It’s summer, and you’d think I’d be breathing a sigh of relief that I no longer have to pull on the same black woollen dress that I’ve been wearing for 100 days in a row.
The colour, the material, the long sleeves – none of these would appear to make the cut when it comes to having fun in the sun.
But what’s odd about wearing the same dress for 100 days is that it’s become my second skin and I feel a bit naked without it.
Slipping it on day after day became as much a part of my morning routine as brushing my teeth or drinking my coffee – something that I did automatically without having to think about in the slightest.
And all the concerns that I had at the start of the challenge, about whether I’d smell (I didn’t), what to do if I spilt something on my dress (spot cleaning works wonders) or what people might think about me wearing the same outfit ad infinitum (I’ve no idea who’s noticed, beyond those I prewarned) no longer seem to matter much.
To my surprise, it’s become an exercise in letting go of expectations and taking better care of myself.
The 100-day challenge was created by US company Wool&, and so far more than 3,500 women worldwide have taken them up on it, picking one of the firm’s unfussy frocks and wearing it day in, day out, for three months. Its ethos is the opposite of fast fashion, with customers encouraged to live well with less.
Somehow, taking on an ambition that aims to be better for the planet has led to being kinder to myself too. It started off when I bought myself my wraparound dress for my birthday, to make up for not being able to celebrate my 40th in lockdown last year. The £140 price seemed high and I hesitated, but decided I was worth it. And that’s set the tone for our time together since.
It’s become something of a symbiotic relationship – if I take care of my frock, she will look after me. The merino wool blend is soft and lightweight in a flattering cut. It helps regulate body temperature, keeping me warm during spring chills and cool when the weather turns hot. In turn, I’ve taken care to hang my Ellie (the name of the style – I promise I haven’t gone as far as to christen the dress myself) to air overnight as instructed, I’ve stitched her up to the best of my abilities when I found a seam that I’d split and I’ve bought a special wool detergent to wash her.
The spare time I’ve gained in the morning when I’m no longer trying to decide what I feel like wearing has been dedicated to putting on make-up, the first time I’ve worn it on a regular basis in all my 41 years. Before, it made me feel uncomfortable in my own skin, and the face looking back from the mirror didn’t look like me. But now a bit of blusher and a dash of mascara is a welcome addition to my day, a bit of me-time most mornings, although I still have the odd day when I can’t be bothered.
I had to take a selfie every day
Like many of the others who’ve completed 100 days in one dress, it’s taking a selfie in my outfit every day to prove I’ve done my time that’s been the real challenge. If you send in a picture from each of your 100 days, Wool& will send you a voucher worth $100/£100/€100 towards your next purchase. It seems simple enough, but actually remembering to take a snap is tricky, and looking at a selfie each day also confronts any insecurities you may have about your own appearance. But gradually, over time, what started off feeling awkward became not just bearable but a celebration of what I was achieving day after day.
It helps that there’s an active online community of women of all shapes and sizes posting their pictures for inspiration. It’s not just about the dresses either. I’ve read about the ups and downs of taking in Ukrainian refugees, the devastation of losing a husband, the struggles of supporting someone through mental illness. The online Wool& community is one of the kindest I’ve come across, building up fellow frock fans, whatever trials they are facing, whether it’s putting on a dress that doesn’t make you feel a million dollars or dealing with a huge life overhaul. The kindness of strangers across the globe to one another has been life-affirming.
But with all the unexpected benefits over the last 100 days, there have been elements that didn’t turn out as I thought they would.
I can’t say I’ve managed to cut down on my laundry loads much at all. Teaming my dress with trousers, leggings or tights and using it as a base layer for other dresses and jumpers meant I still had a fair few garments to wash at the end of each week.
I might even have ended up using the washing machine more than before, as I’ve been washing my dress by itself using the wool cycle. I’ve only had to do that about a dozen times over the course of the challenge, but washing one item on its own seems a bit wasteful of water. I’ve tried handwashing too but still needed to use a spin cycle so it would line dry for the next day.
On the plus side, the claims that the wool blend doesn’t hold odours, is wrinkle-resistant and dries quickly have all proved true.
And the material hasn’t pilled and looks much the same as it did at the beginning of the challenge.
The pull of wool has been strong enough that I’ve got myself another dress in a lovely plum colour with shorter sleeves, ready for the summer.
And waking up on day 101, what did I wear? There was no hesitation in reaching for my black dress once again. Over 100 days bookended by a birthday and a jubilee, we’ve been on quite the adventure, Ellie and I. This is one dress that was made to impress. And I’m not ready for our time together to be over just yet.