Revisiting Project 333 and the “Love It, Wear It” Wardrobe Challenge

At the end of September, prior to attending Courtney Carver’s “Tiny Wardrobe Tour,” I decided to put together a hypothetical Project 333 summer capsule.  I wrote a blog post about this and concluded that it would be useful to try out that capsule during October, as warm weather where I live usually continues until at least early November and sometimes longer (our cool weather started just a week ago!).

I reasoned that if nothing else, I’d learn some useful things about myself and my wardrobe through doing a short version of Project 333 (even if not the full three months that it’s intended to be).  In today’s post, I share my thoughts on that experience, as well as about how I’m revisiting the “Love it, Wear it” Challenge (LIWI) that I did during the full year of 2015.

Project 333 Capsule Wardrobe

Have you ever done a capsule wardrobe challenge? 

An Abbreviated Project 333

I have done minimalist fashion challenge Project 333 three times now, all in some sort of modified way.  The first time was back in April 2013 when I did the full three months of the challenge but only included clothing in my 33 items.  The second time, in January 2014, I elected to also include shoes but only did the challenge for two months instead of three.  This last time, I included clothing, shoes, and accessories (as the rules specify), but only used my capsule for a period of one month and made a few strategic changes and additions along the way.  Courtney, the creator of Project 333, always says that “it’s not a project in suffering” and that we should make whatever changes we need to make the challenge work for us and our lives, so that’s what I have done.

When I wrote the post about my hypothetical Project 333 summer wardrobe, it was very easy for me to select my items and I even surprised myself by including accessories as well as clothes and shoes.  It did feel like a stretch at the time, but stretching ourselves is how we grow, so I went with it.  Here’s a reminder of the clothing, shoe, and accessory choices I made:

Summer 2016 Project 333 Clothing

These were the 20 items I selected for my hypothetical summer wardrobe capsule

Summer 2016 Project 333 Shoes

I selected these three pairs of shoes for my summer wardrobe capsule. 

Summer 2016 Project 333 Jewelry

These were the accessories I choose for my Project 333 summer capsule wardrobe

More Challenging Than I Thought…

The above items comprised my “out and about” wardrobe and I still wore different clothes at home (mostly t-shirts and Capri length yoga-style pants).  I didn’t get dressed in my capsule wardrobe every day, as there are usually two or three days each week when I only leave the house to go for a walk or to the gym, and I wear my at-home wardrobe those times (and sometimes I don’t go anywhere at all).

Although I wrote that “I can definitely see myself getting through the entire summer season wearing only the pieces” in my hypothetical Project 333 capsule, that didn’t end up being the case.  I found myself wanting to wear some of my other pieces, as it was nearing the end of the season and I knew I probably wouldn’t wear most of those items for six months or more.  In some cases, I wanted to wear something one more time because I thought I’d miss it, but I also wanted to “test drive” a few things before the end of the season to see if I wanted to keep them through to next year.   Additionally, I wanted to experiment a bit with wearing casual Capri pant “out and about” ensembles, which required that I add a few more items to my capsule.

Here are the “out and about” items I wore during October that were not part of my Project 333 capsule (jewelry pieces are not included, but I did add a small number of items in that category as well):

Summer Project 333 Extras

In addition to my Project 333 capsule, I also wore these ten items during October 2016. 

I ended up feeling that the tail end of a season may not be the best time for me to do a capsule wardrobe challenge, although I should probably be well aware by that time of what I do and don’t love.  However, I feel that my style is shifting as a result of both aesthetic evolution and gradual changes in my body related to menopause.  Thus, some of the things I loved wearing last year and earlier this year are not so much my favorites anymore.

Bringing Back the “Love It, Wear It” Challenge (LIWI)

I felt that engaging in experimentation was more important to my overall wardrobe objectives than sticking to the letter of the law of Project 333, which is why I allowed myself to wear items outside of my capsule. Since I wasn’t entirely sure which of my summer items I still loved wearing and fit my evolving style, I decided to do a hybrid of Project 333 and the “Love it, Wear it” Challenge (LIWI) beginning in mid-October.

For those who are unfamiliar with LIWI, here’s a basic overview (you can read all about it here – scroll down to the second half of the post).   The objectives for the “Love It, Wear It” challenge are to wear what we love and to have the right types of clothing, shoes, and accessories for our lives… the real lives that we are actually living in the here and now – not imagined, wished for, or previous lifestyles. The process for doing LIWI is to create a “working closet” by moving everything you wear into a specific area of your closet space (or a separate closet altogether).   As much as possible (work uniforms and dress codes aside…), you should only wear what you really want to wear.  Anything that is uncomfortable, fussy, or no longer in line with your personal style should be passed on for donation or consignment.

