One Wear Rule: Part One

Following a ‘one wear’ rule for my clothes, one week at a time

Anyone who has been following this blog for a while will know that I have a lot of clothes. Arguably far too many clothes – you just have to look at how many entries I got up to in the Shopping My Shipping series to know that. But as I’ve also come to realise, I have an awful lot of clothes that I simply don’t wear. I fall back on a small subset of staple items, and wear them again and again. So one of my goals for a while has been to slim down my wardrobe a bit, and rationalise my selections.

A real concern I have is that if I throw something away I’ll realise I really ‘need’ it a few months down the line. One solution to this has been to institute a sort of holding bay – packing everything I want to get rid of into cardboard boxes and leaving them for a few months to see if I actually miss them. If I get through the next applicable season for each item and I still don’t want it, then I think it’s safe to get rid of.

But I thought a fun way to challenge my clothing choices would be to institute a ‘one wear rule’ – only allowing myself to wear something once. After each wear I’ll pack it away, withdrawing it from circulation and forcing myself to try new things, and hopefully reach for, and seriously evaluate, some of my less-worn items. At the start I decided to just see how long I could last with this rule – a potentially humbling result. I’ve also been really strict with myself, including jeans and trousers in the rule. I usually wear the same jeans over and over again, but I own a lot of dresses and a lot of skirts which I’ve just not been using, so it seemed fair to give them a fair shot by removing the possibility of falling back on jeans.

Below you can see the outfits I put together abiding by this rule, and how I came to feel about the pieces themselves.

Day 1: Boden printed pencil skirt and white button-down

Full-length photo of Helen wearing a white button-down shirt with sleeves rolled up to the elbow, a just-below-the-knee length pencil skirt printed with leaves, green and pink hearts, and blue swallows on a white background, and black criss-cross sandals.

This is a skirt I haven’t worn a single time since moving to Australia, and even before that it very rarely saw the light of day. It has a real workwear feel to it, but it’s impossible to cycle in, so once I gave up the bus commute and swapped it for a bike, this just wasn’t a piece I was reaching for. Now we’re working from home, it doesn’t really abide by my Zoom outfit preferences, but I’m not cycling to work, so I thought I’d give it another shot. I haven’t worn this style very much since probably about 2017, so it feels pretty dated to me, recalling a very specific period of my life. But I’m wearing it in a different way to how I would have then, so I’ve managed to refresh it a bit. The shirt is actually even older, one I bought to wear to my undergraduate exams. At Oxford you have to wear a formal uniform/Harry Potter cosplay for all your exams and ceremonies, so you get through a few white shirts. This one in all honesty doesn’t fit me that well, or at least how I would like it to these days, but it’s a good staple, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, so I don’t really feel justified in getting rid of it. Add to that the sentimental value of having sat my finals in it, and I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon. To slightly downplay the almost corporate feel of this outfit I paired it with these simple black sandals.

Day 2: Collectif Gingham Dress

Full-length photo of Helen wearing a short-sleeved, knee-length yellow and white gingham dress with full circle skirt, buttons to the waist, small lapels and a matching belt, with light-brown block heel sandals.

This is a dress you have to be in the right mood in to wear. I bought it back in 2020, and I’ll admit that the number of times I’ve been in that mood wasn’t as many as I thought it would be. It is really cute, and makes me feel like I’m in an episode of Mad Men, but it does feel quite formal for everyday use. I’m already realising that it might be a little bit tough to stick to a one wear rule and not feel like I’m ‘dressing up’ every day. However I still enjoyed wearing this dress – I love a bit of gingham, and best of all it has pockets. The weather has finally warmed up in Melbourne, so it was nice to be able to wear this dress without tights, and embrace it’s kind of picnic-y vibes.

Day 3: Princess Highway printed skirt

Full-length photo of Helen wearing a black t-shirt with an A-line skirt printed with red pomegranates and brown and green leaves on a black background, with criss-cross black sandals.

