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Why the end of mindless spending is the key to looking great

Could you get through 100 days with just 20 items of clothing?

In recent years we have increasingly been sold the idea of novelty, and not just in terms of our sartorial choices. We have somehow developed the need to keep consuming for fear of looking or feeling boring, even if that means we end up with wardrobes full of one-hit wonders, often of poor quality, and surplus to our needs. And, worse still, we might end up not even liking much of what we own – sound familiar?

That’s why I decided to set myself a challenge. Over the last 50 days I’ve only worn combinations of just 20 items of clothing that hang from a rail, separated from the rest of my (already compact) wardrobe. The ‘rules’ of my challenge, which were conveniently laid down by me, allow you to add as many accessories, coats and jackets as you like. So, with ten blouses, jumpers and tops, and a further ten jeans, skirts and trousers, I aim to show it’s possible to create 100 different outfits, or if, like me, you like to work in percentages, the equivalent of dressing for approximately 27% of a year.

People have asked me why I decided to do this, and the answer’s simple. Putting aside that I teach people how to dress well, and help them to create a hard-working, mix and match wardrobe, I am passionate about people making mindful life choices. Choices that work for them, whether about their health, sleeping practices, finances or behaviors. 

By completing this challenge, I want to show that we don’t need huge amounts of clothes to make us look and feel good. In fact, by giving some thought to our shopping and spending habits, we could experience far-reaching benefits.

I’m not saying don’t ever buy anything new – I love beautiful things, most people do. What I am saying is we should all try to make informed decisions about products that are produced in ways that do not destroy our environment or exploit the people who produce them. Furthermore, that we select our clothes and dress in a way that make us feel confident and authentic and look wonderful, whilst not spending our cash mindlessly.

So, what have I learnt so far?

  1. Nearly everyone who writes about their experience of owning a capsule wardrobe will tell you it’s a whole lot easier getting dressed in the morning – and they’re not wrong! Less scope makes the decision process much simpler and I’m lucky that the items I selected broadly work for me in terms of color and style, so I’m half way there.
  2. I put more thought into how I accessorize in the morning, or, if I’m really organised, the night before. It’s enjoyable to browse a selection of jewelry, scarves, belts and buckles to see what might work together. I get pleasure from it, it’s not a chore and the result is a more interesting and put together look.
  3. I know my clothes better and I’ve become more discerning. I can already tell that some of the items in my curated selection are not good enough quality and, if they even make it to the end, will not be fit to come back into circulation – one has even developed a hole after only being worn a handful of times!
  4. It’s easier to manage and maintain my clothes. This one is surprising as I’m wearing the same number of outfits as I would normally, but somehow completing my laundry is much more straightforward. I know that I’ll have a maximum of 14 items to wash and iron at the end of every week, and it’s often fewer, a much more doable task than it seems normally!

Some great things have already happened because of this experiment, not least being invited to be a Thrive Global contributor following what I thought was a throw-away comment on Instagram. I’ve also been gifted a vintage brooch by the lovely Audra’s Brooches here in London to celebrate reaching the half way line.

So, what can we do? First, let’s try and think before we buy. Then look after what we have and make the pieces in our wardrobes work hard for us.

Think about how many hours you had to work to pay for that coat that brings you no joy, or that skirt that you bought because you needed something to wear at short notice, but that rides up every time you wear it!

When you’re comfortable in your clothes, when they make you feel like ‘you’, you spend less time thinking or worrying about how you look, so that you can put your energy wherever it’s needed most.

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- MARCUS AURELIUS

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