The Uniform Project: Social entrepreneur funds education program by wearing the same dress for 365 days in a row

The Uniform ProjectSustainable fashion is a growing trend, and Sheena Matheiken of New York decided to be a social entrepreneur by doing her part to spread the word. She decided that she was going to wear a plain black dress for 365 days in a row, recreating the tunic-style garment by pairing it with brightly colored tights, shaping belts, loud jewelry and other distinguishing accessories. Sheena vowed that most of trimmings would be vintage, handmade or hand-me-downs. She called it the Uniform Project (UP).

The Uniform Project’s name began with Sheena’s roots in India, where the school that she attended required students to wear uniforms. Even though her classmates were required to wear the same clothing as their counterparts, many students were still able to express their style. Sheena was inspired by the subtle hints of fashion individuality among a uniformed population, and wanted to make a not-so-subtle statement.

Not only would the Uniform Project be a fashion challenge, but also a year-long fundraiser for the Akanksha Foundation, a social enterprise with a goal to improve education in India. All contributions to Sheena’s style undertaking would be donated to fund uniforms, books, and other schooling expenses for children living in the slums of India.

The journey began with the creation of the button up black dress. It was designed by Sheena herself, with the help of her designer friend, Eliza Starbuck. Together, they made seven copies (one for each day of the week) of the short-sleeved smock in light black cotton. The dress had pockets, and could also be worn in reverse.

As the Uniform Project gained popularity, many followers started sending Sheena contributions to spice up her LBD. When people heard about the cause, monetary donations also started flowing in. One huge contributor to the Uniform Project was the eBay Green Team, “inspiring the world to buy, sell and think green every day.” The Green Team matched the projects holiday donations, and hosted the UP’s grand finale accessory auction, and covered the shipping costs of delivering all of the items to the auction winners.

The UP came to an end this month (May 2010). Overall, the Uniform Project raised about $95,000, which is the cost of sending over 260 Indian kids to school for a year. Who would have known that one fashion daredevil and her little black dress could make so much of a difference? Everyone in the world can do their part to spread the word about eco fashion, as well as other topics on sustainability.

What is Sheena’s advice for what we each can do?

“Depending on where you live, there are amazing vintage and thrift finds but if you don’t have that, there is still online…The items are perfectly usable, and they are often one-of-a-kind, which is better than a mass-produced good. Why not use what’s already on the planet in perfect condition?”

Why not?

For more information about the Uniform Project, visit