When the Man Repeller editorial team approached me to be the guinea pig of a new style challenge in which one person wears the same outfit every day for a week, I froze. My anxiety rolled like a tumbleweed across the desert expanse that is my heart. I had many thoughts: What? Why? Won’t I smell like a bad banana by the end it? How do I style something that isn’t jeans and a sweater six ways ‘til Sunday?
But once I pushed through my rigorous interior monologue, I said yes. I had to. As someone who has worked in fashion for three years and has often fallen prey to the consumption, desire, and immediacy the industry elicits, I’ve been eager to make a change. And with the imperative cultural shift toward sustainable consumption, I’ve been trying to eschew “more” in favor of using my creative toolbox to make what’s old new again. I figured maybe this could help.
So, for the challenge, I chose a cashmere set from NAADAM, a small ethically-minded business dedicated to democratizing cashmere. I’m very lucky to be employed by the kind of bizarre-o brain trust that allows me to wear a cashmere sweat suit to work. But I hope and believe these outfits can be co-opted for myriad situations, including but not limited to: errand-running, dinner parties, visits home, all-day lounging, and for the adventurous, winter nights out.
Without further ado, below is my joyful, epiphanous journey through five days of ginger-colored cashmere separates:
Day 1: In Which I’m Almost Good Enough for Suri Cruise
I came out of the gate SWINGIN’. This outfit, in hindsight, was my favorite of the week. I knew I wanted to wear a button-down underneath the cardigan, so I opted for a famously good button-down I got from the office closet many moons ago. Inspired by Eliz, I tucked my joggers into a pair of Tibi boots I scored from their online sample sale for a fraction of the price, and topped it off with my favorite coat in my wardrobe: a Bode x B Sides one-of-one jacket I found at an Opening Ceremony sale a few months ago. I admit when I wore all the layers together I felt like a cooked goose, but the layering, colors, and ingenuity of it made me feel like Suri Cruise would maybe say “hi” to me.
Day 2: In Which I Spilled Not One Red Sauce
This was the easiest of all the outfits! I woke up and thought, I would really like to be cozy today. I shrugged on the Babaà knit cardigan I’ve worn a lot this season, which was a birthday gift, then tied it together–literally–with a handkerchief from Madewell that I’ve worn to the point of abuse. Finished with a loafer? Easy.
Let me just say that I ate a breakfast burrito AND a cup of three bean chili in this outfit. Reader: Did I spill? Not a drip nor a DROP. I often have the great pleasure of wearing my food so I was shaken, not stirred, to come out of today looking pristine.
Day 3: In Which I Roasted Like a Chestnut on an Open Fire
Since my other outfits hadn’t really played with much color, I wanted to wear something that did. I threw on a Uniqlo turtleneck I’ve had since Leandra’s story about it last year (I bought one in black and one in Robin’s egg blue). I buttoned the cardigan over it and made the finishing touches with an oversized rancher-woman’s jacket I got from a flea market in a mountain town in Colorado, a pair of cow-print clogs I bought to match the one’s I’d seen Eliz wearing from Tory Burch (but make it budget), and a pair of gold Missoma hoops that are my #1 ‘til-death-do-us-part earrings. I loved the way this outfit turned out, though by day three I was starting to really roast like schwarma when I was indoors. I’m not saying I smelled ripe, but I am saying I gave no hugs after 3 p.m.
Day 4: In Which I Take Style Cues from Abie Cohen
I did noooooot want to wear the set when I woke up. Not because I didn’t still love it! I did. I do. I griped only because I thrive on self-expression through getting dressed and I was starting to feel stifled!
To switch it up, I wore my striped Kule shirt–I cannot overstate the hard work my two Kule shirts do in my wardrobe–and knotted the cardigan across my body. I tucked my joggers into my socks like my baby, Shia, and then put on my Spalwart shoes I’ve had since I saw Abie wearing them over a year ago (No joke. @Leandra.) Added a parachute jacket that I love from sustainable fashion brand Marfa Stance and a pair of, you guessed it, gold Missoma hoops. I stopped feeling my aforementioned feeling once it all came together.
Day 5: In Which I Stick It to High School Bullies Haha I’m Not Bitter!
Last day!!! I wanted to wear the set in a way that could be construed as “business casual.” I remember buying this J.Crew blazer my junior year of high school for debate season, back when girls would bully me for looking “like a professor” in the hallway. Look at me now, Maddy! I added an uncontroversial flat and tied a scarf around my head to make everything look easy, but thoughtful. When I went home for the day I immediately peeled off the cardigan and the jogger, folded them, kissed them goodnight for at least two weeks and sang them a lullaby.
By the end of the week, I realized a handful of important things about myself, my style, and my purchasing habits. Perhaps obviously, I noted how the bolder items in my closet that I bought on a whim didn’t work as hard for me compared to the pieces I consider to be staples. Styling one outfit five different ways was a real test of my creativity; in some ways I succeeded (layering dreamily!) and in others I felt I failed (ugh, wrong shoes). I was amazed by the desperation I felt to self-express through different garments that were arguably less comfortable or less interesting, just because I was craving something new.
Ultimately, though, I netted out feeling resourceful and empowered from this experiment. Much like Ruby Redstone, I’m energized by creating something special–even if it’s only special to me–out of what I already own. Not only does it allow me to exercise my agency as a thoughtful consumer, but it proves I’m capable of making something out of whatever I might have available to me. Now I just need to do it more.
Are you ready to dip your toe into the simmering one-outfit-five-days water?