Revisiting Project 333 and the “Love It, Wear It” Wardrobe Challenge

At the end of September, prior to attending Courtney Carver’s “Tiny Wardrobe Tour,” I decided to put together a hypothetical Project 333 summer capsule.  I wrote a blog post about this and concluded that it would be useful to try out that capsule during October, as warm weather where I live usually continues until at least early November and sometimes longer (our cool weather started just a week ago!).

I reasoned that if nothing else, I’d learn some useful things about myself and my wardrobe through doing a short version of Project 333 (even if not the full three months that it’s intended to be).  In today’s post, I share my thoughts on that experience, as well as about how I’m revisiting the “Love it, Wear it” Challenge (LIWI) that I did during the full year of 2015.

Project 333 Capsule Wardrobe

Have you ever done a capsule wardrobe challenge? 

An Abbreviated Project 333

I have done minimalist fashion challenge Project 333 three times now, all in some sort of modified way.  The first time was back in April 2013 when I did the full three months of the challenge but only included clothing in my 33 items.  The second time, in January 2014, I elected to also include shoes but only did the challenge for two months instead of three.  This last time, I included clothing, shoes, and accessories (as the rules specify), but only used my capsule for a period of one month and made a few strategic changes and additions along the way.  Courtney, the creator of Project 333, always says that “it’s not a project in suffering” and that we should make whatever changes we need to make the challenge work for us and our lives, so that’s what I have done.

When I wrote the post about my hypothetical Project 333 summer wardrobe, it was very easy for me to select my items and I even surprised myself by including accessories as well as clothes and shoes.  It did feel like a stretch at the time, but stretching ourselves is how we grow, so I went with it.  Here’s a reminder of the clothing, shoe, and accessory choices I made:

Summer 2016 Project 333 Clothing

These were the 20 items I selected for my hypothetical summer wardrobe capsule

Summer 2016 Project 333 Shoes

I selected these three pairs of shoes for my summer wardrobe capsule. 

Summer 2016 Project 333 Jewelry

These were the accessories I choose for my Project 333 summer capsule wardrobe

More Challenging Than I Thought…

The above items comprised my “out and about” wardrobe and I still wore different clothes at home (mostly t-shirts and Capri length yoga-style pants).  I didn’t get dressed in my capsule wardrobe every day, as there are usually two or three days each week when I only leave the house to go for a walk or to the gym, and I wear my at-home wardrobe those times (and sometimes I don’t go anywhere at all).

Although I wrote that “I can definitely see myself getting through the entire summer season wearing only the pieces” in my hypothetical Project 333 capsule, that didn’t end up being the case.  I found myself wanting to wear some of my other pieces, as it was nearing the end of the season and I knew I probably wouldn’t wear most of those items for six months or more.  In some cases, I wanted to wear something one more time because I thought I’d miss it, but I also wanted to “test drive” a few things before the end of the season to see if I wanted to keep them through to next year.   Additionally, I wanted to experiment a bit with wearing casual Capri pant “out and about” ensembles, which required that I add a few more items to my capsule.

Here are the “out and about” items I wore during October that were not part of my Project 333 capsule (jewelry pieces are not included, but I did add a small number of items in that category as well):

Summer Project 333 Extras

In addition to my Project 333 capsule, I also wore these ten items during October 2016. 

I ended up feeling that the tail end of a season may not be the best time for me to do a capsule wardrobe challenge, although I should probably be well aware by that time of what I do and don’t love.  However, I feel that my style is shifting as a result of both aesthetic evolution and gradual changes in my body related to menopause.  Thus, some of the things I loved wearing last year and earlier this year are not so much my favorites anymore.

Bringing Back the “Love It, Wear It” Challenge (LIWI)

I felt that engaging in experimentation was more important to my overall wardrobe objectives than sticking to the letter of the law of Project 333, which is why I allowed myself to wear items outside of my capsule. Since I wasn’t entirely sure which of my summer items I still loved wearing and fit my evolving style, I decided to do a hybrid of Project 333 and the “Love it, Wear it” Challenge (LIWI) beginning in mid-October.

