Project 333 Round Two Recap

Last week, I finished my abbreviated second round of minimalist clothing challenge Project 333.  I’m glad I decided to shorten my Project 333 term from the standard three months to two months this time around, as I was definitely ready to regain access to the rest of my closet.  However, I’m also happy that I opted to try dressing with a capsule wardrobe once again.  I like challenges and I learned some useful things about myself and my closet through dressing with less for the past two months.

In today’s post, I offer a recap of my Project 333 experience.  Unlike my recap from my first round of the challenge, I’m not going to share a whole bunch of numbers.  I wasn’t as compelled to tabulate data this time, although I will share a few tidbits and photos in this summary.  However, my primary focus will be more on what I learned, which I hope will be useful to those of you who also want to cultivate smaller and more workable wardrobes.  In the end, that’s really what Project 333 is all about, dressing with less and loving what we wear each and every day.  A very worthy goal, I feel!

P333 Round2 Wardrobe

This is what I wore during January and February.

The Numbers in Brief…

Let’s start out with some numbers, just to get them out of the way.   My jeans and boots received the most wear during the two months of the challenge, as did my new black AGL flats:

  • Black jeans:  Worn 8 times
  • Jeans for flats:  Worn 7 times (Note – I swapped one pair of jeans for another mid-way through the challenge)
  • Lucky jeans for heels:  Worn 5 times
  • Black Clark’s boots:  Worn 8 times
  • Black Paul Green boots:  Worn 8 times
  • Black AGL flats:  Worn 5 times

Having fewer shoes and pants to choose from, it’s no big surprise that these pieces were worn most often.   I actually expected my numbers to be higher, but I ended up spending a lot of days at home, only leaving the house for walks and workouts.  Although I no longer dress in the type of “schlumpy” loungewear I used to wear, I didn’t include my at-home wardrobe (usually casual tops and yoga-style pants) in my Project 333 capsule.  Perhaps if I do the challenge again, I will make the capsule all-inclusive and only count garments and not shoes.  That would certainly make things more of a stretch for me…

In regards to tops and cardigans, my most worn pieces were:

  • Burgundy cardigan:  Worn 4 times
  • Black cardigan:  Worn 3 times (Note – I swapped one black cardi for another mid-way through the challenge)
  • Grey cardigan:  Worn 3 times (Note – I swapped one grey cardi for another during January)
  • White tee with black stripes:  Worn 3 times
  • Emerald green tee:  Worn 3 times

All other tops and cardigans were worn either one or two times during the challenge (most were worn twice).   Although I didn’t include outerwear in my capsule wardrobe, it’s interesting to note that two such pieces were worn five and three times, respectively.

The photo below shows my most worn Project 333 items:

P333 Round2 Most Worn

I wore these 11 items most often during Project 333 Round Two.

A Few Swaps Were Made…

During the second month of my Project 333 term, I made three garment swaps, both for very similar items.  I swapped my initial black and grey open cardigans for alternate options in the same colors.  I also swapped one pair of Lucky jeans for a similar pair of Gap jeans during early February.  I made these swaps for varying reasons:

  • Black cardigan:  My original option was too short in both the sleeves and the body.  I have since been able to salvage this cardigan by stretching it while it was wet (this works like a charm, but I recommend being gentle and taking your time with the stretching process!).  I figured it was worth a shot to try the stretching because I would have otherwise passed the cardigan on.  I’m delighted that I will be able to wear and enjoy both of my black cardigans moving forward. They are different weights and styles and since I wear black a lot, I feel there is space in my wardrobe for both pieces.
  • Grey cardigan:  When I wore my original option (selected because I was challenging myself to wear it more often) during January, I felt “frumpy.”  Consequently, I swapped the lesser cardigan for one I’ve loved and worn for years and purged the sub-standard cardi from my closet!
  • Jeans for flats:   I experienced quite a bit of water-retention and bloating during February and my recently acquired Lucky jeans felt a bit snug and uncomfortable during that time.  So I swapped them for a pair of more forgiving Gap jeans, which I happily wore last month.  I’m not sure why the bloating occurred, but I am in my late forties and nearing “the change.”  My cycles are very irregular these days and occasionally I (happily) skip one.  Fortunately, I’m feeling more like myself and less bloated at the time of this writing!

Here’s a photo of the swaps I made during February:

Project 333 February Swaps

Thinking More Deeply about Swaps

I did the above swaps because, as Courtney Carver (founder of Project 333) says, Project 333 is not an exercise in suffering.   I was happy to have alternate garments at my disposal to swap in when my original options proved to be less than ideal for various reasons.   Feeling the need to make swaps made me think a lot about whether a really small wardrobe is truly feasible for me (or for most women).

I go through both physical and emotional shifts, which affect what I want to wear and what I feel good wearing.  If I’m feeling slim and happy, I feel better in more form-fitting clothing.  If I feel bloated and melancholy, I’m more likely to don looser-fitting, more comfortable garments.   If I feel as if my clothes are digging into my flesh and exposing parts of my body that I’m self-conscious about, it’s difficult for me to let go appearance-related thoughts and focus on enjoying my activities.

I’m wondering if any of you can identify with this… Many of us experience weight fluctuations, whether they be seasonal, hormonal, or as a reflection of our diet and exercise habits.  If we took the minimalist recommendation to own just one of any given type of garment (i.e. jeans, black pants), would we really be able to wear that one item from month to month during a given year?  If so, would we feel comfortable and happy wearing it?  I know that buying garments with some stretch and “give” to them can help, but I still like to retain more than one option for my wardrobe staples, especially in regards to pants.  I’d love to get your input on this topic, as I’m sure I’m not alone in my experience.

