From 4th September to 13th October, I wore a different outfit every day as part of the 40 Days 40 Outfits challenge. What I hoped was that I would use and appreciate what I have better. I made a pledge not to buy anything new during that period - no new clothes, shoes, hats, anything at all that could be considered apparel. And I took a photo each day to record what I was wearing, and made a note of how I felt about it.
As promised, here's what I learned!
1. People had surprisingly strong opinions about the 40 Days 40 Outfits challenge
The most common reactions I encountered when people asked about what I was doing were about the 'no buy' element of the challenge. Either people felt it would be impossible for them not to shop for over a month, or they thought it was no challenge at all as they didn't shop that often.
Interestingly, I noticed that I tended to feel guilt either way. If they said they didn't think they could not shop for that period, I worried that my 'no buy' might come off as judgemental, like I thought they were really materialistic. If they said they didn't have that many clothes and hardly shopped for new ones, I felt like I was being judged for being materialistic. Either way, I perceived judgement, whether or not it was real.
2. I have a lot of clothes
Most people I talked to about the challenge had the same initial reaction I did: "I couldn't possibly have enough clothes to wear 40 different outfits!"
I was of the same mind, more because of the changing seasons than anything - how could I get through 40 days without having to break out Summer clothes that were completely inappropriate for Autumn? Convinced I was going to spend the final week in my pyjamas at work, I spent quite some time sorting my outfits in advance based on the weather forecast (at least for the first week or so). I'm sure this amused my husband provided he wasn't tripping over the shoes I kept leaving out in the corridor!
What I found was that even though I clear out my wardrobe and donate things at least twice a year, I still have a lot of clothes. I've been around the same dress size for three years, and they've just accumulated. So I've decided it's time to clear out, again!
3. I do actually use things until they wear out
I killed my favourite pair of jeans during this challenge; they just couldn't hold out any longer and finally became indecently threadbare! I realised a lot of the clothes I have I do actually wear a lot, given the choice - comfy familiar things that I feel at home in.
It seems familiarity and comfort are very closely related for me when it comes to dressing. The days I felt most 'me' I was wearing the kinds of things I wore at uni years ago; maybe part of me is trying to recapture the way I felt then, the confidence of being capable and the freedom to go out adventuring almost whenever I wanted to.
4. I rediscovered the simple joy of thinking more about how you feel than how you look
Inevitably there were plenty of days I just didn't have the time or energy to be 'put together' - and that was great. I spent whole weekends in jeans and tank tops with messy hair and no make up, getting on with life.
Those who know me will know I'm not ant-makeup by any means, but because of my skin I do struggle sometimes to feel comfortable without it. Partly because I couldn't revert to my 'comfort zone' outfits once I'd worn them, I just went all out with picking up whatever and seemed to find a carefree attitude to match it. I actually went to work three times with no makeup on at all, which I had never done before.
Incidentally, although it wasn't officially part of the challenge, I realised a few weeks in that I had subconsciously extended my 'no buy' to makeup as well.
5. What I wear really affects my mood
This wasn't a complete surprise; I was just more aware of it than usual. If I was expecting to have a hard day I would deliberately pick something in a bold colour or pattern that made me feel strong or cheerful. Some days I discarded my pre-planned outfit and dug something else out that I felt safer in, if I was having a bit of a difficult body image day. But most of the time I think I was more body confident than normal throughout the challenge - it was as if it was a long game of dress up and I didn't have to worry about what people thought about me.
6. I miss purple
Red is my favourite colour, but it used to be purple. I really miss having purple clothes! I'm getting the knitting needles back out and whipping myself something up (as soon as I've finished a certain prize draw scarf!).
So that's what I learned - it's been a lot of fun! Below are a few of my favourite outfits from the challenge :)