In early January, I wrote that I had decided to do another round of the minimalist wardrobe challenge Project 333. Since more than a month has passed since I began my current Project 333 stint, it’s time to share an update on how things are progressing for me. In today’s post, I share my wins and challenges, some of my favorite items and outfits so far, and what I’m learning from dressing with less the second time around.
My Project 333 Wins
Let’s begin on a high note with my wins from round two of Project 333.
I would say that my biggest win is the ease with which I’m negotiating Project 333 this time. Gone is the angst that I experienced during my first go around with the challenge, when I experienced boredom dressing with only 33 garments. While I find myself wanting to pull from the rest of my wardrobe now when getting dressed, I don’t feel stressed out or worried about it. Rather, I know I have enough to wear for now and I also realize that I’ll be able to dig into the rest of my clothes again very soon.
Dressing for Myself
I’m also not nearly as concerned with compiling exciting outfits during round two. Although I always want to look nice and dress well, I don’t feel as compelled to have tremendous variety in what I wear. If I like what I’m wearing and feel good in it, that’s enough for me. It helps that I decided not to photograph all of my outfits and share them on the blog this time. It also helps that I no longer have the title “wardrobe stylist” attached to my name. Having shed that moniker, I feel freer to be myself and dress in a way that feels comfortable to me, regardless of whether or not it’s objectively stylish or modern to others.
Shoes Included, No Problem
In my first term of Project 333, I only counted the garments I wore, but this time I opted to also include shoes in my minimalist wardrobe capsule. I did that to stretch myself a bit more and to be truer to the spirit of the challenge (generally, all accessories are included in the 33 items). Not only was it easy for me to select the shoes for my capsule, I haven’t even worn all of them! I selected seven pairs of shoes, but I’ve only worn five of these options to date. Consequently, I plan to swap the two unworn shoes out in order to allow myself more selections for tops (more on this below).
My Project 333 Challenges
While I am pleased with the wonderful wins I’ve experienced thus far, I’ve also encountered a couple of challenges along the way.
Too Much Bottom Half Sameness
One thing that made it easy to compile my Project 333 capsule this time was that I only included pants and didn’t add any skirts or dresses to the mix. This decision was mostly related to the weather in that I rarely wear skirts or dresses during the colder months of the year. I run very cold and feel more comfortable and warm in pants and jeans when it’s cool outside. I’m fine with only wearing pants during the winter months, but I could use a bit more variety in terms of pants options.
I’m very happy to have found some new pants and jeans to purchase during the latter part of 2013, but I still need to upgrade my selections for bottoms. At this point, I only own jeans and dark neutral pants (black, charcoal, navy), which means that all of the excitement and variety in my outfits needs to come from my tops and toppers.
I would love to be able to find a couple of pairs of lighter or brighter pants to add to my wardrobe, but pants shopping has always been challenging for me. Not only do I need long/tall lengths for my pants, I have curvy hips and am unable to wear the ultra-skinny styles that are dominating the market at present. Even if I might actually look good in such styles (which I seriously doubt), I can’t wear tight pants due to nerve pain in my legs. I was lucky enough to find straight-cut jeans with a long inseam last month, though, so perhaps I will locate similar pants in the coming months. I did order two other pairs of pants online recently, so fingers crossed that one or both of them will work out!
Lack of “Special” Tops
I mentioned above that all of my pants are basic neutrals, so my outfits rely on my tops for excitement and variety. What I’ve found, however, is that my tops aren’t all that exciting or special, either. Don’t get me wrong… I really like most of my tops, especially in terms of their colors, patterns, and comfort level. However, most of them have similar fabrications (mostly knits) and silhouettes (fitted, hip length) and lack the type of details that might render them interesting and special.
I would like to add at least a few special tops to my wardrobe this year. You know, the type of “wow” pieces that can really make an outfit. I don’t need a lot of these types of pieces, but my goal is to purchase a few of them in my 38-item allocation for the year.
Pants Lengths and Heel Heights
I have two pairs of black ankle boots in my Project 333 capsule. I also had two pairs of closed-toe black shoes, one of which I have recently swapped out. The reason for this duplication is that my pants are different lengths and require varying heel heights in order to give me the perfect pants lengths (PPL) that I desire. I would like to change this moving forward.
My new goal from is to have two heel heights to wear with pants, flats and low heels. From now on, I will only buy shoes that match these criteria (I can buy higher heels to wear with skirts and dresses) and I will hem all of my pants so that they work with one of my two heel heights. This will simplify things dramatically for me and enable me to get by with far fewer pairs of shoes, both in my closet and when I travel.
When I took my trip to Tahoe in December, I wasn’t able to pack my favorite pants because that would have required me to cart along too many pairs of shoes. I wanted to limit my shoe selections for the trip to only two and that forced me to make difficult decisions regarding my pants and jeans options. I would like to avoid such difficulties on future trips!
General Learnings from the Challenge
One of my main reasons for doing Project 333 a second time was to better understand the types of clothes and shoes I would need in the minimalist wardrobe which I’m working to create. Forcing myself to select 33 items to work from for a period of two months (this time, vs. the standard three) has highlighted some ongoing issues with my wardrobe that I need to address. Had I continued to pull from my large closet for all of my outfits, I may not have gotten in touch with the challenges I highlighted above.