I started off this installment of LIWI by moving my Project 333 capsule to the left side of my closet and later moved other items there as I wore them.  I also allocated an area for the shoes I wore and dedicated one drawer of my jewelry armoire for all worn pieces.  As I proceeded through the remainder of October, as well as November and now December, I just wore what I wanted to wear and relocated those items to the designated areas. I looked at my Project 333 capsule first and often wore those items, but I increasingly allowed myself to look outside of that area to the rest of my wardrobe, too.  This hybrid of Project 333 and LIWI ultimately was a much more productive experiment for me than Project 333 alone, as I will illustrate below.

Lessons from Project 333 and LIWI

I learned a great deal from my October Project 333 experience and through revisiting the LIWI challenge over the past couple of months. I’ll encapsulate a few of those lessons here in the hopes that you’ll be able to gain some new insights from my experience. I highly recommend that you try one or both of these challenges, especially if you’re feeling dissatisfied with your wardrobe and/or are looking to pare down.  You may also want to read the following posts in which I share what I learned during earlier stints of both Project 333 and LIWI:

Below are three key lessons that I’ve learned about myself and my wardrobe over the past two months.

Capsule Wardrobes are Ultimately Not for Me

Project 333 has helped me tremendously during the past three-plus years and it’s been helpful to revisit the challenge a few times to refine my wardrobe and recognize that I don’t need as much as I previously thought.  However, I’ve learned that I don’t want to dress using capsules all the time.  I like variety and having access to my entire wardrobe most of the time.  I want to be able to wear whatever I feel like wearing on any given day and now that my wardrobe isn’t as huge as it once was, it’s not that hard to look in my closet and select an outfit for the day.

Doing a Project 333 experiment from time to time – or even packing for travel – can help tune us in to our wardrobe favorites and give us practice in mixing and matching.  The more I do these things, the better I get at maximizing the use of what’s in my closet.  But I’m okay with having capsule wardrobe challenges be an occasional activity.  For some people, it’s an ongoing way of life and that’s great, but it’s equally valid to have full access to one’s entire wardrobe all the time.  There is no right or wrong and what matters most is that we do what’s right for us.

Sometimes Duplication is Okay

When one is dressing from a small capsule wardrobe, it’s important to keep things “lean and mean.”  Any duplication therein will limit outfit possibilities and can lead to boredom and outfit monotony.  Duplicating closet pieces is fine if one likes to dress in a type of “uniform,” but such an approach is not for everyone (see this post on the ups and downs of uniform dressing).  I definitely have some outfit formulas or “uniforms” that I wear.  With the exception of the true chameleons (to whom my proverbial hat is off), most of us have tried and true ways of dressing that make it easier to get out the door quickly while still feeling put together.

I’m generally okay with having duplication in some wardrobe categories, but it became a bit problematic when I did my abbreviated Project 333 in October. As an example, I have three mid-length black skirts in my closet.  Their styles and silhouettes are all different – one is more flared, one is a high-low style, and one is asymmetrical.  I wasn’t sure which one to include in my capsule, so I basically just guessed at the one I liked the most.  Yet when I put it on for the first time to make an outfit, I wasn’t feeling it.  It felt too dressy for the look I was trying to create, so I pulled on one of the other black midi skirts instead and felt better.

Over the course of the month, I ended up wearing all three skirts and being happy with the ensembles I created.  Sure, it would be better to have just one black mid-length skirt, but I wear a lot of black and I like all three, so I’m okay with keeping them all.  I may eventually find a “Holy Grail” of black midi skirts and release the others, but for now I’m fine with having three, as they all get worn often enough for my satisfaction.

Style Always Evolves

We sometimes think that if we work hard enough on our wardrobes, we’ll eventually get to a point at which we’ll be satisfied.  While that can be true, that satisfaction typically won’t last, as our sense of style is an ever-evolving thing.  Even if you’re not a trend-chaser who wants to be on the cutting edge of fashion, what you like to wear will change over time.  What’s more, our bodies often change as well, such that items that were flattering on us at one time no longer look all that great.

The fact that the wheels of change never stop when it comes to our style is one good reason not to have a huge wardrobe.  The more clothes we own, the chance that we’ll wear any given item sufficiently before we decide to pass it on decreases.  I used to “stock up” on a loved color, pattern, style, or silhouette because I erroneously believed that I’d always love it (or at least for a very long time), but that has led to a lot of waste over the years.  I’m currently finding that I want clothes that are a bit more “forgiving” in terms of fit.  I’ve also grown to love asymmetry, tunics, and the long over lean silhouette.  I’m no longer as excited to wear my many fitted hip-length tops with jeans on cool weather days or the snug tanks with looser skirts that were long my summer outfit mainstays.

What’s Next?

I plan to continue doing LIWI through the end of the year and probably until the beginning of next summer, at which point I’ll likely either start again or do another challenge.  I may even opt to do another short stint of Project 333 at that point or sooner.  It really doesn’t matter what I do, as long as I continue to grow, learn, and do better in terms of shopping consciously and wisely and wearing and loving what I have.

