Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cheap clothes and consumerism

I ran across this blog post, The History of a Cheap Dress, which (obviously) goes into the history of how clothing became so cheap and how we've become a throwaway society when it comes to our clothes, in addition to pretty much every consumer product.

In the course of discussing it on Facebook, I was turned on to The Brown Dress Project and from there I found about The Uniform Project. Essentially, both projects involved different women who wore the same dress for a year. In the first one (the brown dress) the woman wore the same dress every day and, in the case of the second one (the uniform), the writer wore the same black dress - except she had 7 copies of it made.

The point for both projects really had to do with how we, as a society, are always in search of the new and.... look, shiny! We get rid of things long before they are worn out and, when it comes to clothes and the never-ending quest for the latest fashions, it's even more of a problem.

As stated by Alex, the brown dress woman:
I challenged myself to reject the economic system that pushes over-consumption, and the bill of goods that has been sold, especially to women, about what makes a person good, attractive and interesting. Clothes are a big part of this image, and the expectation in time, effort, and financial investment is immense.
The Uniform Project had more to do with sustainable fashion and Sheena (the founder of the project) used a lot of different accessories to spice up the dress. The other items she wore were vintage, handmade, reused, or donated pieces. She's got a pattern up on her site for making the dress and a longer-term project (you can buy a couple different styles with proceeds donated to charity) to encourage others to try it out.

I suspect that most of the readers of this blog aren't exactly clotheshorses and are less apt to follow the latest fashions than the next person. But, that said, would you be willing to wear the exact same dress every day for a month or wear a little black dress (or outfit) as a uniform for a month? And, yes, you may be smelling a challenge coming on...

Illustration by Lena Corwin

48 comments:

LynnieBee said...

When I used to wait tables I had two black shirts, two pairs of black pants and one black server apron that I wore to work every day. When I worked in a daycare I had to wear a uniform shirt. I'd be surious to see how that would work in a job wherein you can wear what you like. Tentatively, I think I would be in on a challenge with this theme :)

Fragmentary Green said...

You know, I'd read about the brown dress, and forgotten. It's something I'd very much like to do- I'm flat broke, and all for saving money and making a point.

amy said...

Before I had my daughter and stopped working, I left the uniformed resturant biz and took a job at a high end dept store. I was frequently looked down on because I routinely wore the same outfits week after week. I will never forget one early morning employee meeting where the manager told us we should be willing to go without food if need be to be able to afford the latest fashions to look good. I laughed out loud thinking she had made a joke, only when she glared at me for a full ten seconds did I realize she was dead serious. I worked there less than a year.

owlfan said...

I wore uniforms for 6 years in middle/high school, so I know I could do it. Then I had 2 skirts for winter and 2 for spring/fall and 5 blue Oxford cloth shirts. I did get awfully tired of them.

I would be more willing to wear the same thing if it wasn't a dress. Jeans or shorts depending on the weather. Given that I line dry everything I'd have to have at least 2 bottoms and preferably 3-4 tops so I could keep things reasonably clean.

Chris K. said...

Would jeans and a t-shirt count as a uniform? That's what I always wear. I have about 7 t-shirts (all different) that I wear depending on how dirty I plan on getting that day, the nice (unstained, untorn or without holes) if I'm going someplace, the stained or worn out ones if I'm staying home and working around the house or on the Trailer Park Homestead (5-7 days a week, I don't go anywhere). Then, I have 5 pairs of jeans--2 "nice" untorn ones, 2 work-around-home holey jeans, and one pair of "fat" jeans if I'm bloated or something. I wear my stuff until it is completely worn out, then I usually get their replacements on Freecycle, but will spring for a pair of jeans maybe once a year if I can't find any my size second-hand. I do laundry daily, so it isn't a big deal to me, but some people probably notice and object to my frequent repeats in attire, but that's their problem, not mine.

utahlawyer said...

My mom grew up (in Germany) owning two outfits and a weeks worth of underwear. She still frequently wears the same outfit for a week straight.

Wearing the same clothes over and over really isn't as bad as we think it would be.

Annie Jones said...

I agree with some of the others here, that I'd more likely wear a uniform of jeans/shorts and a t-shirt rather than a dress. But otherwise, I don't think the lack of variety would bother me.

