Last month I read an interesting statistic: that most women wear 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time. A quick mental assessment of my recent outfits showed me that was definitely true for me. So I set myself a challenge: wear a completely different outfit every day for a month – without going shopping and buying anything new.
The idea was to hopefully wear a few more of the clothes that I don’t appeciate enough, and try and experiment and have a little fun with my wardrobe. What I learned was both obvious and unexpected in equal measures.
I didn’t come close to running out of clothes
Yup. By the end of the month I still had piles of t-shirts lying in my chest of drawers, and a dozen dresses hanging in the wardrobe, untouched. What I did run out of was things I wanted to wear. I wore my favourite black shirt dress on day 12 of the challenge and for the rest of the month I kept reaching for it and feeling annoyed when I didn’t have it to wear. A lot of the other things I didn’t wear were either to summery (for such a chilly August) or too wintery (because it was still August) and therefore impractical, or they were too short, too long, had buttons missing. That gave me a great idea for my next challenge.
I’ve got far too many average or ill-fitting clothes in my wardrobe
On many of the days in the challenge, I found myself tugging at a skirt or hemline or trouser waistband or rebuttoning a shirt and thinking “if only this was an inch tighter/longer” or “if only this shirt fitted a little better” and feeling irritated. I have a terrible tendency to buy things that are “good enough” in the moment, or which seem good after a full day of shopping and finding nothing, but which actually I don’t like anywhere near enough. It’s the absolute opposite of the mindful consumption I’m trying to practice in every area of life. And when I look through at the outfits which are my favourites, they aren’t the ones bought in haste because of a desire to have something new – they’re the ones I thought long and hard about and which I carefully considered before buying.
I wear a lot of black
Which I guess if I’d been paying attention I would already have realised. Maybe it’s working for an architect (stereotype alert!), maybe it’s a reaction against all the block colours and jewel tones I used to wear in my corporate life. In fact, almost every outfit I wore was either mostly black, an all-over pattern, or plain white. Apart from the green dress I wore to a wedding on day 19, I didn’t wear a single other plain colour. Is that interesting or meaningful? Maybe not to anyone other than me, but it’s definitely helped me to become more aware of what I am likely to actually wear – and to avoid buying things which don’t fit into these categories and are therefore unlikely to go with my existing clothes or be worn much.
I’m a creature of habit
So many of my clothes are actually all very similar versions of each other: I wore 4 pairs of jeans in this experiment – all basically the same shade of blue. I wore 8 little black dresses, so many black patterned items, and only about 5 different pairs of shoes all month! I’ve also got several other black and white polka dot items… You could see this as problematic – that I keep buying the same things rather than branching out. But I’m quite pleased with it really. It makes me think that slowly downsizing my wardrobe to a capsule wardrobe is possible.
I spend a lot of time in sportswear these days
I didn’t photograph any of my sportswear because it’s ugly and boring. But as a side note because I know some people reading this will be aware I cycle to work, I wore my sportswear almost every day, and most of these outfits were partly chosen because they can withstand being squished into a rucksack!
Looking forward to September
Overall, although I felt like a bit of a prat taking a selfie every day, I felt like the outfit challenge was worth doing. Staying away from the shops and focusing on what I already owned was a good reminder of society’s constant pressure to buy new stuff just because it’s new, not because you need it or it’s better.
Initially I was going to try and do another themed wardrobe challenge for September, but I decided not to after the August one because I didn’t think I would learn much new from it.
Instead, my September challenge is to make sure that everything in my wardrobe is something I’m ready and able to wear. Mending all the broken things, giving away all the stuff I’m never going to wear, taking up hems, altering sleeves, doing everything I can to ensure that I’m putting what I already have to the best use possible.
September is already nearly half gone, and I’m excited by the process I’ve made with this challenge. My mending pile is growing steadily smaller, and I’ve breathed new life into some of my clothes with some fun alterations. I’ll share my updates here soon, along with my final challenge, the October outfit challenge.