When I first heard that a New York woman created a blog, 260 Days No Repeats, to document her journey of wearing a different outfit to work every day for a year, one thing came to mind: $$$$$. But when I checked out her site, I realized that high clothing expenses were exactly what Iris was setting out to avoid with her project. Just out of college with tight finances and a large closet, Iris said she was inspired to embark on this yearlong journey by one thing: “Being poor.” Between student loans, the responsibilities of living on her own, a bad job market, and uncertainty about what she wanted to do, Iris decided to make a change.
In her very first blog entry, on April 1, 2012, Iris wrote, “So, what’s a girl to do about it? In-debt herself further to have all the latest things, take on extra jobs to make up the gap, borrow, steal, or make do with what she has? I will take the latter!”
I caught up with Iris and asked further about her inspiration for the project, and she emphasized that the idea was not to live with nothing, but to utilize the things she already had in her closet to their maximum potential.
“It’s not the idea of living with nothing or at little as possible because you don’t need more; it’s whether you do or you don’t, working with what you have,” she said. “Like I happen to have a lot of stuff which made it easier for me I guess. It’s the idea that I really think if you’re creative enough you could honestly wear everything you have in your closet. If you have the basics and some fun pieces, you could keep mixing it up in different ways and literally make hundreds of outfits with everything that you have. So that’s kind of what I’m continuing to do.”
As someone who A. possesses a great deal of clothes and B. has been often known to stare into the abyss that is my closet and proclaim, “I literally have nothing to wear,”… I see her point.
I asked Dianna Baros, founder of the fabulous shopping site The Budget Babe, if she thought there was a lesson to be learned from Iris’ experiment.
“I absolutely think there’s a lesson to be learned,” Dianna said. “Many of us have a closet full of clothes but “nothing to wear” — it would benefit all of us to take a shopping hiatus for a month or two and rework the pieces we already own. You could also host a clothing swap, learn to sew or refashion things you already own. This would be a great not only for our wallets but for the environment as well.”
Iris is now working on the third year of her blog, her third year of mixing and matching and trying not to shop as much as possible, probably because the first year was such a resounding success. After 260 days of work, and not one repeated outfit, Iris had only spent $148.60 on clothes. Try to pick your jaws up from the floor. How did she do it? Well, aside from the incredible self control that kept her from the mall, Iris said a lot of the task was using clothing items in ways she never would have before.
“Part of it is trying things together that I wouldn’t have tried before,” she said. “Like I say a lot on blog, ‘Wow, in the beginning I never would have tried this crazy combination of purple and green’ or whatever, ‘This fuchsia and blue is out of this world,’ or wearing neutrals together or all of those faux pas rules like mixing patterns — that wasn’t stuff that I would’ve necessarily thought was the best thing ever but now I’m like, ‘Everything goes with everything!’”
Hey, fashion is about taking risks, right? If you’re as inspired by this thrifty gal as I was, I asked her for some tips for the rest of us — who maybe don’t have the self-control to stave off shopping completely.
“First and foremost, if you’re talking about budget shopping in general, you cannot go wrong with a thrift store, and I know that isn’t always a viable option because – especially in New York City – some thrift stores in tend to be a lot more fancy and they’re not so much about secondhand clothes as they’re about vintage clothes that can get really expensive. But if you find a decent goodwill or that type of thrift store, that to me is just a great option… But I guess if I had to pick store stores,I like Target, it has some good stuff, and LOFT if they’re having sales can be really great. New York & Company also has the potential for really great stuff.”
Dianna Baros added Banana Republic and J.Crew to that list, because they often have sales and promotions and carry a plethora of sizes. She also emphasized the difference between purchasing staples and purchasing trendy pieces, something Iris has also talked about on her blog.
“It’s essential to invest a little bit more on things like structured blazers and tailored pants that really last and make a look feel polished,” Baros said. “You can have fun with accessories and trends by picking up pieces from Target, H&M and even Forever 21.”
I asked both of these fashion-savvy women what they consider the ten essential basics for dressing for an office, and their answers were — I suppose unsurprisingly — very similar. The following is a conglomeration of the two:
1. A suit, black blazer and pants
2. Neutral work-appropriate skirt
3. Gray or other neutral dress, knee-length
4. A large structured purse
5. White button-down shirt
6. Solid pumps
7. A nice watch
8. Colorful silk blouses
9. Classic jewelry