I have decided to dip my toe back into the Project 333 pool beginning this month. For those of you who are new to my blog, I took on the Project 333 minimalist wardrobe challenge back in April through June of 2013. I did this in order to cultivate more appreciation for what I had in my closet, as well as to assist me in further paring down my wardrobe. I also hoped to spend less time thinking about what I wore and shopping for new clothing. I achieved those benefits and more (see “My Top 8 Lessons from Project 333”) and hope to learn and grow even more the second time around!
You can learn more about the challenge here, but here’s how it works in a nutshell… For three months, you get dressed using only 33 items. Project 333 “purists” include shoes, accessories, and outerwear among their 33 items, but I chose to include only my standard clothing pieces, as that was more than enough of a challenge for me at the time. The creator of Project 333, Courtney Carver, clearly states that it’s not a project in suffering and that it’s perfectly okay to modify the rules to suit your needs, so long as you’re stretching yourself in the process.
Why I’m Doing Project 333 Again
As I mentioned above and in my recap post, I learned a number of powerful lessons through pushing myself to dress with less for three months. When I finished that Project 333 term, I wasn’t sure if I would ever do it again. While Project 333 becomes a way of life for many participants, I didn’t see that as my path at the time. I definitely wanted to continue to challenge myself in terms of my wardrobe, shopping, and style, but I didn’t feel compelled to dive back into Project 333 until now.
I’m in the process of compiling all of my 2013 wardrobe and shopping data and I realize that I still have a long way to go until I’m where I want to be in both areas. I have continued to shop too much and I’m still not properly utilizing all of the items in my closet. I still feel the emotional need to shop on a regular basis and keep bringing a steady flow of new garments into the mix. While one of my lessons from Project 333 was an increased appreciation for my current wardrobe, I am still suffering from “FOMO” (fear of missing out) and wanting more.
For that reason and because I’ve become a bit complacent in terms of stretching myself with how I dress, I’ve decided to take on Project 333 yet again. It is my hope that I will spend less time thinking about and managing my wardrobe as a result and that I will also infuse more imagination into my outfit creation process. Because I won’t have as many garments to work from, I plan to incorporate more of my scarves and jewelry into the mix. Many of these items have been gathering dust as of late, so I look forward to shopping my accessories wardrobe in the coming months and rediscovering previous favorites.
What’s Different This Time Around
When I did Project 333 the first time, I did not include shoes, outerwear, or accessories in my capsule wardrobe. While I still won’t count accessories or outerwear pieces this time, I have decided to push myself a bit and include shoes among my 33 items. Over the course of 2013, I purged a lot of uncomfortable and impractical shoes from my closet, as well as determined which shoes work best for my feet, my style aesthetic, and my lifestyle. I have included some personal favorites in my 33, as well as two newly acquired pairs of shoes.
In my first term of Project 333, I took photos of all of my outfits and included them in my weekly update blog posts. This time, I will not be posting my outfit photos, although I may share my favorites each month or at the end of the challenge. I have several reasons for omitting the outfit photos:
Reason #1: This is not a style blog
This blog is more about wardrobe and shopping-related concepts than about concrete style advice. I do not profess to be a style expert (yes, I previously worked as a wardrobe consultant, but I was really more of a coach and a guide than someone who laid down fashion edicts), I am not preoccupied with fashion trends, and I do not believe there is one right way to dress. While some people might have liked and appreciated my outfits, I certainly never posted them as a “You should dress like me” or “Aren’t I stylish?” sort of message. I posted them as a representation of how one person was doing the challenge, but I think some people may have misconstrued my intentions at the time.
Reason #2: The photos skewed how I did the challenge
Knowing I was going to post photos each week affected the way I did the Project 333 challenge. Instead of wearing what I felt most “called” to wear, I thought I needed to create lots of outfit variations to make what I was wearing more interesting for my readers. This time, I want to just dress for myself instead of for public viewing. Besides the fact that it was really nerve-wracking for self-conscious and introverted me to share my outfit photos, I’m also in the process of refining my personal style. I want to be able to experiment with different possibilities without feeling any pressure to show what I’m wearing to others (besides those I see in my regular life, of course). It will be intriguing to see how the lack of pressure affects not only what I wear but how I end up feeling about dressing with less. I will definitely report on what I discover!
