Could you wear one dress for 10 days? That was a question asked at a recent get-together with friends. I laughed dismissively as the words “no way” tumbled from my mouth.
But later, at home, the concept popped into my head again. By then, the idea was growing on me. Maybe I could do it, I thought as I started rummaging through my closet for a dress that might work for a 10-day challenge. I came across a favourite Banana Republic frock from a few seasons ago and pulled it out for further inspection. It was a good colour, black with some heathering for visual interest; had long sleeves, a leg slit and ruching at the waist. All details that would add potential for changing things up a bit.
Hmm, maybe this could be a fun challenge.
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What is the 10-day dress challenge?
The idea isn’t new. For years, Labour Behind The Label has been offering up a fundraising challenge called Six Items or Less. According to its website, the rules of engagement require you to pick six pieces of clothing and wear only them every day for the month. Thankfully you can have unlimited access to underwear, accessories and footwear. Plus, workout gear or work uniforms are excluded from the six pieces. Their site includes a link to a fund-raising sign-up, so you get the chance to help others, which is pretty cool.
Another, more brand-focused contest is the 100 Day Challenge created by a British fashion company called Wool&. Their premise is you buy one of their dresses, wear it for 100 days (with proof, obvs) and they’ll give you a $100 gift card. According to their website, over 4,500 people have taken up the dare.
Workout pants that don’t roll down – you’re welcome!
One LBD for 10 days: How to dress up a black dress
One hundred days? No contest for me! That’s hard core. And, frankly, I love clothes too much for that kind of a commitment.
But 10 days that feels doable and maybe will lead me to new insights about my relationship with clothes and my growing guilt over fast-fashion and the sustainability issues that plague me every time I plonk down the Visa for something new.
My mind was made up a few days later when I heard a CBC interview with Elise Epp, coordinator for Fashion Revolution Canada and a senior graphic designer at the International Institute for Sustainable Development. Her words basically sealed the deal for me. Some of the stats she shared made me really uncomfortable. For instance, in 20 years, we’ve doubled clothes production. Worse, we’re wearing our clothes for less time before discarding them permanently. For me, I’ve always justified my quick turnover with the fact that I donate them. But, I was shocked to learn that some of those donations may end up in landfill anyway.
Epp’s website offers a plethora of insight about slow fashion and solid tips for making change. It definitely helped me make up my mind to try the “one dress for 10 days challenge.”
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My own dress up challenge for 10 days
Having said that, I started it on the QT, as I wasn’t quite ready to verbalize my commitment in case, you know, I couldn’t get past the second day!! I needn’t have worried. I made it through – chronicling my journey along the way.
I woke up excited for my challenge. I didn’t have much on my to-do list except pick up some groceries, so I keep the look simple: Black dress, white runners and an oversized tote bag.
It’s a bit humid today, and I didn’t really take fickle late autumn weather into consideration. Will I die in long sleeves? Luckily the dress is light enough that it doesn’t trap much heat. To keep the look in sync with the weather, I dust off my Birks and add a straw hat and colourful cross-body bag. I’m surprised at how fresh the outfit looks.
Another warmish fall day, so I simply add a chain belt at the waist to make a blouson top and thus, a shorter hemline. I add a pretty scarf at my neckline just because I’m feeling a little drab in all black. The concierge at my condo comments on the scarf.
Maybe I should wear scarves more often?
Was in a huge rush to get out the door this morning. Can’t tell you how wonderful it was not think about my wardrobe! I basically jump out of the shower, slip the dress over my head, add black loafers, and am good to go.
I’m loving this challenge!
Ugh, woke up feeling bloated and gross. The last thing I feel like doing is putting on a form-fitting dress. Let’s face it, ruching only hides so much. My save is to add a boxy top over the dress that nicely hides my puff. I think it’s a good save.
My enthusiasm is waning today. I really, really wanted to wear something else – all those pretty clothes just hanging in my closet, being ignored. To handle my ennui, I focus more on my morning grooming routine. Spending time blowing out my hair gives me the boost I need. I finish the look with a bright fuchsia lippie and a soft but sparkly eye shadow.
The weather’s cool enough to add a topper today, so I pull on my favourite jean jacket and add a vintage cross-body bad and suede ankle boots that always give me ’70s-vibes. I feel revived!
Oh, it’s much cooler today. I throw on a striped turtleneck under my dress, add a chain belt and knee-high suede boots. Honestly, it looks like a completely new dress, IMO.
Toque weather has officially arrived. A good excuse to pull the leather jacket out of the closet and find my black tights.
I’ve got an evening at the ballet and I’m a bit worried that my dress isn’t, well, dressy enough. I decide to zhuzh it up with a pair of playful tights, big jewellery and red boots, so the dress basically fades into the background.
Hmmm, what do I wear today? Wow, that’s a question I haven’t had to contemplate for a while!
I loved the challenge and I’m definitely going to do something similar again. I have my eye on Project 333, a fashion challenge that has you limiting your wardrobe to 33 items or less for three months. We’ll see how the winter shapes up before I commit to it.
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Does the 10-day black dress challenge work?
My single-dress-for-10-days challenge taught me a few things about clothes – and about myself.
I learned I really don’t need as much stuff as I think I do. I’d rather challenge myself to be creative with a few good pieces than to have a closet full of pieces I only love half the time, and wear even less often than that.
There is a unique pleasure in trying to do more with less, mostly because it’s really satisfying to know you’re contributing to the planet’s future by working with what you have rather than always looking for the next best thing.
Truth: I’d rather be part of the solution than the problem. And fast fashion is a problem, contributing majorly to both our carbon footprint and the micro-plastics issue, too.
What to do instead of a one-dress challenge
If wearing the same clothes for weeks on end isn’t for you, there are other ways to participate in sustainable fashion, notably, going circular! That means, buying vintage or pre-loved garments, shopping thrift stores, do clothing exchanges with friends, or renting from sites like Fitzroy for special occasions.
You might just find out – like I did – that your clothes are only a smart part of who you are. No one cares what you show up in, they only care that you show up.