Anonymous said...

This sounds interesting! If I tried this I think I would just plain get sick of it. I don't consider myself a fancy dresser or a clothes-horse, I live on a farm, and don't have much of a reason to get dressed up. I think I just like a different-looking outfit every couple of days and feel it's more a part of being human rather than over-consumption. It would be fun to try.

Lynn said...

I would be willing, but I don't see the point. I'm not "into" fashion. My clothes are basics that I wear for years. So, essentially, I have a uniform. I have nicer tops that I wear out of the house. When I get home, I change into my grubbier tshirts.(kind of like Mr Rogers, without the songs and creepy puppets). I was intrigued by the "Brown Dress" and her creativity in making it work for a year. Thanks for the reminder.

Leta said...

I could not do this, because my climate varies way too much. I would have to at least be able to layer.

As far as a uniform goes, though, I could totally get on board with that. It's something I've thought of before, actually. But because I try not to buy brand new clothes, it's never worked out.

Maybe if I starting sewing them...

Crunchy Chicken said...

Leta - If you go to the project sites, you'll see there's a whole lot of layering going on. And, for the Uniform Project, her outfit looks totally different each day.

Erika said...

I'm so game for a challenge of this sort! I've done my time in uniform - the most challenging part of transitioning to my first civilian job was figuring out what to wear - the Navy had been telling me exactly what to wear and how to wear it for years, and now, I'm told to cover up my ink and to not show lots of cleavage.

I was seriously considering the 30 for 3 (or whatever they call it) - you can wear 30 articles of clothing (not counting PJs, work-out clothes, and under-clothes), accessories (jewelry [wedding band excluded], watch, purse, hair doodads, etc.), and shoes for three months.

My biggest problem with that particular challenge is that I'm a layering freak - average day: 4 layered tops, 2 layered bottoms, and a pair of shoes - that's almost a quarter of what I'd be allowed for the whoIe challenge! I do wear things 'til they're dirty, but I'm a major klutz and I only do laundry on the weekends. :)

--Erika

Robj98168 said...

I pretty much wear the same thing every day- Jeans, t-shirt. Except for the occasional sarong :p

louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife said...

I'm in a similarly position to most of the other commenters - I wore a uniform every day for school from the age of 4 to 16 -- because everyone was in the same boat, it wasn't an issue at all.

I later self-imposed a work uniform - black trousers, black shirt - to make mornings easier!

Now I'm in the jeans-and-t-shirt every day camp - the jeans are all the same make/cut, the t-shirts vary quite a bit -- but all are pretty old as I'm six months into a no new clothes challenge.

I think I'd struggle with more precise uniform challenge though as we only do about 1.5 loads of washing a week - I'd struggle to keep tops clean unless I had multiple versions of them (which would get in the way of my no new clothes thing).

Grace said...

The other day I heard an ad on the radio for a new store in the city with the latest home fashions and clothes for the whole family. 2 kid's shirts for $15! 4 tights for $20. Obviously going after the bargain hunters and not quality hunters. But it made me wonder, what makes us think that we are entitled to 2 new shirts for $15?

Love the brown dress idea. Lots to think about. It would be an iteresting challenge.

Elizabeth said...

Not at all! I am on a very limited budget but that just spurs me on to come up with creative ways of wearing the same things.
Btw, our brains ARE hard-wired to seek the next shiny new thing , most mammals are (See if your pet dog won't go for a new toy over the old one, even if it's inferior - he will, it's been scientifically proven) and so of course big business is going to take advantage of that.

Chile said...

Since I'm not the least bit fashionable now and already purchase all my clothing (except panties, socks, and shoes) at the thrift store, I don't think wearing the same outfit (no way will I be wearing a dress) for a month would make much of a statement. But I'd love to see the working gals do it!

My clothes selection is actually pretty darn limited with 2 sets of workout clothes, 2 bras, 2 pairs of jeans only, and less than a dozen t-shirts. I end up doing a fair amount of laundry by hand to avoid running the machine on a small load.

Rosa said...

Maybe to work - when I worked retail I had a dress and a pair of pumps I could roll up in my backpack and wear to work every day.

