Chances are if you're a woman and you enjoy shopping, you have one of these ubiquitous black dresses in your closet right now. And chances are you only wear it once or twice a year.
Not Sheena Matheiken, a stylish Brooklynite who's made a personal mission of wearing her own Little Black Dress every single day for one year (read: 365 times). Through the sustainable style stunt, she's raising money for the Akanksha Foundation, a nonprofit group that funds the education of underserved Indian children. Many of these children come from impoverished villages (think Slumdog Millionaire) and wouldn't have access to schooling otherwise.
The Uniform Project documents both the money raised for the charity stunt ($360 pays for the cost of one child's school year) and a visual timeline of sustainable style.
Three years ago, The Little Brown Dress was the first experiment in sustainable style to gain successful digital hype. While we applaud the Little Brown Dress's Alex Martin for refusing to wear anything but her brown, knee-length button-down, we cheer Sheena's creative ability to transform one look into 365 uniquely different ones.
Here we show you some of our favorite LBD creations, which Sheena creates using vintage, consignment or homemade pieces purchased or donated to support the Uniform Project and its mission.
Sheena's ability to transform the same "black" canvas into the look she wants for 365 days is something we can all be inspired by. Taking the time to realize the opportunity in your wardrobe will help you to consume less while gaining fresh looks without ever having to leave the comfort of your closet.
Maximize your wardrobe not to mention your ability to adjust to volatile temperatures by layering various pieces of clothing that can be easily removed.
Sheena's black dress pokes below a white shirt that is covered with a black and white print top and button-up sweater. She's prepped to venture outdoors in cool weather, but can easily remove layers to reveal the more breathable outfit beneath once the sun peeks from behind the clouds.
Accent with Colors
Your outfit is your canvas, and you own the paintbrush. Here, Sheena accents her black dress with one brush stroke only: electric-green tights.
Decide on one accent piece and revolve the rest of your outfit around it. Sheena chooses her accessories to complement the green tights without adding further visual distraction — your eyes are already drawn to the tights. The blue flats match the blue belt, while her green tights match the vintage hat.
Use a bright pair of tights, a scarf or a sweater to rework your canvas to fit your tastes and mood.
Wearing a red scarf? Then try a red bracelet and red shoes. Wearing a bright yellow belt? Pair with neutral shades, like white or beige, or stick to the color family and try a yellow headband or earrings in a different shade.
Dress It Up
The Little Black Dress is the ubiquitous style staple for a formal evening affair. Here, Sheena takes it one step further with a peekaboo slip, Victorian collar and sleeves matched to rouge-blush fishnet stockings, heels and a belt.
A simple pair of pearls, detailed tights and a few inches of heel can dress up any outfit. Adding formal flair to any piece of clothing just takes some attention to detail. Airy summer dresses, dark denim jeans or leggings and other solid-color pieces of clothing are no-fuss casual pieces to build upon.
Dress It Down
Yes, that's the same black dress — only this time, it's paired with a retro tee, pink biker shorts and backless shoes. A few unclasped buttons transformed Sheena's look from formal to fun.
To quickly dress down a look, roll up your sleeves, pop your collar or loosen your shirt.
Try a long shirt as a dress, or a dress as a long shirt. Wear a necklace as a belt. Layer bracelets, necklaces and rings for a casual edge, or pair a dress with flats or clean sneakers. Try knee-highs instead of tights, or a long sweater instead of a short one.
Experiment not only with what you wear, but how you wear it. Follow the unexpected to reveal the potential of your pre-existing wardrobe.
That necklace you bought but never wore, the hat you wear only on holidays, the scarves that collect dust hanging over your closet door.
Many of us possess a mini-closet of "unwearables" including accessories we pair with one outfit only or bought for a select event, never to see the light of day again after living their 15 minutes of fame.
Accessorize what you do wear with what you don't. Make a drawer of these "unwearables" and vow to pair one with your outfit every day for a week. Creating a one-stop center for your unwearables leaves you with no excuse. Look at it this drawer like a grab bag of new style fun and feel good knowing you're reviving your wardrobe past its one-hit wonder claim to fame.
Wear as a Shirt
Sheena turns the Little Black Dress around to show its center-cut slit, revealing its potential to be worn as a shirt with dark, skinny denim and brown heels. Avoid relaxed denim, as it will just look sloppy against the longer dress-turned-shirt.
Get Sheena's look with any above-the-knee dress, belt and skinny jeans. Belt the dress at the waist so it doesn't billow out like a balloon.
Wear as a Jacket
You've worn it as a dress, as a layering piece and as a shirt. Who said you couldn't wear it as a jacket, too?
Sheena contrasts the white of this one-piece romper with the black of the Little Black Dress. All-season outfits like Sheena's romper will need an added layer when warm days dip to become cool nights. Button-down shirts, cardigans and multiple silk scarves can double as outerwear, too.
Dress for the Weather
Rain, rain, (don't) go away ...
Some people use a magazine for fashion inspiration. Next time, try looking out the window to decide what to wear today, and revolve your outfit around the elements of nature rather than the latest issue of Vogue.
Rain? Try colorful galoshes (like Sheena's stylish blue rain boots with yellow laces), an umbrella and that rain hat buried in the hallway closet.
Sun? Unbutton the dress to keep cool and pair a tank with the three essential S's of sun-wear: shorts, sandals and sunglasses.
Snow? Ice? Cold? Long-sleeved thermal shirts, thick wool tights and leather boots can give the Little Black Dress life even in the dead of winter.
Go with a Theme
Sheena works cowgirl magic here with a Western-themed hat, scarf, vest, belt and boots.
Stuck on what to wear? Think of every day like Halloween, and choose your accessories to help piece together one theme for a costumed look. Choose your theme (retro, bohemian, gypsy, to name a few) and focus on what you own that would complement this look. Try a themed outfit once a week to give underused clothing and accessories new life. Revive seasons-old pieces for in-season complements.
Practicing sustainable style doesn't have to be a chore. By using the clothes that you already own, you can have fun while making the most of your wardrobe.
Once you understand the versatility of your closet, you can preplan outfits using your favorite pieces for all the occasions in your life without worrying that you're wearing the same outfit twice.
Sheena wore a uniform when she attended a private Indian school. Although the schoolchildren were stuck wearing the same clothes every day, they tweaked and accessorized to fit their personality and youthful idiosyncrasies.
Years later, Sheena is again wearing a uniform every day making it her personal project to demonstrate the benefits of sustainable living, whether it is through fashion or in drawing awareness to the greater cause of the pursuit of fair education opportunity for the children of India.