On my third day I was trying to go for a slightly more casual look, and this is where I landed. The skirt is from Princess Highway, and though I really love it, I don’t wear it that often. It has quite an autumnal feel too with its orange and burgundy colouring, so I was pleased to find a more summery way of wearing it. Popping on the same black sandals as the day before, and just a simple cotton t-shirt on top, with a vintage leather belt bought from Salvaged Outfitter to finish, overall the outfit got some way towards the more relaxed look I was after, although perhaps not all the way there.

Day 4: Uniqlo cotton culottes with blue linen shirt

Full-length photo of Helen wearing calf-length cream-coloured culottes with a dark blue linen shirt with sleeves slightly rolled up, a thin brown belt and brown, rounded flat sandals.

This is a great way of demonstrating what you might call ‘closet forgetfulness’, as this is exactly the sort of casual outfit I was aiming for on day 3, but I seemingly complete forgot that I owned either of these items. Together they made for a cool and comfortable look. I used to wear these culottes all the time but haven’t brought them out for a while, and although this shirt is a bit of an awkward one to tuck, I really love the colour – it makes my hair look redder, which I’m always in favour of. I’ve recently started coming to terms with having slightly more buttons undone on a shirt – I think the deeper V suits my proportions better, and stops my top half from looking too boxy. In person I would worry a little bit about maybe revealing too much (especially from the side), but at least in these days of working from home again it’s not something I really need to think about too much. I went with brown accessories to keep the tones warm, with the same vintage belt as day 3, and a pair of leather flats from FatFace. These shoes are actually really old, and I can’t say I’m honestly the biggest fan (I think they emphasise how flipper-shaped my feet are), but they are basically pretty comfortable, and they fill a gap in my shoe collection, so they’re pretty useful.

Day 5: H&M puffy sleeve shirt-dress

Full-length photo of Helen wearing a khaki green shirt-dress with long, puffy sleeves, with a straw belt with round buckle, and black block-heel sandals.

This is definitely one of those items I bought with the best of intentions, but now hardly ever wear. I bought it at the start of 2020 when I was about to start a new job, and wanted some more smart-casual clothes, in natural materials. This big puffy sleeved shirt dress seemed to fit the bill, entirely cotton, a bit of a statement but still quite casual. The reality is that I quite quickly feel overwhelmed by the sleeves. There will I’m sure be days I’m up for it, but for everyday, the sleeves are just a bit too much of a statement. As you can see below, I tried three different ways of styling this. I really appreciated the baggy looseness of the way I finally chose to style it, but by the end of the day I really felt that the sleeves were a bit overwhelming. They are too gathered to really roll up properly, and they kind of ended up reminding me of those paper things people put on roast chickens and turkeys. However, I’m pleased I bothered to give it a try. What I’ve decided is that this will be a piece I reserve for slightly special occasions – it’s a drinks out dress, not a sitting at the desk dress.

Helen in the same dress, but without the belt.
Helen in the same dress but with the sleeves rolled up into big bunches at her elbows.

At first I chose to style it with this straw belt from French Connection, and with the sleeves down for their full effect. Then I decided the sleeves were a little too cumbersome, so I attempted to roll them up. The belt works with the general vibe of the dress, but overall I found it a little too constricting – I couldn’t get the fabric to sit properly, and it kept bunching up awkwardly. So I ditched it, and let the dress hang loose in all its baggy glory.

Close-up of Helen's arm showing the sleeve rolled up into a big bunch and her arm and hand poking out the end, resembling a 'Turkey frill'.

The one piece that worked perfectly in this outfit was the black block-heeled sandals. I absolutely love these, and have had them for years. They’re super comfy, and go with so many things.

By the end of the day though I’m afraid to report that I was quite relieved to get out of this outfit, regardless of how ostensibly comfy it was. It was the only outfit that I was really happy to be out of though, so if I only get one of those in a week I don’t think I’ve got much to complain about.

(Click here for a ‘Turkey frill’ – you’ll see what I mean!)

Day 6: Navy-blue lace dress

Full length photo of Helen wearing a navy-blue, sleeveless lacy mini-dress.

