Style and Styling

Grow Your Style: Challenges

& What I Learned from April’s Style Palette Cleanse

Happy day, dear reader of mine!

If you are a regular reader, you saw the Style/Restyle post in which I wore the same clothes (Blue Jeans + White Tee) for seven days straight. (Yes, I did laundry!). The responses I received on Instagram were really interesting… Some people couldn’t imagine ever limiting themselves that way. Comments along the lines of I would simply die of boredom! Others thought it was an awesome exercise. The response likely says more about the person speaking than the experience, itself! Personally, I think a little boredom is good for us. Think about children… When they get bored, they start the most interesting projects and games.

Aside: Our sons knew better than to ever tell me they were bored! Panicked voice: Don’t let Mom hear you say that… She’ll make us clean!

Why a style challenge? (Or style tortures if that’s how you see them! Obviously, I don’t, because I keep on doing them!) Every challenge teaches. A LOT! About preferences, likes and dislikes. What is well made. What is not. What is worn, and what the closet wears. What is versatile. What isn’t. Sometimes the things you thought would be the most versatile, aren’t. Every challenge reveals surprises and holds space for you to appreciate what you have, find gaps that need to be filled, and get creative with what you already own.

Style challenges are a great way to shake loose a little wardrobe boredom and stimulate your creativity. I encourage you to try a style challenge of your own! Today’s post shares just a few to think about. (All of which I have done AND survived!) A challenge can also (like the Bakers’ Dozen and Palette Cleanse were) be an opportunity to simplify, clear your mind and lessen decision fatigue.

Style Train

A Style Train is the shortest and most fluid challenge here. The original started completely by accident; it’s time to repeat it on purpose! Think trains: One car links to another. Or dominos: Each added outfit repeats an item from the previous. Whatever outfit you wear on Monday, take one of the pieces and build Tuesday’s outfit on that. Build Wednesday’s outfit from one of Tuesday’s pieces. This probably works better in fall, winter and spring. Maybe not so well in summer!

Style Dominoes? Style Train? Style Train Dominoes?

You can see how this train played out: I wore Monday’s trousers on Tuesday. Tuesday’s sweater on Wednesday. Wednesday’s jeans on Thursday. And Thursday’s cardigan on Friday. I could see doing this for seven days, or maybe more. Five is a great place to start, though! It’s also a fabulous way to retrain your brain to think if you are a lay-out-a-separate-outfit-for-each-day-of-the-trip packer.

10X10

Another short and easy challenge is the 10X10 The basics? Choose ten pieces of clothing to wear for ten days. Some people count shoes in the ten, others don’t. You make it work for you! I used ten as a basis for “packing” for our Capri Staycation last summer… That one didn’t include shoes in my ten!

Think Pink

Actually, wear, but that doesn’t rhyme. Choose any color you please! You decide for how long. (Just take into account how much of the color you own before setting your time period!) I wore pink everyday of October 2019 in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.


Bakers’ Dozen Challenge

This may have been the first style challenge I mentioned here on the blog. I did it, and never wrote about it! What was that about? I was still quite new at this blogging strategy game. I decided that 13 items should be enough to keep me decently covered for a month. I liked the palindrome nature of 13X31, and so the Bakers’ Dozen Capsule was born. I’m wondering if it’s time for another Bakers’ Dozen ?

Project 333

Fair warning: Project 333 may have been my style challenge gateway drug. And my first deep dive into intense planning. I did my first P333 when I was still teaching, long before Closet Play was even a glimmer in my eye… I remember sitting on my bed staring into my closet with a clipboard and graph paper (Graph paper lovers, unite!), scribbling down choices and crossing them out. Over and over again. But I loved the challenge and came back to it a few seasons in a row. I have Courtney Carver to blame for my obsession with capsule wardrobes… It’s lovely to foist that off on someone else!

