Project 333 Week One Update

Welcome to my first Project 333 update!  Each week during April through June, I will post an update on my Project 333 experience.  These updates will include photos of my outfits from the previous week, as well as the insights I’ve gained and the challenges I’ve faced from doing Project 333 and dressing with less.

Overall Impressions

My first week went fairly smoothly overall.  As was mentioned by others who have done the challenge, the anxiety and discomfort one experiences while preparing for Project 333 gradually subsides after the project actually begins.  When I first saw my dramatically reduced wardrobe, it looked strange to me and I found myself worrying how I’d make due with so few clothes.  I wanted to fill in the space, but I forced myself to “be with” the space and emptiness.

As with many things in life, the strangeness of the new dissipates with time.  It now feels almost normal for my closet to contain fewer pieces and I no longer feel a rush of anxiety upon opening the doors. The feeling of “only 33” has morphed into more of a sense that I have enough.   Even so, I’m glad I didn’t include shoes and accessories in my 33 items, as those pieces will increase my outfit possibilities and satisfy my desire for variety and novelty.  I’m tracking the shoes and accessories I wear and will post photos of these items at the end of each month.   We’ll see how many I actually wear over the course of three months, as I might not need as many as I think!

Week One Outfits

I only “got dressed” on four of the seven days last week. It’s actually normal for me to spend one or two days per week at home in loungewear, only leaving the house to go on a walk or to the gym.  I often “stack” my business and personal appointments for better time management.  I find I get more done if I’m able to focus in my home office a few days per week.

This week was a bit abnormal in that I was at home sick on Thursday and Friday.   I only have four outfits to share today, but on most weeks, there will be five to six outfit photos in my Project 333 updates.

Here are my outfits from last week.  One outfit is shown both with and without my jacket, as I wore both looks during the day (it was actually quite warm here last week).

Project 333 Week One Outfits 1 and 2

Project 333 Week One Outfit 3 (with and without jacket)

Project 333 Week One Outfit 4

Week One Insights

Although I only created four outfits during my first week of Project 333, the challenge has already uncovered an issue for me.  I am keenly aware of the need for better bottom pieces in my wardrobe.  I have few skirts that I really love and even fewer pants which fit into that category. I selected what I consider my best pieces for Project 333, but I’m not sure I have any pants which are an “8” on a scale of 1-10.  In contrast, I have many tops, jackets, and cardigans that I dearly love.  In fact, it was difficult to select my favorites to include in my April through June wardrobe.

As I mentioned in “The Reasons We Shop Too Much,” those of us with compulsive shopping issues often shop for reasons other than actual wardrobe needs and a love of style and fashion.  My shopping is frequently motivated by a desire to lift my spirits and escape from problems or negative emotions.  In essence, I shop to experience a “high,” similar to the way an alcoholic drinks or a gambling addict gambles.

Shopping and Body Dysmorphia

Although I actually need to buy new pants and jeans, shopping for these items leads to frustration rather than the escape or high I crave.  It’s very difficult for me to find pants which fit well and which I believe look good on me.  I’m very tall, have a waist that’s much smaller than my hips, and suffer from body image issues surrounding my lower half.

I constantly lament my “big hips and thighs” and overly fixate on these flaws, whether real or imagined.  In contrast, I like the top half of my body and find it very easy to find tops I love and which fit well.   Consequently, I amassed well over 100 tops while continuing to wear the same few pairs of pants over the past few years.

Doing the Right Thing, Not the Easy Thing

Since I gave myself a clothing purchase limit during 2013, I should have focused on buying pants and maybe skirts (although I have better skirts than pants by far).  But so far, I have only purchased top pieces this year – because it’s easier, more fun, and gives me more of a “high.”  The downside is that I continue to experience frustration with my wardrobe because my bottoms are old, mediocre, or both.