As I wrote about previously, I plan to only buy one “out and about” item every other week in 2017 and soon I’ll put together a preliminary shopping list to help guide this effort.  I will review that list at least once a month and make modifications as needed.  I hope this plan will help me make better choices and either integrate new pieces into my working wardrobe right away or recognize my mistakes and return them for refunds.

I’m glad I decided to do a version of Project 333 again, as it helped me learn more about what does and doesn’t work for me.  It also led to my taking on the LIWI challenge again, which I’m finding to be highly beneficial.  I continue to track how often I wear the pieces in my closet and will likely do so for at least one more year.  I don’t think I’ll track forever, though, as I’d eventually like to get to a place where I shop moderately and have a workable wardrobe that doesn’t need much ongoing monitoring (although it will always continue to evolve).

I don’t intend to always focus as much as I do now on either shopping or my wardrobe and I already spend far less time on this than I used to.  To everything there is a season and we need to continually ask ourselves if what we’re doing is serving our best interests.  Once it’s not, the best approach is to let go and move on, which I suspect I may do with wardrobe tracking before too long, as well as with other things.

It’s all about growth, which is and always has been one of my highest values. I’ve lived over half a century now (I sound like a veritable fossil when I put it that way!), but I intend to keep growing as long as I’m alive.  This blog – and you – have helped me a lot in that effort and for that, I’m very grateful.

Your Thoughts?

Now it’s your turn to share your thoughts on the topics of this post.  Below are a few questions to help spark your comments, but feel free to share your perspective on anything I wrote about above.

  • Have you ever done Project 333 or another capsule wardrobe challenge? What did you do?
  • What was your capsule wardrobe experience like and how did it help you improve your wardrobe, shopping, and style?
  • If you’ve never dressed with a capsule wardrobe, why is that something you’ve never tried?   
  • What has been helpful to you in terms of paring down your wardrobe and evolving your personal style?
  • How many items per season do you think is optimal? How many clothing pieces, shoes, and accessories feel right for you? Does this vary by season?

Thank you and have a wonderful weekend!

36 thoughts on “Revisiting Project 333 and the “Love It, Wear It” Wardrobe Challenge

  1. I’m not tempted at all to do a capsule wardrobe because I like having access to all my things all the time. I already have enough frustration in my life with half my things in one city and half in another, which leads to constant temptation to buy duplicates.

    It’s been 18 months since I retired and this past weekend I cleaned out my shoe closet, removing 45 pairs to donate (yes I have an extreme amount of shoes – the closet is nowhere near empty.) It felt good being able to calmly go through all my old work shoes and remove everything I would never wear again and didn’t need. I have already gone through the clothes previously but will probably do another pass in the next 4 months. My goal is to get to a point where there is nothing in storage – all my clothes fit neatly into the dressers and hanging space in my bedroom. This has been achieved in Montreal but not yet in San Diego. It’s a work in progress and I don’t want to go any faster than what feels organic and natural.

    • Wow, those 18 months have gone by fast, Tara! Good for you for passing on that many shoes and for gradually going through your wardrobe to make it better match your new lifestyle. It must be hard to have wardrobes in two cities like you do… I think it’s good that you’re taking your time with the process. There is really no rush and this way, it’s unlikely you will have any regrets about what you get rid of. Best wishes for meeting your goal of nothing in storage. It took me a while to get there, but it was very satisfying when it happened!

  2. I’ve done a few rounds of Project 333 and while it helped me down size a very large wardrobe and I’ve gone from an over stuffed closet to only about 80 items (which is perfect for my current casual lifestyle) I’m still stumped when it comes to capsule wardrobes. I worked hard to have everything fit into my small-ish closet, and at first I loved having access to all of my clothing at all times. BUT something still feels off to me. I’ve discovered that this is similar to what you described, I’m frequently at home wearing what I’m most comfortable at home. And all of my lovely “out and about” clothing sits in the closet waiting for a turn to go out.

    My new plan is to divide my clothing into two small wardrobes or capsules. #1 “At Home” and “Nicer Casual Wear” which are things that I feel good wearing, but can also cook and entertain in and won’t be upset if the cat snags something or if I get a stain from living a fun active life at home. #2 “Out and About” wardrobe (which will be a much smaller collection) of outfits I love, but are not casual enough for my every day life. It’s gotten to the point that when I’m only dressed in my nicer thing to go to the doctor or run errands it’s a red flag that I need to own less in that department, and begin to buy for the life I really lead.