But in the rest of my life? No. I spend half the day biking, running after a 5 year old, digging in the garden, heat-gunning old glue off the kitchen cupboards - you have to wash those clothes, or they stink and spread lead dust everywhere.

Crunchy, does your son wipe his nose and hands on your shirt all the time? The only way I can stay clean at all is to not sit next to my son when he eats or let him hug me after he plays.

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Condo Blues said...

Since I work at home, I live in T shirts and yoga pants. I could do something like the Uniform project. I like variety and since I learned to live with very little when I first got out on my own, I'm the Master at Accessorizing. The only issue would be summer. This is the time of year I go to town with gardening and DIY projects. Last weekend I was covered in saw dust by mid day and my clothes were so wet with perspiration that they could have walked over to the laundry hamper and jumped in on their own.

Accidental Prepper said...

My job requires that I wear "business casual" attire on Mondays through Thursdays (the definition of which in terms of my company is "no jeans, no t-shirts with pictures or words on them"). I have 3 pairs of dress pants, a pair of capris, and a dress. The only variation I make is in the blouses/shirts I wear with the dress pants.

I change into "comfy" clothes as soon as I get home from work to keep them in good shape, and I'm careful not to eat anything that drips while I'm in my "dress-up" clothes.

Rebecca Jean said...

If you've been on my blog you know I am totally a clotheshorse. It's a constant conscience struggle between eco and fashion.

I finally gave in.

Now I entertain my hunger for fashion by wearing vintage and shopping second hand. Although I do support indie designers and have some new fair trade and sustainable pieces in my closet.

As for wearing the same thing for a month... I could do it, but I sure wouldn't like it.

When working at home I wear the same thing 3 or 4 days in a row. All of my clothes are worn repeatedly before laundering. But when going out to meet the world I like to switch things up.

There's a challenge in the fashion blogger world called 30 for 30. Basically you pick 30 pieces of clothing from your wardrobe and that's all you get to wear for 30 days. Not 30 outfits - 30 pieces total (comprised of shoes, tops and bottoms). It's a lesson in remixing. It forces you to create many looks with just a few pieces. Really shows you just how little you need.

♥ Rebecca Jean
Midnight Maniac

Danielle said...

Great idea for a challenge, although I'm also in the t-shirt and jeans uniform camp. I just don't like mucking out the chicken coop and scrubbing the kitchen floor in a dress...

Kate said...

In principle I love the idea of uniforms. I wore a uniform through seven years of Catholic school, and was severely stressed by the peer pressure around clothing when I had to go to public school. I would have given up sartorial free will in a heartbeat to go back to the uniform.

As an adult, I really don't care what I wear so long as I'm warm enough and comfortable - and okay, decently covered, most of the time. I don't care about variety or fashion. And yes, it shows. The bigger issue for me is having a set of clothes that gets trashed and dirty during all the outdoor work, and then something clean-ish to change into so as not to bring too much of the grime inside. That sorta makes the uniform thing not too feasible for me. But otherwise I think it's a great idea.

Green Bean said...

I'm like a lot of your other commenters. I often wear the same thing several times a week - especially same pair of pants. If you can spice it up with accessories or a different shirt, it's nice and a lot easier than owning so many different things.

Jenn the Greenmom said...

I could TOTALLY get on board with this, at least in spirit--it's the peer pressure (real or implied) that would get to me. It kills me that I'm training my kids that they don't wear the same outfit two days in a row..."because you just don't."--and that I'm also teaching them to do what I do, and figure out, okay, it doesn't really need to be washed right away, will i see anyone tomorrow who saw me in it today?

Dopey.

I might have to take this challenge.

Green Legume said...

I live in the same city as the Brown Dress woman and used to be a dancer, which is how I became aware of her project (I saw her perform a couple of times, and wondered why she was wearing the same dress). I was inspired to try something similar, but at the time my professional life wouldn't allow it. I'm working from home these days, so I certainly have more freedom. And I take care of two boys (one young enough to still be spitting up on me), so my outfits are nothing special, and I wear whatever's closest to clean for several days. But, babies aside, I am a bit of a clothes horse. I would own just about every piece of Anthropologie clothing if I could ethically justify it (which I can't) and if I made WAAAAAAY more money (which I don't). For me, though, it's not as much about being fashionable as it is a creative outlet. I love pairing things in an unusual way, and finding new ways to use my existing pieces. And from a creative (and financial) standpoint, thrifting is far more interesting than Anthropologie anyway. If I was wearing the same thing every day to make a statement, I think I could handle it for a period of time, but otherwise the monotony would drive me crazy. I'm much more suited to a project like New Dress A Day.

