Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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One Dress, Six Months

Serge doesn't think I can do it which is reason enough to try. Wear the same dress for six months.

181 days.

The financial investment, particularly of women, into clothing and our appearance is ridiculous. Thousands and thousands of dollars spent annually in an effort to keep up with what magazines and television decree to be hot. Fake hair colors, fake hair, fake nails, fake tans... at one time or another I was guilty of several of the above. So, in addition to wearing the same dress I will not invest any money toward hair coloring or any other similar expense. First, it's a rejection of an economic system that pushes over-consumption. Second, I hope to raise money to pay off debt and help a local charity.

But. To do that I'll need your help.

Over the years of this blog I've had several people contact me because they wanted to send me money. It blows me away every, single time. Most recently I had an offer that shocked me. And got me to thinking. I've never accepted money nor have I put ads on the blog. It just felt wrong. But this last offer got me to thinking; what if I do something readers could sponsor? Set a goal for myself and y'all can kind of sponsor me in the same way people raise money to run marathons.

That's where Little Black Dress comes in.

Here's how it will work: On January first I'll begin the Little Black Dress project. I've found a dress from T.J. Maxx for $19.99. I'll wear the dress every, single day until July 1st. Here's where you come in: I'll put a donate button on the blog and you can contribute whatever you want as often as you want. Hell, if you win THE GREAT EXPERIMENT and want to donate your money to Little Black Dress, feel free! I will donate half of the money I raise to a local charity. I've decided to give it to No More Homeless Pets of Utah. FOX has done several stories on them and it's a fantastic organization. The other half will go toward my debt reduction which will be chronicled meticulously here on the blog. The money won't be touched until July 1st and if I don't make it ALL the money raised will go to the charity and I will provide documented proof (maybe even a video of me presenting the money) on this blog.

This could be a colossal flop. But I think it's worth a try. Who knows what could happen? I believe in the power of the internet. And I'm so grateful to y'all for reading my blog all these years. If so many of you hadn't kept reading I don't know that I'd still be writing here. You advised me through so much of my crazy bullshit and, as THE GREAT EXPERIMENT has shown us, there is power in numbers. If enough of us band together there is no limit to what we can do. I guess what I'm trying to say here is it's worth a try.

Even if I fail I hope to inspire you to think hard before making unnecessary purchases. I want to inspire you to pay off your debt and stay out of debt. If, like me, you're working your ass off and still living paycheck to paycheck I want to inspire you to get creative in trying to pay off your debt. Maybe you'll do the Little Black Dress experiment along with me? If you're anything like me you kind of floated through your twenties, acquiring unnecessary debt, not fully understanding the repercussions. Isn't having debt a normal part of being alive? NO! You shouldn't buy it if you can't afford to pay for it in cash. You want something? Budget for it and save! Not owing money to anyone is a powerful feeling.

Now, I have 20 days to find a dress.

Brown Dress
Uniform Project
And a woman who knows who she is.

Reader Comments (52)

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKaty

Yes, I featured that here:

One I like better though is this one

December 9, 2009 | Registered CommenterMonica

You may want to reference the uniform project (as I see one commenter has already pointed out) just to help negate any backlash- I think this is a great idea! Getting the word out about debt reduction and avoidance is huge!

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAdrienne

I am completely in debt and have no extra money to pay it off... I'm going to get creative, too...

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSadie

I applaud your idea to get out of debt - good on you - your blog attracts a tonne of people and has entertained us all regularly - so why not set up something where folks can donate to your cause. I will happily chuck in a donation.

However, I just want to flag up one small thing. Whilst I agree with your anti-debt stance (although check out the 'Rich Dad Poor Dad' book to see how debt can work for you - particularly in the property market) - fashion is meant to be fun. The joy in expressing ourselves in different ways - a way to embrace our creativity and individualism. Is it an 'I feel fat comfy jeans' kinda day or a 'paint the town red let's get my legs out' evening? Painting our nails, dying our hair, getting a piercing or a tattoo - all ways to say 'I am me.' As you have mentioned here - fashion doesn't have to cost...and we don't have to be slaves to it. Having said this, I am sure you will dress/up /down your dress and this will challenge you daily.

