by Nicole Wyatt
On October 25th I put on the same wool& dress I had worn for the previous 100 days. The difference was I no longer had a reason to — after 100 days of wearing the dress for at least 8 hours, and documenting with a photo, I had earned a $100 gift certificate.
That gift certificate surely wasn’t the reason I had put on the dress for any of those 100 days though, not really. After all, I’m an upper middle class woman with a steady pay cheque from a secure job. If I want to spend $100 at their store I can. Indeed, when Sam posted about the 100 day challenge on her Facebook page, Tracy said: “I don’t even see why someone would be motivated to do this.”
Some of the over 1500 women who have now completed the challenge do so because they see it as a creative challenge to style the same dress in different ways each day. This was, as a quick view of the instagram account I used to post the daily photos will attest, not me. I ordered a few pairs of brightly coloured tights, paired the sleeveless Sierra dress I chose with various scarves in the summer and sweaters as it got colder, and called it done.
Others emphasize the desire for minimalism—less physical stuff, less disposable fashion. But also, fewer decisions, less time agonizing over what to wear. They are, as the husband of this journalist remarked, “dressing like a man”. Steve Jobs notoriously wore the same thing every day, but even men who don’t take it this far often have a uniform of sorts. This latter is closer to home for me, and definitely goes some way to explaining why, 15 days after the end of the challenge, I still wear the dress more often than I don’t.
wool& themselves include minimalism, but also environmental and social responsibility, fiscal prudence, and body image in their list of reasons.
- Spend less time and money doing laundry and dry cleaning (duh!).
- Learn how to get more wears out of a garment (e.g. when you spill on your dress, you’ll immediately take action to clean it since you’re wearing it again tomorrow!).
- Recognize what you need and don’t need in your wardrobe.
- Realize that your clothing isn’t what defines you (have you heard of the spotlight effect? It’s a phenomenon in which people tend to believe they are being noticed more than they really are.)
- Have more money to spend on experiences with the people that make you the happiest.
- Reduce your impact on the planet when you realize you don’t need a closet packed full of clothing.
They aren’t wrong about the practicality of their garments. I gained a whole new appreciation for how people in earlier eras could manage with a small number of outfits. Their dresses wash easily and dry overnight but do not need washing all that frequently — I confess I washed Sierra at least once a week more out of sense that I should than for any other reason. It’s comfortable in both hot and cold weather. Due to a hip injury I haven’t been biking to the office, but I did do some less hilly trips during the challenge, as well as lots and lots and lots of walking. Also, Sierra has pockets. Big enough pockets to hold a phone, keys, a mask, earbuds, and a pair of reading glasses.
I told no one except my daughter about the challenge, and while I don’t know if anyone noticed, certainly no one said a word. But then again, I wasn’t inclined to worry too much about what people thought about my clothing choices prior to the challenge.
So, why wear the same dress every day?
After 18 months of pandemic, the onset of menopause, and restrictions on physical activity due to an injury my body is not the same shape as it once was. My closet is full of clothing that isn’t comfortable or doesn’t fit. Buying one dress that fit comfortably and wearing it a lot means I don’t have to deal with all of that: I don’t need to get rid of clothes, I don’t need to buy a lot of new clothes, and I don’t have to wrestle with any internalized fatphobia or body shaming around the ways in which I have changed shape and gained weight. I can just put the dress on and go out.
After 18 months of the pandemic during which crisis management has been a big part of my job, as well as looking out for the mental health of others, I am suffering from serious decision fatigue. When my partner asks me what I would like for dinner I stare at him in a panic. When my daughter asks me which second season Star Trek: DS9 episode is my favourite I forget the plot of every episode we have watched over the last month. Including the one the credits just rolled on. But I can just put the dress on and go out.
Yesterday I wore a different dress that I remember being one of my favourites pre-challenge. It still fits just fine. But it just didn’t feel right. I kept pulling at it. It stuck to my tights weirdly. I was either too cold or too hot.
This morning I put Sierra back on and breathed a sigh of relief.
Did I mention the pockets?
Nicole Wyatt is a philosopher working at the University of Calgary. She has a husband. a daughter and a dog, at least she did last time she checked. Her next most significant relationship is with her bicycle.