100 Day Dress Challenge: Sustainable Clothing

Last year my goal was to not buy any new clothing for the entire year and I smashed it. The problem I now faced was a wardrobe full of items of worn out poor quality clothing.

Most of my clothing purchased from before the ‘no new clothing year’ was the discards of fast fashion purchased from thrift stores. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me that these items had deteriorated over time. (The irony of polyester synthetic plastic based fabrics is that they don’t last well as a garment yet still have the potential to pollute for the next 200 years.)

I also had another problem. I was stubbornly holding onto pre-COVID clothing that had not fit me for years. Not only did I have clothing that was worn out, I also had clothing that no longer fitted.

It got me thinking: what next? Buying fast fashion discards wasn’t the answer, nor was not buying clothing at all – after all I had to wear something and I needed decent clothing for my job as a teacher.

100 Day Dress Challenge

The 100 Day Dress Challenge was screaming my name. I needed new clothing. I needed something durable, but not plastic based. I needed something sustainable.

The challenge was created by an American company Wool&. They came up with an idea to encourage people to wear their garments. The challenge was that anyone who wore one of their dresses for 100 days in a row would receive a $100 gift card (to put towards purchasing another dress from their store).

This had me intrigued, although my preference was to buy something from my own country. I also didn’t like the thought of wearing my work clothing on the weekend. (Putting on different clothes for the weekend helps me to switch off somewhat from my job – it’s purely psychological.)

I decided to create my own challenge.

It would still be 100 days. It would still be one dress. However, it would be 100 work days.

Now what type of fabric, style of dress and from where?

Why Wool

At first, I thought of purchasing a linen dress despite the need to iron it or how it easily creased even after being ironed. Wool at this stage hadn’t entered my mind as a summer dress in an Australian climate.

It wasn’t until a friend suggested purchasing a summer woollen dress from Smitten Merino in Tasmania, that I actually considered wool as an option.

The more I looked into wool as a summer fabric, the more excited I became about a woollen dress. Yes, wool can be snuggly and warm as a chunky jumper in the coldest of climates. Wool could also be super fine and as thin as a breezy summer dress.

I quickly learnt that merino fabric:

  • keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter
  • is moisture wicking, breathable and naturally odour resistant
  • doesn’t need ironing as it is crease proof
  • can be machine washed and dries quickly
  • is a durable and strong fabric (and, of course, plastic free)
  • feels nice on the skin as it is soft and non-itchy

The Dress

Smitten Merino ticked all my boxes, plus more. They are an Australian business; the wool is grown in Australia under the Responsible Wool Standard; the fabric is woven in Australia by an environmentally responsible manufacturer; all parts of the postage and packaging are compostable; and, the garments are made by local employees. In a nutshell Smitten Merino clothing is sustainable, ethical and zero waste.

The style I went for was a simple black sleeveless shift dress. I chose this style as it would be a versatile dress being suitable for wearing in hot weather as is, or in colder weather with a long sleeved top and leggings underneath.

The ‘Holly’ dress from Smitten Merino

Smitten Merino has kindly offered a 10% discount off every online order by using the discount code SMITTEN VIP.

My Experience So Far

I have to admit I had a bit of trepidation about wearing the same clothing to work every day, after all it’s not the socially condoned thing to do (unless it’s a work uniform). And I would be wearing this one dress for five months!

I was also concerned about wearing the same dress all week and potential odours in hot weather.

Plus, after not buying any clothing for a year, I had to get used to spending money again.

So far I can report back that apart from a few work colleagues I had told about the challenge, no one else has noticed. Not any other staff, or the students – unless they are all too polite to say anything or just don’t care what people wear. But I do teach Year 6 and surely they would say something?

Any social anxiety I had about wearing the same dress has vanished. In fact, my work colleagues and adult children seem more concerned about my lack of accessorising than the wearing of the dress repeatedly. Both groups offer many suggestions that include chunky jewellery, scarves, belts, tights …

Hot weather has not been a problem either. I wore the dress five days in a row in weather above 30 degrees each day and the dress didn’t end up smelly (or, again, everyone was too polite to say if it did).

The dress was also easy to machine wash and did indeed dry quickly without creases on a coat hanger in the shade. The only issue I had was with static and the dress clinging to my legs. In the end I purchased an anti-static spray which fixed the problem.

I overcame my reluctance to spend money on clothing by calculating the price per wear over 100 days. It came to $2.69 per day over 100 days, although I will likely keep wearing the dress beyond the challenge duration. There’s also the ‘lack of cost’ on the environment to be considered.

Bonus factor: I no longer had to think about what to wear to work each day. And I finally had the courage to remove all my too small clothes from the wardrobe and give them away.

In Summary

Clothing pollution is still a problem even if you do clothing challenges such as the capsule wardrobe based on synthetic, polyester plastic based fabrics or fast fashion.

Wool based clothing is an eco-friendly alternative and is warm in winter and cool to wear in summer. It is also durable and needs less laundering due to its unique ability to be naturally odour resistant.

Despite the upfront cost of buying merino wool clothing, it is in fact a frugal purchase as a naturally long lasting quality garment.

Could you wear the same item of clothing for 100 days? Scroll on down to the comments box and share your thoughts.

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