Thoughts on Capsule Wardrobes

Part of why I opted to do Project 333 a second time was to explore the concept of capsule wardrobes in greater depth.  The idea of the small French/European wardrobe is very appealing to me, but I’ve never been able to apply this concept to my own closet.  As a first step toward moving in that direction, I thought it would be helpful to better understand what I might want to include in my personal minimalist wardrobe.

While it was easier for me to select my Project 333 capsule the second time around, I can’t really say I was more successful in terms of what I chose.  I still felt the need to make a number of swaps and I still felt like many of my outfits lacked excitement and variety.  I think this all goes back to the way I’ve shopped in recent years and the mistakes I’ve made.

I’ve tended to buy many of the same types of silhouettes and I relied far too heavily on variations in color to expand my wardrobe options.  What resulted was a kind of “schizophrenic” wardrobe in terms of color and a boring closet in terms of garment types.   Most of my pants are shaped the same, as are my skirts, cardigans, coats, and tops.  I found some silhouettes I felt worked well for my body and then steadfastly stuck to all of them.   This has worked for me in some respects (i.e. figure flattery, mix and match possibilities) but has left me feeling bored and uninspired overall.

I think that if I truly want to have a workable minimalist wardrobe, I need to narrow down my color options and expand upon the types of silhouettes I wear.  My recent purchase of slimmer-leg jeans (one I have and another on order) is a step in the right direction, as are the shorter black jacket, longer purple cardigan, and boyfriend-style cardigan I purchased last month.  In terms of color, I’ve been gradually weeding out garments in colors I don’t love and retaining those which suit my complexion and aesthetic preferences.  I’m strongly considering letting go of my few remaining navy garments in order to claim black, grey, and white as my core neutrals.  That will make simplify things quite a bit, and I don’t love my navy pieces that much anyway.

Quality is King!

Dressing with less for the past two months also got me thinking a lot about quality.  During my “more is more” years, I didn’t pay all that much attention to the quality of the pieces I was buying.  I wanted to have the maximal number of wardrobe options possible given my clothing budget, so I bought lots of sub-standard items at bargain basement prices.  Now that I’m paring down my wardrobe to a more manageable level and wearing what I own more often, I’m becoming acutely aware of how my past purchasing practices were to my detriment.

Many of my garments are beginning to pill and show signs of wear after far too few outings.  I wish I would have known more about clothing quality and had taken the time to ensure that what I bought would stand the test of time.  I know that garment quality has taken a nose-dive overall in this age of “fast fashion,” but we can find better pieces if we know what to look for and are selective about what enters our closets (see this post for some reminders about what constitutes quality).  Buying less and being more thoughtful about what we buy can go a long way toward helping us create wardrobes we truly love.

The “Love Factor” is Critical, Too!

Speaking of love, I also thought a lot about my feelings toward my clothes as I navigated my round two of Project 333.  Presumably, I selected my favorite garments and shoes to wear during the challenge, but I found myself feeling “ho-hum” about many of them over the past two months.   I think that when one buys upwards of ten, twenty, or more pieces each month, it’s probably not possible for all of them to be “8”s or higher on a scale of 1-10.  As I look at many of my clothes, I realize how much I “settled” in order to gain the immediate gratification of buying something new in the moment.

What I’ve noticed as I’ve progressed in my shopaholic recovery process is that my clothing standards have increased exponentially.  I can’t believe I ever bought some of the items in my closet and have been happy to pass many of them along.   Each round of purging is like peeling an onion and I’m gradually whittling my wardrobe down to a core selection of pieces that I love and enjoy wearing.  You know, those clothes that make us smile!

Of course, we’re not going to unequivocally love every single item in our closets. After all, we definitely need some basics to accompany the more “wow” pieces (see this great article from “The Vivienne Files” for more on this important topic).   We may not love all of our basic tee shirts and plain pants and jeans, but we can strive to have all of our clothes be comfortable, high quality, and fit us well.

Favorite Outfits from Month Two

So it was definitely worthwhile for me to do Project 333 a second time!  As I did with my first month’s summary, I’m sharing a few of my favorite outfits from this past month.  The outfits below are all casual and many of them are quite similar, but I remember feeling good in all of them and I feel they are representative of my evolving style.  Plus, they all match the color palette I’m moving towards.

Project 333 - Month Two Favorite Outfits 1-4

A note about the red cardigan… Since the photo above was taken, I’ve had the two longer “flaps” in the front removed (what was up with those anyway?).  I now like the cardigan far better!  An example of a wise and well-worth-it alteration!

Project 333 Month Two Favorite Outfits 5-8

One more note…  The shoes in the grey outfit at right were the only “wardrobe benchwarmer” I wore during the challenge. While I gave myself “carte blanche” to wear any and all benchwarmers during this stint of Project 333, most of them are too dressy to wear in my everyday life (see a theme there?) and many of them are more for warmer weather (I have far too many clothes for the relatively short summers where I live).  I’m pleased to report, however, that I loved the benchwarmer shoes and plan to wear them more often!  And FYI, I have continued to purge many of my 2013 benchwarmers from my closet (including many shown in my last post).

