What Happened When I Wore the Same Outfit for Three Weeks

The past has no power over the present

I love clothes.

No.  I mean I really love clothes.

When I started making my own money in high school, I probably could have supported a small army with the amount I spent on clothing.  In fact, in high school, I had three closets stuffed full.

I also cared about what I wore.

A lot.

You guys, I even had a journal where I kept track of what clothes I wore to make sure I didn’t have any repeats within a month.

Vanity much?

In 2012, a dear friend of mine introduced me to the book 7 by Jen Hatmaker.  This book completely changed my life.  You can read Jen Hatmaker’s synopsis of her book here.  In a nutshell, though, she describes 7 as “[a] seven-month experimental mutiny against excess, tackling seven areas of overconsumption in the spirit of a fast; a fast from greed, irresponsibility, apathy, and insatiability. Each area boiled down to just seven choices for a month:

Food.

Clothes.

Possessions.

Media.

Waste.

Spending.

Stress.”

This book had such an impact on me that I wanted to share its message with others.  From January to July of 2013, I led a small group at our church where we read through the book and did our own monthly experiments by fasting and purging the very things that steal our time, money, and health (among other things).  Each month focused solely on one of the categories above.  Our goals were to simplify our lives by eradicating the excess and thus, making more room for God.

Meeting Jen Hatmaker, author of 7.  I love her.

Meeting Jen Hatmaker, author of 7. I love her.

Because of my obsession, I was dreading the clothes month.  During that time I had to come clean to my group.  I encouraged everyone to count all their clothes and shoes.  I discovered that I had:

  • 377 items of clothing {not including any accessories or undergarments}
  • 41 pairs of shoes.

For my fast that month, I:

  • gave away 100 items of clothing from my closet,
  • vowed not to go shopping for new clothes for six months {torture, I tell ya},
  • vowed to give away something old for every new item I bought for my wardrobe {forever}, and
  • only wore ten items of clothing (not counting undergarments) for 30 days.  That included: one pair of grey pants, one pair of khaki pants, one pair of jeans, one black top, one cream sweater, one green turtleneck sweater, one pink sweater, one KU t-shirt, one pair of yoga pants for home, and one fleece sweatshirt.  I did not wear any jewelry except my wedding rings, but I did allow myself to wear unlimited scarves and several pairs of different shoes.
The 100 items I gave away during my 7 Challenge in 2013.

The 100 items I gave away during my 7 Challenge in 2013.

It was so, so hard at first, but ended up being so, so freeing.  In those thirty days, only one of my 150 students said anything to me.  It was a little freshman girl who finally asked, “Mrs. B., do you really like that turtleneck?  You seem to wear it a lot.”  Even my student aide, who knew I was doing this clothing fast, admitted she didn’t even notice while it was going on.

That experiment really intrigued me.  I was so self-conscious about wearing the same ten articles of clothing to work for a month . . . and no one even seemed to notice.  Hmmmm.

Fast Forward to Summer School 2015.

I teach summer school every summer to make extra money.  This past school year, I worked an average of 60-70 hours a week because we’re desperately trying to pay off our debt.  The thought of four more weeks of early mornings and dress clothes seemed particularly daunting this summer.  Plus, to be honest, I’ve gained enough weight that only a couple of my dress pants comfortably fit me at the moment.  Dressing up—something that was practically a hobby of mine—had now become something I loathed.

Seriously though.  I spend SO.MUCH.TIME. just thinking about what I’m going to wear.  I bet on average, I stare at my closet for about five minutes in the morning before picking something out. I have 190 contractual work days during the school year.  If I do that every morning, that means in just one school year I’m wasting 950 minutes contemplating my outfit.  That boils down to almost 16 hours.

I thought to my fatigued self, “I really wish I could only wear those two khaki pants {the ones that actually fit me} for the duration of summer school.”

Then I had a better thought, “Uh . . . why don’t you just do it?”

As a semi-joke I threw out this idea on Facebook:

Screenshot 2015-07-29 at 6.42.49 PM

So many of my friends urged and dared me to do it.  I’m not one to run in the face of awkward situations, and I certainly love social experiments, so of course I made it happen.

My main goal was to see if anyone would notice my wardrobe or not, so I decided to go with a very simple outfit (as seen in the picture above):

  • BLACK TOP {I rotated five different black tops – some short sleeved, some long sleeved, but all solid black}.
  • KHAKI PANTS {I rotated between two different pairs}.
  • SAME SHOES {knock-off Birkenstocks}.
  • SCARVES {I wore different scarves for variety—rotating between about five different ones}.
  • EARRINGS {I also wore different earrings for variety—rotating between about seven different ones},

HOW SUMMER SCHOOL WORKS

It’s important for you to know that summer school is atypical compared to a regular school day.

Students meet from 8:30-11:30 AM for a four-week period.  This year, I had 16 students {ranging from 9th-11th graders} in my English class who were with me that entire three-hour block. They independently worked on a virtual course, so my role was more of a facilitator; therefore, I did a lot of monitoring from my computer and worked with students one-on-one.  I was not up in front of the class teaching a curriculum.

Once students finish their virtual course, they may check out of summer school.  I have some students who check out the first week and some who stay until the very last second.

WHAT I DID

The first week, I wore the same kind of outfit {khakis, white top, different cardigans, and different scarves}.  I decided that wasn’t extreme enough, so I went with the outfit previously described.  I wore just the khakis and black tops for the last three full weeks of summer school.

WHO NOTICED

I already knew many of these students prior to summer school, so I fully expected one who was already comfortable with me to say, “Um . . . didn’t you just wear that yesterday?!?!?”

That never happened.

Some of my friends argued that a student would never say such a thing to a teacher, but you would be shocked what kids utter to their authorities—even about their wardrobe.  See my comment about the clothes fast I did in 2013.