For those who are unfamiliar with LIWI, here’s a basic overview (you can read all about it here – scroll down to the second half of the post).   The objectives for the “Love It, Wear It” challenge are to wear what we love and to have the right types of clothing, shoes, and accessories for our lives… the real lives that we are actually living in the here and now – not imagined, wished for, or previous lifestyles. The process for doing LIWI is to create a “working closet” by moving everything you wear into a specific area of your closet space (or a separate closet altogether).   As much as possible (work uniforms and dress codes aside…), you should only wear what you really want to wear.  Anything that is uncomfortable, fussy, or no longer in line with your personal style should be passed on for donation or consignment.

I started off this installment of LIWI by moving my Project 333 capsule to the left side of my closet and later moved other items there as I wore them.  I also allocated an area for the shoes I wore and dedicated one drawer of my jewelry armoire for all worn pieces.  As I proceeded through the remainder of October, as well as November and now December, I just wore what I wanted to wear and relocated those items to the designated areas. I looked at my Project 333 capsule first and often wore those items, but I increasingly allowed myself to look outside of that area to the rest of my wardrobe, too.  This hybrid of Project 333 and LIWI ultimately was a much more productive experiment for me than Project 333 alone, as I will illustrate below.

Lessons from Project 333 and LIWI

I learned a great deal from my October Project 333 experience and through revisiting the LIWI challenge over the past couple of months. I’ll encapsulate a few of those lessons here in the hopes that you’ll be able to gain some new insights from my experience. I highly recommend that you try one or both of these challenges, especially if you’re feeling dissatisfied with your wardrobe and/or are looking to pare down.  You may also want to read the following posts in which I share what I learned during earlier stints of both Project 333 and LIWI:

Below are three key lessons that I’ve learned about myself and my wardrobe over the past two months.

Capsule Wardrobes are Ultimately Not for Me

Project 333 has helped me tremendously during the past three-plus years and it’s been helpful to revisit the challenge a few times to refine my wardrobe and recognize that I don’t need as much as I previously thought.  However, I’ve learned that I don’t want to dress using capsules all the time.  I like variety and having access to my entire wardrobe most of the time.  I want to be able to wear whatever I feel like wearing on any given day and now that my wardrobe isn’t as huge as it once was, it’s not that hard to look in my closet and select an outfit for the day.

Doing a Project 333 experiment from time to time – or even packing for travel – can help tune us in to our wardrobe favorites and give us practice in mixing and matching.  The more I do these things, the better I get at maximizing the use of what’s in my closet.  But I’m okay with having capsule wardrobe challenges be an occasional activity.  For some people, it’s an ongoing way of life and that’s great, but it’s equally valid to have full access to one’s entire wardrobe all the time.  There is no right or wrong and what matters most is that we do what’s right for us.

Sometimes Duplication is Okay

When one is dressing from a small capsule wardrobe, it’s important to keep things “lean and mean.”  Any duplication therein will limit outfit possibilities and can lead to boredom and outfit monotony.  Duplicating closet pieces is fine if one likes to dress in a type of “uniform,” but such an approach is not for everyone (see this post on the ups and downs of uniform dressing).  I definitely have some outfit formulas or “uniforms” that I wear.  With the exception of the true chameleons (to whom my proverbial hat is off), most of us have tried and true ways of dressing that make it easier to get out the door quickly while still feeling put together.

I’m generally okay with having duplication in some wardrobe categories, but it became a bit problematic when I did my abbreviated Project 333 in October. As an example, I have three mid-length black skirts in my closet.  Their styles and silhouettes are all different – one is more flared, one is a high-low style, and one is asymmetrical.  I wasn’t sure which one to include in my capsule, so I basically just guessed at the one I liked the most.  Yet when I put it on for the first time to make an outfit, I wasn’t feeling it.  It felt too dressy for the look I was trying to create, so I pulled on one of the other black midi skirts instead and felt better.