A Shorter Term
I am also going to change the duration of the challenge from three months to two months. I found myself feeling bored and frustrated with Project 333 during the third month last time, so I’m only committing to two months of wearing the wardrobe pictured below. One woman I know did a full year of two-month Project 333 terms (well, I guess it was more like Project 233 for her…) and I am toying with the idea of following suit. It would be a great way for me to really solidify the lessons of “dressing with less,” but I am going to hold off on committing until at least mid-February.
My Project 333 Round Two Wardrobe
With all the reasons and explanations out of the way, it’s time to move on to my Project 333 (or 233, if you will …) capsule wardrobe. I found it much easier to make my selections this time around. Last time, I was consumed with anxiety and fearful that I would make the wrong decisions. This time, it took me less than thirty minutes to decide which clothes and shoes to include. I made one last-minute substitution before I wrote this post, but otherwise my original selections remained and I feel good about them.
The Selection Process Then and Now
One thing that made it much easier this time was that I decided to only wear pants and not include any skirts or dresses in my capsule wardrobe. Since it’s much cooler during January and February, I rarely wear skirts and dresses this time of year anyway. Sure, we get some unseasonably warm winter days where I live, but I opted not to plan for those “just in case” scenarios. The garments I’ve selected should serve me well regardless of weather variations and I don’t have any upcoming trips planned to consider.
What made the selection process difficult last time was the inclusion of pants, skirts, and dresses. I know many people wear the same tops and topper pieces with all their bottoms, but I’m very picky about my outfit proportions. Perhaps I need to tone down my anal-retentive nature if I really want to cultivate a smaller and more workable wardrobe. This is something I’ll be considering and working on, but I won’t need to worry about it during January and February with my all-pants wardrobe capsule. I’m keeping things simpler for now, which is in line with my “Simplicity and Joy” theme for 2014 (more on that soon).
By the Categories and a Few Tidbits…
Here is how my wardrobe capsule breaks down by categories:
- 6 Pants/Jeans
- 3 Sleeveless Tops
- 5 Short-Sleeved Tops
- 8 Long-Sleeved Tops
- 4 Cardigans
- 7 Pairs of Shoes
I have included both printed and solid pieces in my capsule and a number of colors are represented. My core neutrals are black and grey, which work well with the jewel-toned colors (my favorites!) that I’ve also included.
Here are a few other tidbits about my Project 333 items:
- 5 of these items were also included in my April through June 2013 Project 333 wardrobe (noted with asterisks).
- 4 of my 6 pairs of pants/jeans were purchased in the last two months (so happy to be finding new pants and jeans!).
- 14 of my 33 items were purchased during 2013 (noted with “N”s). The rest are from 2012 or earlier.
The Individual Items
Below is my actual list of 33, along with photos below each category (items are listed from left to right, top to bottom per photos). Hopefully, I won’t need to make any substitutions along the way, but I reserve the right to do so if necessary. After all, this isn’t a project in suffering!
1. Black knit pants (N)
2. Black trousers *
3. Black jeans *
4. Grey pants (N)
5. Medium denim jeans -for flats (N)
6. Dark denim jeans – for heels (N)
7. Black tank with sequins
8. Black tee with white polka dots *
9. Cobalt blue tee (N)
10. Emerald green tee (N)
11. Grey tank
12. Grey print tank *
13. Radiant orchid tee (N)
14. White tee with black stripes (N)
15. Black wrap-style top with zipper detail (N)
16. Blue print Henley (N)
17. Burgundy print Henley (N)
18. Black and white striped top with ruffle detail
19. Fuchsia Henley with grey details
20. Dark green Henley with light-green details
21. Purple crew-neck
22. Purple and grey striped Henley
23. Black cardigan
24. Burgundy cardigan *
25. Red cardigan with belt detail (N)
26. Grey cardigan
27. Black AGL flats (N)
28. Black Clark’s medium-heel boots
29. Black Cole Haan low-heel wedges (N)
30. Pewter flats
31. Leopard print flats
32. Grey Naot Mary-Jane pumps
33. Black Paul Green low-heel boots
A Note about the Shoes
I know that the two pairs of black boots and two pairs of black shoes look quite similar. The reason I’m including similar-looking shoes is because of their heel heights. I will wear the higher-heeled boots and black shoes with my longer pants and jeans. The grey Mary Janes will also be worn with the longer pants, while the pewter flats and leopard print flats will be worn with shorter pants. I’m very picky about my pants lengths (so is Angie of “You Look Fab” – see her post on this topic).