The Bottom Line

So as you can see, I learned a great deal about myself and my wardrobe through taking on Project 333 once again (Dottie’s two guest posts on building a workable wardrobe helped a lot, too – see HERE and HERE). I thought a lot about what types of clothes (and shoes and accessories) I’d want to include in a capsule wardrobe that would work well for my body, lifestyle, and personal sense of style. I realized the ways in which my current wardrobe is lacking and defined some tangible objectives to work towards over the coming months and years.  As a recap, I’m going to:

  • Narrow down my color palette to a few core neutrals (black, grey, and white) and a selection of core colors (so far, I’ve identified burgundy, cobalt, emerald, teal, and purple).
  • Introduce a few new silhouettes into my wardrobe and cut back on buying more of my already over-represented silhouettes.
  • Continue to let go of existing items that aren’t “8”s or higher and in which I don’t feel fab.
  • Buy far fewer pieces, adhere to my shopping priorities list (which I will review and update at least quarterly), and aim for quality over quantity!
  • Retain a few options for core wardrobe basics (i.e. jeans, black pants) to accommodate weight and mood shifts.

Your Thoughts?

Did I leave anything out?  If so, let me know.  I want to keep my eyes on the prize, so to speak, that prize being a smaller and more workable wardrobe.

I welcome your feedback, questions, and sharing related to all of the topics discussed in this post.  I would also love for you to share your experiences with Project 333 and other similar challenges, as well as your wardrobe goals for the coming months and years.  If you have successes you’d like to share, feel free to include those as well.    I enjoy cheering others on as we all work to create better wardrobes – and better lives.

58 thoughts on “Project 333 Round Two Recap

  1. I only recently discovered your blog but am very intrigued. You ask in this post whether other people also feel the need to own several versions of a ‘basic’ piece for catering to weight and mood shifts. I have to say that I don’t really, on the contrary. Of course I like to own more than one pair of black shoes, e.g. a flat comfy one and a stylish pair with heels. But whenever I buy a piece that’s very similar to a basic that I already own, I find that one of them ends up neglected at the bottom of my closet. Apart from basic layering pieces of course, such a black and white tank tops. I also noticed that, regardless of the ‘swapping pieces’, you selected other items for this challenge that in my opinion are very similar (two pairs of black booties, two pairs of dark ballet flats). Maybe you would want to examine this preference to own several versions of the same item, because to me it seems hard to combine with your desire to vary your silhouettes and the ultimate one to own less clothing …

    • Welcome, Liesbeth, and thanks for your comment. I agree that when we have multiples of a certain item type, we can end up “splitting our wears” (a term that stylist Bridgette Raes uses). I think it’s okay to have more than one of certain items, but I’m going to limit that to things like jeans and black pants, as I wear those items all the time. I ended up returning one of the black pairs of shoes (which were low wedges, not flats, but still too similar to the other pair). Yes, my black booties are similar, but the heel heights are different and I wear them with different pants (and both get worn a lot). One pair used to be brown, but I dyed them black because I never wear brown and have gotten a lot of wear from them since. I do want to have a smaller wardrobe and more silhouettes, so I plan to keep my “multiples” to a minimum moving forward. Still learning and trying to make up for past mistakes…

  2. Debbie: You look adorable in the gray top with dark trim at the neck! For all you apparent height, it looks as though you have fine bone structure. Some of the tops look too voluminous on you — like that red sweater before that flaps were removed (good move). I say, go with a more body-hugging silhouette. I dislike those “waterfall” sweaters that one sees everywhere — too much fabric obscures the curves, adds volume and just hangs there. I like the belted look of the red sweater. If this were my wardrobe, I’d search for more belted tops.

    • Oh, I definitely agree! I remember you mentioning how much you loved the slimness of your upper torso and it is really shown off to great advantage in the top Dottie mentioned. I have to concur about the belted tops, too! I am an X shape too, but not as tall (5’5) and a little more busty. Over the last year, I have found that I really dislike open, flyaway or waterfall type cardigans. Instead, I have a cardigan from Dressbarn that has a strip of ribbing at the waist and it is my absolute favorite. I also typically button one or two buttons below the bust on my cardigans to pull the eye toward my narrow waist. I think you might find tops with waist shaping or belting to be very flattering.

    • I agree with the other comments about these colors really working for you and that you look so happy in the pictures!
      I think the outfits that are most flattering on you are the two without the cardigans- the grey top and the teal top. Although I am not as tall as you we are similarly shaped- both having a fine bone structure with a small upper torso, small waist, and lovely hips (there is a 13″ difference between my waist and hip area!).
      I have found that belts do wonders for an outfit because many shirts and all cardigans hide my curves. By just adding a belt (my black elastic with a silver closure is great!) my look totally changes.

    • Thanks Dottie, Grasshopper, and Emmy for your comments. Yes, I’m tall (5’10”) and I think I have a medium frame overall, but my arms and wrists are thin, as is my torso. Most of my tops are quite fitted, as I do like my upper half. My problem lies with my bottom half, which I don’t like as much. I wish I could feel that my hips are “lovely” like Emmy describes hers, but I have some body image issues which often affect how I dress (and even more so last month because I felt so bloated). I like to wear fitted on my top half and less fitted on my bottom half, but I’m gradually branching out. I bought one pair of slimmer jeans (not quite “skinnies”) last month and have another on order and I love my red cardigan with the belt detail. I would love to find more like that, as I find many actual belts “fussy,” but I like the look. I will give belts more of a chance, though… I’m taking baby steps toward dressing in more fitted clothes. It’s challenging for me, as I don’t see myself the way others do, but it helps to get feedback like what you all gave me.