Normally I would confine by clothing challenges to the weekdays, but I thought if I was really going to take this seriously I needed to stick to it over the weekends as well. So here we are, on Saturday. I bought this dress a number of years ago from Amazon (would you believe!) and for a while it was a firm favourite of mine. I wore it a lot in the heat of my trip to Geneva (although the circular opening in the back, not pictured, was annoying to have to suncream!), and it occurred to me that I actually haven’t worn it much since then. Putting it on felt like a bit of a throwback to a different time in my life. I certainly haven’t worn this since I turned 30, perhaps not even since I turned 28! I can see why I’ve hung on to it, because it is a useful kind of dress, but I think it might be a kind of style I don’t really see myself in anymore. It’s undeniably quite a cute dress, but wearing it now makes me feel a little girlish. Still, it was good to give it a break for the closet and spend some time actually evaluating whether I want to keep it, and for all I’ve complained, I think I do. It’s a good ‘in case of emergencies’ dress, and a decent closet staple. I’m grateful that this challenge make me take another look at it!

Day 7: Printed tie-shirt and shorts

Full length photo of Helen wearing A-line beige high-waisted shorts with a sleeveless, button-through and tie-waist shirt in a turquoise-green on white leaf print.

This shirt is another piece that used to be a real favourite but for some reason I haven’t worn for ages. Perhaps I over-wore it, because this was in constant rotation when we first moved to Australia back in 2020. Bought from TopShop many years ago, it has to be one of the most summery items I own, with its little leaf print and tie waist. It is quite cropped, so you do have to wear it with quite high-waisted bottoms if you don’t want to show everyone your tummy (which I don’t!). These shorts are the perfect pairing. They’re a new cotton pair from Uniqlo, and they are pretty much my exact style: nice and high-waisted, with big, proper pockets, and a comfy fit, without being scandalously short. Eagle-eyed readers might notice that they are basically the same as the culottes earlier in the week, but at a much shorter length. I wear them pretty much all the time now, so I was slightly nervous to wear them in this one-wear challenge, and put them out of the running. However I think they work so well with this top, pulling together an incredibly comfortable but still quite unified look. I decided not to wear a belt with these, as the tie waist is quite ‘busy’ already, so kept it very minimal and just threw on some sneakers when I needed to head out.

So that’s the first week done and dusted! What can I say I’ve learnt so far? One thing that stuck out to me was that I was ‘saving up’ certain items and outfits. I was trying to avoid wearing things I wear all the time and know I love, because I thought I might ‘need’ them at some point later in the challenge. I guess thinking there might be days when I feel really rubbish, over-sleep, or for whatever reason need to get dresses really quickly, and wanted to have a couple of no-brainer outfits left to choose from. This has forced me to be more adventurous and try out more things I haven’t worn as much. Another thing that surprised me was that I haven’t worn any jeans! Even in this hotter summer weather (by Melbourne standards) it’s unusual for me to go a whole week without once donning jeans. So what did I wear? I’m going to keep a running tally of the types of items I wear each week, and see what that teaches me about the kind of clothes I enjoy wearing the most.

Pie chart: 2 skirts, 3 tops/shirts, 3 dresses, 2 trousers/jeans/shorts.

I think it’s been a successful first week, all things considered! It’s making me realise how much my style has changed over the years, even though on the surface, to me at least, it looks pretty similar. It’s always interesting to have a bit of a fresh look at your wardrobe, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I learn next!

Thanks very much for reading! I hope this has been an interesting read, and perhaps prompted you to have a think about how often you wear certain pieces. I’m going to be attempting a running tally of my clothes in general, both related and unrelated to this challenge, so I can get myself a bit of a sense of the ‘cost per wear’ of my different pieces. I have a funny feeling that the more expensive items will also be those I get the least wear out of… So watch this space for a post on that in the coming months! As I write I’ve just begun Week 2 of the One Wear Rule challenge, an am still going strong, so another post on that will follow shortly too! Thanks again for reading, and please do share your thoughts and experiences in a comment, I’d love to know what you think!


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