How Can Technology Preach True Sustainability?

If social media were to highlight truly sustainable practices like the Uniform Project, would Gen Z take the bait?

by Jaylen Anderson / Garnet & Black

Here's the fashion dare of all dares: reinvent the same dress. 

Think you can survive this dare? Don’t get cocky—not yet, at least. My advice? Proceed with caution…

The rules are simple: each day’s outfit must incorporate the same dress in some fashion. And the crux of this challenge? Under no circumstances can you buy anything. 

Did I just send you into a fashion panic attack? Sorry—let me continue explaining the game, and then you can decide whether you have the skills to survive this challenge. 

Here’s the fashion challenge: One dress, one week. Feeling confident? Good. Let's up the ante. One month? Okay, now you might be thinking, "This isn’t a challenge, this girl’s an outfit repeater." (Lizzie McGuire must feel so proud for becoming a trendsetter). But I assure you, that isn’t the case. 

Okay, final offer: 365 days, consecutively? 

New York resident and filmmaker Sheena Matheiken vowed to wear the same black, tunic-styled dress for 365 days in a row, from May 2009 to May 2010. Matheiken did this as a sartorial critique of disposable fashion in order to raise money for the Akanksha Foundation, a non-profit organization providing education to children living in Indian slums.

During the year-long Uniform Project, Matheiken managed to do the impossible. No two looks she created ever resembled each other. This proved groundbreaking for fashionistas all over the world who saw her daily outfit diary blog as a testament to true sustainability. Matheiken's outfits paid tribute to legends like Michael Jackson, shed light on 2009’s political events and reflected the 2009 cultural scope. And she did it all without dropping a cent. How? 

Spoiler alert: No, Matheiken’s closet was not the equivalent of Mary Poppin’s magical bag. There wasn’t an infinite number of items that Matheiken could just pull out. Instead, Matheiken relied on accessories like colorful tights, funky shoes and patterned tops to spruce up the tunic. 

When Matheiken exhausted the options within her closet or needed that special something to tie the outfit better together, she rummaged through secondhand shops' donation bins, friend’s closets, and mail-in leftovers from strangers. 

When the 365-day mark hit, flags of support waved in the air. Matheiken had done it. She had not only worn the tunic consecutively for a year, but she had also raised over $103,000 for the Akanksha Foundation, giving hundreds of Indian low-income students the opportunity to attend school at no additional cost. 

The bottom line? Clothes have a lifespan longer than 365 days, even if they are worn each and every single day.

Currently, there is nothing more trendy than sustainability. TikTokers continuously preach about greenwashing, capsule wardrobes and avoiding fast-fashion corporation culprits like Shein and Zara. But throw in a college game-day crisis or an upcoming themed sorority event, and the reality is the same GenZers advocating for sustainable fashion practices are part of the fast-fashion buying crowd. 

Mottos encouraging, "In with the old, out with the new" have led to a resurgence of thrifting within the last five years. Gen Z thrifters spend over $100 on garments upon each secondhand visit, only to donate or throw out said items after giving them a lifespan of 7 wears. This furthers the number of textiles thrown into landfills each year and shortens the lifespan of said garments. 

Thus, the question remains: if social media were to highlight truly sustainable practices like the Uniform Project, would Gen Z take the bait?

“I would try it [the Uniform Project] out for a little but I would get sick of it after a while,” USC Freshman Sophia Keener said. “I like change. I like to switch my style up.” 

Even though Matheiken relied solely on secondhand garments and donated accessories, showing that you don't need to buy new items for this challenge, some USC students think the urge would be too much to bear. 

“Styling one piece would definitely help the sustainability aspect [of fashion] because people would be buying way less clothing…but they would be buying more accessories,” USC Freshman Abby Mainer said. 

Around USC's campus some students say they already are partaking in the trend (adding in--they hadn't known this challenge existed). 

“I think the biggest problem in society today is people just keep buying things today, wearing it once and then throwing it out,“ USC Sophomore Emily said. “If this story was trending on social media, it would be a reminder that you can make so many different outfits with just one piece of clothing." (2:36) 

"I have a black dress, too, that I wear a lot. I like to layer a lot of different t-shirts or turtlenecks or cardigan each time. I try to do that as often as possible." 

Following the success of Matheiken's challenge, shorter-length pilot projects within the Uniform Project took the fashion world by storm. The Uniform Project launched a new challenge: 1 dress, 1 month. 

Around the globe, German hip-hop producers, Japanese painters and American television writers participated in reinventing their own versions of the famous little black dress, raising funds and awareness for a cause of their choice. 

Fashion remained the medium, but the cause varied among participants. 

Still feeling confident? And maybe now inspired to take the challenge? If so, fill out a challenge form on Not only will you be able to document your fashion journey and raise money for a cause dear to you, but the Uniform Project will provide you with a signature dress or pattern for a discounted rate. Good luck.