    • I love your idea to divide your wardrobes, Terra, and I’m starting to do the same thing. I used to have my closet arranged by type of item and then by color (i.e. all of my long-sleeved tops were together), but that gave me a sort of false presentation of things. As I’ve been doing LIWI, I divided each category by things I can and do wear at home (some of these I also wear out and about) and those things I ONLY wear out. This has helped me to get a much better sense of things. Currently, my closet doesn’t look as neat and tidy because I have basically four sections now. I have the worn side of my closet and at-home/out items there and then the unworn section (staging area) divided the same way. I looks less “clean,” but it’s really helping me to see what is and isn’t working. Most of my at-home items have made it over the worn side, whereas there are LOTS of out and about items still in the staging area. That tells me something right there! Best wishes to you with having your purchases better match your lifestyle. Hopefully we will both get there soon!

      • I too, Debbie, have divided my at-home clothes and going out clothes into two seperate sections. The wardrobe in my room is my going out clothing and my hallway has storage shelves installed along one side of a wall. I have one shelf that is dedicated to my at-home clothes. There are some cross-overs however, especially now it’s cold out and my going out knits are also worn at home. I definitely have twice as many going out clothing compared to at home clothes, which makes me a bit frustrated that I still cannot get the two categories balanced. The biggest thing that stands out with me, is that my cold weather wardrobe has a more distinctive divide between at-home vs. going out clothes, while my summer wardrobe is much more fluid – I don’t have specific at-home wear for my summer wardrobe. Curious to know if others have this same dilemma….

      • Thanks for weighing in, Wendy. It sounds like you have your wardrobe organized well for your lifestyle. I have some crossover between my at-home and out and about wardrobes, too, particularly in regards to tops. Interestingly, I notice more fluidity in my fall/spring (since we don’t really have winter…) wardrobe than my summer wardrobe, as I mostly wear skirts and dresses when it’s warm out but rarely wear those at home. My husband always says I should, but I don’t, maybe for the same reasons that Terra mentioned above. The proportions of my wardrobe are still off in that I have too much out and about stuff, but it’s gradually improving as I work to shop for my real life instead of an imagined one.

  3. I find I so enjoy your projects and musings afterwards. I cannot get myself to do a 333 challenge. The idea just makes me feel claustrophobic. So I have to ‘try it’ via others. And I am kinda confirmed to see that you also struggle to feel like capsule wardrobes are right for you. There seems to be a trend of capsule wardrobes being THE way. On the other hand, I can see from my wardrobe tracking (which I just love to do) that I actually consistently have a clothes wardrobe of about 45-50 items per season. Shoes of about 20 (although summer just skyrockets). But then, I work fulltime, and am a little compulsive about not wearing the same outfit twice in two weeks. The size works for me but still, especially in winter now (first snow in october here) I am already seeng that I’ll be bored with this ‘capsule’ in february. Just like you did when nearing the ‘end’?

    The up side, is I do see that after studying my style for about 8 years now and really working at this, I am at that point where I hardly shop at all. I actually, by accident, didn’t buy anything in october this year. And the only capsule I am currently updating is the festive one, after years of neglect. So there seems to be a point where having a full life other than clothes, and really having a good wardrobe of things we love, naturally evolves to maintenance mode. I suspect you are getting there also since the blogging has decreased. Which I miss, but applaud!

    • It seems you DO have capsule wardrobes of sorts, Jayne, but they are just larger than 33 items and that’s okay! There is nothing magical about that number. Courtney just selected it as 333 sounded good and she thought it would work for her. We all have different lifestyles and different needs for variety. Also, capsule wardrobes are not for everyone and some of us do find them boring. It seems like what you’re doing is working very well for you, so as the old saying goes, “If it’s not broken, why fix it?” As for me, I wouldn’t say I’m really in “maintenance mode” with my wardrobe just yet, but I’m in a much less obsessive state about it, at least most of the time. I am focusing on other things, which is healthy for me and I agree that it’s a natural evolution, at least when one has been actively working on change. I’m glad that you found this post helpful and that you like my blog in general!

  4. Although I’m very intrigued by the concept of a capsule wardrobe, I think its way too limiting for me. I live in a 4-season climate, and this fall has temps ranging from the 30s to high 70s – sometimes in one day. I dress in light layers for the most part and that’s true through all seasons – colors & fabrics change. I work in a business casual-professional setting, and wear many of the same tops/sweaters/jackets on weekends (substituting jeans for dressier pants). Inspired by you, I’ve started tracking what I wear & have done so for about two months. I haven’t yet analyzed it all, but I’ve clearly got favorites & some gaps) so I’ll be looking at that before I buy anything else. As you said, we evolve, and I’ve found my current preferences are not what they were a year ago.

    • I always wondered how Courtney Carver’s 33 items work for her, Lisa, as she also lives in a climate with large temperature variations (Salt Lake City). She doesn’t even seem to layer a whole lot, so maybe she just doesn’t feel the cold as much. I would need a lot more items like what you described. I’m glad I inspired you to do the tracking. I hope it’s as helpful for you as it’s been for me. Good idea to analyze what you’ve been wearing before you buy anything new. Tracking is a great way to see areas of duplication, as well as gaps.