Lastly, I fell upon the blog the other day and almost vomited. A 16 year old prancing around in Prada, D&G, Louboutin's - her Mother buys for her. SHE IS 16!!! It made me want to prance around naked for the rest of my days than be as vacuous or as spoilt as this chick.

Good luck!

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCrummyMummy

But Little Black Dress will force me to have more fun with fashion by the very fact that I have to get creative to mix up my accessories and make it feel like I'm wearing something fun and different each day :)

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTheGirlWho

I think it's a great idea!

The only thing I disagree with is buying more than one of the dress - that's not really "one" dress, just one style.

I immediately thought of those convertible dresses, plus you have a great figure and you would look totally cute in one (unlike me, I would look like cream corn and watermelons were having an epic battle under the sheet!):

Butter by Nadia

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreenInOC

This is probably an obvious question, but if the real goal is debt elimination (which - awesome job by the way) - why is it important to wear the same dress every day (requiring purchase of a new dress simply for this purpose), rather than making a goal of not purchasing any new/used clothes for the next six months?

That said - I don't mean to be Judgy McJudgment over here. Challenges like this can be fun, but I was just having a hard time making the direct link between six months of a single dress vs simply not making new clothing purchases. That in itself is a huge achievement! As my grandmother always says...use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without...

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

If I purchase more than one dress it will be the exact same dress, exact same style in case the first one wears out. If I could sew, I'd make it myself but that'd likely cost more than just buying the dress.

The project is symbolic in some ways and doing it gives me a challenge, something to achieve on a daily basis and something y'all can sponsor.

December 9, 2009 | Registered CommenterMonica

Since you're doing this, we should probably get cable tv again, huh?

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSerge

Our refusal to subscribe to the ridiculous rates charged by Comcast is yet another protest against over-consumption! You know you love it!

December 9, 2009 | Registered CommenterMonica

Sounds fun. I hope that you are planning on doing a picture journal of your "black dress adventures." Congratulations to you for taking control of your life.

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

I love it!

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPatch

I love that you've decided to go with one single dress!!!

And tell your lovely husband that Hulu is a wonderful thing! You can even spend about $20 and get cables to hook up your computer to your TV, choose your show on Hulu but watch it on the bigger screen.

You can be really frugal, get the cables from Sharing is Giving or Freecycle and to conserve heat, snuggle next to each other on the couch and watch from the laptop!!

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreenInOC

Girl, you brave-- I love the fact that you're going to have one dress and HAND WASH it. Air drying, too? I'm going to look around for a dress to suggest for you. Can't wait to follow this project of yours.

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Black. hmmm....a lot of people wear black every day of every year....up the ante with a brave new color to outshine the rest. lift us all out fo the doldrums with a nice YELLOW. I'd pay the same amount you to wear a yellow dress every day for 3 months. OR what about wearing the same flashy headband every day for 2 months. Or...i'd dare you to wear NEON every day for a month. If you could still find anything in NEON. black is just too easy in my opinion. Best wishes with whatever you go with.

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGina

YES! This is a great cause... debt reduction AND the best Charity in the state! Loving it.

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

I think it's a great idea...for charity. I would certainly contribute if it were to help any of the hundreds of thousands of organizations which exist to help people/animals who desperately need it. But to help you get out of debt (or 90% of it)--that feels weird to me--you SHOULD sell add space for that purpose, I think, because that's what you are 'selling' here--your audience comes to read what you write and look at your photos/videos, you're enertaining us and deserve to see income from that if you can.......but the dress experiment (& I also agree that it's weird to make a purchase to start the whole thing off when you could more easily and inexpensively choose your favorite outfit already owned) will need to significantly increase its charity contribution in order to get my interest/$. I think you've already made the point about debt here many times, and effectively so. Regardless, I don't expeect you to alter your plans for one random commenter so best of luck with whatever you choose to do.

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLL

Why does everything always have to be for charity? It's a fun project she's doing and as a reader of this blog I would be happy to donate considering the fact that Monica has entertained me for years and hosts The Great Experiment every month in an effort to give other blogs more readership and award money to other people. Charity is great but that's not what this is about. I'd donate even if she didn't give any money to charity. I'm excited for it to start. Go Monica!

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Someone who wears black everyday, same dress or not, could still be considered attractive and classy and fashionable.

