We’re only wearing 20% of our wardrobes—here’s the art and science behind the #30wears challenge
Before launching Public Habit in 2018, I started rethinking clothing purchases, asking the fundamental question: Can I see myself wearing this over and over again? Will it last? Will I still love it after the novelty has worn off? When I moved to China last year—a very different climate from Seattle, WA—I moved with a small suitcase of "summer essentials". When I returned to the States for work and looked at my existing wardrobe I was disgusted by how little I actively wear. By some estimates, Americans don't wear 82% of their clothes.
One more time. 82%!
That means I only really love 1 in 5 items in my wardrobe. That's just plain sad. Does this ring true for you as well?
Less, but better
Vivienne Westwood suggested that we should “Buy less, choose well and make it last” but, in the age of fast fashion, that has been a hard sell when you could buy a fun outfit for the cost of a latte and a scone. This concept of "buy less, but better" has been gaining traction in recent years and we are here for it. A wave of fashion brands like Cuyana, Lunya, and Everlane ushered in a cool factor for brands that celebrate staples. These brands also reflect a millennial shift in consumer mindsets that’s happening. We want to declutter and make space—physically and emotionally—for things, relationships, and experiences, that matter.
One campaign that stood out to us was the 2016 #30wears campaign, started by Livia Firth (yes, that's Colin Firth's wife) with now over 84,000 posts on Instagram. The 30 wears campaign encourages participants to pledge to wear one item 30 times over the next three months. It is about ending the culture of buying a cheap outfit and only wearing it once. The campaign encourages you to ask yourself a few simple questions before buying a new garment:
- Will I wear this at least 30 times?
- Will it last at least 30 washes?
- Will I still want to wear this in 6 months?
- Will I still want to wear this in a year?
We liked this challenge so much so that we added a reminder to every one of our product pages on publichabit.com. So, you can take that pause before you "add to bag" to ask yourself if this garment makes the cut to be one of your 1-in-5 beloved wardrobe staples. Hopefully, over time, you only own the 20% of your wardrobe that you truly love, and you get more use out of each piece over time.
Value over time
We've been thinking a lot about value at Public Habit, especially this year. What we value, how we value it. Value is not just monetary but that is an important element of it. If we only wear 18% of our closets, what is it about that 18% that we truly value? For us, at Public Habit we value versatility, comfort, and long-lasting style. That defines the 18% of my wardrobe that I continue to wear and re-wear.
Cost per wear
It also gets at the question of value over time or, more simply, cost per wear. Let's take a simple example. If you're debating investing in a wool coat that costs $400 but could last you the next 5 winters, you could assume that you'll get, conservatively, 10 wears out of it per season. That's 50 wears over time, minimum. All of a sudden, that $400 coat costs only $8 per wear.
In short, if you truly value a garment and it is inherently valuable (stands up to wears, washes, and still maintains its shape and color), you will save money and support a better fashion system. According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), extending the life of our clothes by just nine extra months of active use would reduce carbon, water, and waste footprints by 20-30% each.
All of a sudden, that $400 coat costs only $8 per wear.
Who's in for the #30wears challenge? Tag us on Instagram with your #30wears
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