      • Debbie: I understand about the fussiness of belts! I try to find clothes with built-belts or soft ties so I don’t need to add another layer, no matter how slender or eye-catching. By built in, I mean sort of like a Norfolk jacket without the vertical detail. Something that defines the waist without bulk — actual or visual.

      • I had to Google “Norfolk jacket” just now. I think that would be a good type of garment for me. I will keep my eye out for something like that. I do like to define my waist, but I also want to be comfortable and not have to mess with my clothes all day. I should define my waist while I can, as I’ve heard that many women’s midsections thicken with age. If I don’t enjoy my slim waist now, I may sorely regret it later!

  3. I think you look great in all the outfits above–really like you in those colors.
    I have a different body type from you (straight up and down), but may I suggest pants with wide stretch waistbands? I have a few from Eileen Fisher (stalked on-line sales for these) that probably are not long enough for you and some from Chicos (ugh–I know–but the black stretchy pants are good). These would accommodate weight fluctuations.

    • Thanks for the tip, Frugalscholar. I wish Eileen Fisher pants were long enough for me! I completed a survey they sent recently and suggested they make some styles in longer lengths (as they do with petites in some styles). I will check out the Chicos pants. I know their demographic is kind of older, but I can find things I like at almost all stores. My weight doesn’t fluctuate all that much, but even 3-5 pounds can make a difference when it all goes to my lower half!

  4. I usually do have some repeats in my closet to accomodate weight fluctuations or days when I just don’t want to be constricted in any way. The shapes of the garments still follow my preferred lines but have slightly more ease. I think that is absolutely fine. I did notice, like liesbeth, that the two pairs of black boots in your capsule looked very similar. I know from first hand experience, when you are a hard shape to fit, that it is tempting to buy multiples of items that do fit well. I think this is okay in moderation.

    Debbie, I want you to know that you are a constant inspiration. Everything you do here helps me come closer to having the kind of closet I can really feel good about and an overall healthier relationship with clothing. I am preparing to do another round of Kendi’s 30 for 30 Remix. ( It is sort of like Project 333 but focusing on making 30 outfits out of 30 pieces and not necessarily in 30 days. I did this last year and found lots of new ways to wear my clothes and shop my closet, but for some reason, I have had trouble picking my 30 pieces this time around. I think I am slowly realizing that there is a lot of clothing in my closet that I just don’t like that much. And some of the pieces I did like have not stood the test of time. I think this happens to a lot of us. Dottie’s recent posts have been very helpful. I can recognize that I bought some pieces because I loved the fabric or print but the style itself is not my favorite so it goes unworn. One of the things I have had going around in the back of my mind is a ready to wear fast ( I actually had not bought anything this year until two weeks ago, when I ordered three items online. When the items came in, I tried them on and himmed, hawed, and debated about whether to keep them. See, I really got started thinking if I felt like the three items were worth the $190 I spent. I tried to wear one item this morning and I just wasn’t happy with it, so back they will go! What I am learning is that, for me, buying clothing off the rack is not the best. I am too hard to fit and my preferred colors are not typically available in stores. So, I need to take my time and make my clothing. No, it is not always the easiest way and I cannot have instant gratification, but maybe that is the point, the lesson I need to learn. Keep up the good work! You are helping all of us in so many ways.

    • I’m so glad you’re finding my blog helpful, Grasshopper! It sounds like you are making excellent progress with your wardrobe. Congrats on sending the new items back after you realized they didn’t make the cut. I have heard of the “30 for 30” and was thinking I might try it. I may even just do it as an exercise on one day to see how I do with it. Then I would have photos of outfits I can wear when I’m short of time or low on inspiration. Doing such exercises can also help us to see what we truly love and don’t love in our closets and can inform future purchases. Best of luck with your challenge! Please report back and let me know how it goes.

  5. You look so confident and happy in those outfit photos! Jewel tones really suit you and I can see how your project 333 collection reflects a consistent personal style.

    I just had to comment because I thought it was interesting that you mentioned feeling like in order to build a smaller, more workable wardrobe you need to focus on a smaller set of colors and introduce variety through different silhouettes. I have been working with the opposite strategy: I have a relatively small set of silhouettes that I prefer, but I like my wardrobe variety to come from color. (I also like to incorporate a fair amount of pattern, if I just wear solids for several days in a row it feels blah to me.) I’m not trying to suggest that one way is right and the other is wrong, it’s just interesting how our different individual preferences lead us to different strategies. (As a general rule though I suppose that to achieve “small and workable” one would have to limit the choices in one dimension or another!)

    • Thanks for your kind words, Sarah! I think that I will eventually settle upon a relatively small set of silhouettes, too, but I feel I need a few more than what I’ve been wearing. I’m going to experiment a bit and see how it goes. I like that I’ve limited my colors but still have quite a few to choose from. I have other colors than what I mentioned because I’m not going to get rid of things that I still love, but I’m going to work to streamline my color choices when I make future purchases. Like you, I love color. I can’t see myself narrowing it down too far, but I do plan to release colors I no longer love from my closet. I appreciate you sharing your insights. You’re right that there isn’t one right way to do things, just what works best for each person.

  6. You are making great strides here! I studied your photos, and my favorite is the one with the grey top. Form fitting clothes flatter you. This brings to mind the one and only longer cardigan that I hung on to after my closet purge. I never wear it out of the house, because I feel a bit frumpy when I do, but it is great on cool evenings as an additional layer. Also, it is an Eileen Fisher, reversible and a soft creamy white. So it goes with everything, you can turn it inside out when needed, and it will probably last forever. My frugal nature would not let me part with this cardigan. 🙂 And I agree with Dottie that belts would make a great accessory for you.
    I still covet those ALG flats, they are my one item to purchase when I hopefully make it to your beautiful city for a couple of days to visit Navy son returning from deployment.

