And here’s what I found out.
The goal was to see what would happen if I wore the same outfit every day. I was really interested to see if anyone would notice, and if they did, whether they would say anything and I was also keen to see what I would think and feel about wearing the same clothes for five days in a row. I was inspired by my friend Rachel’s attempt at this, and so her observations are scattered throughout this post. It’s important to keep in mind that Rachel and I have very different relationships with clothes, and so had different motives for our experiments. Rachel wants to be freed from the micro-decision drudgery of getting dressed, while I was just being a Curious George.
First up, I had to choose just the right outfit. It needed to be just bland enough that nobody would be so struck by it that they remembered it; it needed to have just enough flair that nobody was surprised merely by the fact I was wearing something deeply boring. It also needed to be something I could layer (since Rachel had confirmed that interchangeable layers were key to maintaining freshness) and that I could wear heels or flats with (because my knee gives me gip and I need an option to wear flats when it, and then my hip, need a wee rest). I landed on this Persian jacket, which is grey (bland) but made of fluffy angora (flair!) and this pleather skirt which is black (bland) but…pleather. Flair! And also, wipe clean. Those two items, plus five cotton t-shirts, were it for the week.
I determined that accessories would be able to be switched out (along with shoes) but that I could only wear one accessory per day. I wore a silk scarf, a cat-shaped brooch, a vintage pearl and gold choker, a collection of pins (counts as one because they’re a set) and a long seed bead necklace. I’m not sure how much of an impact this had, but even looking at the pictures below - not much of an impact, would be my guess. I wore the jacket closed for the entire week, except for half an hour one evening when I was at a work event and it was boiling hot.
Findings – other people
I knew the chances of someone noticing were slim (since even I, person who is Very Into Fashion, would struggle to remember what you wore yesterday) but I honestly, truly believed that people would notice and that someone would involuntarily exclaim “hang on, didn’t you wear that cardigan yesterday?”. Nobody did. At one point, my colleague asked if she could stroke my sleeve because it looked so soft and fluffy and I thought for sure that I was for the high jump when I turned up in it again the next day…but nope.
I was pretty sure nobody would say anything on the Tuesday, the first repeat, because I thought anyone who noticed that day would just assume I’d had an unplanned night away from home (although…would they? That’s not very on-brand for me, considering my love of routine and disdain of dating apps). However, nobody said anything at all, all week. Rachel had the same experience. On Friday I realised I needed to test whether my colleagues were being polite, or whether they just hadn’t noticed. So I asked if they’d noticed anything different about me that week.
Here’s where it got interesting. Some of my colleagues, including the one who had physically touched my jacket, works in my team, and talks to me every day, had not noticed at all. They were shocked to learn that I had been in the same look all week and that they hadn’t noticed. Some of my colleagues said they had noticed toward the end of the week but didn’t want to say anything (or in one case, said “I didn’t really think I needed to comment” which demonstrates a level of personal control I have not yet achieved). One colleague said she noticed and was going to ask me quietly if I was doing a thing, but hadn’t got around to it.
What does this tell us? It tells us you can wear the same thing to work for a week, even when you have a reputation for dressing up, and maybe 25% of the people you work with will notice. They’ll mostly notice towards the end of the week (had I stopped on Wednesday, nobody would have clicked) and none of them will say anything.
This absolutely proves my theory that nobody gives a flying fart what you wear. They are not looking at you that closely and they certainly aren’t compiling a mental encyclopaedia of what you wore.
Findings – my experience
Look, we all know I hated this by day three. Yes, it was slightly more efficient to just put the exact same outfit at the end of my bed each night to wear the next day. Unfortunately, that minor gain in efficiency was massively outweighed by the crushing boredom and time consumed by fantasies about what I would wear once I was freed from the confines of the same thing day after day.
I learned that I think about outfits like background noise. I would be lying in bed and be thinking about a great shirt and then, epiphany! A new outfit would spring to my mind that I would want to wear as soon as possible! And then I would remember: gotta wear the same thing for the rest of the week. No epiphany outfit for me.
I think about my grandmothers who, even at my more advanced age, would have worn a relatively small number of items over and over and OVER again. Even then, they were keen for a new dress now and again, and it’s a truth that I inherited a love of clothes from both sides of my family tree. However, in my world of 2019, where I have an abundance of thrifted weirdness and beautiful local designs to adorn myself with each day, a limited wardrobe felt like an imposition (I note that too many options is also problematic for me - there’s a sweet spot, that’s for sure).
The cotton t-shirts did mean that my clothes felt clean each day, but I was paranoid about spilling things or splattering myself. I’m not usually that worried, because I’m reasonably naturally fastidious and because I can just wash things if I get them dirty. However, the Persian jacket would not dry overnight, so I knew I had to keep it clean for the full week. It suddenly seemed like I could spill coffee on myself at any moment – despite having not spilled coffee on myself in months.
I also really let myself down by wearing something angora. It was like carrying a shedding cat around with me for five days. I am pleased to report the small mercy that was only getting an angora hair in my eye on day five. I feel that I dodged a bullet on that one.
Interestingly, I assumed this experiment would kill the jacket and cardigan for me and make me want to take a long, long break from them – but the contrary is true. The cardigan is drying as we speak, and I’m looking forward to wearing it again. Just not with that skirt. Wearing this outfit really proved how comfortable and easy these two items are, and made them into wardrobe heroes. This is particularly interesting for the jacket, which I had not worn terribly often and wouldn’t have assumed would be a major winner (angora hairs notwithstanding). This was a good reminder that sometimes the best thing you can do to make your wardrobe work harder is to put away your favourites and challenge yourself to only wear the things you’ve been ignoring. It has inspired me to try wearing one item that I haven’t really clicked with, for five days, in five different ways. Just not yet – I want to play dress ups for a while first.
I can totally wear the same thing for three or four days in a row and nobody will notice. That’s great to know. That’s probably even more excellent for some of you to know because you are busy and to be honest, knowing you could just wear the same thing again tomorrow without repercussions is a relief. Just chuck a clean t-shirt on under your jumper and you are good to go.
Also fabulous to know from a laundry perspective is that you can wear the same thing for five days in a row and it will not magically smell. I wore a clean t-shirt every day, but now that I’m thinking about it, I really could have worn each t-shirt for two or three days each. In fact, I could have worn dress shields (more on that this Thursday!) and worn the same t-shirt all week too.
If you aren’t driven to get out of bed by the promise of a fun outfit, you might find yourself freed by this experiment. However, if you are like me and you love playing dress up, you might find yourself growing resigned to your outfit by the end of the week. That being said, much like when you come back from holiday and greet your wardrobe with joy, taking a week to wear the same thing every day did might make you appreciate the options you have.
Do you think you’d notice if your workmates wore the same thing every day? And which camp are you in – keen to be freed from the tyranny of outfit decisions, or happier when you can play around each morning?