A Sustainable Fashion Journey Starts With Just One Dress

A Sustainable Fashion Journey Starts With Just One Dress

The Sustainable fashion movement is making waves, but where does one start on this journey? Could you wear just one dress for 100 days? That’s exactly what one of our customers did this spring. Donning an ethically made dress (the Reversible Stitch style from our AW19 collection), Sara set out to bring awareness to simplicity, empowerment, and sustainable fashion. She chronicled her progress on Instagram at @just1dress, and we caught up with her afterward to see what she learned along the way. This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

sara of just one dress
A sustainable fashion journey starts with just one dress.
Photo by Sara Berry McLoudrey @just1dress.

Mata Traders: What inspired you to wear one dress for 100 days?  

Sara: A number of years ago I read an article about a middle school art teacher who did this and it always intrigued me. I kept the idea squirreled away in my head as an interesting challenge. For me, it was a challenge of wearing a dress no matter what the weather or daily plans. That is a hard concept to wrap your head around. I have been looking for ways to lessen my impact on the Earth and this seemed like a great start, especially in 2021, after such a crazy year. 

What made you extend your time of wearing the same dress from 100 to 120 days?

Day 100 fell on April 10, it seemed really odd to just stop in the middle of a month. Taking it all the way to 120 days, gave me four months of wearing it. Also, I’m a little bit of a competitive person and I have seen other people do the 100 day challenge, and I wanted to do something more! Stand out a bit from the crowd. 

How did wearing the same dress for over 100 days change your daily routine?

Oh my gosh! It was the BEST part of the challenge. I never spent a single minute in my closet in the morning or night thinking what am I going to wear! I didn’t realize how much brainpower and stress picking out what to wear put on my morning. I am not a “fashion” person, so I did not think it was a big part of my life.

My weekly routine changed too with so much less laundry. It was actually shocking to me personally. I have been much more aware of re-wearing clothes before washing them now, instead of habitually just throwing them into my laundry basket.

Were there any challenges you faced in these 120 days? 

I think the weird feeling of if people noticed and were judgey about the fact that they always saw me in the same thing. Due to COVID restrictions, I didn’t see that many people repeatedly, but the ones I did probably wondered. I wanted a button (and should have made one) that said ask me about my dress.

I think if it was not COVID times it might have been difficult if I had a fancy event or such to attend, but it was not an issue. 

What did your friends and family think about you wearing the same dress for 120 days?

My son (15 years old) was totally oblivious for probably 5 days. It wasn’t until a friend of his saw a social media post and said something to him - it was pretty funny. Then again halfway through he totally forgot again, which was even funnier! My friends were impressed at my dedication and it was a great conversation starter.

Now that you can look back, is there anything you would do differently if you could embark on this journey again?

Serious answer: I would use the time to raise more awareness and money for an organization that is trying to help combat climate change. I wish I knew how to play the social media game better, to have grown the IG account and get some local media coverage. 

Silly answer: have more hair accessories.

What do you think are the pros and cons of having a very limited wardrobe to wear?

Pro: Lack of thought. It was wearing a uniform every day, and there is something comforting about a uniform that you chose and feel comfortable in.  

Con: It was a bit limiting to have only one dress. 

I think that we (at least I do) frequently buy things even if they don’t quite fit right, hoping someday they will, or something that is very fashionable right now, but won’t be in a season, or because we have a specific event to wear something to, but never again and so many more reasons. When you take the time to realize all of the reasons we have different pieces in our wardrobe and all of the resources that go into those pieces it’s mind-boggling. 

What would you say to someone who's curious about making their wardrobe more simple and sustainable?

Take the time to save up for quality pieces that are versatile and timeless styling, it makes all the difference. Also, start small! My suggestions would be:

  • How long can you go without buying any new clothes? 
  • Do research on the companies you buy from. What are their practices regarding sustainability, workers' rights, and fair wages? 
  • Start with one type of clothing to work from - jeans, dresses or t-shirts, for example. 

What is your takeaway from this experience? Did you learn anything interesting about yourself or your relationship with your clothing?

I really do better with a “uniform.” Who knew, since we are always so focused on what to wear and how it portrays our personality. The dress was so comfortable and easy to live in. I no longer want to wear any clothes that do not feel comfortable on my body. We wear so many things because we feel obligated either by society's norms, current fashion trends, or what we have always worn. I needed to stop being so focused on that aspect and wear what makes me feel good! 

Once again the preconceived notions of why you are wearing a dress and what you can or cannot do in a dress is mind-boggling. I will say leggings help in that department, but the dress did not inhibit my lifestyle at all. 

 sara of just one dressDidn’t think you could train dogs, and enjoy the outdoors in a dress? Think again!
Photo by Sara Berry McLoudrey @just1dress.

It has also really made me stop and think about just impulsively buying clothes that I think are cute when strolling the aisles at those big box stores - even when not there to buy clothes. A couple of times I actually had things in my basket and when I realized I would not be able to wear them for months, I put them back on the rack. Since ending the challenge I really stop and think do I want this, do I need this, and will this last me. Plus, I throw in a little of the “will it bring me joy” concept. Being more mindful of my purchases will stick around. 

Also, handwashing is not as dreadful as we all make it out to be! 

Is there anything else you would like people to know that wasn't covered above?

I have to say since ending my 120 days I have continued to wear dresses every day. I find the comfort and not having to have multiple pieces very refreshing. It helps keep my laundry levels lower also.

The best way to get oil stains and many other stains out of clothing is Dawn dish soap, without question! The number of clothing pieces I have discarded over the years due to a badly placed oil stain? Too many and no more! Also, the best way to get the armpit stink out is a paste of baking soda and let it sit overnight. Sadly if you are only washing your clothing once a week, natural deodorant does not cut it, at least for me. I tried so many brands, it was not sustainable. Really, try it, even for a week, see what a difference it can make in your life!

sara of just one dressJust one dress, and one more dress after day 120.
Photo by Sara Berry McLoudrey @just1dress

We think you have inspired many of us to try this, Sara; and we appreciate your candor and humor on this journey! Whether you have a capsule wardrobe or a full closet, it’s exciting to see how making mindful choices can help one rethink their relationship to both one’s personal style and being a conscious consumer on a global scale. Maybe just one dress is all you really need!