Shopping Fast

This one makes people uncomfortable. Like telling someone to stop eating chocolate, or eating sugar. That’s telling, isn’t it? My first shopping fast was for Lent, year unknown. Since then, No Buy (Name Your Month) has become such a thing that a shopping fast doesn’t sound nearly as unusual as it felt then. The financial crisis of 2007/8 and Covid made making do with what you have sound more practical and less radical. Since then I’ve done year long shopping fasts, and seasonal fasts, all of which combined have made me a less frequent and more mindful buyer.

Counterintuitively, when we begin working together, I tell most of my clients to take a shopping break/moratorium for a set period. They are usually surprised! I explain that I would rather you have time to absorb the lessons you are learning about your personality, lifestyle, body and coloring and practice with what you already own before going out and buying anything new! The break tends to make for choices afterwards.

Style Palette Cleanse

Post from earlier this month… Short version? Same neutral separates for 7 days. Add accessories and shoes as desired. My choice was Blue Jeans + White Tee. I’d love to see Olive Trousers + Ivory Sweater, or maybe Grey Trousers + Denim Shirt… What about Khaki Pants + Olive Top? So many places this could go! Just pick neutrals that work for your coloring and your value contrast. Believe me. I could have chosen better.

What Did the Style Palette Cleanse (SPC) Teach Me?

Let’s just say I took away three lessons: (1) I don’t like tees! I knew that, but needed a reminder. I don’t like the way they cling to my middle. I prefer woven fabrics that float away from my body. Yes, I keep tees for yardwork, etc. but the white ones I own are primarily for underwear and styling flatlays for the blog. (2) The SPC made me pay a LOT more attention to my makeup, particularly eye makeup. Not wearing color required a lot of extra emphasis to prevent my communication center from getting lost. (3) Hair–My hair looks the same pretty much every day. I don’t really ever play with it. Until there’s nothing else to do. And there was nothing else to do! I don’t generally mess with my hair. A little product, a quick once over with the dryer, run my hands through it, and go. I don’t wear my hair in different styles, curl it, straighten it, put accessories in (Except for the occasional headscarf!). This gave me the push to try styling a little differently. And to play with a flatiron. Will I start styling my hair regularly? Probably not. But I appreciated the reminder. And can use it for variety if my capsule starts feeling boring.

Style and Creativity

Style is a skill, or if you prefer to think of it like a muscle, that works, too! The more you use it, the better defined it becomes. If you let your style lay on the couch all day and eat the sartorial equivalent of potato chips (think yoga pants and an old college tee), she’s going so get sloppy and hard to engage when you need her again.

Creativity needs space to roam. When we are little, we dump the toy and play with the box. Unfortunately as we get older, we forget about the box and obsess about the toy inside we spent so much money on…

Empty Brown Cardboard Box

You could say that the Style Palette Cleanse was a way to give my brain a break and to get back to playing with the box. And to recognize the box as a gift!

How About You?

Are you a graph paper nerd? Have you ever done a style challenge? Or a shopping fast? What kind? What did you learn about yourself? About others? Or your wardrobe? Which challenge sounds the least daunting? The most? Might you be up for a style challenge this summer? (Winter for my other hemisphere folks!) I’m thinking a group challenge would be fun! Nothing too long or scary… I won’t ask for a year long shopping fast just yet…

Stylishly yours,

4 Comments

  • NATALIE K

    Liz, I’ve never participated in a clothing challege but I’m all for trying one as a group! I’m just finishing up a shopping fast for just a month. No hicups! I’m not interested in continuing. I am interesed in a challenge especially if it explores our closet in using everything e have in our closet. I don’t like just a fe options. If e have that type of challenge I ould allo myself all my accessories!

  • Carol Karl

    I love all these ideas, especially the idea of the style train. I’ve done the 10 item challenge and I found that quite liberating (not boring because I didn’t limit myself on accessories – maybe that was breaking the rules). I really enjoyed this post, Liz.

    • Liz K

      Thank you, Carol! I think I may have just started another train this week… Again, by accident. We’ll see how this one goes!

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