Someone who would wear yellow everyday, for more than three days in a row, could only ever be considered: an asshole.

I think wearing the same BLACK dress for six months would be quite a feat.

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSanto

I agree with Ashley. This is a fun project that doesn't have to have anything to do with charity. I think it's creative and cool and I, for one, will check in religiously to see how it's going! Can't wait for pictures.

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGemma

You should definitely take a picture of yourself everyday in the dress... that way you can do a montage/slideshow dealio later.

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi

I think this will be great for you. I have to wear a uniform to work. While I used to rage against this, I started to enjoy it. I can do little things -- like wear funky earrings that I already own -- to make days more individual. I have some freedom -- our uniform is simply colors. So, I buy most of my stuff at thrift stores. I would encourage you to try to do the same for the little black dress -- I found a lovely spaghetti-strapped linen number that can be ultra dressy with the right shoes or ultra casual with a chunky sweater over it. Our thrift stores have lots of upper-end stuff for rock-bottom prices. It lasts well because it's a quality I couldn't afford first-hand.

It's a size 4, but it's a large size 4. If that's your size, e-mail me and I'll mail it to you. Then, you won't even have to buy a dress for your project. :)

Good luck! I think this sounds like a fun challenge.

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMzLibrarian

Santo - hilarious!!

How about you find a dress (Made in the USA out of sustainable fabric, even better) and pitch the idea to the company and see if they'll give you the dress? It would be fantastic PR for them.

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreenInOC

First, let me say that I think this is a fantastic, altruistic idea and worthy of your effort and our attention. What I don't understand is the focus on just one dress. Wouldn't accessorizing pretty much negate the purpose of a "uniform"?
I checked out the uniform project link and saw a wonderful display of creativity but didn't see how it would save money. In fact, I think your pictures featuring your outfits blending sale items and thrift store finds is a better representation of how to be thrifty and save money. I believe it clearly shows how you don't need to spend what department stores and specialty shops dictate - but that if you're patient and have an eye for style that you can put yourself together using basics, classics, and inexpensive items but still look like a million bucks. You've done that...maybe the next step is to start from scratch and build an entire wardrobe - monitoring the spending - and posting those results. I think that is a far more effective and useful tool for you and for us all! It's something I've considered myself...if only I could part with parts of my wardrobe!

No matter what, I commend you on your determination and inspiration to make the world just a little better and starting at home. I think you're just a tremendous inspiration and hope this works out beautifully. I'm certain you'll look great, have the will to see it through, and find some really creative solutions.

GOOD LUCK! If I hadn't been laid-off (and currently unemployed) I'd throw money your way!
Hugs & love to you and your little family.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Thankfully I have seen that Monica herself can handle an alternative viewpoint, and in fact sometimes appreciates it, which is why I felt perfectly comfortable expressing my thoughts to her. It's my opinion, and as I clearly said, I don't expect her to change her project because of it, nor do I see why anyone else needs to tell me again what "THIS" is about as if I somehow fail to comprehend it or as if they were her spokesperson. Not necessary.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLL

For the record, I won't be accessorizing like The Uniform Project as that would defeat the purpose of frugality. I hope to find some stuff on the cheap, but I fear my daily photos will be quite boring compared to the creations she comes up with every day.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl Who

I love this idea; in fact I've been thinking about trying to do something similar ever since I first saw The Uniform Project (thanks to you for sharing the link). I have very few clothes (my husband has at least three times the amount I have) and if I could find the right outfit that I could change and add stuff to I would have no problem wearing it every day. I don't think your photos will be boring. The Uniform Project is very inspirational but I probably wouldn't wear about 90 percent of what she wears because I'm just not that crazy, but I do love the simpler outfits. Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBailey

My personal opinion....

Serge knows damn well you CAN do it. But he also knows that you WONT do it if you think he thinks you can. So he uses the ole male double bluff thing, something akin to what I did the time I did my first parachute jump....

The way that worked, was that I knew as we headed to the plane that as the biggest person scheduled to jump I was going to be the first one to do so. But there was a girl in the group, and she was on the verge of a panic attack.

So I told her that she should go first, because if she jumped, I would HAVE to.....

Because there was no way I could let a girl jump and not do it myself....