Part of my journey as a recovering shopaholic involves finding new ways to meet my needs so I don’t need to shop to experience pleasure or sooth my anxiety.  Another element is to curate a minimalist wardrobe filled with clothes I love and wear frequently.   In order to accomplish the latter goal, I need to “bite the bullet” and force myself to shop for pants, no matter how challenging or frustrating it is.  If I find pants or jeans I love during Project 333, I give myself permission to swap the new garments for existing items in my capsule wardrobe.

Project 333 – Mostly Good So Far

It’s not all bad.  I do love most of my Project 333 wardrobe and like the outfits I wore so far.  While it’s true that my jeans in outfit #4 could be better, I still felt attractive in the ensemble.  I’m happy with the majority of my Project 333 selections, but am considering one early substitution for a top I haven’t yet worn.  I will likely swap the leopard print tee in my capsule for a white tee in a similar shape.  If I decide to do this, I will report it in next week’s update.

For those who are also doing Project 333, I hope it’s going well for you.  I’m pleasantly surprised that it’s easier than I thought it would be.  Of course, it’s “early days,” but my initial impression is mostly positive.  I will post my week two update early next week, but stay tuned for another post later this week on a different topic.

If you’d like to learn more about how to do the Project 333 challenge, I highly recommend the “Dress with Less” microcourse from Courtney Carver, the creator of Project 333. 

I Love Your Comments!

I welcome comments from fellow Project 333 participants and other readers.  I’ve very much enjoyed and appreciated the comments I’ve received thus far.  I’m delighted to be inspiring others through my journey and hope to continue to do so.

32 thoughts on “Project 333 Week One Update

  1. Hi, I love your outfits, and I think they look good on you. I have a similar problem with bottoms, especially jeans. For me it’s not a question of body image, but about the fact that I honestly don’t know what fits and I hate navigating the myriad of sizes that vary widely from label to label. It’s so frustrating and annoying!

    I sincerely recommend seeing a fashion consultant. I think that most large department stores offer that service, at least they do here in Finland. In my quest to find the perfect pair of jeans, I went to see one last week. Granted, the service is free of charge for me through my work, but I feel so much better having someone else who actually knows the selection of the store thoroughly to do the picking out for me. I will be going back in two weeks to try on the clothes, and hopefully find that perfect pair of jeans.

    • Anzi, Thanks for your comment and compliments. I can tell that you feel my pain regarding pants! It definitely can be frustrating to find what fits, especially since sizes vary so widely.

      I’ve never been to Finland, but I understand that Scandinavians are tall. I’d probably have been luck shopping there! I had a Danish friend who bought most of her clothes when she traveled to visit her family in Denmark. She was tall, too, and had trouble finding clothes that fit her here in the U.S.

      I’m sure I could benefit from a fashion consultant, but the funny thing is that I have a styling business myself! I help people to find clothes that fit, as well as with putting outfits together and dealing with their over-stuffed closets. But I know that I have my own “blind spots” and my body image issues contribute to that. Before I started working as a stylist (that business is a bit of “flux” right now), I hired two myself, but I never actually shopped with them. I just had them help me with my closet. I have considered shopping with another stylist in recently months because I wonder if I dismiss certain things outright because of preconceived notions, much like my clients do. I can see the value in getting some help! It sounds like it’s been helpful for you. Let me know what happens with the jeans!

  2. Great job:)

    One of the things that I learned on project 333 is that I had too many pants that weren’t great – just like you. I got rid of all the “less than 8’s” . And then focused on what worked. Once I got rid of the other jeans, I realized that I had a favorite and now thats all I wear. I also realized that I just 2 pairs of jeans was enough:) But finding that perfect pant fit takes work. I wear J brand boot legs ( size up for my thighs!) and I also found a company near you G1 goods that make pants that accommodate thighs.

    I recommend finding your perfect pant company as your scientific styling experiment. Be ruthless too!

