are some interesting design elements, but the colors are muted and not particularly memorable — definite basics. Therefore, accessories were a must.

My Experience

Here’s a rundown of what I learned while taking the 6 Items or Less Challenge.

* Shoes, outerwear, and bags became my BFFs.

Freezing Minnesota winters necessitate owning lots of cute (and warm!) outerwear, so I had that covered. Before the challenge, I’d just grab whatever was closest to the door on my way out. Over the 30 days, however, I proudly exercised my right to rock different outerwear styles, going from a cozy fleece zip-up to a cropped wool peacoat, to a long puffy jacket, to a down coat with a fur-trimmed hood.

Similarly, although I’ve never been a shoe girl, I suddenly began to take great pleasure in alternating my footwear and showing off my boot collection. As I found, it’s pretty amazing how much a simple shoe can change an outfit!

* I had to do laundry far more frequently.

With the rest of my wardrobe temporarily off-limits and with only a few options to choose from, it felt like I was doing a new load of laundry All. The. Time.

* I got bored quickly.

While the pieces I picked were practical, they weren’t especially fun. After a week or so of wearing the same things, I felt dull. I missed different textures. I found myself admiring the forbidden tops, dresses, and jeans in my closet. I missed getting dressed! Oddly enough, though, I didn’t think much about shopping until I was actually in a store.

Going shopping, as you might imagine, was not a particularly enjoyable experience! I saw all kinds of cute clothing, none of which I was “allowed” to buy. Had I not missed out on purchasing the last pair of Hudson skinny military pants in my size at 60% off, the trip might have leaned more towards “boring” and less towards “tragic.” Upside? I saved $$$!

* I pushed the boundaries.

On those special days when I felt like I had to be extra comfortable, I ditched my skinnies in favor of a pair of leggings, telling myself that I was still within the rules as the leggings were from Aerie — they even said “AERIE F.I.T.” on the waistband — and were therefore totally “workout wear,” even though I never wore them with my Nikes. Annnd I may have ended up wearing a non-six tank top for a few hours one night. My b!

* No one really noticed.

I worried that people would instantly notice I was re-wearing the same clothes, especially because I hold a leadership position in a fashion group on campus, but really, no one seemed to. (And if they did, they didn’t say anything!) It seems as if people only notice what you’re wearing if it’s something extra special or interesting, but they’re usually much more concerned with their own looks.

* …But I paid a lot of attention to what other people were wearing.

You know how if someone says “don’t think about elephants,” elephants are suddenly the only thing on your mind? For me, the challenge was exactly like that! I was suddenly hyper-aware of fashion around campus, noticing new jeggings, perfectly-placed headbands, and chunky knits everywhere. In my merchandising class, of course, I was especially observant: I wanted to catch someone cheating on her style diet! 

In case you’re wondering,  it happened — a girl showed up for class one day totally channeling Blair Waldorf in a fitted skirt, flouncy blouse, black tights, bejeweled flats, matching headband and an adorable pea coat — definitely not in her six items, but she looked amazing.

Take the Challenge Yourself!

LotsofClothes
Photo Credit

Our assignment was roughly based on the experiences of the ladies behind SixItemsorLess.com and The Uniform Project, all of whom participated in a similar wardrobe challenge. So if you’re interested in participating in a style diet of your own, check out their guidelines or use the ones I provided above.

Think you could do it?! Make sure to photograph the items you choose to wear and document your experience. (Send us the link if you blog it!) It’s pretty interesting to see how things turn out. As our professor told our class, “You can do anything for 30 days, there is a lot of clothing you won’t even miss, and just THINK of the money you’ll save!”

What do you think?!

Have you participated in the Six Items or Less challenge or done something similar? What would you choose to wear if you tried it? Do you think you have too much clothing? Not enough? Could you survive with just six items? Whatever your opinion, let us know with your comments — I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Posted on on December 16, 2010 / Filed Under: College Life / Tags: , , , , , ,

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42 Responses to “The Six Items or Less Challenge: My Experience”

  1. 1
    December 16th, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Wow! I could never pick just six. You are brave! Good luck!

  2. 2
    December 16th, 2010 at 10:38 am

    This is such an interesting project! I’ve heard of the 30 for 30 challenge thing (30 items for a month) but never 6! Power to you for being able to do it, despite the tank top slip up. I’m about to go abroad for a semester and will need to pack light, so I’m hoping your tips and the tips from others will help me be able to do that, so thank you!

