I Got Dressed Every Day for a Month Without Looking in the Mirror

On an unusually warm December morning, I woke up in a foul mood. For what felt like the 100th day in a row, it was too hot—80°F during the holidays requires a taste I haven't yet acquired—and I was less than thrilled to be ushered out of bed by the abrasive Los Angeles sun. I was sick of wearing a summer wardrobe year-round, but more important, my excitement for getting dressed each morning was replaced with resentment and a deflated self-esteem. As I scrutinized several outfit combinations in the mirror that morning, I had an unrevolutionary but transformative thought: My morning routine would be a lot better if I stopped judging my reflection.

I decided that if I wanted to rebuild confidence and reconnect with my love of bricolage and clothing, I needed to part ways with my full-length mirror. I'd gotten into the habit of lovingly picking out an outfit I felt good in but then rethinking it when I looked in the mirror. Suddenly I'd become hyper-aware of how I'd be perceived, wondering if I looked too quirky, too loud, too big, too childish, too this, too that—all things I otherwise knew better than to internalize. And I'm not sure when I started shying away from bold fashion choices and getting so self-critical, or if this was only a reflection of one profoundly grumpy Monday, but I knew I wasn't going to let an inanimate object get in my way anymore.

And a few months later, I can say the hiatus has paid off, big time. Unrestrained by a mirror, I stopped fixating on finding a "flattering" outfit and let myself fall back into the rhythm of dressing for my mood and having fun with it. Suddenly my old clothes were sparkling with memories and new possibilities. Don't get me wrong, there were a few hilariously disastrous outfits, but the difference was that I still felt confident in them all day long, and instead of retroactively putting myself down, I felt proud for experimenting, letting go of my vanity a little, and learning not to take myself so seriously.

Not looking in the mirror while getting dressed seems like such a simple decision. Yet there's also something radical about resisting the pressure to internalize gendered messaging around beauty and presentation, and instead insisting upon loving our bodies and dressing for nobody but ourselves. So here's how it worked: For the first month, I jotted down notes about my mood each day and why I chose each outfit accordingly and then documented it with a photo. So whether you already get dressed without looking in the mirror or you want to try this challenge yourself, scroll through to see six days of mood-driven, mirror-free outfits, plus what I learned from each of them. 


(Image credit: Natalia Chavez; GRAPHIC: ChinChin Hao)

The Mood and the Outfit: I felt like defying the whole concept of dressing for my body type right off the bat. I was also feeling cheerful and energetic, so I pushed myself to experiment with bold colors, avant-garde shapes, and bulkier silhouettes. Most important, I wanted it to be comfortable. I opted for a dress that I usually prefer on the hanger and then threw on some dad sneakers.

The Lesson: This was the first time I'd ever worn sneakers to work (I fancy myself more of a kitten heel kind of woman). Plus, the last time I wore this pair, I wiped out on a busy intersection and completely trashed my favorite pair of jeans—I'm talking ripped to shreds from crotch to knee. But I think I took a tumble because there's something about them that puts an insouciant pep in my step. In other words, I walk with a certain recklessness in what should be sturdy shoes. Anyway, they made the formal dress feel more casual, and I liked the juxtaposition. I'm so glad I decided to step out of my comfort zone by bringing these sneakers out of the wardrobe catacombs.

What I'm Wearing: Céline dress; Opening Ceremony sneakers; Mansur Gavriel bag; Each x Other jacket


(Image credit: Natalia ChavezGRAPHIC: ChinChin Hao)

The Mood and the Outfit: This shirt first joined my family in 2004, and I inherited it from my sister in 2007 right in time for bat mitzvah season. I'm glad it still fits because I love everything about it—the color, the fabric, the shape. Each detail makes it unique and eye-catching. I usually wear it when I'm feeling happy but lazy because it's really comfortable and easy to wear. I also love everything metallic, so I decided to put on my new favorite shoes. To balance out the playful and prissy elements of the outfit, I opted for relaxed jeans and a denim jacket. 

The Lesson: I used to hate these jeans because they were so baggy. It took me a while to get into the groove of wearing them, but now that I have, I never take them off. They're ideal for lazy days and Thanksgiving-sized meals. Aside from that, I learned that my attachment to childhood clothing has its perks. 