  5. I’ve decided that capsules are not for me. It seems silly to hold off on wearing some clothes I really love just because I have arbitrarily decided on a number for a capsule. However, I am struggling with the line between every day casual things and things for somewhat dressier activities. I do have some nicer things that are mainly reserved for work, and they get loads of wear. But I have some other nice things that hardly ever get out, and meanwhile, I force myself to keep wearing certain so-so things at home. But not everything in the pretty-but-hardly-gets-out category could even be worn at home, even if I decided to fancify my home casual attire – Anything that is dryclean only is off the table for my normal, non-office life for sure. The key is somehow weaning myself off of wearing the so-so stuff…

    • I have had (and to some extent, continue to have) similar challenges to what you described, Murphy. I would spend the bulk of my clothing dollars on the “dressier” stuff and wear so-so stuff at home. I’ve gotten to where I’ve blurred the line and wear more of my “out and about” stuff at home, mostly the tops (but that’s what I have too many of anyway), but I can’t wear all of those things at home. Some people do, but we all have to do what’s right for us. I agree that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to wear the dry-clean only items at home. As for the so-so stuff, maybe aim to buy one better at-home piece per month and gradually upscale that area of your wardrobe? Doing it gradually can help us to see that we feel better in nicer items even at home, but it can make it easier to deal with the inner resistance we have to spending money there. Good luck and let me know how it goes for you!

  6. I have done one round of P333 in the past. But like Murphy said, it feels silly not to wear something I like and would normally wear just because it didn’t fit into my capsule. At this point, I don’t really have clothes that I don’t like or wear, save a few “skinny items” I’m holding onto because I’m really struggling with my weight. Most of what I own is suitable for 3 seasons, basic and classic enough to be wearable for several years. Now that I have found my style, I don’t easily get bored with my clothes. There’s just enough wiggle room that I can take a break from clothes I’m tired of- I know that after letting the rest for a while I’m always happy to have them back in rotation. According to rules to most capsule wardrobe projects, I should toss the items I get bored with, and that feels just unnecessary and wasteful.
    I live a casual life in a small place and most people around me dress very casually. If I wanted to blend in, I would have to start wearing clothes I don’t like and basically forget my pretty accessories. Instead, I prefer to tell myself that it’s totally possible to stand out in a good way and be the change I’d like to see in street fashion.

    • I agree with you, Sara, that it can be wasteful to toss the items we get bored with. I tend to ask myself if I can see myself wearing it again. If there’s any doubt, I will put it in my “hidden holding zone” (where I also store items that are either a bit too big or a bit too small based on my weight fluctuations) and revisit it in a few months. I used to be too hasty in getting rid of things, especially because I was doing inventories I would post on the blog and wanted to meet pare-down goals. But the most important thing in all of this is not some arbitrary number of items for a certain season or overall; it’s that we have wardrobes that work for us.

      I like what you wrote in your last paragraph, as I am in a very similar situation. If I dressed like most other people here do, I wouldn’t feel I’m being true to myself. I don’t feel fab in t-shirts, jeans, and flip-flops. I’ve gotten more comfortable with always looking a bit overdressed. I no longer have the “church vibe” I wrote about previously here (and if I ever feel that at all, I either switch things up or pass things on) and I usually really like how I’m dressed. Yes, we should be the change! As for capsules, if they don’t “speak” to you, then just don’t do them. I find them useful once in a while, but it’s never going to be an ongoing way of dressing for me and I’m fine with that.

  7. I guess I will be the lone dissenting voice here. For me, the capsule wardrobe is very useful, particularly when I first started downsizing my wardrobe. It helped me to see how clothes could work together, which I sadly admit was a new concept to me. I now use the capsule wardrobe idea in a modified way; I now include my entire wardrobe of 80-100 items in my “capsule.” Whenever I feel like it (maybe once or twice a year), I review and refresh my whole wardrobe capsule inventory mostly to remind myself of what I have, outfit ideas, and spot any changes to make.

    For me, I’m not at LIWI yet. I think this is partly due to my very limited budget. The structure of drawing up a capsule wardrobe for all my life needs helps me to plan ahead and strategize my purchases, substantially reducing my total cost. I really feel it has been beneficial in helping me to always have what I need on hand, at a price I can afford. If I just committed to loving it and wearing it, I would either attend a wedding in my (nice) jeans and a fleece sweater, or drop $200 last minute on a dress I would only wear once.

    • I wanted to note that I guess the takeaway I got from the capsule wardrobe idea is different than what others got. My takeaway is not so much that I was limited to 33 items every 3 months, but that I should analyze at my wardrobe as a whole and think about what I want (clothing-wise) so that I have what I need to look appropriate for the function at hand, whether it be work, play, or whatever. For me, this has been more helpful to structuring and minimizing my wardrobe than almost anything else I’ve looked at. That said, YMMV, as with anything.