  3. 3
    December 16th, 2010 at 10:49 am

    I’ve read about that challenge a whole ago and i thought it will be an interesting thing to do, but I was wondering the same as you : will people notice that I’m wearing the same things over and over again?? My other excuse was that I’m a dress-girl. I don’t feel comfortable on jeans and that will make hard my month. Only three dresses for a month? If I could choose freebie knitwear as cardigans and jackets that will be easier but I don’t know if they are classified as outerwear… Well, I maybe try someday. But after Xmas sales or I will end up totally crazy haha

  4. 4
    December 16th, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I think you are so very brave for taking part in this challenge! I am far too addicted to all my clothes to even give it a go. That said, I am DESPERATE to know where you got that “draped long-sleeve taupe sweater”. I too live in a VERY cold place and that piece looks like a must-have to me! Please please, if you have a second, shoot me an email or I’ll go crazy googling it.
    Thanks!
    P.S. HUGE fan of the blog, first time commentor!

  5. 5
    December 16th, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Wow..
    I think I’ve been doing the 6 items challenge for a few years now!! I have a closet BURSTING (sorry, make that two closets..) with clothes but I only REALLY like wearing a select few clothes..
    It is challenging and my friends definitely know my fave clothes by now :) :) but why wear something you’re uncomfortable in?
    more importantly, why did i buy those other clothes!? need to donate them asap, they’re in great shape!

  6. 6
    December 16th, 2010 at 11:43 am

    I heard about this challenge this past summer. I picked out six items I would use and posted them on my blog, but I never actually took part in the challenge. Bravo on accomplishing it!

  7. 7
    December 16th, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Wow Liza!! I’m impressed!!
    I wore the same pair of shorts for a week on a blog a few weeks ago and that was enough of a challenge in itself!! I had seen this done with 30 items in 30 days, but I’m not sure if I could do just six without getting bored!!
    My shorts challenge really opened my eyes to creating new remixes in my wardrobe, and it made my “off-limits” section of my wardrobe so much more enticing!!
    I’m not sure if I could commit to just 6 items but I think I will definitely be trying the same item over 7 days again soon.
    This was a fascinating post to read- and again, well done!!

    Charlotte
    xxx

  8. 8
    December 16th, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    What a fun idea… I wouldn’t want to do it, but it’s fun! I wish you would post some pics of how you mixed and matched and used accessories. I’m curious to see what you did.

  9. 9
    December 16th, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    I might try this after finals, I think it might inspire a lot more creativity in my outfits by forcing me to put clothing items together that I normally would not. I think I’d choose things with more color and pattern through.

  10. 10
    December 16th, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Did you do a photo-diary? I think It’d be GREAT to show it here on CollegeFashion, sure will serve as inspiration to shop in our own closets!

  11. 11
    December 16th, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    What?!?
    Hahaha I was in your class, unless there were multiple lecture times. Small world!

    Really though, I’m VERY impressed. I was under the impression that nobody actually did the project, or maybe it was just the people i speak to who were in the class.

    My “6” items suddenly turned into 12 after the first week. I just couldn’t handle that amount of laundry with my class and work schedule. I was the tiniest bit annoyed that the Prof. assumed we own multiples of all our basic clothing items. With the lack of dorm storage I wasn’t about to bring 4 pairs of identical skinny jeans, or 5 identical tops.

  12. 12
    December 16th, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Great article! Definitely an interesting project to read about!

  13. 13
    December 16th, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    This kind of project only works in warm places. What happens when it hits -38 and you have a 20 minute transfer on the side of the highway? Even if your winter coat is free wear it’s not enough. You need layers. hoodies, cardigans, blazers, lighter jackets not to mention thermals, undershirts, and leggings. I would drop that class if someone said that here.

    Also I find your teacher’s assumption almost offensive, like we will go out and guy hundreds of the same thing. You know what I have multiples of? Two plain black mens teeshirts. Everything else is a single, unique item, expect socks and underwear. Why would be have 8 pairs of the same jeans?

  14. 14
    December 16th, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    First off: well done :)

    I find this poject very interesting however I am not sure I could do it?
    Maybe try it out for a week, then 2 weeks etc.

