Winter 10×10 Fashion Challenge: The Final Outfit, and What I Learned From the Whole Shebang

The #winter10x10 challenge is over! Yes, I did manage to wear only 10 pieces over 10 days — and without repeating an outfit. At times the restrictions annoyed me — but much less than I thought. In fact, the limitations actually helped, because I didn’t really have to think about what to wear. And during this busier-than-usual period, that was a bit of a godsend.

My final outfit was during one of the most hectic days of the new year so far, so in a way, I couldn’t overthink it — I just grabbed the cleanest clothes left in my capsule. (Everything else was getting a little worn and grotty, despite hand-washing!) I ended up realizing once again how much I liked wearing a simple mini-skirt. And the long cardigan finally worked for me, the long proportions contrasting nicely with the short ones of the skirt and tank.

My cardigan is pretty spent, though — it pilled up like crazy being worn so much over a short period. Which is to be expected — I got it with a Forever 21 gift card, and it’s folly to even expect something really super-high quality from there. Haven’t decided whether or not to invest in a higher-quality version — as I stated earlier, doing this experiment made me realize I don’t think I’m as much a cardigan person as I used to be.

I did learn a few other things from this challenge, though, and not just about my individual preferences and tastes. First of all, it’s a great way to “audition” items in your wardrobe that you’re just “eh?” about. If you’re not sure if something should stay or go, try wearing it over a period of days with a number of different items and outfit configurations. If you feel happy and comfortable — and even maybe a little inspired — then it’s worth hanging onto. But if you’re feeling just a little friction in your own skin, then it’s time to put it in the “discard” pile.

I also learned the ‘capsule wardrobe for a little over a week’ approach is really a timesaver for busy times. The capsule works great for travel, of course, but if you’re looking at your schedule and see you’ve got a particularly rough week ahead, it might not be such a bad idea to pick out 10 or so pieces of clothing to choose from over that time period. I know that having a more limited palette of clothing did reduce the amount of stress I experienced in my day-to-day over the 10 days, though I did have spasms of missing a bit more creativity and color here and there.

Interestingly enough, the lesson that I thought I was going to reinforce with this experiment — the idea of not needing as much as I think to be content — didn’t quite present itself in the way I thought I would. Something about the sameness of the capsule wardrobe experiment felt really restrictive to me, and not quite in the “I have nothing to wear” kind of way. This might not make sense, but it was almost as if I were too practical in choosing my items. I was smart about pulling together my capsule, looking ahead to my schedule and life and figuring out what I needed to dress for. And it worked well enough: I definitely never felt like I ran out of options, and in fact it was nice to see how 10 pieces could cover all the bases in my active, busy life in a consistent way.

But…I couldn’t help wishing for a bit of eccentricity, whimsy, fancy or rock ‘n roll fun. Or even just a bit of so-called bad taste! Part of it, I realized, is that while I admire a lot of people with consistent “brands” and tastes in fashion, in real life I value eclecticism over consistency — something which is interesting to realize.

But also, I realized just how regimented and practical my life is now. Part of that is being a parent — routines are your bedrock with a toddler! — and part of that is just the sheer number of priorities you juggle. Parenting, creativity, jobs, relationships, house, health, friendships: it all competes for space. Some things just naturally eat up more of that space: kids, jobs, and, for me, health, because if I don’t care for myself, me and my thyroid have a really hard time keeping up with the rest of it all.

But that also means less occasions in my life that require fancy, whimsical, beautifully impractical outfits. And while I do my best to accept it with good humor, I’m not going to lie: I often feel a pang of melancholy about this. I always had a lot of adventure and joie de vivre in my life, and that’s kind of been missing as a parent — and sometimes I do wonder if I’ll ever get it back in this very existential way. Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my “fun muscles”: I go out and I don’t remember how to have fun, how to talk to people. I feel ungainly and weird and awkward; I feel like I’m starting all over again at the bottom of some weird ladder. I feel off and out of step.

I once used clothes to give me confidence and self-expression. And while now they are my allies in helping me keep up with my life — and I deeply appreciate them for that — sometimes the practical aspect of it all just takes over everything, and it gets deeply boring, especially to someone who was really kind of a late-night bohemian libertine type of person for many, many years.

But I can’t retreat into my past, anymore, either: I also feel a weird vulnerability wearing things from my past that once made me feel cool, beautiful, sexy or whatever. It’s a weird feeling, to long for a feeling of yourself in the past and yet realize you’ve changed and don’t fit into that anymore. (Sometimes literally!) And yet…you’re not sure exactly what you’ve grown into.

Sometimes it comes back to me — like reclaiming my black leather jackets, for example — but it’s a slow, sometimes painful process. I guess I’m still searching for a fashion identity — and a sense of self — that accommodates and honors all of me, not just this huge newish role in my life that I love but somehow can take over EVERYTHING.

Ah, who knew such a little fashion experiment could bring on such navel-gazing? I’ve mentioned it before, but I don’t think the feeling comes from a restrictive wardrobe — more that my life needs something else now besides stability and practicality. It needs zest! It needs spice! And so do my outfits!

So I probably will try this experiment again in the spring, and next time around there will be a bit more color, a bit more fun. Not just in my wardrobe, but I daresay…in my life? Stay tuned…

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