    • Thanks, Cornelia. That top is actually black and white striped, but I agree it looks grey in the photos. It’s one of my favorites and I have a number of other similarly form-fitting tops that I like to wear with jeans and pants. I’m gradually phasing out the open cardigans, but I still like them. I haven’t worn belts much because I don’t like having to re-adjust them all day long, but I am willing to keep an open mind and try adding one or two to my closet. I love my AGL flats and I’m even considering adding another pair to my wardrobe. They are comfortable and I always feel good when I wear them. Congrats on your son coming home from deployment!

  7. Outfits 2, 4, and 5 are my favorites, but you look very very good in all of these! The red belted cardigan in particular suits your complexion and figure. You’ve done so well challenging yourself, I really enjoy reading about it!

    I want to do a 233 but I am afraid it will be detrimental to my ’10 wears per item’ goal. I also really enjoy variety and wearing what I want, but I want to see what I can learn from it.

    I also have conflicting desires in regards to wardrobe size and variety. I love the IDEA of having a teeny tiny wardrobe and only buying a few things a year but I’m not sure I will get there. I don’t know what my ideal wardrobe size is, really. I like variety and I’m finding that some of my items are also showing wear- even the expensive brands. I’m not where I want to be just yet, I want to add in certain key areas. I’m still evaluating and purging.

    • I appreciate your compliments, Meli. I would love to find another belt-detail cardigan like my red one (the belt is actually just in the front, but I like the way it looks, especially since I removed the front flaps from the cardigan). How about if you just try a “30 for 30” as was mentioned by one of the other commenters? That way, you could experience the challenge and learn from it without jeopardizing your goal of wearing everything 10+ times this year. I’m probably going to try that one later this year. Another option is to just do the exercise one day when you have time (I know it’s not easy, though, with a baby at home!). You could select 30 items and see how many outfits you can make with them (and perhaps take photos to jog your memory). Could be fun and informative…

      • I have gone back and forth over the 30×30- I’m determined to try it, and keep making my list and then putting it off or feeling too ‘restricted’ and decide to do it later. Gosh that sounds silly!!! I’ll have to give it a go, even if it’s experimentally like you said.

  8. I like all of your outfits! #3 and #5 are my favorites. I’m not sure why you thought any were ho hum. They all look really cute and pulled together to me!
    I can absolutely relate to weight fluctuation. I go up and down about 10 lbs throughout the year and that time of month I can count on a gain of 3-5 lbs of bloat(and chocolate ice cream). Most of my jeans have some stretch to them and my tops are almost all peasant style with elastic on the bottom, blousy tunics, or loose dolman sleeves. They seem to fit well for a variety of weights. I purged most of my fitted tops because I could only wear them on occasion. I also wear casual a-line dresses that fit over the course of the year. The area that I do have a couple of different sizes is dressier clothing-fancier dresses or dress pants that I usually only wear on vacation or to a special event.
    I just sent a couple of large bags to an online consignment store and I’m down to 118 items of clothing, 159 total with coats, purses, shoes, etc. I don’t really want to have a very small wardrobe because I like some variety and sizing options, but I like being at this number much better than the 500+ that I was at.

    • Thanks for your compliments on my outfits, Tonya. I actually do like the ones I featured, but not so much with some of the others I wore last month. I do want to vary things up a bit, so I’m working towards that (without going crazy and buying too many new things – it’s all about balance). I see that you can relate to the bloating issue… It sounds like you have a good plan for dealing with it. I do have some pants that work well when I’m not as svelte, but that makes it hard to do something like Project 333 because I feel I need to include too many pairs of pants! You are doing SO well with paring your wardrobe down! Your new total sounds so very manageable and I’m sure it’s making your life a lot easier. My wardrobe is still larger than yours but I’m feeling better about it. I will do another closet inventory post before too long and will continue to pare things down as time goes on.

  9. Hi Debbi I thank you so much for your wonderful posts! I read all your articles and even all comments but didn’t feel confident enough about my English to leave comments. Your analysis inspired me tremendously in my own wardrobe purging and revamping process although we have different body type and style preferences. I agree that having more than one given type of garment is sometimes necessary as long as they are not identical. I have black pants in different lengths, materials, cuts, etc. that I am constantly rotating depending on the weather, the occasion, and the tops and shoes I am pairing it with. I am very frugal by nature and working in a position that controls and budgets an organization cash flow, but I never want to push myself too hard on my own clothing budget. I know it may seems nonessential and even vanity to most people, but it is the one thing I enjoy most in my life, and it brings me confidence when I dress well. Like you said wardrobe building takes hard work, sometime prolonged trial and errors, but we are getting better and better. Just looking at the pictures I feel that your clothes are not showing your assets enough (your slim waist and miles long legs which most women are lacking). Do you want to try on some fitted knit blazer that adds structure without losing comfort, or dark slim fit pant that loosely hug your leg from knee down?