Stephanie - Green Stay at Home Mom said...

I've been joking that I'll end up spending more on clothes for my kids this next school year because they'll be going to a charter school that will require uniforms, and I'm used to dressing them in handmedowns. Can't believe I'll actually have to spend money on school clothes for them.

I'm like a lot of people here, not really a clotheshorse. Jeans and tshirts are pretty much it for me. I'm planning a thrift store run this weekend because a few of my shirts are just at that point. They're probably 10 years old, so I don't feel bad about shopping for replacements.

Marie-Josée said...

This is a very interesting thread. I struggle with clothes and fashion for many reasons. For years I wore a self-imposed uniform comprised of cotton pants with an elastic band waist and matching t-shirts. I am overweight, and was a stay at home mom during that period. I was always clean, but I'm sure my husband didn't find me very attractive in those cloths. Once I returned to work, first part-time and then full-time, I purchased a variety of nicer tops and two or three nicer pairs of pants that I rotated, wearing the same pair of loafers 365 days a year. Still overweight, but having risen in the corporate ladder, I still rotate two or three pairs of nicer pants with a variety of tops. I'm sure co-workers notice that I wear the same clothes over and over (I work in a legal office). I don't mind wearing the same clothes over and over, although in Quebec, Canada, the change of seasons forces a natural change of attire. One of my consumer sins is purchasing snazzy and colorful necklaces. My conscience dictates that I should buy ethical, fair-trade necklaces, but I give in and purchase the ones I see that speak to me, even if they are big chain items. As a plus sized girl, I don't have many ethical options clothes-wise. As a family, we chose to visit a store that sells organic cotton clothes for my husband and son who wear regular sized clothing.

Tanya said...

That would depend on whether I had to handwash it every day or not :)

Michelle said...

M'eh, I did it for years while I was in the service! It's very... freeing, not having to wonder what to wear every day.

Midnightsky Fibers said...

Marie-Josée-
Check out http://www.weartheshift.com/ they make dresses in custom sizes and use vintage or eco fabrics. I have been eyeing one of their dresses since they opened.

I could do this if I could also wear pants :)

Interesting that people have so many excuses as to why they can't wear the same thing every day (ok, I have my own, but actually only while on vacation where it is hard to do laundry :) )

Rosa said...

I don't think doing laundry every day is very eco, either. I rewear clothes multiple times during washings - but that's dependent on having more than one set, so if (as happened last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) my jeans get soaking wet biking my son home from school in a sudden downpour, I have another pair that's dry and can hang the first pair up. Rain doesn't make them dirty, but it sure makes them unwearable.

Ditto a sweaty, muddy work shirt - I might wear it for an hour the next day, to do more of the same digging project, but I'm sure as not going to go back in the house and wear it around the rest of the day, I need a clean shirt to wear when I'm not actually digging sod.

Debbie M said...

I rarely wear dresses so I would not like to wear the same dress every day. Plus I would be tempted to go overly wacko with the accessories to make up for it. I'd rather wear the same shoes every day (and almost do).

Another problem with this plan is that things wear out. Once I was down to five pairs of pants (2 khakis, 2 slacks, and one pair of jeans I wore Friday - Sunday). I was holding out on buying more until I lost weight, but those pants wore out very quickly. I can't wear pants with holes in their inner thighs to work! With more pants, I have time to find an affordable replacement when they wear out.

I have enjoyed getting a little more uniform like for work over the years, though. I wear only black or brown shoes and a black or brown belt--this keeps my from falling for other shoes or belts. I wear solid pants, shirts, and blazers, mixing and matching them with my necklaces and earrings. I wear a brown barrette that blends in with my hair and I wear the same watch and glasses every day. I do have a few patterned shirts, but they are more likely to feel dated or for me to get tired of them. When I am tired of solids, I just wear crazier jewelry. Necklaces and earrings just don't wear out the way clothing does.