    It’s interesting to see that noone else noticed you were weaing the same clothes, makes you think that most people aren’t that concerned about how you look like but who you are :)

  15. 15
    December 16th, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    I congratulate you for taking a chance and trying a new thing, however, unlike you, I could never do something like that. One, I would be too worried about people noticing that I was wearing the same things day after day. I’m just like that sadly. Two, I couldn’t possibly live on six articles of clothing. Every day my jeans vary. I will NEVER wear the same jeans two days in a row. I also usually wait about a month or so before I wear a top again. Maybe the fact of me having way too much clothing is why I couldn’t do this, but I would also choose not to do this challenge. Also, I’m a little confused about if you saw that there were the last pair of those jeans in your size and they 60% off and you couldn’t buy them. If i were you, i would take the F on the challenge in class and buy those jeans. But that’s just me. Once again, great job for staying with it!

  16. 16
    December 16th, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    This was a really great article. Very different and fresh for the blog I must say. I would have LOVED to actually see how you pulled it off, especially with those pieces but this is still really great.

  17. 17
    December 16th, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Hahaha, I love that this was part of a class you’re taking. I have seen fashion blogs with 30 for 30 (30 items for 30 days) and people start saying how difficult it is by Day 15, if not sooner. 6 for 30 is taking it to a whole new level. Whoa. However, I agree with whoever said that this would have been a much better post if pictures of the outfits were included.

  18. 18
    December 16th, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    My goodness! I just finished blogging the 30 for 30 challenge and THAT had me complaining…this is a whole other level of dedication and awesome. Can’t say that I’ll ever really be inclined to try this out, but MAJOR PROPS to you.

  19. 19
    December 17th, 2010 at 4:04 am

    This is insane! I would’ve wanted to kill myself on the third day. You guys are brave.

  20. 20
    December 17th, 2010 at 9:51 am

    wow – congratulations on your success with this project! (for all intensive purposes) :)

    i think these types of experiments are great, not only because they test your creativity, but it makes you realize how lucky we all are to have so many clothes where we don’t have to wear the same thing every day. it kind of reminds me of that children’s book The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes.

    i think i would have a hard time with this myself, even though i already re-wear a lot of my clothes more than once, (hey laundry’s expensive for a poor college student & if it’s not dirty, why not?) so kudos to you for sticking to the rules!

  21. 21
    December 17th, 2010 at 11:58 am

    I don’t think I could do this, I love all of my clothes equally and six just wouldn’t do.

  22. 22
    December 17th, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Hey girls!

    I’m glad you liked the post! It was SUPER difficult (and very annoying!) to do the challenge, especially because I love my clothes and it’s freezing here. It was SO nice to put on something entirely new when the challenge ended!!

    Like Holly said, though, layering is a must. There were some days that I wore leggings and tank tops and Under Armour (haha) under the outfits, just because it was so cold. You couldn’t see it though, and since it didn’t change the looks I decided that the layers fit in the “underwear” category. There was definitely some rule bending on my part.

    Emily–The sweater is by All Saints! It’s called the “Pirate Cowl Top.” I got it a few years ago in Seattle. It’s sold out on their online store now, (http://www.us.allsaints.com/women/knitwear/pirate-cowl-top/buckthorn/wke037-982) but hopefully you can find one online somewhere!

  23. 23
    December 17th, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    where’s the white shirt that’s labelled 3 from? i love it.

  24. 24
    December 17th, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    Ima do this starting new years

  25. 25
    December 17th, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    People keep saying it’s stupid to own multiples of the same thing, but I’m guilty. They’re DKNY JEANS dark wash skinny cut, and I own EIGHT pairs of them.

    You see, they started out on my birthday wish list. So my mom bought them for me. And my aunt. And my cousin. And my grandma. And my best friend from highschool. And my roommate. Apparently, none of them ever speaks to each other, or they would have noticed they gave me the same gift over and over.
    My birthday was the day after black friday that year, so when I was Black Friday shopping, I had no idea. I noticed they were on sale, so I bought 2 pairs, 1 for me and one for my sister (who is usually the same size as me). Unfortunately, they didn’t fit her.

    So, now I have 8 pairs of the same jeans. Oh well, at least they’re flattering! :)

  26. 26
    December 19th, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Oh my, this must’ve been so hard to do! I don’t blame you for bending the rules a little!

    Well done; I might try this one day.