It finally became evident that I would need to be proactive.  I waited to ask students who stayed until the last week {there were seven} if they noticed anything about my outfit.  I only surveyed them since they saw me for the full three weeks in virtually identical outfits.

This is how I approached it.  As kids finished their course, I pulled them aside in the hallway and asked, “Hey, did you happen to notice anything unusual about what I wore each day?”  I asked them individually so the other students couldn’t hear or be influenced by others’ responses.

I also asked the three other summer school teachers, the secretary, and the principal—all of whom saw me pretty much every day.

Out of the twelve people I asked, only two students said they noticed I wore the same outfit and one fellow teacher said she just noticed I wore khaki pants every day.

Everyone else was perplexed by the question.  I got a lot of responses like:

  • “You did???”
  • “No you didn’t.  I would have noticed that!”
  • “Are you serious?”
  • “What?  You wore that for the past three weeks?  No way!”

For the two who did notice, I asked: “When did you notice I was wearing the same thing every day?  Did it bother you?  Did you think it was weird?  Did you think something was wrong with me?  Did you and any other student talk about my outfits?”

Both students’ responses were quite similar.  They each said they noticed around the third week but didn’t really think anything of it. They never discussed it with anyone else.

WHAT THIS TAUGHT ME

I’m sure in a more traditional setting at school, my recurring outfit would be more obvious to students and co-workers. But gracious, I am still shocked by the results of these two experiments.

Above all else, the results have taught me this:

No one cares about you more than you.

{I think we all need to read that last line one more time.}

We spend so much time, money, and effort on our appearances and no one really gives a flip.  I care way more about how I look than anyone else ever will.

I am certainly not advocating that you dress inappropriately, like a slob, and for the love, please don’t abandon your good hygiene practices.  But stop caring so much about what others think. Chances are they aren’t thinking about you all that much anyway.  I laugh at my high-school-self who thought someone might actually notice if I wore the same outfit within 30 days.

Puh-lease.

Consider how much you pay attention to others.  Do you really care about other people’s appearance?  Do you care if someone wears expensive name brand clothing or not?  If they’re trendy or not?  If they wear the same outfit often or not?

If you do care, ask yourself why.  Why does it seriously matter?  In what way does someone else’s wardrobe affect me in any way?

If your friends care and judge you because you aren’t wearing Banana Republic from head to toe and a Coach purse on your shoulder . . . I’d say it’s time to find some new friends and grow up. And ask yourself why you care that they care.

OTHER EFFECTS

I was surprised to discover how wearing the same outfit every day had positive effects on me that I didn’t anticipate.  I didn’t feel stressed or anxious in the mornings.  I didn’t have to spend time worrying about my outfit. This resulted in me getting to sleep in a little later and thus feeling more refreshed throughout the entire day.  In addition, I was comfortable since I wore clothes that I knew fit well.  Who knew that the daily outfit could have such a major effect on someone?

We as humans sure like to over-complicate life when it really could be so simple. I mean, clothes’ original intention was to cover our privates and keep us warm.  We now overwhelm ourselves with thousands of options.  For what?  To be trendy, attractive, more popular?

I don’t know, friends.  I still love me a cute outfit, but I’m kind of over it.

SO . . .

After telling people about this little journey of mine, turns out, this idea wasn’t so original—wearing the same thing every day is becoming more and more popular and so are capsule wardrobes.

I am seriously considering wearing the same basic outfit every day for this entire upcoming school year—the experience was that fabulous.

I said before that I am all about social, awkward experiences.  Do I have any dares from my readers?  Stay tuned for May 2016 . . . you may just see a similar post from me after a nine-month experiment. {wink}.

Love,

Screenshot 2015-07-26 at 11.57.14 PM

Have any of you tried a capsule wardrobe or something similar?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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7 thoughts on “What Happened When I Wore the Same Outfit for Three Weeks

  1. Kara says:

    The one thing I have most noticed is that I launder the exact same items every week for my family yet they all have closests full of items. I continually buy less and less because they do not wear but the same outfits all the time. The same goes for shoes, however my son only has a few pairs unlike my daughter. I’ve also gotten to the point that unless it is under $10 for my husband (big & talk section….it really does cost more) or under $5 for the kids or I, I will not buy it. I will wait it out because it will be cheap and it will be name brand. (this does not apply to undergarments cause when you need ’em you need ’em and quality is important. It also does not apply to shoes….however I will only buy shoes that are on sale). So maybe I’m on my way…slowly!

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  2. Annie says:

    Very cool experiment. I read somewhere that you should never worry about what other people are thinking of you; because they’re thinking about themselves, just like you are. I also don’t think you have to forgo fashionability for this commitment, either. Plenty of fashionable women (and men) wear all black, for instance, with a distinctive standout element. Yours might be a scarf. Grace Coddington’s is a shock of bright red hair. Carrie Donovan’s is her round, thick glasses. Steve Jobs probably invented the iPhone with the time he saved just throwing on a black turtleneck. The proof is in the pudding. You can definitely rock a “uniform” and still maintain your personal style! Good luck!

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  3. Ina Library says:

    Wow. This was SENSATIONAL. I am so inspired and as the new school year starts, I think I’m going to go back to my uniform days and wear tailored pants, a white top, and a cardigan every day!! I loved every word of this post and think you are extraordinary. Thank you for sharing!!

    Like

  4. Karla says:

    My clinic’s dress code is navy blue scrubs. Been there 2 yrs. LOVE IT. I’ve always hated dressing up. Now i just rotate out my 5 sets of scrubs. Downside is that in casual Friday’s, some people do notice what your wearing. So then you feel you have to look cute and uncomfortable.

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