Desert Lean-to said...

To echo many of you, I could rise to the challenge if I didn't have to wear a skirt/dress. I pretty much already have a uniform--just 2-3 pairs of pants and a handful of tops. One of my 2nd grade students asked me if I was poor and that's why I always wore the same thing (This is in a school where 98% of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch). His question got me thinking about how our outward appearance in the form of clothes has come to reflect society's perception of one's socio-economic status, at least in the eyes of an 8 year old.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I are getting ready to go full time RV'ing, so we are downsizing to only a few pieces of clothing. We both wear lightweight clothing in the summer, which can easily be washed out and hung to dry. In the winter, we layer with fleece on top, so it is lightweight and easy to dry, also.
When I worked, I actually wore the same type clothing every day, so in effect, it was a uniform. Loved not having to decide what to wear every day.
I now shop at thrift stores and find great, brand name, like new clothing all the time. I do live in a big city, so there's lots of selection. I only buy underwear and socks new. And some shoes.
I could definitely go a month.

Dianna said...

I don't have a lot of clothes but I don't see the need to own 7 of one thing. I live in a cold climate so you need layers anyway. I don't buy clothes for myself very often and I don't own much.

I wouldn't wear the same outfit it wouldn't be practical because I would have to do the full wash cycle and there might not be a full load ready.

I wear clothes until they get dirty then I wash them so I do reuse clothes. When I need to buy something I usually get it at a thrift store.

I have more clothes then my kids need but a lot of it was gifts.

When I buy them clothes it is second hand. I then sell them back to consignment, give them away store for reuse or bring them to the thrift store etc. I have three kids and they get their clothes pretty dirty so I often do need to wash their clothes more frequently. I will hang them up again if they are clean. My dd went through a phase of wanting to wear the same thing every day but sometimes I had to insist on washing it so it didn't stain permanently and got washed when needed.

theinfamousj said...

I just spent a month in the same two shirts, one pair of capris, one skirt, and one sarong. Not to mention the same two pairs of shoes. Do I win? :P I was travel-backpacking for a month.

This is seriously easy to do. The only thing you have to get past is how you feel about other people noticing that you do, indeed, re-wear articles of clothing. For me, I don't even notice their noticing so it doesn't bother me, but at the same time when discussing with friends, I can see how this would be an issue that - in one friend's case would require therapy - to overcome.

For work, I have two pairs of black pants and a handful of button down tops. This allows me to always have something to wear when something else is drying.

I do small loads of laundry in a bucket, nearly daily. I guess you'd call it "by hand", but it is more "by foot" since I use my foot to agitate. It drips dry on a clothes horse in the bath tub. I use old fashioned biodegradable soap to wash the clothes.

The thing most travel backpackers know, that people just starting out on the whole clothes minimalism thing don't realize is: If you wear a piece more often, it wears out faster. So either you have to have awesome clothes patching skills - and even then a fabric will eventually become so thin or fragile that there is no help for it - or you will have to replace it. I'm willing to bet that if you take the average commentator's closet and compare it to a re-wearers clothes number for the year, you will come up with the same number of clothing items. The question is just how many articles are required to be stored at any one time. Two months is about the lifespan of a t-shirt for a travel-backpacker, no matter how handy they are with a needle and thread. Thus, it equates to about 6 t-shirts a year. That seems on par with what your commenter are mentioning.

Liz said...

I rewear clothes until they smell like they need a wash, mend them, and patch them until they fall irreversibly apart. Even so, I do need more than one set of clothes to get through a week, let alone a month. Leaving aside my job, which is both outdoors in the dirt and elements and often physically strenuous - making my work clothes look and smell much more like work-out clothes - in my down time doing things like gardening and painting make clothes a little messy for, say, going to dinner with my sweetie. In short, while I think wearing only one set of clothes is a great statement if you can pull it off, it just seems impractical for some lifestyles, for reasons other than pure vanity. 3 sets, (work, home, out) however, I think I could do. :)

Jenna said...

Honestly?

