Joyful fashion: The Uniform Project

By Ingrid Fetell Lee


There is so much to love about The Uniform Project, a joyful experiment in charitable, sustainable fashion. Inspired by the plight of over 7.5 million children living in Indian slums who do not get to go to school, Uniform Project founder Sheena Matheiken has challenged herself to wear the same dress every day for a year. Each day she donates $1 to the Akanksha Foundation which educates children from the slums in Indian cities.

This is a great example of joyful activism, where people are finding a way to raise awareness for causes through positive emotion and an aesthetic to match. One of these days I should do a mood board to illustrate the contrast between the old aesthetic of activism (lots of red, graphic protest posters, fields of tree stumps, animals caught in traps, etc.) and the emerging aesthetic of joyful activism (bright colors, dancing, hot pink garbage bags, seed bombs, crocheted signpost covers, etc.). Both styles obviously have place in the arsenal of persuasion, but it’s great to see the evolution of this inspiring new style of activist communication. A skeptic would say that fashion and aesthetics are incidental to the cause at hand, but look at how much money she has raised ($4,308 at this point), and even more important, how much awareness. Far more than if she’d just sent around one of those Facebook causes requests we’re all so sick of.

I also think this is a huge lesson in sustaining joy over time through creativity. The “uniform,” a simple black dress, presents itself as a canvas, one that Matheiken adorns largely though recycled accessories from her own closet and places like eBay and Etsy. The Uniform Project surprises and delights us not with what’s new each day, but how the new elements transform the basic dress into something different. With a scavenged doily as a collar or a bow or a headscarf, Matheiken shows us a new perspective on something we thought we already knew, and this rediscovery is deeply joyful.

This is this challenge before us, when it comes to making things not just physically sustainable but emotionally sustainable. We have to find ways to take existing spaces, objects, relationships and infuse them with new life using the things we already have, renewing the joy we felt when we first acquired them by allowing us to see them in new ways. This project is a wonderful reminder that a creative spirit and a joyful attitude can really make such magic happen.

via Daily Candy (great video too!)

July 6th, 2009


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