Over the course of the month, I ended up wearing all three skirts and being happy with the ensembles I created.  Sure, it would be better to have just one black mid-length skirt, but I wear a lot of black and I like all three, so I’m okay with keeping them all.  I may eventually find a “Holy Grail” of black midi skirts and release the others, but for now I’m fine with having three, as they all get worn often enough for my satisfaction.

Style Always Evolves

We sometimes think that if we work hard enough on our wardrobes, we’ll eventually get to a point at which we’ll be satisfied.  While that can be true, that satisfaction typically won’t last, as our sense of style is an ever-evolving thing.  Even if you’re not a trend-chaser who wants to be on the cutting edge of fashion, what you like to wear will change over time.  What’s more, our bodies often change as well, such that items that were flattering on us at one time no longer look all that great.

The fact that the wheels of change never stop when it comes to our style is one good reason not to have a huge wardrobe.  The more clothes we own, the chance that we’ll wear any given item sufficiently before we decide to pass it on decreases.  I used to “stock up” on a loved color, pattern, style, or silhouette because I erroneously believed that I’d always love it (or at least for a very long time), but that has led to a lot of waste over the years.  I’m currently finding that I want clothes that are a bit more “forgiving” in terms of fit.  I’ve also grown to love asymmetry, tunics, and the long over lean silhouette.  I’m no longer as excited to wear my many fitted hip-length tops with jeans on cool weather days or the snug tanks with looser skirts that were long my summer outfit mainstays.

What’s Next?

I plan to continue doing LIWI through the end of the year and probably until the beginning of next summer, at which point I’ll likely either start again or do another challenge.  I may even opt to do another short stint of Project 333 at that point or sooner.  It really doesn’t matter what I do, as long as I continue to grow, learn, and do better in terms of shopping consciously and wisely and wearing and loving what I have.

As I wrote about previously, I plan to only buy one “out and about” item every other week in 2017 and soon I’ll put together a preliminary shopping list to help guide this effort.  I will review that list at least once a month and make modifications as needed.  I hope this plan will help me make better choices and either integrate new pieces into my working wardrobe right away or recognize my mistakes and return them for refunds.

I’m glad I decided to do a version of Project 333 again, as it helped me learn more about what does and doesn’t work for me.  It also led to my taking on the LIWI challenge again, which I’m finding to be highly beneficial.  I continue to track how often I wear the pieces in my closet and will likely do so for at least one more year.  I don’t think I’ll track forever, though, as I’d eventually like to get to a place where I shop moderately and have a workable wardrobe that doesn’t need much ongoing monitoring (although it will always continue to evolve).

I don’t intend to always focus as much as I do now on either shopping or my wardrobe and I already spend far less time on this than I used to.  To everything there is a season and we need to continually ask ourselves if what we’re doing is serving our best interests.  Once it’s not, the best approach is to let go and move on, which I suspect I may do with wardrobe tracking before too long, as well as with other things.

It’s all about growth, which is and always has been one of my highest values. I’ve lived over half a century now (I sound like a veritable fossil when I put it that way!), but I intend to keep growing as long as I’m alive.  This blog – and you – have helped me a lot in that effort and for that, I’m very grateful.

Your Thoughts?

Now it’s your turn to share your thoughts on the topics of this post.  Below are a few questions to help spark your comments, but feel free to share your perspective on anything I wrote about above.

  • Have you ever done Project 333 or another capsule wardrobe challenge? What did you do?
  • What was your capsule wardrobe experience like and how did it help you improve your wardrobe, shopping, and style?
  • If you’ve never dressed with a capsule wardrobe, why is that something you’ve never tried?   
  • What has been helpful to you in terms of paring down your wardrobe and evolving your personal style?
  • How many items per season do you think is optimal? How many clothing pieces, shoes, and accessories feel right for you? Does this vary by season?

Thank you and have a wonderful weekend!

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