Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

In Conversation with Anna-Marie Epp-Janzen

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Anna-Marie Epp-Janzen said she has a "ludicrous" amount of clothing.

She actually has so much that she said she's taking a year-long "consumption sabbatical" from purchasing new items.

As part of the experience, the 26-year-old Winnipeg resident who works at Project Peacemakers, took part in the October Dress Project this year.

The October Dress Project, an anti-consumerism movement rooted in an online community, challenges participants build outfits out a single dress for an entire month.

Epp-Janzen, who wore a subdued taupe dress with red, green and purple flowers from Oct. 11 until Nov. 11 (she washed it, don't worry), blogged about the experience and was surprised by the support she received. She was also surprised that no one in Winnipeg seemed to notice she was wearing the same thing every day.

After some serious closet-cleaning, she took the time to speak with the Free Press's Roberta Bell about how participating in the October Dress Project changed not only her morning fashion routine, but the way she looks at the world.


Free Press: How did you mix and match?

Epp-Janzen: I wore a lot of tights and I discovered how many pairs of tights I have -- which was disturbing -- and sweaters and cardigans... and different belts and things like that. After I realized how many of those things I have. I could have easily gone the whole month without ever repeating an outfit.


FP: What kind of reaction did wearing the same dress every single day garner from people around you? Did anyone notice?

AE: Nobody noticed. No one. I was at a different job at the time and no one noticed at all. Until I had an article in one of the Free Press's community newspapers... until I had been interviewed for that newspaper, my own boss hadn't noticed that I'd been wearing the same thing every day for three weeks. No one actually noticed at all.

FP: And what kind of message did that send to you, knowing that no one noticed you hadn't changed your clothes in three weeks?

AE: Right?! For me, it just totally changed my outlook and it really showed me that this pressure we put on ourselves and we kind of put on each other, it's really not something that it is as prevalent as we imagine it is. You know, people have better things to think about than what I'm wearing and they should. Even if someone did notice and did care, why should that bother me? Why should I care that they care? It was kind of a wake-up call...

FP: Given the fact that you are on this anti-consumerism kick this year, what do you hope that you're participation in this project accomplishes?

AE: I've been concerned with my clothing consumption, that's what kind of led me to this sabbatical project. I was really hoping more to just wake myself up and experiment in my own experience and it's been really neat having had some publicity about it and I've had a lot more blog followers and stuff like that. It's really been interesting interacting with other people who have the same concerns that I do. It's really neat. It just has created a lot of opportunity for conversation and I really value that.

FP: What are some of these concerns you do have? What... essentially led you to go on this anti-consumerism kick?

AE: I grew up with a deep understanding that the meaning of life, I guess, the purpose, is to make the world a better place for everyone and to be a positive influence. The massive consumption habits of North Americans in general is not the kind of thing that makes the world a better place. It makes it much worse. And after that factory collapse -- the Rana Plaza collapse, where 1,129 workers died -- in Bangladesh, it was another kind of slap-in-the face wake-up call that I don't need to be buying into this system and that I have the power to make decisions and I have the power to really affect change by making personal choices and I can't make those personal choices until I've really pushed myself to the extreme. And this is the extreme of not participating at all and I feel like I can address some of the injustices with a clearer eye.

FP: What was your biggest takeaway after doing the October Dress Project?

AE: Not that long ago, my own grandparents, they would have only had two outfits: one for weekdays and one for Sundays. We've so rapidly got to this point and I think it was just such an eye-opener to really show that these are luxuries and we really don't need to put that kind of pressure on ourselves. We don't need to consume in that kind of way.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 28, 2013 D2

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