1 Month, 6 Pieces of Clothing: Living the 6-Item Challenge

Gabrielle Karol

Who wouldn’t want the perfect closet, filled with clothes that are on-trend, fit well, look great—and that you actually want to wear everyday?

Well, I do.

But what most of us have are some great pieces … mixed in with a majority of items that we barely ever wear, but can’t bear to part with.

When I first went away to college, I was overwhelmed by how much stuff I had—especially clothing. So, I tried to edit down my wardrobe, donating or throwing out the extras, from a brown overall dress (what was I thinking?) to the bulk of the t-shirt collection I’d been curating since middle school. In the four moves I’ve made since then, I’ve taken pains to edit down my closet further each time, striving for the perfect, minimalist wardrobe, and … it’s hard.

So, when I read about the “six-item” challenge in The New York Times, I was instantly captivated.

How the 6-Item Challenge Works

The big idea? Pick six items of clothing. Then, wear only those six items for a month. (Not counted in the “six” are undergarments, shoes, accessories, workout gear and outerwear.)

The founders of the challenge, Heidi Hackemer and Tamsin Davies, initially wanted to pare down their extensive wardrobes; people who undertook the challenge said it helped them stop buying “in an egregious way” (one woman spent between $5,000 and $10,000 per year on clothes, while another had 72 pairs of shoes), and served as a great wake-up call regarding out-of-control consumerism in recessionary times.

The challenge was also hailed as a big time-saver: One six-item “dieter” quoted in the Times said, “Anything that removes complexity or cycles from your day is really valuable. I have freed a lot of bandwidth in my head.” If your default setting is “busy,” the challenge also provides an opportunity to streamline.

More free time, less spending? I was sold.

For the next month, I vowed to wear six items of “essential” clothing only, take photos of myself each day to push myself to style each outfit differently and document my feelings (frustration at not being able to wear all the new spring trends? boredom each morning?).


How I Chose My Six Items

When it actually came time to choose, I felt surprisingly overwhelmed by the limitations. What items would work for both work and play? Would it be best to just choose six dresses … or would being able to mix and match different tops and bottoms be more versatile?

I did a lot of reading to see how other people winnowed down to their six. Some went for all black, so as to camouflage frequent wear … but that seemed drab and too depressing for springtime, which happens to be one of my favorite seasons (mostly on account of the opportunity to start breaking out cute sundresses). Others did three tops and three bottoms they could mix and match accordingly, giving them nine different combinations.

The bottom line? There’s no wrong or right way to choose items, but it is important that they be 1) versatile, 2) appropriate for your lifestyle and the current season, and 3) items you feel really good wearing.

In the end, I chose:

  • a white lace dress
  • a red, short-sleeved dress
  • black skinny jeans
  • a black mini skirt
  • a black-and-white silk top
  • a red, ruffled top

It took me about an hour to decide on this final list, and it was hard to commit to just these items for a whole month. Would my co-workers notice? Would I still feel pretty and dressed up enough going out after work?

Check back in to see how it is going.