Over on Instagram, we just wrapped up a fall wardrobe challenge (co-hosted by Caroline from Un-Fancy and Lee from Style Bee) which works like this: Pick 10 pieces from your closet and create 10 outfits from them over 10 days. Include tops, bottoms, and shoes. Don’t worry about accessories or bags — they can flow in and out freely. No need to buy anything. No need to throw anything out. No need to overhaul your wardrobe. Instead, it’s all about embracing the experiment and having fun.
I had been following along with these 10x10 challenges for a while, and finally decided to move from being an observer to being a contributor to the community. My intentions for participating in the challenge were to focus on ethical and sustainable fashion and to feature some of my favorite companies in the slow fashion movement.
Ultimately, I ended up with a bit more than ten pieces (twelve, to be exact), and all of them were ethically/sustainably made or second-hand: a pair of black skinny jeans, a pair of light-wash high-rise jeans, a green pullover sweater, a striped turtleneck, a cream sweatshirt, a white button-up, a black tee, a terra-cotta tank, a black cardigan, a green sweater dress, black flats, black ankle boots.
After ten days of wearing these twelve pieces (and posting a photo every day), here are a few things I learned along the way:
I love the #10x10friends community. Seriously, this community of bloggers and Instagrammers is amazing. Scrolling through the hashtag, I felt so inspired by the creativity, the joy, the light of so many people. This is the kind of community I love to be a part of: a community of people who are conscious and caring, who won’t hesitate to challenge you to try something out of your comfort zone, who then cheer for you along the way. I was a bit nervous about posting so many photos of myself… I didn’t really think about how revealing and vulnerable that would be… and I was also a bit nervous about sharing every outfit of an experience… what if I didn’t love an outfit or it wasn’t working? But everyone was so kind and encouraging; they shared their own stories and they offered suggestions and they reminded each other that we’re all on this journey together.
I love using a short-term challenge to experiment. Setting a time limit to try something out-- like REALLY try it-- is a great thing for me. The time limit frees me up to be really flexible and spontaneous and to fully commit to the experiment (because it’s only a short time!), so during this challenge I decided to experiment with a few pieces. First, I included black shoes, which in theory I should love because I wear a lot of black / neutrals, but for some reason, I had fallen out of love with them, finding myself reaching for them only to put them back. Including them in the 10x10 forced me to wear them and to give them a real fighting chance before ultimately deciding whether I would give them away to someone who would really wear them. And it worked; wearing only black shoes for more than a week rekindled the flame for these two and I can’t wait to continue to work them into my fall wardrobe. I added a few other experiment pieces too: a rust tank (which is a color outside my comfort zone, but I’m really loving it lately), and a fitted turtleneck (the fitted style in particular was a risk for me because I usually go for more drapey tops). I tried outfit formulas and accessory options that I might not have tried otherwise, and I’m looking forward to incorporating those looks into my fall wardrobe.
I love that I am more content with my closet than I ever have been. I have what I need, and I love the clothes I have, and I feel really good about that. Of course, there is always more work to be done to keep moving toward an ethical / sustainable wardrobe, but I’ve made significant headway and I feel like I’m finally able to celebrate a big milestone. For too long I would open up my closet to a sea of clothes that were merely mediocre, mostly cheap, and majorly hodge-podge. I didn’t really have a personal style to speak of, and I didn’t ever really feel that I had anything to wear (at least not much that I really loved). Now I have a closet full of pieces I love to wear, most of which have a production story I’m proud of, and I have a strong sense of personal style. Since I know my own mind and my own fashion preferences, I’m no longer swayed by the pressure to be “on trend,” but instead, I can evaluate whether any trend might fit with my ongoing style and whether or not I actually want to incorporate it. Working with a limited selection, I was surprised that I ended up with other outfit ideas that I didn’t explore, and I thought, “Maybe I can do a full three-month capsule after all!” Stay tuned! (*Capsule Wardrobe*: a term coined in the 70’s by London boutique owner, Susie Faux, it’s all about dressing with a small collection of seasonally appropriate, mix-and-match clothes)
I loved sharing something I’m passionate about.I care a lot about fashion and have thought a lot about ethical / sustainable / slow fashion. But I had no idea if anyone would actually care to hear my thoughts on these issues. I’m not a fashion blogger; I’m a pastor and a feminist theologian. And I happen to care a lot about clothes, but I’m not the kind of blogger who is regularly sharing an outfit of the day. Who am I I started the challenge thinking I would just share what was on my mind, but the community of Instagrammers were super kind and welcoming, and curious, so I wanted to take the opportunity to share a bit more. For me, fashion is a feminist issue and a theological issue, and I wanted to share some of the ways I had come to see fashion in this light.
Fashion is a feminist issue. Considering the vast majority of workers in the garment industry are women, so the human rights issues here are very much impacted by the needs of women. One of the most troubling things about the fashion industry is that the majority of consumers and producers are women-- which means that when women shop fast fashion, they are part of a system exploiting other women who are often without fair wages, hospitable working conditions, or basic safe space.
Fashion is a theological issue. Of course, the human rights justice issues mentioned are deeply theological as well. Also, the fast fashion industry has a huge environmental impact, and my work toward a sustainable lifestyle is deeply rooted in my theological convictions to care for all creation. For me, fashion is an area of spiritual formation, because when I think about practicing the spiritual disciplines of contentment and simplicity and humility, the first place I look is my closet, because that’s where I most feel the pull of consumerism, greed, gluttony, pride…
As a feminist theologian, I can’t ignore these issues, especially when I am looking them in the face every time I open my closet. I refuse to let skeletons or monsters make a home in my closet. I want my closet to be full of garments that bring me joy and that have a creation story I can be proud of. I want to know who made my clothes, and I want to make some of my own. I want my closet to be carefully curated, not because capsule wardrobes are trending, but because simplicity and contentment are spiritual disciplines that form my soul. I want to lean into a disciplined pursuit of less stuff and more presence, and I’m starting with my clothes.
So here’s what I’m doing to just start somewhere:
Practice contentment with the clothes I have.
Buy less. Buy better. Wear clothes that matter.
Push for transparency and accountability in producers.
Join a community of makers who care about these things.