Today I finished the Wool& #100DayDressChallenge.  I find myself curiously confused about the last one-hundred days.

I spoke to my friend Genevieve Casey this evening via Zoom.  I met Genevieve many moons ago through my involvement in the Kansas City art community.  I consider her smart, savvy, sexy, and serene.  We shared a moment when she finished the challenge, and again tonight in honor of my completion.  Though we did not plan to be challenge buddies, when we learned that each had independently decided to try the experiment, our friendship prompted us to support each other.

The company which makes the dress invites you to try sustainable wool to change your life:  How you dress, your priorities, and the way you see yourself.  They have a Facebook group where those participating in the challenge can chat and share experiences.  If you complete the challenge, you receive a $100 gift certificate to their website where, presumably, you will buy another dress, often referenced in the FB group as a “reward dress”.

My own motivation for purchasing the dress related to my general quest to live a simpler life.  I wore the dress as I do all of my dresses:  Over leggings, with a cardigan, my one pair of shoes, and colorful socks.  Occasionally i tried a belt and once I knotted the dress into a tunic.  Diehard participants use hair-ties, buttons, and clips to twist the dress into unintended shapes.  On the one occasion when I made a side knot and wore the dress over slacks, the configuration lasted about a half hour.  The belt came off by mid-morning and quite frankly, I’m not sure where it landed.  I’m a simple person.

The dress costs $128, so your gift certificate does not fully fund your next purchase unless you buy a T-shirt or a tank.  All of the garments are made from sustainable wool or tencel.  A small amount of nylon blended with the fabric influences texture and performance.  

To earn your certificate, one documents the experience with a daily picture.  Since I live alone, this had to be a selfie.  I despise having  my picture taken and dislike beyond measure doing it myself.  I skimmed a little unpleasantness off the top by staging my pose beneath a prized photograph which Genevieve took.  Somehow this took the focus off of me, at least in my mind.  Genevieve takes amazing pictures.  She deserves all the acclaim I can provide.

After 100 days of wearing the same dress with rotating leggings and sweaters, I have indeed learned some lessons.  Principally, I fond out that I actually like variety.  Living in a tiny house requires that my wardrobe remain small.  But the seven or eight dresses that I have for each season afford me a fairly substantial repertoire.   I won’t be downsizing more than I have.  This one dress might find a place in the line-up, but I can’t see myself wearing only one garment for multiple days in a row.

The experience brought me into contact with many other persons doing the challenge by way of the Facebook group.  Most were women but some were nonbinary, transgender, and I understand there were some men.  They spanned across the US and Europe, possibly elsewhere.  As with many Facebook groups and other online interactions, quite a few felt comfortable enough to make personal disclosures.  I told one or two personal facts about myself, mostly dated, mostly fairly well established via this blog or one of my other blogs.  I use my own positive and negative experiences to share lessons that I’ve learned, particularly on this #journeytojoy. 

But I never got to the point of immersing  myself in “the dress” as others seem to do.  A few personified the dress, which I find a bit unnerving.  I want to have less connection to material goods.  I feel connected to trinkets from my mother, my sister, or my son.  A dress which I wore somewhere important might evoke memories of that occasion and the emotions connected with it.  However, I don’t think of my clothing as entities.  Fabric keeps me warm and covered.  

On the other hand, women have long had a genuine ambivalence towards attire.  We often receive a message from society that our clothing defines or at least illustrates our worth, along with our weight, our hair, and other often immutable aspects of our persona.  I want people to see my eyes, my smile, and my compassion.  I don’t want them to judge me by the label on my blouse or handbag.  I want my relationship to other humans to be independent from the material goods which I own.

Is there a third hand?  Of course there is.  Through this experience, I became closer to my friend Genevieve.  Since I admire her, and miss the times we spent together in Kansas City, any opportunity for seeing or speaking with her delights me.  I also increased my interaction with other friends “back home”, who daily commented on the outfits in my pictures.  In particular, an artist named Candie Fisher came to be one of my biggest supporters.  I had forgotten the sweetness of her particular soul.  Rediscovering her gentleness came as an added, unexpected bonus of the #100DayDressChallenge.  

I also appreciated some of the open, honest comments in the challenge Facebook group for what I learned about other people’s attitude towards their bodies.  Many participants told their ages, heights, and weights in an effort to get advice about styles and sizes.  Admittedly, one can say anything in a Facebook group with impunity.  Few can verify what you assert.  Their phrasing and language suggested truth-telling, though.  From what they said, I began to get a sense that lots of people share my discomfort with my body.  But I also sensed a willingness to speak frankly about these vessels in which we live, a forthright tendency which I myself do not possess.   This gave me unexpected hope that even at sixty-five, some chance remains that I might finally accept myself.  It also suggested that cultural shifts might someday allow people to be seen for their character and their conduct, not their clothes.  (Don’t get me started on  even deeper biases; this entry already grows overlong.)

On balance, then, I do appreciate what I’ve just done.  I tried to quit a couple of times, and my cheerleaders urged me to persist.  That daily boost of attention sometimes alleviated however slightly the pervasive homesickness which perpetually plagues me.  I also actually forced myself to focus on my appearance, something that has never been easy for me.  I’d rather hide beneath baggy sweaters and over-sized jackets than suggest I might think I’m actually pretty.

So here I sit, one-hundred days after starting the challenge.  Last weekend’s seasonal clothing swap means that I have options at the ready for tomorrow.  I look forward to putting the #willowswingdress on a hanger and into the twenty-one inches of space where I keep my current-season clothing.  It will work its way forward in sequence, and make an appearance by and by.

As with every undertaking, I hope that I’ve learned from this, or grown, or at least widened my horizons.  If nothing else comes of it, there’s that gift certificate; and new styles dropping soon.  

It’s the fourteenth day of the eighty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

This slide show has 100 photographs in it of you-know-who wearing you-know-what.

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