    • It sounds more to me that you have a workable wardrobe more than a capsule wardrobe, Jane. It may just be a matter of semantics and it doesn’t really matter what we call things as long as they work for us. What you wrote about in your second comment is basically what I’m working to do, too, and is really a worth goal for all of us. For some, using capsules to help evaluate and cultivate certain areas of their wardrobe is a useful exercise. For others, like you, working with the wardrobe as a whole works better. As for LIWI, I think we will always have a small number of items that we don’t wear very often for things like special occasions. Those items may not be “workhorses” per se, but it’s great to have them for those rare occasions when they’re needed. I have a more formal event to go to next week and I have had to cobble together an outfit because I didn’t want to go out and buy something new (and am also close to the edge with my budget). I wish I had a nice dress to wear to it, but the one I thought would work doesn’t feel fab to me anymore (it’s quite old). Such a dress is on my list for next year and will come in handy even if I only wear it once or twice a year. I just don’t plan to spend a lot of money on it for that reason.

  8. I tried a capsule last spring and lasted about 2 weeks. I hated seeing all the clothes get unworn in the rest of my closet. I hate rules and felt confined.

    I have been doing a LIWI all year. I’ve kept a list of things I have not worn much and made myself try to wear them, but spread out to make sure I didn’t feel boxed in by the challenge. If I didn’t want to wear something, I tried one more time then, it went. Most of the things, which have left, are impulse buys from years past or items that aren’t comfortable any more. Our bodies change constantly and clothing wears out, so shoes which were comfortable 2 years are are nail beds of torture today.

    • We are quite similar in regards to capsules, Barb! While they were helpful to me when I was in a major pare-down phase, this last time it did feel silly not to wear something I wanted to wear simply because it wasn’t in my capsule (which I put together hypothetically in the first place). That’s why I just let myself wear the other things I pictured above. LIWI is much more my speed now and has been working well for me like it has been for you. I love the idea of keeping a list of things you haven’t worn much and challenging yourself to gradually wear them. I’m going to do that, too, and may put those items in a particular area of my closet so I can look there first and see if I feel “called” to wear any of them. I think giving things two chances is good because sometimes our moods can color our feelings about things. I have found that many things that were comfortable a few years ago are not anymore, including shoes. Nail beds of torture indeed!

  9. Long time reader, first time commenting here. I did project 333 several times in the past. Even though I only counted clothes (no accessories – shoes, purses, scarves) and did not adhere to 33 items, I also found I was limited in flexibility. I realize now that when I created my capsules, I selected things I liked and that were in season. What I did not do was create a balance of items that spoke to me and provided the needed cohesion for flexibility. One thing that really helped me was discovering the Vivienne 4×4 wardrobe method which creates modules of 16 coordinated items. Using this method really helped me understand my style better, determine where there were holes in my wardrobe, determine where I had too many items, and realize the power of accessories. For my fall work capsule, I wanted to add burgundy because it worked well with the navy and gray I had already selected. I bought a burgundy cardigan, top, and pants for my work capsule. Now I track my wears. I wore all these items 5 to 10 times and rarely repeated an outfit. I was never that successful with creating multiple outfits or wearing new clothing that frequently in the past. Now I am on to my winter capsule. I find that for me 16 work items and 12 casual items is sufficient and then I just add a non-specific number of other things to complete my capsule.

    Like others, I am a work in progress. Just three years ago, I had 252 articles of clothing plus 85 accessories. My current four season wardrobe, consisting of 121 clothing items and 62 accessories, is far more flexible. Currently I want to add some things, but I feel more confident making purchases now because I purchase with a purpose and am more confident in my choices. I don’t think anyone should get hung up on number of clothes. The goal as I see it is to have a well-coordinated, versatile wardrobe that is reflective of your own unique style. Following your blog and lessons from others has helped me get closer to this goal.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment, Terri, and share what has worked for you. I’m familiar with the 4×4 wardrobe from the Vivienne Files, but I haven’t tried it myself (here’s the link for those who are curious and want to learn more: Your comment has motivated me to give it a try, as I was inspired by your success! Congrats on being able to pare your wardrobe down to less than half its original size and to having it be so much more workable for your life as well. I love what you wrote at the end and I agree that the goal is to have “a well-coordinated, versatile wardrobe that is reflective of your own unique style.” I couldn’t have said it better myself! I’m glad my blog has been helpful in your journey.

