The Discomfort Zone – Same Clothes, Different Day

Kate Hicks

I have two reasons for wearing the same thing every day this week. First, I’m curious to see how many others will notice. Given the fact that half the student body attends classes in what they wore to bed the previous night, maybe I can get away with wearing the same outfit every day. Second, I haven’t done laundry since returning from winter break, and I have nothing to wear. So until the washing machines open up, all I have is a pair of black sweater-tights and a long black sweater. Not super conspicuous and generally comfortable, I decide to go for it.

Given the fact that I spent 12 years wearing a uniform, you’d think that I’d deplore the idea of wearing the same thing every day. But actually, I find that waking up and not worrying about what I should wear is a comforting feeling and makes mornings really easy. I must confess that I find that I miss this part of Catholic education. At the same time, however, it’s weird to wear an outfit like this more than once at a time. Wearing jeans and a sweatshirt two days in a row? Perfectly acceptable. But an actual “outfit?” That’s questionable, at least in my mind.

You might think that this ends up being an awkward and hilarious week, full of people making fun of me for apparently not owning any other clothing. However, I find I have literally nothing to report. As the week wears on and I wear my sweater, I can’t help but feel extreme shock at the fact that no one says anything about it. A close friend who has already seen me several times throughout the week first notices on Friday. The fact that someone who sees me so often hasn’t picked up on this implies that the general campus population, who sees me far less often, probably hasn’t noticed either.

I begin to wonder…what else wouldn’t others observe? There are some obvious small things, like a subtle haircut, a new piercing or new perfume. But what about getting braces on or off, notable weight loss or undergoing cosmetic surgery of some kind? Lost tooth? Black eye? Appearance-wise, how different or strange must a change be before we’ll notice?

Last semester, my best friend came back to school looking different after a weekend at home. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why — until I remembered she’d gone home to have her braces removed. I’d known her for months, and barely noticed her mouth full of metal for an entire semester. That’s a relatively big change, though. All I’ve done this week is adopt a uniform of sorts. Just goes to show you that for all the work we put into choosing our clothing, there’s very little external payoff.

Obviously, it’s impossible for me to claim that no one ever notices what we wear or how we style our hair or what-have-you. I’ve received (and given) plenty of compliments in my day. Besides, some argue that our generation has an unhealthy obsession with objects and appearances. As a general rule, however, we care about those things only in relation to ourselves. We might briefly note someone else’s clothing, tattoo or nose job, but only to think about how much better or worse it might look on us. In other words, we’re all pretty selfish.

Furthermore, college students aren’t the most perceptive bunch. Half the time, I walk around campus in my own world rather than observing everyone who walks my way. Conversely, I have a friend who is open about her passion for people watching. Someone like her might notice the details, but she puts some effort into that. Besides, typically I don’t notice things like what you wore on Tuesday because I just don’t care.

Aha! There it is! That’s why no one noticed what I wore last week; they didn’t care. And why should anyone? We all have far more important matters to worry us than whether that one weird girl is wearing the same sweater every day. Selfish as it is for others not to notice, it’s even more selfish to expect to be noticed. And hey, if none of you saw or cared that I wore the same thing each day, I might do that more frequently. It sure does make getting ready in the morning a heck of a lot easier.