    • Thanks, Marianne! Love your feedback and you’re inspiring me regarding the pants. You are right in that we don’t need a lot. My husband has three pairs of jeans that he wears virtually all the time. The difference is that he LOVES his jeans and is very comfortable in them. I think at least some of my over-shopping was motivated by a search for “10s” that I just wasn’t finding. At this point, I would be thrilled with pants that are “8s”. I had some, but they are either worn out or not fitting all that well at present because I gained a bit of weight (doesn’t take much weight gain because it all goes to my lower half).

      I like your idea about a scientific styling experiment regarding pants. I will take that on! I’ll check out G1 Goods, too. Thanks for the tips!

  3. I think it took me the first month to really wear and tweak my list. Many of my spring pieces needed to be replaced. I still have a couple of pieces on the list to be replaced. I found I was a lot pickier when looking for replacements. I agree, pants are hard, but I quickly noticed I don’t really like wearing dresses and skirts. I am 6 weeks into project 333, and I am so glad I did it.

    • Paige, Thanks for your comment. It’s always good hear from someone who is ahead of me in terms of Project 333. Even after 1 week, I’ve identified a few things which need to be replaced. I think I’m going to swap out one top and one pair of jeans. I was on the fence with some of my selections and it looks like I went the wrong way with a few things. I can remedy it, though.

      I think I’m definitely getting pickier, even since I started my shopping limitations at the beginning of the year. Once the sky is NOT the limit in terms of shopping and clothes, I think we become more selective.

      I’m glad you’re doing well with Project 333. I can already tell it’s a very valuable pursuit.

  4. Well done! You are doing great! One thought I had is that if you have a pair of pants or jeans that you like, but maybe just don’t like or feel comfortable with how they fit you, take them to a tailor and see what their suggestions might be. She or he might even come up with a suggestion that morphs into a “type” or “fit” of pants that you feel super comfortable about wearing!

    Carry on!

    • Thanks, Mary Ann! I have a fabulous tailor and she has worked wonders with many of my clothes, including some of my pants. I do have some good pants, but they are worn out and really need to be replaced. The problem is that the current trends (which is most of what’s in the stores) do not suit my body and what I like. I’m sure some good stuff is out there. I just need to try harder to find it, but I’ve been avoiding it because it’s not the fun kind of shopping. But now I recognize that I need to do it, and I will. I’m sure that whatever pants I find in the coming months will need to be tailored. I tailor pretty much all of my pants and many other garments, too. I highly recommend using a tailor! You are so right about their value!

  5. Keep trying on different jeans until you find the ones that work for you, then buy a couple of pair! I discovered that NYDJ (available at Macy’s) fit me well and are flattering. So that’s what I’m sticking with. Since I work at home & dress casually every day, I have several pair~ 2 for every day, 1 black & 2 dark (1 slim & one bootcut) for evening and dressier wear. I even wear the dressy ones to conferences. Now all my jeans are ’10s’! They also have dress pants, which I’ve seen online, but I haven’t found them in a store to try on.

    Check them out… these may not be the ones for you, but if not, just keep looking for YOUR brand of 10s!

    • Will do, Diane! I actually like NYDJ. The black jeans in my Project 333 capsule are NYDJ from 2007! They weren’t long enough as I bought them, but I had the hem taken down as far as it would go and they worked. I love those pants, but they are getting “tired” and need to be replaced. I’ve tried NYDJ since then, but they are far too short with little hem allowance. I did see them on a tall website recently, though, so they make some styles in longer lengths.

      I am motivated now to find pants and jeans that work well for me. I shouldn’t have neglected this part of my wardrobe for so long. I would try on some pants/jeans, but then I’d get discouraged and give up. Well, now I just have to stay the course until I find what works, even if it takes months. And I definitely will buy multiple pairs once I find what works. That won’t even be being a “shopaholic” – it will just be practical! There have to be “10” pants out there for me!