Not so much. And I'm no clothes horse (At this exact moment in time, due to extreme weightloss - my closet and drawers are pretty bare, actually) and I loathe shopping and can be brought to despair if forced to venture into a mall. (Being a 6'2 female built like a Valkyrie in training doesn't help either.) However... my life and work is too varied to limit my wardrobe. Leather pants, knee boots, and heavy shirts are needed when getting the wood ready for the winter's heat. Gypsy wench wear is needed when I work the faires and sell my wares. A few pieces of "Stepford Wife Kit" are needed for company function for my husband's job. And that's just the barest scratch of requirements.

If I did, the majority of the time, the same thing on a routine basis? I'd have no problem with it. But as my days can swing from a morning shoveling manure, the afternoon selling corsets, and in the evening having to pull out (after a VERY long scrub!) some evening wear kit to look the part of a proper lady? Not really something I can do in my life.

But than... I also make 90% of what I wear. So maybe it isn't such a bit thing as it might be if I was buying my clothes from the mall.

Chile said...

@Jenna - just wanted to tell you I miss your blog. Nice to see things are going well for you.

Crunchy, sorry for the off-topic shout-out.

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

I do tend to wear the same thing every day- yoga pants and a t-shirt. It's environmentally-friendly but hardly intentional-- I have three children under the age of five!

All joking aside, I packed a ton of clothes for my two year Peace Corps stint and I hardly wore any of them. Most people in my village had only a few items of clothing and everything had to be washed by hand (no washing machines and very limited water). It really puts things into perspective and the western ritual of routine shopping for new clothes is still disturbing to me. The young girls and women in my village were delighted to have all my clothes when I left and I'm sure, 13 years later, they will still have them.

Billie said...

I always thought I was a little strange by not having a lot of clothes. Well.. ok.. I do... but I don't replace them when they wear out unless they are part of the 'basics'. For work, I have 6 or 7 tops that I can wear and 4 pairs of pants as well as one dress jacket for seeing clients. That is really all I need and I have never had anyone comment on the fact that I wear the same clothes week in and week out. They probably don't even notice.

Suze said...

Wearing uniforms is pretty normal where I live. In fact while the children were very young if I varied from a denim skirt and top I was told I was "out of uniform".

I have to agree that buying a school uniform can be quite an expense. When mine started high school there was a new uniform so second hand was not an option. But six years down the track my second daughter has quite a collection. Her sister was easy on clothing and some shirts and skirts have been worn for the entire time. This is amazing as she started with two shirts and one skirt and that was for a year.

As for my clothing I choose to wear skirts and tops. Sometimes I wear jeans but I dislike them. I tend to rotate through a few sets until they are very worn indeed. Some items can be mixed and matched. I will wear something more than once in our winter but never in summer. It is too humid here and very hot. I don't have many good outfits and that sits happily with me.

Bullwinkle said...

Like most people, I suspect, I lead a double life: one uniform for work and one for home. While I could easily do the work uniform for a month or a year, the home uniform would rapidly get disgustingly dirty/smelly (dogs, gardens, summer in DC) and it is too humid to think it's going to dry quickly (on the line, outside).

But I love "uniforms" - it means I don't have to think when I get dressed in the morning. Fashion-R-Not me ;)

Emily said...

I'm in the military...so I am certainly used to wearing a (literal) uniform. I love not having to waste time choosing an outfit for work- and not having to spend money on work clothes, either. I don't know what I'm going to do when I separate in a year and enter the civilian world.

jj said...

We re-wear things around here a lot, but I do have to have a variety of clothes for work. my trick is to wear something once, then hang it in a certain part of the closet. After the second or third wear (depending on how dirty / wrinkled it gets), it goes in the laundry basket.

I struggle with the idea of having only one outfit, however. We are on hauled water here, which makes you very conscious of each drop of water you use - it is expensive, and a hassle, to get more water. With only one outfit, you would be doing laundry much more frequently, and a much smaller (and therefore more wasteful) load. I also believe that this holds whether you are using a machine or a washboard in the tub - it is more water-efficient to wash numerous things at once.

I think the longer-term environmental consequences would be at least as bad as having (and properly caring for) several outfits, at least enough to be able to do a full load of laundry at a time...

LP said...

In light of this post, maybe you would find this TED talk/'Nothing New' project interesting if you don't already know about it:

http://luckysoandso.com/post/my_take_on_talking_ted

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