“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.” ― C. JoyBell C.
In the months before the vaccine, I spent many solitary days in my cozy little condo. I was isolated, but I wasn’t really ‘hermit-like’ alone. Other humans helped me stay safe and sane. Strangers filled my orders and delivered groceries at my door; a small group led by my minister became weekly support and connection with other women who were isolating singularly; endless Zoom meetings…Zoom Church, committee meetings, and family gatherings, and the daily Minister’s Minute provided by Rev Kate of the UU Meeting House of Provincetown on Cape Cod all sustained me through those often dark days.
Although I am still wearing a mask and being careful to sanitize, I am no longer avoiding the grocery store. The small group dissolved in the spring when we could get outside. In-person gatherings and Zoom-exhaustion have reduced the number of virtual meetings. Rev Kate’s messages are now delivered occasionally rather than daily. Life changes and life continues.
It’s funny the way our lives evolve and transform in completely unexpected ways. Robert Frost saw two roads diverging in a yellow wood while I see a maze of highways with on-ramps, off-ramps, and roundabouts…none of which has a clear signpost. I may have an idea of where I’m headed, but the destination is never really defined, and detours, roadwork, and slow traffic are pretty much guaranteed.
One of Rev. Kate’s minutes took me on a path I had not expected nor would have considered in other circumstances. In less than two minutes, Kate got me thinking about what I wear. Now, I’m a strictly jeans and flannel shirt kinda gal, so why was I so drawn to this particular posting…The 100 Day Dress Challenge?
In the clip, Rev. Kate models a dress that she purchased from Wool&. The company offers $100 toward a reward dress to anyone who wears the dress for 100 consecutive days…and… agrees to take a photo wearing the dress each day. The idea behind it…in addition to being a great marketing strategy…was to encourage limited consumption. Buying one thing that is well made using sustainable fabrics rather than throwaway garments of fast fashion that many of us take for granted would be better for the planet. Rev Kate modeled the versatility of the dress she chose, dressing it up and down with items from her closet. She decided not to do the challenge, but she had gotten me thinking about it.
The first step was joining a Facebook group…touted as the friendliest corner of Facebook…to see how other women were implementing this idea in their own lives, how they wore the dresses, and the lessons they were learning about fashion, sustainability, and themselves. Don’t forget there was the daily photo requirement to be considered as well. I was a lurker in the group for some time. Finally, I decided, what the heck. Why not give it a go? It was something new, and I didn’t have anything else looming on the horizon.
Of course, nothing is quite that easy. First, I had to decide which style would be right for me and which color could I imagine myself in every day for three months. I decided on a sleeveless, black Sierra…with pockets! I ordered the dress in June. It was on backorder…as most of the dresses were…and would arrive at the end of August!
While I waited for the dress to arrive I made a few purchases in preparation. I bought a new deodorant that is safer for humans and wool dresses. I ordered a washing liquid that was specially made for wool. I also bought several pairs of wool tights from a socially responsible company in Scotland. Buying those things at first seemed a little counterintuitive to the idea of limiting consumption, but then I began to think of it as priming the pump. If I added a little at the beginning, I’d make the 100 days easier and the possibility of success all the more probable.
I will admit, that I went into the entire adventure as a bit of a lark. If I didn’t enjoy the experience, I could always quit. It was a personal challenge, after all. I’d read stories in the Facebook group of women who had thrown in the towel. It wasn’t for everyone, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I didn’t follow through…but…maybe I’d learn something, and perhaps it would even be fun.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” )― Lao Tzu
While I waited for my dress, I began to educate myself about the benefits of wearing a merino wool dress. Not only would I not be investing in new clothes, but I’d also be saving the planet by lessening my laundry. The dress would not need to be washed often. It could be spot cleaned and would naturally repel body odor. Additionally, I learned another trick. Each night I’d spray the pits with straight vodka. Yep, vodka…an old theatre trick. Coming home with my first bottle, I thought about Eleanor Oliphant’s weekend pizza and a bottle of vodka. This could be a slippery slope.
The wearing of this dress has been similar to my becoming a vegetarian. At the time I wasn’t sure if I could do it forever, but I knew I could do it for that day. As the days became months and months became years, I discovered that although I really missed seafood…especially salmon…I was doing something greater than myself. While observing the practices of ethical eating, I was learning how my daily choices affect the planet. I was putting my beliefs into concrete actions. I’m not, however, suffering from sacrificial abstinence. I actually enjoy the foods I eat. Aside from that salmon, it hasn’t been difficult at all…especially when I discovered veggie bacon that isn’t half bad and Beyond Meat is pretty tasty too.
“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
I’ve learned a lot through this experience. While haunting thrift shops for the occasional bargain cashmere or merino sweater, I have been blown away by how much of what we buy is made from petroleum-based fabrics that will remain in a landfill long after we’re gone. The amount of clothing we cast off is also staggering. It seems I’ve moved from lessons on ethical eating to ethical wearing.
By the way…vegetarianism and wearing a little black dress for 100 days are my choices. Of course, they might not work for you. But, you’ll find other ways to serve and heal each other and the world. There are many roads in that yellow wood.
The daily photos taught me to make peace with my body. I’ve also learned that a photo taken in good lighting can really diminish wrinkles and improve my mood. I also confirmed that people don’t look at me as closely as I thought they did. After all…do you really pay attention to what others are wearing? What a freeing concept.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
I haven’t quite made it to the 100 days yet…but…I am confident that I will. Today is Day 75…a little more than three weeks to go. While I am refraining from sharing all the photos or giving you a play-by-play of our activities together…the dress and I…have driven from Michigan to Vermont, attended the theatre in Stratford, Ontario, hugged grandchildren, and ridden in the car with my granddaughter at the wheel. I’ve spent time on the rocks of Star Island, walked miles with my sister, Kelly, through the local parks, and marched in a protest for reproductive freedom with my sister, Penny. Next week the two of us…the dress and I… will fly to Philadelphia and then on to Vermont.
On my recent trip to Scotland, when I was separated from my luggage for eight days in addition to an extra shirt or two, I had…the dress. The first night, when we were out for dinner, Kelly and Bill ordered beers and…much to the surprise of the young man taking the order from this old lady…I asked for a shot of vodka. When the glass arrived, I poured the contents into a small spray bottle that had once contained eyeglass cleaner. The dress and I were good to go. Of course, a shot isn’t that large, requiring the purchase of yet another bottle of vodka before I was reunited with my bag. Yikes.
I joined the challenge on a whim, but I’ve learned a lot more than I anticipated. I have many questions about my personal consumption, but I also have nearly 100 photos of me having fun! If this challenge had been burdensome, uncomfortable, or boring I doubt I’d have finished. But, I did have fun…and if you’ve seen me in person, virtually, or through photos since August 23rd…you’ve seen the dress. Did you notice?
I’m not sure what I’ll do on day 101, but there is another Facebook group for those who have reached that milestone. I can’t wait to see what goes on there. After that, who knows where my path will take me.
I’m considering the purchase of a tiara for the 100th photo. I’ve never had one, and this seems like as good a reason as any. Stand by.