Dare to wear longer

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How not washing my t-shirt for five days straight gained me street cred – By Rosie Underwood

Not washing your T-shirt for five days? Wearing it 24/7? No, I’m not talking about method acting for a role in Les Misérables. I’m talking about getting the carbon emissions of BAM’s sustainable threads to a zero. Are we subconsciously washing our clothes all too frequently? I was prepared to learn the hard way.

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Just to give you a bit of context, here’s a bit of background as to how I ended up here to see if you can relate to my fears, which I was only too glad for the sake of my unwashed threads didn’t result in night sweats.

I started my career as a stylist’s assistant as a bright eyed 17-year-old on a shoot for Bliss Magazine. I was in heaven. Consumerism hadn’t entered my Busted obsessed, clothing obsessed, glitter obsessed fashion loving mind. I split my time between adventures outdoors and hustling to become a magazine editor. Collecting clothes for shoots with celebrities, obsessing over colour ways, shapes and styles for different skin tones and shapes had me hooked. Fashion week was better than Disney land, having clothes and lots of them was a mark of success and an industrial sized Carrie Bradshaw inspired closet was the ultimate storage goal.

Fast forward five years and I found myself as the fashion editor of one of the best-selling weekly magazines in the country. It had now become my job to subconsciously make consumers part with their money to buy clothes they didn’t need. It was down to me to travel the world, styling shoots to make clothes look a million times better in pictures than they did in real life. In my down time I was wild swimming, surfing and practicing Yoga. In my time off I barely wore shoes and the same fail-safe lumber jack shirt and vintage Levis served me so damn well. The reality gap between the life I lead and the life I projected was very vast.

Here’s the scary part, clothes were getting cheaper and cheaper and I saw a big shift in fashion seasons. The planet dictated four seasons in one year, but the fashion industry had other ideas, proclaiming that there were 52 seasons in one trip around the sun. Yes, you heard correctly, the fashion industry were selling t-shirts for the same price as a morning coffee and convincing consumers that if they didn’t buy a new outfit every week, they were failing somehow. It was that, that made me U-turn. I started to style and only print sustainable clothes and beauty brands where I could (without getting the sack.) My fashion desk had a traffic light system. Green for green, Amber for ‘they’re trying but could do better’ and red for ‘these guys are out right trying to kill the planet!’

I’ve learnt from my Yoga teaching that it’s not information that creates change its transformation. Information isn’t just cheap, its free these days. If people went by what they knew, no one would allow for big corporations to play on their insecurities, no one would smoke, and fast food chains would be in more trouble than the UK economy. But people go by how they feel not what they know.

So, with that, I absolutely welcomed the idea of Dare to Wear Longer. OK that’s a lie, I was terrified. I’ll do anything to make a stand, but not washing my clothes could be at the expense of my career/ livelihood/ friendships/ family reputation (you can tell I spiralled a bit with this one. ) But anyhow, I embraced the challenge with open (washed) arms.

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On the first day I pulled on the T-shirt with my Yoga leggings to teach a Zoom class to 45 clients. The breathable fabric against my skin had me at hello. As sods law would have it, it was that particular day that my students requested full demonstrations of my power Yoga class because they just needed ‘to see how I executed the moves.’ 60 minutes into to a dynamic sequence I prayed I’d never invented and I’m taking breaks to run towards my fan between every pose, and ‘DROP TO CHILD’S POSE’ featured slightly more heavily than usual.

Next up, I have a meeting with a photographer in members club I teach at. Now I’d usually throw on something smarter, but the campaign had other ideas, so I just rolled with it. It turns out styling out this t-shirt with some ankle boots and distressed denim shorts goes down alright. Copious amounts of perfume to cover any odours however, doesn’t. ‘Over done it on the fragrance Rose?’ ‘Been walking through a department store?’ ‘That scent you’re wearing really hits the back of my throat.’ To name a but a few comments. Note to self, go easy you do not smell…. Yet.

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I started to grow quite attached to my T-shirt. We’re creatures of habit after all, and as each day rolled by, the time I saved in washing and choosing looks gave me so much more brain space to work with. What had I been doing all these years? Aside from avoiding public humiliation? It all seemed so easy. That was… until our friend the bionic heat wave rolled in. Oh. Lord.

Given the fact that we’re in a global pandemic, I can work from anywhere, so teaching under my skylight which simulates a greenhouse in Costa Rica in a mere 18 degrees wasn’t an option. I retreated and taught my classes outside. Easy right? Well it turns out environmental factors I.e. mud, grass stains and god know what else come into play when you’re hanging upside down in the wilderness trying to teach. Lesson learnt. Cow pat narrowly avoided.

Next up, the beach. Just to reiterate, it was 34 degrees. The sea was calling, I needed to wild swim… would this mean parting with the t-shirt for the first time in five days? I actually felt quite sentimental about the process, so I took it in for a dip! The T-shirt deserved it after all its hard work. Ok so now I’m aware I’m talking about said T-shirt as if it’s a human, but yes that’s just one of the many side effects of the Dare To wear challenge.

Lessons, you CAN style a T-shirt in about seventy different ways, and guess what? No one flipping notices! This fabric was so breathable I honestly didn’t need to wash it, at least not until day three before cow pat gate. Aside from the obvious egoic based fears that arise that come as part and parcel with being told to 1. wear the same thing on repeat and 2. not to wash it, I really had nothing to worry about. And while I still change up my looks frequently, the way I wash and the amount I wash my garments has totally shifted. Here’s to one fashion season a year (two at push please.)