    • Welcome, Iris. I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog and I appreciate your taking the time to comment. Your English is just fine! Thanks for sharing some of your wardrobe philosophy with me. It seems like you’re very smart about how you approach your clothing and your budget. AS for my clothes, I am working to incorporate different silhouettes into the mix. Since I selected my Project 333 capsule, I’ve bought two pairs of the types of pants you mentioned. It’s difficult with jackets/blazers because I’m so tall and things often are too short, but I continue to try to find shorter jackets that will work for me. I wear short blazers in the summer with skirts and dresses all the time, but those jackets don’t really work with my pants. I am a bit sensitive about the size of my hips and thighs, but working to get over my body hang-ups and dress in more structured pieces. Getting there gradually…

  10. I agree with you that I desire a smaller wardrobe and am slowly figuring out just what small is for me. I find that I enjoy a couple of styles for my skirts for variety as well as fit issues. I have several pencil skirts in neutrals, one with pleats, one with a flounce etc. and others skirts are trumpet shaped. One of each shape in my neutrals does it for me. The overall shape is similar in both styles (due to the fit thru the hips) giving me a consistent silhouette. Signature style if you will.
    As for variety I also need lots of options. Slowly I’m finding that my five core neutrals, and four accent colors with plenty of accessories (scarves and jewelry especially) is abundant for me. I love the challenge of creating excitement and variety by changing my accessories, as well as the challenge of remixing pieces. It’s amazing how many totally new looks can be made. It really does work and fun too!
    As I fine tune my colors and styles I’m much more selective and particular about each piece that I keep ( and what needs to go). A new piece is carefully considered before entering into my wardrobe now. This approach saves me money and makes me realize that I can afford better quality pieces, just less of them. Along this line I find I’m wearing my curated pieces more often and I’m loving it.
    I’m a firm believer that my basics don’t have to be boring. I look for simple details that set each piece apart while still being able to easily mix and match. Funny that now I want simple pieces that I can combine numerous ways. Previously I wanted so many details that I was stuck with wearing my pieces the same way all the time and couldn’t easily mix and match.

    • Thanks for sharing about your wardrobe journey, Annette. It sounds like you’ve found a system that really works well for you. Fine-tuning colors and styles have been helpful for me, too, but I am still very much in process there… What you wrote in your last sentence sounds familiar to me. I think it’s a pitfall that many of us go through. I appreciate your sharing what it’s like on the other side!

  11. Debbie, I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog because you write so well. I was a copyeditor and I always enjoy reading your posts because I know they will have good spelling, grammar, and vocabulary. Keep up the good work!

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Mrs. M. I always try to make my posts as good – and accurate – as possible, so I appreciate when people notice, especially those with expertise such as yours! I’ve actually done a lot of writing professionally as well as personally and have done some editing as well. It’s important to me that my spelling, grammar, and vocabulary are as professional as possible!

  12. I was so intrigued by some of your questions about balancing 333 along with body fluctuations that a lot of thoughts were sparked. [thank you] After thinking I realized that I account for body *and* weather fluctuations within my trouser selection. In winter I don’t wear heels so I don’t need to account for that. So here is my list of trouserss and when I wear them. [perhaps too much info?
    dark aubergine pinstriped lined wool – when temp is below 10F – comfortable when bloated
    brown lined wool – when temp is below 10F- tight in waistband, cannot be bloated
    cream lined, not wool- temp above 0 – slightly snug, do not wear one week of the month
    unlined olive wool – temp above 5F – fit is body skimming, comfortable
    brown velvet -I get dressed up fairly frequently if weather is above 10F – uber comfortable
    2 pairs of cords [brown and wine] – weather above 15F – very loose
    spruce cords – weather above 15F – snug fitting
    I dress based on how I am feeling and the weather . If we get a below zero cold snap I may alternate between my warmest 2 pairs of trousers for several days but I am fine with that. This is the way I do it, which of course is only one of many possible ways. 🙂
    enjoying hearing about your process!

    • Thanks so much for sharing your trouser selection, Mary! It’s not too much information at all. I’m wondering if you are participating in Project 333 or if this is just the list of trousers you wear during the cooler months. I like that you have some looser and more fitted options. I have been making an effort to broaden my pants horizons, but it’s difficult for me to find pants that fit well (I ordered 5 pairs online last month and had to return them all – I order online because I need talls). But I will keep working at it… I’m glad my post was helpful to you and made you think!

      • Thanks for clarifying, Mary. That’s the way I’ve done Project 333, too. I know that many people count everything in the 33, but I like being able to wear whatever accessories and outerwear I want!

  13. Lovely photos that speak, sharing the good progress you are making. Your first two cycles of Project 333 remind me of what it was like for me. My process was very similar to yours. After a few years I discovered that wanting to live with less really is all about process. Every day and with every new item purchased, or just thinking about making a purchase, I must make the decision of whether or not I want to acquire more, or stay true to my quest to own less. I used to think that if I worked hard enough to cultivate the perfect small wardrobe I would arrive. But now I have begun to understand that it is all about the journey and process.

    Good post. Thank you for sharing. You are doing wonderfully.

    • Very wise words, Terra. You’re so right that every purchase represents a chance to stay true to our mission or to veer away from it. I’m becoming more and more acutely aware of this as time goes by and it’s pushing me to be much more thoughtful about what I bring in to my closet. I’m still making some mistakes, but far fewer these days. I understand that it’s a journey and will take time, but I’m pleased that I finally feel I’m on the right track!

  14. Debbie, this winter I decided to restrict my palette. I have posted before on my huge wardrobe which contained every single neutral color + accents. Being the shopaholic I was not able to be disciplined or focussed and purchased randomly and emotionally. My wardrobe made no sense.

    I restricted my palette to black and pale grey (+denim of course) for the neutrals and my best colors – blue, blue greens and pinkish reds for accents.

