by Sarah Aulie
The simplicity of having one piece of clothing that I could practically wear every day, sounded wonderful to me. Considering my work with Hand & Cloth, a company that partners internationally with organization in order to offered dignified work to women at risk, it needed to be an item that packed lightly, didn’t need an iron, was modest enough to wear in a developing country and appropriate for a Hand & Cloth gallery event or trunk show. I concluded that I needed a black dress. I imagined a classic, easy black dress that I could accessorize with the scarves or sashes or woven belts that I’ve collected across the years. I preferred it to be a dress that I could wear in any season – with sandals in the summer or brown leather boots in the winter. I started looking for this dress – ordering this one, ordering that one – and then waiting in long lines at the post office to ship them back again. They were all too short or the materials felt too stiff. I wouldn’t have wanted to wear any of them “every day.”
One day I met with Jamie Hayes in a coffee shop in Uptown to discuss potential product development for Hand & Cloth. When conversation strayed, I told her about the fictional, magical dress in my head. She told me that I was basically looking for a uniform. “A uniform?” I asked her. Yes, she told me – something I could wear every day.
I do wear the dress (not every day, but often!) – sometimes with an indigo sash, sometimes with a hand-dyed scarf made locally in Chicago by refugee women or other times with a vintage Tzeltal embroidered belt from Chiapas. It is my simple go-to uniform that packs light, never needs an iron, goes with everything, and is appropriate for any occasion – even a bus ride in Southern Mexico.