I made her SO DAMNED ANGRY, that she followed me straight out of that plane, and ran towards me as soon as she landed screaming "I WANNA GO AGAIN!"....

I played the sex card to make her do something she wanted to do, but was terrified of trying, because I knew she could do it. And this, right here, is Serge, although he will never admit it, doing the same thing.

HE knows you can do this. But YOU don't believe it. So he is using his doubt as the motivation to make you succeed. Just like I did all those years ago with that girl that really did want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane thousands of feet in the air, but was too scared of what might happen if things went wrong, right up until I played the chauvinist pig card that is and made her prove me wrong.....

Personally, I would, in the circumstances, go for 9 months. Just to show him that you are still the one in charge here!!

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDamien

it sounds excited and a bit mad:) hope you know I always support your ideas, let us show your dress girl! I promise I'll sent/ship something nice :) to bright this little black one :)

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteranajo

Wow...good for you can't wait to see the pictures and what you come up with.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShelly

I think it's a great idea - just look how it's got people talking already.
Yes Monica could have advertisers on her blog, but a lot of people love her site even more because it is 'ad-free'.
Personally, on the one hand, I'd jump at the chance to clear her entire debt by advertising my little company on her site, but on the other hand, I love it because there are no ads, so I just have to accept that I can't have my cake and eat it.
That's why I'm absolutely fine with her having 90% of the money to clear debt.

Totally, off the point and by the way, we'll be seeing Uncle Dave and Christine tonight at the LOD London show - just can't wait - counting down the minutes.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Great idea! It's one thing to lament one's situation, and a really brave, AWESOME and inspiring thing to actually DO something about it. Count me in on reading about your journey and sending a little support your way...

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterminor catastrophes

Sorry, but this sounds like a ridiculous idea to me. Not buying anything new would be the way to go on the frugality scale, but wearing the same thing every day - that's more like punishing yourself for what, having a closet full of clothes? Isn't the idea to get to the heart of the person without all the extraneous consumption bullshit? Seems like you will spend a lot of time obsessing about what you will wear with the dress, combing thrift shops for stuff to change up the dress, photographing the dress daily. maybe as an art project or something, but as a debt reduction technique, it just seems, well, stupid.

But, respectfully, good luck with all that.

disclaimer: I love cable.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

Monica, that is an awesome project. Can't wait to follow the journey of you and your little black dress... have you checked American Apparel's stuff? I am in NO way associated with them, but I have a lot of their stuff, and my black shirts / leggings must have been washed around 180 times already... they still look surprisingly decent and surprisingly black. OR maybe you can find something our of hemp? (something simple and not too granola-looking...) the kicker with hemp is, it actually becomes softer with every washing cycle, will NOT fade, stretch, shrink or pill. It is an amazingly resilient fiber and may be therefore perfect for this kind of project. Cheers to taking a stance against this consumerist madness we're in...

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlexandra E.

I'm not really understanding the negativity (Janet) about this project? It's not an opinion for you to disagree with, it's a project Monica came up with to make a point and raise money, some of it for charity. So I guess I don't really understand where someone is coming from when they come here and call Monica's idea stupid. That's just rude.

I like where you're coming from, Monica, and can't wait to see how it turns out.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSena

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChris Holmes

OK, yeah, stupid was a little harsh. It just seems that if the objective is to get rid of debt and adopt a non-consuming lifestyle, why ask your supporters to sponsor you - why not just let the ads show up on the website and get funds from those that have taken your money from you in the past? Or try and see how long you can not be a consumer except for food. Cloth diapers, freecycle, barter - stuff like that. I think there are easier ways to get out of debt (and I've enjoyed reading the smart steps Monica has already taken) than wearing the same thing for six months - that just seems like torture to me.

Again, I'm just sayin'. And seriously, good luck.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

Everyone has their own definition of "torture", Janet. To you its wearing the same dress for six months. To me, its the type of people who recommend "bartering" instead.

