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!
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:
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.