There are some who use Instagram simply to show off their latest finds, and we heartily cheer that stylistic voyeurism. And then there’s Cambridge resident Shendi Xu. The 24-year-old, who does Web-based editorial work for MIT, uses the power of Instagram to make sure she’s using every garment in her closet.
“The Instagram challenge is not to repeat usage of any central item of clothing until I’ve worn everything,” she tells us. To do this, she photographs herself in an ensemble every day, creating a fashion diary for the world to see. It’s just the latest step in what she refers to as her “stylistic saga.”
“I lived in a Catholic school uniform for six years and my immigrant parents had no idea how to guide my style,” she says. “Unlike those who have always been decently dressed, my stylistic saga is truly a reflection of coming of age and development of my own sense of self.”
Q. How did you wind up putting all of this on Instagram?
A. I’m generally very much an anti-hoarder, except for books and clothes. When I moved to Boston from New York City in the summer of 2011, I gave away loads to friends and local thrift stores, but found I continued to accumulate clothes after the move. In summer 2012, I hosted my first clothing swap with friends, then brought the remainders to Buffalo Exchange, a venue whose concept has since become something of an obsession for me.
The Instagram project, interestingly enough, is meant to keep me honest. I must make use of every single item of clothing I own, lest it eventually end up in the “to sell” pile, headed to Buffalo Exchange. To do this, I’ve devised a system to make use of types of clothing for each day of the week: Monday is dresses; Tuesday is collared shirts or blazers; Wednesday is blouses; Thursday is skirts; and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are a toss-up of casual pieces, accessories, and shoes.
If all goes as planned, I’ll photograph an outfit from every day of the week.
Q. Have you ever had a friend complain or tell you that they don’t like an outfit?
A. I tend to go for color, print, texture, or otherwise interesting pieces, so friends and co-workers have come to expect some combination of well-dressed, weird, or interesting from me, depending on their perceptions. The occasional negative judgment does arise, but generally, feedback is positive. References to being overdressed often figure into loving banter, like, “What, no black and pink lace cocktail dress today?” when I happen to choose a more conventional outfit.
Q. Any individual(s) serve as inspiration for your look?
A. NYC below 14th Street, where I did undergrad. The simultaneous harmony and cacophony of colors, textures, sounds, people, and experiences very much influence my stylistic experimentation. I’ve also always been drawn to the avant-garde, counterculture, alternative, or otherwise aesthetic pushing of the envelope. I believe in going bold and making statements — elegantly, of course — more often than not. With style, as in life, I believe in drawing inspiration from all around, then deploying that inspiration and speaking my own vision.