  27. 27
    December 21st, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    This is an amazing idea. how would you even go about picking items tho?

  28. 28
    December 24th, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    I am totally doing this challenge for the new year and for the whole month of january!!!! i work retail so not a soul thinks i can do it but i am totally inspired

  29. 29
    January 1st, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    This sounds pretty cool, but do jumpers count as the six items or can you wear them as freebie items?

  30. 30
    January 1st, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Hey Liza, it’s Heidi, founder of Six Items or Less. First of all, I had no idea a group of you took on the challenge; so awesome to hear! Secondly, this post is fantastic. Thank you so much for being so thoughtful and thorough in your assessment of the experiment. We’re constantly learning from our community so coming across a post like this so helpful.

    We’re launching a new cycle next week, to start January 10th. I’m in the mode of picking my six and trying to figure out that perfect Six Items to take me through February. Last time I didn’t do loads with accessories, but a lot of Sixers do so I think I’m going to be more experimental this round. Etsy has been a godsend!

    Anyway, Happy New Year to you, thanks again for writing this and I hope we can “speak” again soon.

    all the best x

  31. 31
    January 2nd, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    Six items or FEWER!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  32. 32
    March 28th, 2012 at 12:44 am

    I haven’t done the 6 items challenge, but 2 years ago my husband and I embarked on an “Around the World” trip with all our gear for 4 1/2 months in one backpack apiece. We were traveling to warm places (Africa and SE Asia) and to cooler places (Istanbul in early Spring), so we needed to have layers. Clothing took up very little of the space in our bags since we also needed to carry air mattresses (we camped for a month in East Africa) and my travel pillow in addition to malaria meds and other first aid supplies, etc. I did a lot of research before we left and chose my clothing very carefully. I had a pair of Royal Robbin long, ripstop khaki pants that were often cooler than shorts because they kept the African sun off my legs. I had one pair of Ex Officio ripstop khaki shorts, and one long pair of black yoga pants. Five pair of Ex Officio underwear, 2 sports bras and 4 pairs of good socks. Three T-shirts: one gray, one white and one green. One long sleeved REI travel shirt. One blue fleece hoodie from REI, a T-neck, long sleeved undershirt and a pair of long johns. A Gortex rain jacket, a pashmina, a warm earband and thin gloves. One pair of Vasque hiking/trail shoes and one pair of Chaco sandals. About 6 weeks into the travel, I got a new T-shirt, and at one point I bought a sundress. And that was it for 4 1/2 months. I took nothing that could not be washed and hung to dry, ready to be worn or packed within 12 hours of laundering. There were times when I had nearly every piece of clothing on at the same time, and times when I was down to T, shorts and sandals. I laugh now to look back at our photos because we look like we just walked from one backdrop to the next snapping photos – we’re in virtually the same clothes in each shot. But considering I had to carry what I took on my back (and I am not a young person anymore), I was glad to have the minimal wardrobe. We did laundry almost every day, but it consisted of rinsing things out in a sink most times. Since coming back I have gradually been giving away most of the clothes in my closet and wardrobe. I have realized that life is much simpler when I’m not spending time thinking about what to wear. For a lot of people, shopping and putting together outfits is enjoyable. For me, traveling, gardening, cooking are enjoyable. And while I enjoy the occasional new outfit, I’m no longer scanning the Sunday ads convincing myself I’ve gotta have the newest this or that. I’m content with less. And that works for me.

  33. 33
    July 25th, 2012 at 7:57 am

    First of all, just wanna say that I absolutely love this site, and I’ve been pretty much addicted to it since I found it! It actually inspired me to experiment with my style, to go beyond the limits of what I’ve always done. So thank you!

    Second, I fully intend on trying this (at least a little while after my new stuff comes in the mail!), probably after school starts back up again. Or maybe for a shorter time before then. I especially need the no shopping part – I’ve developed a bit of a shopping issue.

    Anyway, thanks for the amazing idea!!!

  34. 34
    October 29th, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    I love the idea and plan to try it. I started my own “Great American Apparel Diet” on the first day of school this year, with the intention of not buying clothes for one school year. So far, it’s nearly November and I’ve noticed certain items I return to a couple times a month, but really I’m able to find so much variety — things in the back of my closet that I never pull out but now that I’m getting a little bored (like you mentioned) I am trying to be more creative. Accessories are definitely my friend.

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