A Bonus Rule for My Challenge
I decided to include a “bonus rule” for my second round of Project 333. This bonus rule relates to my “wardrobe benchwarmers” (items worn only once or not at all during a given year – read more here, most recent update here). Although I wanted to end 2013 with no “benchwarmers” in my closet, I didn’t quite accomplish that goal. I made tremendous progress (which I will report soon), but there were still a handful of items that weren’t worn at least twice last year.
Since I’ve decided to keep those pieces for various reasons, at least for the time-being, I don’t want there to be any impediments in the way of my wearing them this year. Consequently, my “bonus rule” is that I can wear the benchwarmers anytime I want even though they are not part of my Project 333 capsule wardrobe.
I likely won’t end up wearing all that many “benchwarmers” during January and February, as many of them are warmer weather pieces (we had a shorter summer last year, which is part of the reason for the benchwarmers). However, I want to have the option to wear these items should the desire and the occasion arise. I will share the results of this bonus rule at the end of the challenge.
Off and Running with the Challenge!
As it’s almost a week into January, I’m already off and running with my new term of Project 333. So far, so good… While I haven’t committed to regular weekly updates, I do plan to occasionally post on how I’m doing with the challenge and what I’m learning. And I will definitely do a recap in late February or early March.
If what I’ve written has intrigued you, it’s not too late to start Project 333 yourself. To learn more, either check out the rules for getting started or purchase the “Dress with Less” microcourse for additional support (not only is this inexpensive course chock full of great information, it also includes membership in an active private Facebook group, where you can ask questions and share insights). Remember, the challenge is for you and you can modify the rules as needed for your individual situation. I’ve seen lots of people just count clothing items like I did, include more than 33 items, or do terms that were longer or shorter than three months. The important thing is to challenge yourself and we all have different needs and are beginning from different starting points.
Please Share Your Project 333 Experiences
If you’ve done Project 333 in the past or are doing it right now, please share whatever you’re comfortable with about your experience and insights. Many people out there are benefiting in various ways from dressing with less and I always love to read about what they’re learning and how they’re growing through stretching themselves. So I invite you to share it all – the good, the bad, and the ugly. You can also ask me questions about the challenge, my wardrobe capsule, or whatever you want to know. I love all of the interaction we’ve been having in the comments section, so keep it coming!
Before You Go… Two Things That May Be of Interest
This was a very long post, but before I sign off, I wanted to share a few items which may be of interest to you:
- 40 Plus Style is hosting a New Year Style Challenge beginning today. The objective of this challenge is to help readers take their style to the next level. There will be a new topic each day along with a small assignment. You can share what you learn with other readers or just do the challenge for yourself. I definitely plan to do at least some of the assignments and may even do a future blog post (or a few) on what I discover about myself in the process. FYI… Even though the challenge is geared toward those of us over 40, I think the topics and assignments will be useful for younger women, too. Check it out for yourself and see!
- A researcher in Europe contacted me last month about a project she is conducting related to compulsive buying. She has asked me to post the link to her questionnaire on my blog with hopes that shopaholics around the world will contribute to her research. I took the survey and it took me less than 10 minutes to complete. If you struggle with compulsive shopping and have a few moments to help this researcher, both she and I would greatly appreciate it! She has promised to do a guest post on “Recovering Shopaholic” at the conclusion of her project to share her findings with my readers. Here’s the link again – thank you to those who decide to participate!
– FYI for U.S. readers – there are some references to Euros in the questionnaire. Here’s a good currency conversion calculator I found online.