  10. I have never done a capsule wardrobe challenge. I do want to do for the month of January. I am a natural planner and I thought this would be easier. It is actually tough and it is probably tough for me because I have made bad clothing purchases in the past. Also, I am not good at creating new outfits–sounds like an excuse but I am not. Typically in the morning, I throw on a pair of black dress pants and a button down blouse. Apparently this would be my uniform, but it is not. It is just easier for me in the morning. I look forward to reading everyone’s comments looking for inspiration.

    I do not want to go out and by new clothes–I probably have about 500 garments (including shoes and coats) so I am looking for ideas on what to mix and match

    • For me what helped was going on Pinterest and looking at other people’s capsule wardrobes. If you have a very unique look, this might not work, but if you have a more general style you’re going for, like a capsule for work or perhaps a fall/winter capsule, there are a lot of ideas out there. There are tons of Pinterest posts that show visuals on mixing and matching as well. It’s a very easy and quick way to get ideas for your own wardrobe.

    • Creating a capsule was VERY hard for me when I first did Project 333, Samantha. At the time, I had a very large wardrobe, too, and I agonized over the selection for DAYS (here’s the post I wrote about how I made my selections, many of which I no longer own: I had also made a lot of bad purchases, which made it hard for me to know what I liked to wear amidst it all. It got easier as I pared down. It can take a lot of time to do it, though, and it’s good not to try to rush the process. Jane’s idea of using Pinterest to help put together a capsule is a really good one. I also recommend The Vivienne Files (, as she offers a lot of great advice on capsule wardrobes and has a few different strategies that you may find helpful. Another method you might enjoy was written about in a guest post here earlier this year – the “rolling capsule” wardrobe: Best wishes to you! It DOES get easier…

    • The 4 x 4 wardrobe system from The Vivienne Files (mentioned above) is a GREAT way to start if you are not sure how to mix and match well. She shows you how to four pick garments in groups of four, in a limited color palette that suits you, and that all go together. When I was first trying to pare down a big wardrobe that I thought didn’t match, I had fun with pulling these together. And you know what? I found that I had many great outfits already in my closet. I just had too many choices. Then I got a part-time job and used the same system to get work clothes. I didn’t work every day so it turned out to be plenty of clothes for an entire three months — no repeats! This summer I helped my daughter buy a new wardrobe for a new job. (seh had just graduated college and so needed almost everything). We picked colors and I made her two charts for two 4 x 4 wardrobes — one dressy and one casual-dressy. We plugged in teh things that she had and I crossed them off the charts. Then we went shopping, looked for, and bought ONLY things on the charts. It was so easy and we bought her all things that fit and worked together. She could mix and match all the clothes to dress up or down. So new or “shopping your closet,” it is a great way to get started on a wardrobe that works for you even if you expect to really wear a bigger wardrobe.

      • Wow, with these ringing endorsements for The Vivienne Files’ 4 x 4 wardrobe, I’m really feeling motivated to try it! I don’t know why I haven’t already, as I’ve been following her blog for years. What a helpful mom you are, Gail! Your daughter is lucky to have you and I’m sure she is benefiting greatly from what you did for her. I hear you on the too many choices issue! I find that as I pare down my closet, it’s so much easier for me to get dressed and I’m happier with what I’m wearing as well. Win, win!

  11. A question for LIWI, do you actually get rid of the items you don’t wear after a year? I did a successful version (sort of) last winter where I wore all my winter items and what I didn’t wear, I donated. I tried to do it for summer, but many items remained unworn and I am not sure if I should try again with the unworn items next year.

    • I actually got rid of a lot of items faster than that, Charity, but most of what wasn’t worn by the end of 2015 (when I did LIWI for the entire year) was passed on, save some formal items that I didn’t have the occasion to wear. For the most part, though, if I either wore something or tried to wear it and didn’t feel good about, I put it in the consign/donate bag. Occasionally, I would give something another chance if I either put it on and wasn’t feeling it (could be a mood thing, as I can be very moody) or felt I was having an “off day.” One of the objectives of LIWI is to get rid of things I didn’t wear or didn’t love, so I tried not to hang on to much that didn’t fit that description. What you could try is what Barb mentioned above: she keeps a list of her unworn or rarely worn items and then challenges herself to wear them in the near future. I would recommend that you try all of those items on now and use the “first impression test” ( to decide what to keep. With those things that make the cut, try Barb’s idea. This way, you won’t have TOO many things to hang on to and will have a concrete plan for addressing those items. Good luck!

  12. I track what I wear and looking back over a 3 month season I often found I have worn about 33 items (excluding accessories) but I would feel limited bored and frustrated if I chose them in advance. What I find more useful is putting together small capsules with relevant color, fabric, texture etc. theme for different activities, moods and temperatures. My current winter home and errands wardrobe is a mixture of earthy greens, tan, ochre, turquoise and cream, corduroy, cotton and knits. On Wednesday I will travel to London for meetings wearing items from my smart casual capsule of black, turquoise, cream, smooth fine and silky textures and geometric prints. This may be a useful thing for Samantha to try. Putting together a collection of 5 outfits for a specific activity is an easier starting point than putting together a capsule to meet all occasions. You can then move onto a different activity and group of outfits. It may be worth asking a friend to help put a few outfits together at first, and take photos so you can look at the outfits more objectively.