Enjoy your life amongst the undiscovered tribes of the Amazon, oh wise one.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSanto

Oh Santo, you have me figured all wrong. As I'm recovering from recent surgery, I am spending my days channel surfing, and doing all my Christmas shopping via the internet and tv shopping channels. Got some real good stuff. I am an uber-consumer all the way, to each her own and all that. Oh, and I'm sorry to have hijacked this thread.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

Santo, I agree that Janet's first comment was harsh but she apologized. Janet offered her opinion. I offered mine too. Blogging, allowing comments and asking for people to voice their opinion is opening you up to dissenting opinion. Sometimes other's opinions inspire, piss us off, nod in agreement, infuriate or give us hope. It isn't a bad thing, in my opinion!

I understand where Janet is coming from and I think it would be awesome to get a dress from Freecycle or by bartering (however unrealistic that idea is!). However, I don't agree with Janet. I don't think Janet is a bad person, I think she just expressed an opinion that is different than mine.

I think that doing something that is "torture" is kind of the point. We have all become victims of marketing and believe that we NEED stuff. What Monica is proposing is a way to combat that. There are other ways too. Some ways some people will connect with and some people won't. We never know how we will inspire.

I will take off my self-appointed striped referee jersey now!

Personally, I can't wait to see this experiment unfold - it will be so fun to watch and will hopefully inspire others to action in whatever form that takes.

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreenInOC

Well, ok.

Go Monica!

December 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSanto

One thing that seems odd to me about your project is having sponsors who presumably will sell clothing and accessories and such. Since your project will be about not giving in to consumerism especially in regard to our clothing and appearance promoting those who are hawking those products seems a bit unaligned with your project to me. But I understand to each our own and obviously it makes sense to you and works with your goal to improve your financial situation. I have something sort of along similar lines (not with sponsors or donations though planned for the new year, so good luck to us both.

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterm

I totally think you should put ads on this site. And have fun with the project!

December 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEDW

okay, so i completely understand wanting to pay off your debt.

i'm in the same boat, in a big way.

but i don't ENTIRELY agree with the whole "not putting money towards your appearance" thing, probably because i'm a hairstylist and if everyone were to stop coloring their hair, i'd be out of a job. and then I'd NEVER pay off MY debt.

so i agree with you. mostly. but not about that part. i think maybe choosing small businesses and buying handmade stuff would be a good compromise instead of supporting the corporate monsters?

and i do definitely think about things before i buy them, that's great advice that everyone should follow. great choice on the charity as well.

December 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertia

It makes me uncomfortable donating money when only 10% goes to charity. I would feel more comfortable if it was more like a 50/50 split. I know how hard it is to get out of debt (I am trying as well), but I think your readers may be put off by this like I was.

December 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenters

I wanted to clarify that I think one of the things that's off-putting about the idea of giving you $ to get out of debt for this project (or 90%), is that you have such a good job, Monica, and I believe Serge is working too, right? And you do get benefits, right? Health Insurance, certainly. And your Mom is nearby to babysit Violet for free... When the unemployment rate is at 10 percent ( and I'm in there)...I mean, it would be great to hear you address some of the comments about the inconsistencies and perceived weirdness (stupid was definitely unnecessary and inappropriate & good for Janet for owning the mistake and apologizing) since you kept comments open on this one, which I know you do sparingly these days. Do you see where we're coming from, or just think we're killjoys? I think you should finish the whole click by saga and charge us all to the read the rest of it! Now that I'd pay good $ for, and it's because YOU'RE an entertaining writer with lotsa drama to spin yo yarns... Maybe somehow this whole LBD thing seems to me to undervalue your true talents, and maybe because I tend to do that with my own creative endeavors (or have in the past) I'm seeing a bit of a shadow....

December 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLL

I have to agree with everyone above. When you blogged that you joined a gym with daycare and then talk about soliciting funds, it leaves me confused and annoyed.

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJonga

oops, that is twitted not blogged

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJonga

I've got to be honest, I don't understand the "annoyance". Many, many bloggers have "donate" buttons on their blogs garnering proceeds which they keep, ostensibly for entertaining readers over the years. I'm proposing a project that I thought would inspire frugality, sustainability and show you don't need a wardrobe of fancy clothes to get by. Half of the money is going to charity. I think the key thing here though is it's a project that you can donate to IF YOU WANT. So I'm really perplexed by all the negativity and annoyance. Also, not that it should make a difference, but we didn't end up joining the gym.

December 16, 2009 | Registered CommenterMonica

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