  6. On your post- loving that you are posting your progress! I have found my 9-10 rating pants at Express, particularly the slim flare columnist trousers and the jeans. They come in talls and most tall girls in the reviews say that they had to hem them- it might be worth trying! I also have found that searching for clothing items that make me feel good (8+’s) has contributed to my shopping, mostly because I would buy something even if it wasn’t perfect and try to make it work, then just end up trying to replace it without even bothering to re-sell or donate the sub-par clothes.

    On another note, I’ve finally made the post that you inspired me to write, and I surprised myself. I almost didn’t hit post, as it is really detail-filled and incriminating (lol), but the jist of it is that I am challenging myself to wear all the things I have selected to keep to further weed out my wardrobe. You inspired me to rate everything, and to aspire to keep 8+’s :). I can’t quite get myself to do 333 yet, but I may in the future! Also, I am still weeding out my wardrobe,and I will be posting my progress. I probably will re-evaluate my shopping budget and make it a little stricter, especially since I went overboard this month on shopping already and it’s only 10 days into the month! Sorry for linking my post here- if you wish I will remove it lady! Thanks for being an inspiration 🙂

    • Thanks for your tip on the pants. I don’t think about Express because they are usually for a younger market (I’m 46, believe it or not!), but I will definitely go and check out what they have. I need to think outside the box and keep searching until I find pants that work well for me. It isn’t the fun kind of shopping I crave, but the focused shopping for items on my list will be an important part of my recovery.

      I read your post (no problem about the link – in some cases I might mind, but your post is definitely related) and loved it! You seem to be making excellent progress and I’m happy to have been an inspiration to you! You are doing so well with paring down your wardrobe. I can understand your hesitancy to do Project 333. I knew about it for a year before I decided to try it and actually was challenged to do it by Courtney (founder of Project 333). I’m glad I decided to take it on, but I still have moments when I think, “What the heck about I doing?!” In the long run, I know it will be a very positive thing for me. I’m already learning that I don’t need NEARLY as many clothes as I had. Of course, I knew that, but I’m “getting” it more and more as I do Project 333 and dress with less.

      Best of luck to you moving forward! I think a shopping budget and rules are a good idea. If you break them, forgive yourself, recommit, and move on. We all make mistakes and they help us to learn. I’m still making mistakes, too, but blogging about my progress is helping me. I hope it helps you, too!

      • I actually was introduced to Express pants by a 50 year old woman, so you never know! She’s always so stylish and appropriate (also age appropriate) and I thought they wouldn’t work for me but they fit very very well.

      • It goes to show that we should keep an open mind about different retailers. I always say that I can find something good in ANY store, no matter what the demographic. Of course, pants are my Achilles Heel, but I can find some item I like anywhere, whether it be tops, accessories, or something else. We can miss out on good pieces by being inflexible!

  7. Cute outfits! I don’t think you are alone in finding it difficult to find pants and I think they we are much more aware of how our pants don’t fit perfectly than is anyone who looks at us! I am a totally different size and age than you (5ft 3in, slim, 63 years old) and find it very difficult to find pants. Right now I am altering a pair to fit in the waist and thinking I need to get rid of a pair of jeans that are now too large. My future DIL only wears dresses or skirts with the exception of exercise/sports activities because they are much easier to find the right fit. I hope this project helps you feel more comfortable with your appearance.

    • Juhli, Thanks for your comment and compliment on my outfits! We are actually not that far apart in terms of age (I’m 46), but I am quite a bit taller at 5’10”. I think that many, many women (and some men, too) have problems finding pants. I find that I have to alter pretty much every pair of pants I buy and sometimes in multiple places. If something is even close to working, I buy it and get the alterations done. My most difficult challenge is finding pants that are long enough, but there are other issues as well. In the summer, I am like your future DIL in that I wear skirts and dresses all the time. I think I look better in them, plus they are easier to fit for sure.

