Sarah Robbins-Cole has certainly got her money’s worth out of her long-sleeved, knee length black dress.
She’s worn it for work, while out walking, to chill out on the sofa and even on Christmas Day.
In fact, the 52-year-old has worn the Rowena dress, which is made from sustainably sourced merino wool, for 100 days in a row.
The church Leader and college chaplain Sarah Robbins-Cole joked that she’s taking her job very literally, becoming a “lady of the cloth”.
Sarah, who lives in Boston, USA, joined the 100 Day Dress Challenge on September 16, 2020 in a bid to live without fast fashion and help save the planet.
She enjoyed it so much that she’s set herself a new challenge for 2021.
“To my surprise, wearing the same dress for 100 days in a row didn’t take anything away from my life.
“Instead, it’s inspired me to go one step further and not to buy any new clothes or accessories between January 1, 2021, and January 1, 2022.
“I realised that, at my age, I have clothes for every occasion and if I need a ballgown, I’ll dust one off that’s been in my wardrobe since 1992!
“I am thinking of clearing my wardrobe and having a big declutter, but I’ll wait and see what I do wear over this coming year first.”
Sarah has three children with her British husband, clergyman Adrian – Elizabeth and Will – and the family have two rescue dogs.
She was among about 250 women who took up the 100-day challenge, run by clothing brand Wool&.
Designed to show participants how wearing just one garment every day would change their spending habits, reduce their laundry load and, by not buying fast fashion, help them to save the planet, it also changed the way Sarah felt about how she looks and dresses.
“I first saw the challenge on social media and thought why not?” said Sarah. “So, I really was a lady of the cloth!”
Participants were allowed to wash and dry the dress overnight, but if they were awake, they were expected to wear it.
And anyone who completed the challenge would win a $100, which is £74, voucher to spend on a new Wool& dress.
Teaming her long-sleeved, scoop-neck, knee-length Rowena dress, made from sustainably sourced merino wool, with a dog collar when she was working and even tucking it into jeans for an outdoor hike, she then documented the challenge by posting all her 100 different looks on her Instagram page @thisdressagain.
Sarah, who has just started a sabbatical and is in the midst of a doctoral programme in educational leadership, says not only did her repetitive wardrobe simplify her life, it also taught her about something she calls “spotlighting.”
“Spotlighting is that feeling that everyone is looking at you when in reality, they’re probably not,” she said.
“Wearing the same dress for so long helped me avoid that feeling.”
The only really difficult part of the whole challenge, according to Sarah, was having to post a new look every day on social media.
She said: “I forewarned my college students that I would be taking the challenge because they’d be seeing me in the same dress every day, which they might find odd.
“But, more importantly, I told them not to think when they looked at the pictures I posted that they were a true reflection of my life and that I was always that tidy and well put together.
“It was important to me for them to know that.
“I remember one student telling me how she could come out of a lecture feeling happy, check her phone, see what looked like someone else’s picture-perfect life and feel depressed by the time she had crossed the campus to her next lecture.
“By taking on this challenge, I had an insight into the unbelievable pressure that comes with social media.”
She was equally surprised by the number of random followers she attracted – including some very handsome men – who found their way to her Instagram pages – who she feared were not who they said they were.
She also received some intimate and inappropriate comments from strangers, who she ended up blocking.
But, overall, she had a very insightful and worthwhile experience, saying: “The dress was comfortable, easy to wear and completely unremarkable.
“I enjoyed accessorising it and, although I missed wearing jeans and found the long sleeves a bit warm when the sun came out, I didn’t really miss anything from my normal wardrobe.
“It was so easy to get up and get dressed in the same thing. It saved me loads of time and it was simple to brighten it up using accessories.
“The challenge did make me think about how many clothes end up in landfill, how much water is used to produce cotton and how we don’t really know whether the clothes we buy are made ethically, too.”
Most importantly, the challenge helped Sarah to connect on a deeper level with what really matters in life.
“We watched the new Disney film, Soul, over the holidays and I really understood a quote they used which said that lost souls are obsessed with something that disconnects themselves from life.
“Keeping things simple – which this challenge helped me to do – really put me in touch with what’s important.”