If I truly want to cultivate a smaller and more manageable wardrobe, I will need to do the following:
- Streamline my color palette
- Incorporate more style and silhouette variety into my garments
- Select standard heel heights to wear with pants
- Have items that mix and match better with each other
- Add a few “special” pieces to my wardrobe for increased impact
I have already made progress in some of these areas. The fact that I’ve pared down a lot of my repetitive and sub-par garments and shoes has made a significant difference, and I’m both proud of myself and grateful for these changes. I need to keep moving forward and continue my progress over the course of this year. Having a smaller item number “budget” to draw from is pushing me to be more deliberate about what I add to my closet. That rule alone should keep me from overbuying at sales and in consignment stores, which constituted the bulk of my shopping mistakes in recent years.
The Second Month of Project 333
For the second and final month of this Project 333 term (I’m doing two months instead of three), I have made a few swaps within my wardrobe capsule. Below are the items that I’ve swapped out of my capsule.
Why I Swapped Out These Items
Here are my reasons for swapping out the items above:
- Black Cole Haan Low Wedges: I feel these shoes are too similar to my new AGL flats. Both are black and have patent cap toes. The main difference between the two shoes is the heel height. Since I like the AGL shoes better and have not yet worn the Cole Haan wedges, I plan to return them to the store (I purchased them in December). I will try to replace these shoes with a shoe purchase that is on my shopping priorities list.
- Pewter Bow Flats: I love these shoes and wore them frequently during 2013. However, they are so flat that they don’t work with most of the pants in my Project 333 wardrobe capsule. Fortunately, I have other pants that work well with these shoes, but they weren’t the best selection for Project 333.
- Grey Cardigan: I wore this cardigan once in January and felt frumpy in it. I have another grey cardigan that I like a lot more and I’ve been “splitting my wears” (as Bridgette Raes calls it) between the two cardigans. I am swapping in the preferred cardigan and this cardigan will likely be consigned or donated shortly.
- Purple Crewneck Tee: I love the color of this tee, but the sleeves are a bit too short. I went to wear it once and just didn’t feel fab in it, so I’m either going to downgrade it to loungewear or send it out the door this month.
What I Swapped In and Why
Swapping out the four items above gave me the opportunity to add four new items to my Project 333 capsule. Here’s a photo of the new pieces I added:
Below are my reasons from adding the new items to my capsule wardrobe:
- Green/Black Button-Up Top: I love the color of this top, as well as the pattern (my beloved stripes), but my main reason for adding it is that it’s a bit more “special” than many of my other capsule items. When combined with jeans or dark-colored pants, it looks more interesting than a plain tee and fewer accessories are needed in order to create an interesting outfit.
- Grey Embellished Cardigan: I am swapping this cardigan for the plain grey cardigan that felt frumpy last month. I should have included this cardigan instead of the other grey cardigan from the get-go, but I was trying to mix things up a bit. This cardigan has long been one of my favorites and I think the embellished sleeves play a large role in that designation.
- Teal Sweater: I recently bought this sweater and like the color, the warmth factor, and the interesting ribbing on the front (hard to see in this photo, but there is a diagonal design there). I can wear this sweater with all of the pants in my capsule and it will work with many of my scarves as well.
- White V-Neck Tee: Most of the garments in my Project 333 capsule are fairly dark in color. This tee will add a bit of lightness to my outfits and can be worn with all of my pants and cardigans, as well as almost all of my scarves.
Creating a workable capsule wardrobe is not easy and I’m still learning! I feel that the changes I made will make the second month of Project 333 both easier and more enjoyable for me.
Most Worn Pieces and Favorite Outfits
I’ll finish off this update by sharing my most worn items and a few of my favorite outfits thus far. It’s no surprise that my most worn items are the pants and boots in the capsule. The one top-half piece that was worn often was my burgundy open cardigan. Burgundy is currently my favorite color and I hope to be able to find a few more garments in this hue, as I know they’ll be worn frequently.
Here are the six items I wore most often during the first month of Project 333. The boots at the bottom left are the top “all-star” in that they were worn seven times last month.
Unlike my first Project 333 term, I haven’t been photographing all of my outfits. However, I did manage to get photos of a number of them. Below are a few of my favorite outfits thus far. The coats that appear in two of the outfits are not part of my Project 333 capsule (I did not include outerwear or accessories in my 33 items). My pants still don’t photograph well – they don’t really “pool” at the bottom like that in real life!
All of my outfits are fairly casual in keeping with my current lifestyle and the area in which I live. In speaking with a friend the other day, we agreed that San Diego is probably the most casual area in the entire country, at least in regards to the places we’ve both visited (which is a decent cross-section of the U.S.). Even when I’m dressed in outfits like the ones above, I am sometimes called “dressed up” by people around here!
I enjoyed experimenting a bit more with accessories last month and have been tracking the pieces I’ve worn. I will share an accessories recap at the end of the challenge, along with photos of my most worn jewelry pieces.
The Bottom Line
I’m glad I decided to do another term of Project 333, as it got me thinking more about my wardrobe and how I eventually want it to be. At this point, I don’t think I will do another term of the challenge after this month is over, but I’m happy to have Project 333 as a tool to use whenever I feel the need to push myself to dress with less and pare down my wardrobe.
I still highly recommend Project 333 or another wardrobe challenge to those of you who are feeling overwhelmed and confused by your closet. I’m glad I decided to feel the fear and do it anyway last April and I’m grateful for the many lessons I’ve learned from Project 333 over the past year.