100 days in one dress

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Can we entirely change the way we dress?

Thirteen women spend 100 days in a row wearing one dress

If you can wear [a] dress for 100 days, what can you live without?

This is a quote from one of our 100 Day Challenge participants. Our brand, wool&, was founded on three principles: live simply, consume carefully, and do good. We created the Rowena Swing Dress, as well as the 100 Day Challenge to encapsulate all three principles. We sent dresses to the first fifty people who volunteered to wear our dress for the duration of the challenge. We were beyond pleased with the results.

 

The purpose of the challenge is to encourage us to find contentment in a life of less. The modern age supports a life that favors over-consumption, and we think that this is unsustainable (on every level). But, we recognize that we are creatures of habit. We believe that changing habits requires two simple things: perspective and proper tools. We aren’t going to push minimalism. We aren’t going to draw a line for you about how many clothes to own, or buy per year. Or how much to spend. We know the joy of owning and wearing something new. But we also know the pleasure of limiting choices. We know the joy of wearing wool.

More than any other material, merino wool is a performance fiber. Known for its wearability and need to be washed less (way less), it has a myriad of other benefits including everything from wrinkle and odor resistance, to climate control. Merino can even be soothing to people with eczema. And of course, it’s a naturally renewable resource. In short, we love it and it loves us back. It’s why wool is the heart and soul of our company, and will be the foundational material behind every piece we design.

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Following in the footsteps of our sister-brand Wool&Prince, we threw out a challenge to anyone listening. The premise was simple: we provide a dress, and the participant wears it one hundred days in a row. No other guidelines. To our delight, we had fifty women take on the challenge, and thirteen complete it. We were eager to hear the results. One customer in particular stunned us with her revelation at the end of her hundred days, and her testimony alone will keep us motivated for years to come.

Everyone went into the challenge with different motivations. Ginny was searching for simplicity, especially when traveling internationally. Kjerste wanted a fresh look at how her wardrobe serves her. Nancy was already accustomed to the idea of having fewer things of higher quality that last a long time. She once owned a Burberry raincoat that lasted her twenty years and never went out of style. For others, it was their first time participating in a challenge that resembled ours. Grace remarked: “I’ve never done [a challenge], saw Clara Parke’s* post, and volunteered on a whim!”

We asked whether anything surprised them during the hundred day span. Two women observed how people really don't notice when you wear the same thing day after day. At wool&, we have found this to be true in almost every circumstance, and refer you to this article on The Spotlight Effect for more on this observation. Others were pleasantly surprised by the versatility of our dress: “The fabric was more comfortable than I expected for every situation. I was never too heated [or] too chilly,” said Grace. Nancy remembers how she was always appropriately dressed no matter where she went: “...one Saturday at 6:50pm we remembered that we had symphony tickets for a 7:30pm curtain. I already had [my] Rowena on, so I just grabbed my coat.” One candlemaker “was shocked that after one hundred days, the dress showed zero signs of wear,” even working in her studio six days a week with “five sets of little hands tugging on me.”

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“I’m […] completely in love with my Rowena.”

We didn’t state how much (or how little) to wash the dress. Each challenger took on a different approach regarding care. One woman made it the entire hundred days only spot-washing as needed. Amazing! Another washed it only three times over one hundred days (that’s thirty-three wears between washes!), while others held to a more ritualistic twice-a-week routine. Hand-washing was popular: “I washed the dress five times in total: the first four I hand-washed cold, and the final was machine washed on the delicate cycle.” Many women spruced up their Rowena before a social outing, like church or getting together with friends. Allison went fifty wears without initially cleaning the garment: “...It was smelling a bit at that point, but come on—that’s an amazing amount of wear. I was impressed!”

 
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Let’s take a moment to unpack how big of a deal this is. Sources say that up to 25% of the carbon footprint of a garment comes from its lifespan of care (Fashion Revolution). AEG Arabia says that 90% of the clothes we wash aren’t dirty enough to justify being machine washed. The women from the challenge demonstrated first-hand that merino clothing greatly reduces the need for washing, which can have a measurable, positive impact on our planet.

A challenge of this scale doesn’t go without difficulties, boredom being the most prominent. It’s a natural feeling to yearn for other items in your closet. Kjerste said: “By the end of the challenge there were a few items from my wardrobe that I missed wearing. I’m excited to have my flannel-lined chinos back for lazy Saturdays.” This same individual also noted: “But honestly I loved not having to think about what to put on in the morning, and always knowing I looked good.” Johanna thought it would be simple to wear the same outfit everyday, but instead realized that she loves engaging in the variety of her closet. Still, Sarah remarked: “I was surprised that I didn’t get sick of wearing the same thing! In fact, I’m still completely in love with my Rowena.”

 
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The takeaways of the challenge went above and beyond what we could have imagined. We are filled with joy to hear how this challenge spurred other goals in these women’s lives. Rebekah said: “My goal this year is to have zero waste.” For Johanna, it was a lesson in styling: “Pushing myself to style the dress in different ways will probably overflow into how I can be more creative with styling items that I have in my wardrobe.” Sarah learned: “Quality, versatile pieces of clothing will wear well and be staple items in your wardrobe for a long time.”

One hundred days in a row is extreme. We realize that. This challenge was only intended to be an exaggerated experiment of what conscious, slow fashion can look like. But the takeaway is obvious: wearing something more often than we currently do can lead to a real benefit. We’ve seen for ourselves that this can create a shift towards doing good and feeling good. This testimony is one that exceeded all of our expectations. At the end of it all, Kjerste wrote:

 
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“Here’s the deal: the biggest impact—the completely unexpected impact—has been on the inside. The Rowena Swing Dress is universally flattering and easy to wear, and putting it on every day took my focus off how I looked in my clothes or how I felt about my body. My focus shifted to the real person inside the dress, and I have never felt so comfortable in my own skin.”

 

What else can we say? We hope that you can find something in your life to lead you to the same end. And if you do, whatever it is, let us know! That way we can let others know, because doing good means spreading the message. Huge thanks to the individuals who took on a challenge of this scale, and for sharing their experiences so we can learn from them:

 
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Beverly, Allison, Sarah, Ginny, Grace, Johanna, Kjerste, Nancy, Rebekah, Nell, Amanda, Nikki, and Miranda.

*Special thanks to Clara Parkes (@claraparkes) for helping us propel our brand forward, and for being a big believer in wool. Clara is a leading advocate of wool, an author, and supporter of our brand.

Mac Bishop