      I hope that Project 333 helps me with my body image, too. If so, that will be a nice side effect. My primary aim is to use and appreciate what I have more and curb my desire to shop all the time. I know it will help in those regards, but if it helps me with my body confidence, that would be wonderful, too. I am committed to doing the project and seeing what opens up for me! I appreciate others following along and encouraging me!

  8. Hi – you mentioned “I do have some good pants, but they are worn out and really need to be replaced.” If you wanted to, you could take them to a seamstress – have them taken apart and used as a pattern to make some new pants in the fabric of your choice.

    If your tailor doesn’t do that kind of work, maybe he could suggest someone that does. Just an idea…

    • Thanks for the suggestion, Chris! This has actually crossed my mind as an option and I may do it soon, especially if I can’t find good current options and some of my old pants reach the point of retirement. I have no idea how much something like that would cost, but it could be worth it. I could even get a few colors made of a particular style. Good thinking!

  9. I am short & round, a 14p, so I don’t know about the difficulties tall women have with trousers.

    I do all my shopping online and look at product descriptions and user reports before I order. Nevertheless, about half are returned for poor fit. Returns are easy and the cost is less than my time to shop in person. I do stick with certain online retailers because I can usually rely on ordering my size to fit.

    I would recommend Lands End for dress pants — they seem to have quite a variety and they hem to order. If that hasn’t worked for you, try going into Nordstrom’s during the day when they are not busy and ask a salesperson in a department that looks like it would have what you are comfortable in to find you flattering trousers. It’s free and can help you find the right pair — all you need to do is try on several different pair.

    Finally, if that doesn’t work for you, have your tailor make you a pair of tropical wool trousers in your desired color. It’s expensive, but you’ll have a great pair of dress pants.

    As for jeans, trial and error bought me to Lee brand. They fit great, come in a short length that is perfect and they are widely available and inexpensive. I stick with a particular style # in black and wear them until it gets too warm and I switch to black JJill linen shortsand JJill short sleeve linen shirts. My wardrobe is very repetitive, so 33 items is easy.

    • Sandra, Thank you so much for your comment and the wonderful advice you provided! I haven’t looked at Lands End for pants, so I will check them out. I’ve had mixed results when ordering online, but now that so many retailers are offering free shipping and free returns, the risk is minimized. It may take a bit of time, but it can be quicker, as you said.

      I asked my tailor about the cost for her to make pants for me. She quoted $80-100 plus the price of fabric (which I would have to buy and bring to her). I am going to keep this option open. If I don’t find some good pants by the end of this Project 333 round, I may opt to have pants made for me.

      It sounds like you’ve done your homework and are doing well with Project 333. There is definitely something to be said for having a defined style and a repetitive wardrobe. No need to have 300 items in one’s closet!

      • Just thinking that if you do decide to have your tailor custom make you a pair of pants, be sure to ask her specific advice on what kind of fabric to get. It will make a huge difference in the resulting pair of pants.

      • Chris, Good advice! Yes, if I choose to have my tailor make custom pants for me, I will definitely find out what type of fabric to buy. As a long-time fan of “Project Runway,” I’ve come to understand just how important fabric choice is to a resulting garment. I’m not sure if I will opt for the custom pants. The next few months will tell. If I do go there, I will definitely report it on the blog!

  10. I also began downsizing and realizing I had a spending/ shopping addiction by reading “Less is More” blog and The Project 333.
    My mantra is “twice as many tops as bottoms” because no one remembers what pants you wore, only the tops.
    You are doing great and I love that you are sharing.
    Now, I buy second hand clothing because I am finally realizing “the cost” of new designer clothing. My weakness was expensive bags and shoes so I allow myself ONE new bag for the summer and one for the winter. When I bring something into my closet, something must be donated.

