Through Day 80 in the100 Day Dress Challenge

by Sunita

Hi everyone! It’s been a few. I thought I’d return to the blog-living with a post on the dress challenge I wrote about in January. This is a challenge by the clothing company Wool&. You wear one of their merino wool dresses for 100 straight days (about 8 hours per day), take a photo each day, and if you make it to Day 100 and send them the photo proof, they’ll give you a $100 credit to use in their store. I started the challenge on January 5 and finished Day 80 yesterday. At this point I’m fairly certain I’ll make it to Day 100 and, more importantly, I should be able to remember to take photos on the remaining days. That’s been the biggest challenge so far.

This is obviously a promotional effort by Wool&, and there are apparently advertisements all over Instagram and Facebook. The challenge idea began in 2012 when the founder of the parent company, Wool + Prince, wore one of his men’s shirts for 100 days. When they first created the women’s version they offered 13 women a free dress if their wore one of their dresses for 100 days. Thousands of completed challenges later the compensation is $100, which doesn’t buy you a whole dress but gets you almost 75 percent of the way there (and you can use it for other things as well). Equally obviously, this is not something most people do for the money. $1/day is not going to keep anyone in the same dress for over three months, not if they could afford to buy the dress in the first place. But a surprising number of women have completed the challenge.

I wrote before about my motivations in starting. It was the beginning of the year, I wanted to do something to change up my wardrobe decision-making, and while I like dresses, I’ve been wearing trousers far more than skirts, let alone dresses. I’m not on social media and I use an ad blocker, so it wasn’t the siren song of ads or conversations. No, I went looking to do this to myself.

Unlike many of the women who participate, I didn’t join the very active Facebook group or hashtag my daily wears on Instagram. I didn’t even blog the experience here after my initial post. I told about three people I was doing it (apart from you, my faithful readers). I did read a LOT of posts by women doing the challenge, and I scrolled the Facebook and Twitter hashtags (Instagram locks you out if you’re not logged in). I picked up some ideas about how to vary the look. This proved harder to do when I was in California, because I hadn’t brought many clothes with me. But I wasn’t going many places and my meetings were all on Zoom, so I just put the dress on every day and added layers as the weather required.

Once I was back in STL and teaching in person I tried to get more creative. I didn’t wear the dress every time I taught (I just couldn’t bring myself to do that) but I wore it to work most days and I continued to wear it about 8 hours every day (sometimes more, sometimes an hour or two less). When it was cold out I layered. My Heattech turtlenecks and leggings got a lot of wear. I already have lots of scarves, as well as tunics, jackets, and longer sweaters, so distracting the eye away from The Same Blue Dress wasn’t that hard.

Like other women, I found that putting on the same thing every day was strangely relaxing and calming. I accessorized with sweaters and tunics that I’d forgotten I had (they were out of sight in a different closet) and I dug out jewelry I hadn’t worn in years. It was fun, and it made me stretch my sense of everyday wear in the same way the Project 333 challenge did in Winter 2020.

Everyone always wants to know about the cleanliness aspect. I have been washing it regularly, but not more than once a week and usually closer to every 10 days. I almost never wear it without a layer beneath it, so it doesn’t get body oils or scents on it. I am usually careful to wear an apron when I cook and I haven’t had any kitchen disasters. If this were summer things would be different, I’m sure, but then I wouldn’t be wearing a long-sleeved dress in an STL summer anyway. It’s very easy to wash and dry: I throw it in a lingerie bag and wash it in cold with other delicates, and then I air dry it overnight. It never takes longer than 8 hours to dry and usually less. It still looks about the same as when I got it. If it has developed any holes, they’re minute (I haven’t checked every inch of it because I don’t want to know, but nothing obvious has appeared). I still like the dress, even 80 days in.

What have I learned in this challenge? A lot of participants talk about sustainability, and I agree that doing this brings the issue front and center, but that’s not really new for me. Traveling with a 20L backpack taught me that clothes can be worn repeatedly if they’re the right material, and I already knew the benefits and drawbacks of merino wool from our walking holidays. I’ve worn a limited number of items before so I was pretty sure I could do this (although by comparison 33 items is a LOT!). I don’t buy fast fashion so that wasn’t a relevant area of change for me. As happened with the Project 333 challenge, I’ve learned to put things together in more imaginative ways.

Probably the biggest realization is that I really do like having a uniform. Sure, I’ve found myself bored at the thought of putting on the same blue dress AGAIN. But I also slip into it and feel comfortable and I like not having to think about what to wear, or to think about accessorizing rather than head-to-toe choices. I’m fine having my biggest decisions be: (1) tights, leggings or skinny trousers? (2) scarf, sweater, poncho, or jacket? and (3) boots or shoes or something in between? Actually, there are more: belt or no belt, what kind of jewelry? An abundance of decisions are still left! But underneath, there’s a uniform. And it’s a dress, so I look more pulled together (even wearing leggings and trainers or Birkenstocks) than I do when I’m wearing joggers and a hoodie.

Seated in chair at SFO, waiting to board flight to STL.
Ready to board.

I wore a uniform when I went to school in India, but as an adult the first time I heard about uniform dressing for women beyond required work ones was in The Uniform Project. I think that’s when I got interested in capsule wardrobes, which resulted in the Project 333 challenge (or in my case, 2/3 of the challenge since I only did two months). Between Zoom life and not going out much, it felt a lot easier to commit to 100 days in 2022 than it had pre-pandemic. And it has been.

Will I do it again? Well, Wool& has a 30-day challenge for women who don’t want to commit to 100 days … and I like some of the other dresses …

I’ll leave you with a couple of photos of the Corgis and The Dress in tunic and blouse forms.