    For me restriction has worked brilliantly. It stopped my mind and habits from wandering. It’s not so interesting from a shopaholic point of view but everything worked and I spent less time fussing about what I was going to wear and was ultimately happier about what I was wearing as I ended up using a lot more of my “good” clothes.

    2014 – shopaholism no more!! My mantra.

    • I love your new mantra, Carolyn! Do you mind if I borrow it? You are making excellent progress. Restricting my color palette has worked for me, too. I haven’t gotten rid of anything that doesn’t fit my palette (if I still like and wear it), but I’m only bringing in new pieces in palette colors. What’s happening is that my wardrobe is becoming more cohesive, just as you described. It’s easier to shop, too, because many pieces are immediately ruled out. I’m wearing more of my “good” clothes these days, too!

  15. I think a truly minimal wardrobe is more challenging when you live in a climate with extreme seasons, such as the winter we’ve had this year. I was able to stretch more life into many of my pants by putting layering wool long underwear, but the end of the winter finds me resolving to put some lined wool pants into my wardrobe for next year.

    • I can imagine that it’s much more difficult in more variable climates, Rose. I live in a quite temperate climate and I’m still finding it difficult to cultivate a minimal wardrobe. I do find that I can wear more pieces year-round than I initially thought, though (or at least for 2/3 or 3/4 of the year). I know people do Project 333 in climates with extreme seasons, but I’m not sure how they do it! I’m not sure if one would count long underwear in the 33 – my guess is no. The lined pants sound like a good solution for you.

  16. These are all great outfits, Debbie, well done! I especially like the teal top on you. I also have body image issues about the size of my hips. What I’m noticing since I now photograph myself in some of my outfits is that long + loose is OK. Shorter + fitted is also OK. Shorter + loose so that the end of the garment hits at the widest part of the hip = not OK. Look how your fitted tops all stop at the hips, and yet you look totally adorable. So I think you could pull off shorter jackets very well, and still feel cute, as long as they were relatively fitted.

    • I have the same body type too and I find this advice true for me too. I think the teal and the grey tops look great on you and they both have the darker details that bring the eye up to your upper body. The red cardigan and the other jewel tones look beautiful on you.

    • Good observations, Sarah and Stephanie, and thank you both for your compliments. I agree that shorter and loose can be problematic for those of us with more generous hips and thighs. I often wear fitted tops that end at around my hipbones (like the two tops above – teal and black/white striped that looks grey) and find that works well for me. I don’t like to wear fitted tops that are shorter than that with my pants/jeans (or to tuck tops in with pants), but I’ve wondered if it really doesn’t look good or if it’s just my body “hang-ups.” I like long and loose (not too loose), too, like the open cardigans and enjoy varying my silhouettes. I’m trying to become more adventurous with my style, but it’s a process. I’m also trying to become more accepting of my natural shape, as there is really nothing wrong with fuller hips and thighs. It’s the way I was made and I’m tired of bashing myself for something I can’t do anything about!

  17. With your inspiration, and also Janice’s from The Vivienne Files, I have worked for the last year to trim a lot of unworn items from my closet. Once that was accomplished, I found that I did not have the practical basics I needed to complete outfits. Those have mostly been added. My wardrobe is still not what I would call “minimal”. However, I really love most of what I own now and it has become very easy for me to put together flattering outfits for any occasion. The colors and shapes are working for me and there is always the right shoe or accessory on hand to complete the outfit. Some items are worn constantly and some not so often. After I read your postings I always want to jump up and toss out all the things I wear less frequently, but then I realize that there is no reason to pare down if I enjoy what is in my closet. As a designer, I like to be creative with my clothes and having a lot of choice pleases me. I know myself and minimalism is not my thing!!! I admit that it’s a challenge to keep my wardrobe size practical but also with enough creative options. Of course, it all wants to tip into excess if I don’t discipline myself to keep shopping to a minimum and only buy what I love, love, love! I also find that I need to purge my closet regularly. And for me, this has been very important, I need to keep working on basics. It’s so much fun to go out and buy something exciting but it doesn’t do me any good once I get it home if it does not have the right basics to make it work. This has all been a lot of work but in some ways a labour of love!! Thanks for your willingness to be so honest. It has given me much to think about.

    • I’m so glad my blog has been helpful to you! I think the optimal wardrobe size is a very individual thing and some of us will never be closet minimalists. I don’t think my wardrobe will ever be tiny, either, but I wanted to get all of the stuff I wasn’t wearing out so I could see and wear the things I do like. I agree with you that there’s no reason to get rid of things you still love, but I think some people tell themselves they love things and don’t really. I don’t think that’s the case with you, as you seem very self-aware. Congrats on your success in cultivating a wardrobe that works for you! I can tell from your words how happy you are with your closet these days. I look forward to getting there myself. I’m on my way!

  18. Hej Debbie, Thank you for sharing your journey! Since you are tall and slender I think you would look great in a long maxi dress. 🙂

    • Thanks, Sara. I bought two maxi dresses late last summer and I look forward to wearing them once the weather warms up enough!

  19. Glad you are choosing teal as one of your “colors”.The second top-teal with the black accents is absolutely perfect on you.Both the color and cut are so flattering.I hope you can maybe find some volunteer work where you help women learn to dress for work-can’t remember what the group is called. You are so lovely and sensitive I think you would be perfect .Your considerable talent in writing would also be such an asset .

    • Yes, I love teal, Andrea! I have quite a few items in that color and I appreciate your compliment about my top in the photo. I think you’re referring to “Dress for Success” in regards to the group that helps women dress for work. I actually contacted them twice in the past about volunteering but never heard back! I may try one more time in case the leadership of the local chapter has changed. I would definitely be open to volunteering and helping other women. Thanks for your kind words about my personality and my writing!