    • Welcome, Bonnie, and thanks for your comment. Your mantra of twice as many tops as bottoms is a good one. Even three times as many tops is a good rule of thumb. Of course, you don’t want to end up with 129 tops like I had at the beginning of the year! The “one in, one out” rule should really help with that. I’ve adopted that one, too, but it’s been more like one in, five out for me this year (but it’s really been necessary!).

      I’ve done a lot of secondhand shopping, too, but have made some buying mistakes there. I definitely think it can be a good thing as long as one is mindful and shops with a list (so they don’t get caught up in the “price is so low” trap).

      I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog and finding it helpful.

      • Thanks for responding! What a nice touch. I certainly agree about taking a list to the second hand store as I just got back with four aqua summer tops! I did drop off two bags of closet clean out..You inspired me!

      • I try to respond to all comments and am fortunately still able to do so. I’m glad I’ve inspired you to clean out your closet. As for the four similar tops, I’ve been there! In time, you’ll determine which one or two are the best and should be kept… Next time, though, shop with a list!

  11. Hi Debbie – I love your outfits. The scarf, tank, denim jacket combo looks great. I have a similar problem as you – but it’s my top half. I have large boobs for my petite and short frame. I hate shopping for tops. Too fit my bust they are too long in the body, arms and neck. Otherwise they are being very obviously stretched in unattractive ways.
    It took me a long time to realise I’d always go shopping for a top, and come home with everything else but (hence I have heaps of shoes, scarves, belts and pants/skirts. ) I knew what I needed to buy but it was too hard to find. Although I really love tailored, crisp clothing I’ve angled towards cotton elastane tank tops and long sleeved tees. I can wear a jacket over a tank, leaving the jacket open, and the stretchy fabric is forgiving. Perhaps you can find a similar solution for your bottom half. Black leggings are very forgiving… Best of luck and enjoy the journey.

    • Brenda, Welcome and thanks for your compliments and suggestions! I’ve had similar shopping experiences to what you describe – shopping for pants but coming home with tops, skirts, shoes, accessories, etc. Quite maddening, really! You seem to have found a good solution for your top half woes – congrats! I am going to make much more of an effort regarding pants after Project 333 is over. I have more than enough tops, jackets, etc. If I shop at all, it should be for pants, even if it’s not fun!

  12. I think it’s great you are a part of the Project 33 group. I stumbled upon the project while searching for new Vegan recipes for my family and I’m so glad I did. I struggled for many many years with not being able to find blouses, tops or blazers that would accommodate my arms. My lower half has always been an easy part of my body to clothe and I never felt angst wen shopping for jeans or pants. This year has been all about change for me and I am proud to say I have been able to embrace my arms and in doing so the weight loss I have experienced has allowed me to be able to buy tops that fit! No more wearing jackets wen it’s warm outside, oh how wonderful !
    I really like the selection of items you have for the first week and wanted to suggest some tweaking for them. Your first picture shows you wearing a black and white striped blazer with a cranberry blouse underneath and a full skirt on the bottom. How about taking the polka dot black and white blouse and pairing it with the same blazer and if you have an Aline skirt to go underneath that would give you yet another outfit.

  13. Great job on your first week. I also breathe a happy sigh when I walk into my closet and see less clothes. I also find it is brighter, because less of the light is blocked. One nice thing about a smaller wardrobe, I find I will periodically try out new outfit combinations, and sometimes find a new favorite to repeat. When I had a larger wardrobe, I was less inclined to remix items, because I had so many to shift through.

    • This is very true. I was far more creative during Project 333 than I am usually and ended up being happy with a higher percentage of my outfits as a result. When I was trying to wear all of my “benchwarmers,” I had more “dud” outfits. I photograph most of my outfits, mostly for myself (I’m too shy to post them on my blog except for during Project 333, when I was definitely shy but had committed to doing so). Looking back through the photos, I see an evolution and more so since I’m not shopping constantly and buying a lot of cheaply-priced crap. I look forward to having the kind of small(ish), curated wardrobe I’ve dreamed of…

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