    • I have had a similar experience some months, Lynn. In fact, I wrote a blog post about it once: I also did Project 333 in reverse once in that I put it together as I wore things: I like the suggestion you gave for Samantha and think it can be helpful for many of us. What’s most important is that we have outfits to wear for the various events in our lives, so it’s good to start there. I hope she sees your comment! I may actually try this myself, too, as there are a few occasions in my life for which I don’t know what to wear. If we do the exercise and find we don’t have some of the pieces we need, that can inform our shopping list. I know I can tend to buy the same types of items that are already well represented in my wardrobe while certain gaps remain. Thanks for sharing these tips!

  13. Hi Debbie,
    I just read about an interesting idea from another blogger. She suggested studying your clothes that are ‘almost ‘ great but miss the mark and then to make detailed notes as to why these items don’t work. This then becomes your new criteria for the next time you make purchases to fill in the gaps in your wardrobe. For me, this list would include the tops that don’t have a v neckline or are not long enough and pants that are too full in the legs. Now I know to not even waste my time or money on anything that does not fit my parameters. And I think Lynn is onto something – activity based capsules- as now that I think about it, this is how I use my closet, but with a more limited color palette.

    • Thanks for sharing this great tip, Elizabeth! I have been doing something similar with my outfit journal, but I can see the value in having a master list of the “almosts” with notes on how to improve upon future purchases. Another thing I did that helped a lot was to create “do’s” and “don’ts” lists: I did this a year and a half ago, so an update is probably merited at this point (although much of what I wrote probably still holds true). I like Lynn’s activity-based capsule idea, too, and I think it’s great that you are already dressing this way. I’ve found that having a limited color palette helps me a lot, too, as there is a lot less to consider when shopping and it’s easier to put outfits together.

  14. I love my capsule wardrobes, but I’m rather loose with them and I have two at at time — one for work and one for home — so that gives me plenty of clothes. I came up with my own hybrid system but it’s pretty much 333, excapt that I include a few extras. (I use the 333 “starting from scratch” system from The Vivienne files, but I don’t count shoes or outerewear, and I find it really helps with getting the right mix of garments). One thing I do that helps solve the problem you describe is that if I have two black shirts that are different, I sometimes count them as one for the wardrobe (so I have a choice in that item but if I want to I can get rid of one and still have that particular target item — a striped shirt, say, or a black skirt). I still buy too many things and really have too many clothes! But I am also still finding my style. For instance, I bought two pairs of couduroy pants, one black and one gray, for this curent capsule wardrobe. I haven’t bought plain corduroy pants in years , and these are the classic relaxed style and REALLY comfortable. Buit it turns out that I don’t like the classic style! They sag and look baggier as the day goes on, and really make me feel fat. So do I keep them for the season, or replace them with DIFFERENT corduroy pants (in a more fitted style, which I would have to buy) or replace them with other pants from different seasons that are the right color but the wrong weight, or other pants from from my “leftovers” wardrobe that are the right weight but the wrong colors?? This particular capsule wardrobe requires winter pants in black and gray. Sigh.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience with capsule wardrobes, Gail. For those who are interested, here’s a link to the Project 333 “starting from scratch” method on The Vivienne Files (there are others, too, but I like this one): It only includes clothes but makes the selection process much easier! I wish I would have used that method when I first put my Project 333 capsule together.

      I like your idea of counting two very similar pieces as one item in the capsule. That makes good sense and could help to eliminate some of the agonizing that I have done in putting together my capsules. I pretty much ended doing that with my black skirts, but I was still trying to choose ONE instead of just letting it be. As for your corduroy pants, I think it’s great that you tried something new, but I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you. Only you can know what the best step to take now is, but I don’t think you should force yourself to keep wearing the pants that you feel fat in. Life’s too short for that! I would probably go for color over weight, but if the black and gray pants you have simply won’t work (maybe try it for a week or two and see?) AND you know you will be able to use new ones a lot in the future, I would likely vote for replacing the existing pants. Of course, this all depends upon your finances and whether or not you have an item limit you’re trying to meet. I usually try to “make it work” (to quote Tim Gunn) with what I have, but if that just isn’t possible, I will buy new things, trying to keep any new purchases moderate. Good luck!

  15. I always enjoy a good wardrobe challenge, and I have discovered that for myself the hardest part is figuring out what the challenge wardrobe should be.

    • I loved reading about your wardrobe challenges, Lisa, and I hope you will do more. I agree with you that figuring out the challenge can be the hardest part. You have made great progress and I enjoy your blog!

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