  20. Hi Debbie, I used to have a cardigan like your red one with the front belt (except mine was black). I liked the fit of the cardigan itself, but that little half belt drove me nuts! I tend to like my sweaters and jackets flying open. I ultimately took it to the consignment store and hope someone else is enjoying it! I think the style of sweater as well as that color looks good on you.

    Your color palette is similar to mine, although my preferred teal is deeper. I also wear the “blush nude” tones a lot instead of white, which can be a bit stark on me, IMO.

    • I actually prefer a deeper teal, too, Deby, and most of my teal pieces are darker. The top in the photo is more of a cross between emerald and teal in my opinion (colors in photos don’t always carry across well…). I usually wear open cardigans, too, but was trying to mix it up a bit. The red cardigan isn’t too fussy even with the half-belt. Maybe it’s a bit different from the one you had. I actually wouldn’t mind picking up another cardigan like my red one if I can find one. Since yours was bugging you, you did the right thing by consigning it. At least once per month, I add something to my consign/donate pile because it’s getting on my nerves!

  21. Hi Debbie, I have never done a Project 333 challenge but I really enjoyed your post. I have pared down my wardrobe a lot over the past two years and tried to change my buying habits. I have dealt with some of the things you’ve mentioned like having two similar items or buying duplicates and “splitting the wears”, staying with the same silhouettes and limiting colour palettes. I still struggle with buying top-quality garments. A cheap shot of colour always seems like an easy fix but then I regret the purchases and end up replacing them.

    • Thanks so much for your comment. Glad you liked this post. Changing our buying habits is definitely an ongoing journey. Like you, I still struggle with spending more money for better quality garments. I have a hard time trusting myself to make the right decisions. Noticing that you often replace your “cheap” purchases is an important step toward changing. I’ve noticed the same thing and realize that I probably spend MORE on thing that don’t work out than if I just would have bought the better quality piece in the first place!

  22. First, the outfits. You have great casual style, and are really streamlining nicely into a black with jewel tones color palette. I’ve noticed with my smaller working wardrobe, I have also created an overall color palette and I only have one or two items that ‘stand out’ from those colors. I wonder if we naturally do this when working with less clothes?

    I think swaps are a great thing to do, the more the better in my opinion. I have had about 20% of my clothes from my working closet swapped out because items either: wore out that fast, just kept getting pushed out of the way in favor of something else to wear, or I found a personal flaw in the item (itchy material, poor fit, etc). Swaps mean you are getting more in tune with defining your personal style.

    • Thanks for your kind words regarding my outfits, Lisa. I do think that when we set an intention to have a smaller wardrobe, we naturally start to streamline our color palette. It just makes sense, as the more colors one wears, the harder it is to keep a wardrobe smaller (not that mine is small YET, but I’m heading in that direction). As for swaps, they have been very helpful. I haven’t always gotten rid of the things I’ve swapped out, though. Have you? The “official” rules for Project 333 (which I’ve bent quite a bit…) state that if you swap something out, you need to donate it. I probably should get rid of what I’ve swapped out and kind of wonder why I haven’t… I think I need to be ready to do purges, like we’ve discussed before. I eventually get around to it, but don’t necessarily do it immediately when I feel “ho-hum” about something,

      • I have purged items that were swapped out of my working closet. I figure, if it was in the ’boutique’ (or hold) and made it into my closet, I tried to use it, but then it just wasn’t working (or wore out, etc) then it should be purged, not returned back to the boutique. I see the boutique as my own store, and I would not return something I wore, to a store, so I won’t do it for the boutique either.

      • You have a great way of looking at this, Lisa. I really should purge anything that isn’t working for me. I usually do, but I make too many exceptions and try to “save” things out of guilt. I get frustrated that I’m still making mistakes with my shopping, but I have to remember that it takes time to change. I’m making fewer mistakes, but the mistakes are still present. I really like your “boutique” concept and think others could benefit from it, too. Hopefully some people who have read your updates in the YLF forum have opted to take on a similar challenge.

      • I’ve had a few comments on YLF about people doing the challenge, but I haven’t seen any updates yet. I have to admit, it took me about 3 years before I would have been ready to tackle that challenge. And even now, I am making great progress, but I still struggle with the psychological pull of ‘want’ when I see new items. Except now when I am online or in a store and ‘want’ I think of the boutique and how I can shop there for items. I also think about my working closet and how much I enjoy all the light and free space I have, because it is not stuffed with clothes anymore. I have a post it I keep in my wallet to help me stay on track with shopping the boutique and not the stores while I sort through paring down my wardrobe. Discipline is remembering what you want. I saw the quote on YLF, and it is very helpful to remind me of my end goal (small working wardrobe where everything is worn).

      • I love the quote, “Discipline is remembering what you want.” I think I’ll start using that one! I still struggle with the pull of “wants,” too, and sometimes I buy things and have to end up returning them because they aren’t in line with my goals. But more often than not these days, I remember my goals before I buy. The hardest thing for me is still feeling like my style and how I dress isn’t good enough. I still feel the need to “measure up” and feel like I don’t. But then I have to stop and think about WHO I’m trying to impress. My life is simple, I’m at home much of the time, and I live in an area where most people don’t dress well. I think my standards are based upon style bloggers and people I don’t even know! Sometimes I have to give myself a reality check and be a bit gentler with myself!

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