What I'm Wearing: Reformation jacket; vintage shirt; Topshop jeans; Gucci belt; Céline shoes 


(Image credit: Natalia ChavezGRAPHIC: ChinChin Hao)

The Mood and the Outfit: I took everything personally and just felt "off" this day. I needed cheering up, so I looked for something sweet and soft to evoke light and love and landed on a light pink silk dress. I know from wearing it previously that it doesn't photograph very well since the material clings to you in odd ways, but like I said, it was time to practice embracing those imperfections. Then, I chose these whimsical lavender sandals. Since I felt like I was dressed for Easter brunch, I threw on an office-friendly blazer. 

The Lesson: Of course, light colors and soft fabrics aren't going to cheer me up if I don't do some of the internal work myself. This was one of the harder days of the mirror-free challenge because I encountered some probing and personal questions. I think it had more to do with other things going on in my life, and I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before, but I remember feeling frustrated that I couldn't glimpse in the mirror to see if I looked okay. I just wanted to get that extra vote of confidence. But whose validation was I looking for and why? Perhaps unnecessarily heavy for a Tuesday morning, but it was questions like those that helped and humbled me most. 

What I'm Wearing: Cédric Charlier dress; vintage blazer; Maryam Nassir Zadeh shoes; Mansur Gavriel bag


(Image credit: Natalia ChavezGRAPHIC: ChinChin Hao)

The Mood and the Outfit: This one goes out to my style icon Michael Kelso. I had a casual meeting this day, so I wanted to wear something that looked put-together and showed off my personality. I found these dream jeans at a vintage store. They fit like a glove and say "Frank" in Sharpie in the inside, and the polka-dot blouse is another hand-me-down from my endlessly cool mom. So are those vintage square-toed Prada boots, and that funky corduroy jacket dates back to my older sister's grade school days. 

The Lesson: Interestingly, I ended up feeling like this outfit was a little too sassy for my mood that day. Still, it was fun to experiment with all of my old pieces, and next time I'm feeling sassy, I'll give it another spin. 

What I'm Wearing: Vintage jeans, shirt, belt, boots, and jacket; Olympia Le-Tan clutch


(Image credit: Natalia ChavezGRAPHIC: ChinChin Hao)

The Mood and the Outfit: It was a foggy morning, and the Olympics were in full swing, so I grabbed my coziest turtleneck and channeled my inner Kristi Yamaguchi with some blade-sharp booties and a seafoam green silk skirt. My favorite part about this outfit—and probably my entire wardrobe in general—is the silver trench coat. My mom got it from a vintage store when I was a kid and then gave it to me a few years ago. I love how much history it holds, and it has such a fun personality. 

The Lesson: I never wear those booties with skirts because I'm worried it'll stumpify my legs. Admittedly, the sweater swallowed me a bit and my calves have looked better, but I didn't really care about those things. I wasn't at work to feel sexy, and I loved looking down at the soothing colors and contrasting materials throughout the day. 

What I'm Wearing: Vintage coat; Vanessa Bruno sweater; Loiél skirt; Balenciaga boots 


(Image credit: Natalia ChavezGRAPHIC: ChinChin Hao)

The Mood and the Outfit: I was feeling festive, which called for print mixing and bright colors. What could get the job done better than a long cheetah-print skirt, a pink striped shirt, fur strap heels, and some hoop earrings? Sadly this was one of the last days I got to enjoy those hoop earrings. A few days later one of them jumped out of my earlobe, into the toilet and before I could dive in after it, the automatic flush sensor sucked it away. 

The Lesson: My biggest takeaway from this day was that most of my clothes are incredibly versatile, and I'll never run out of ways to wear them if I stay creative and confident. Beyond the introspection and uplifting outcomes, by the end, I learned a lot about what I need to get rid of and what I need to shop for. I'm definitely in the market for a new pair of sunglasses, a purse, and a pantsuit. 

What I'm Wearing: Each x Other jacket; Reformation top; Carven skirt; vintage shoes

Up next, four fashionable women share the outfit combos that inspire confidence

Hadley Mendelsohn