On July 1st, I started a new season of my capsule wardrobe experiment. After completing my first round this spring and donating carloads of clothes, my closet and I feel freer. By having fewer things in my closet, I find I actually have more (and better things) to wear.
So for the next three months (give or take), here is what’s in my closet:
1. Bronze drop shoulder top
2. Southwestern print tank
3. Mint tee
4. Floral silky tank
5. Striped tee
6. Confetti peplum
7. Plum halter
8. Striped tank
9. White knit reversible tank
10. Cream tee
11. Crochet/patterned top
12. Black tank
13. Black crochet tee
14. Harvest gold cardigan
15. Rust cardigan
16. Denim jacket
Bottoms / Dresses / Etc. (12):
17. Black flowy shorts
18. Rust high-waisted shorts
19. Denim midi skirt
20. Red print skirt
21. Dark wash skinny jeans
22. Medium wash jeans
23. Floral joggers
24. Mustard crops
25. Black linen romper
26. Striped dress
27. Chambray dress
28. Eyelet midi dress
– Black canvas sandals
– Beaded sandals
– Lace-up booties
– Neutral heels
– Outdoor wedges
– Black brogues
– Black booties
And, for practicality:
Are you living with a capsule wardrobe or thinking about trying it?
Here are some great resources if you’re wondering where to start:
A new season of Project 333 began July 1st (more on that later!), so now seemed like a good time to follow up on my first season. I began my own version of Project 333 in March and continued through May. I had a “between seasons” grace period for June and have now begun a new three month season.
Here are the outfits from season one, all put together:
I survived three months with only 33 clothing items (plus shoes and accessories–my modified rules), and I actually enjoyed it–at least for the first eight or nine weeks. After that point, the weather started changing. I started getting a little bored. I made some extra money and bought a couple new shirts. I just…lost a bit of steam.
But I also took two carloads of donations to the thrift store! I kept going back to my stored clothes and further culling my stash, and I know that will continue.
I’ve noticed a modification in my shopping habits. My purchases are much more thoughtful, more intentional. I still make some impulse thrift buys, but my “It was on sale at Target!” spending is down significantly if not altogether gone. I consider this a win. I’m also looking more critically at fit and quality when buying clothes. Rather than shopping only for pleasure, I’m shopping with the goal of building a wardrobe that reflects my style and suits my lifestyle.
Earlier this month, our family went on a week-long beach vacation. I expected my limited closet would make packing especially easy, and I beamed with pride at my great planning and organization. I made a list in advance, picked things that layered well and could be combined into several outfits, and then laid everything out to admire my work. I mean, look at that spread: efficient accessories, options for temperature swings . . . I felt really pleased with myself.
And then I started filling the suitcase, which was a standard, rolling carry on. My packed suitcase was thoroughly packed, and I suspected I had packed too much. I pulled a stack of items off the top, removed a pair of shoes, and zipped my luggage easily.
None of the items pictured above were among the things removed from the suitcase and left at home. Rather, I had taken out pajamas and lounge clothes. For a week-long beach trip with my family, I had brought about a dozen outfits’ worth of clothes and only one set of pajamas. We also had in-unit laundry, which I used while there but completely ignored while packing.
I forgot that reality is reality. I spent half my time in lounge clothes or swim wear, relaxing with my family. A pile of lounge wear doesn’t make a Pinterest-worthy picture, but fewer outfits and more pajamas would have been a better fit.
Obviously overpacking for a car trip a few hours away is a mistake of little consequence. Still, I’m trying to cut down on these fashion mistakes and the time, money, and stress that they cost me.
My unedited closet contained plenty of mistakes: the mint green tank that was on sale but isn’t the right color for me; the designer skirt that was a great deal but is a size too small and only fits while I’m standing and wearing super-constrictive shapewear; the silk top in the perfect color that must be dry cleaned after every wear. Those three items collectively cost me less than $60, but those are only three mistakes of many.
Meanwhile, this is my basic black tank top:
Yes, that’s a large hole. It extends beyond the seam into a long run, and it gapes right around my left hip whenever I wear it. That $60 spent on mistakes could replace my basic tank along with my favorite tights that have a run and can only be worn with boots. I think I would even have enough left over to re-sole a beloved pair of heels and possibly alter my charcoal skirt that’s a bit too big.
Not one of those investments has the appeal of buying a new top, even a top in the wrong color. Similarly, packing pajamas sounds far less exciting than packing outfits I will not have an opportunity to wear. I am swept up in the thrill of the new and the idealized, and I end up missing what I actually need.
I’m hoping that with greater intention and objectivity, I will make fewer fashion mistakes. I have grace for myself in this learning process, and I know I’m growing in the art of packing and living lightly. And next time I go shopping, will someone please remind me to replace that hole-y black tank top?
For the past six weeks I have dressed from a thirty-three item wardrobe inspired by Project 333. Though you can start anytime, Project 333 participants generally begin their three month terms to coincide with the seasons (January, April, July, October). I began in early March along with Lent, and I “gave up” about three quarters of my wardrobe to try living with less. Some of these items have been donated or will be sold, and others are packed away for the season or because I am not yet ready to part with them.
While I’ve been engaged in this limited wardrobe experiment, I have recorded my outfits with notes and photographs. I am also keeping a “wear count” because I’m curious about which items I wear frequently. Since I have bridged seasons with my time frame, some items have not yet been worn due to weather (i.e., my linen romper–come on already, Spring!), and I have swapped out at least one item that was decidedly Winter (a lined brown tweed jacket) for something more Spring-ish (a half sleeve hooded jacket).
What I’ve found most interesting is that I have not worn the exact same outfit twice. With the twenty-seven clothing items I’ve actually worn, and with an intentionally limited selection of shoes and accessories, I have made a unique outfit every single day. Documenting my outfits has inspired me to find different combinations.
I am more self-aware and less self-conscious. I feel like I have a better idea of which shapes and proportions work for my body, and I feel more confident in what I’m wearing. Viewing my style in photographs has given me slight objectivity, and building outfits from a smaller, preferred selection of items is producing better results for me. I guess it’s similar to cooking with the best ingredients available to you; even simple recipes taste delicious when built from quality ingredients.
Based on my wear count, here are my most popular items:
1. Dark wash skinny jeans (14 wears)
2. Dark wash bootcut jeans (7)
3. (tie) Rust cardigan; denim jacket (6)
4. (tie) Chambray tunic; mustard cropped chinos (5)
5. (tie) Cream lace top; purple dolman tee; striped dress (4)
While I wait for warmer weather so I can actually wear the shorts and skirts that I included, I’ll remain reassured that I have more than enough. I’m not bored with my options yet. Though I committed to the project through Easter, I have decided to extend it through June. I may swap out a couple more items between now and then, but I know I’ll have plenty to wear.(Oh, the possibilities! Here is one sweatshirt, six slightly different ways. I cut the tag out of the sweatshirt, and now it’s reversible. I ended up wearing the combo in the lower right.)
I can comfortably admit that I’m not a minimalist, but I am enjoying living with fewer things in my closet. As I’ve been exploring my relationship with my clothes and belongings, with shopping and consumption, I’ve had some realizations.
Reality is reality, and my wardrobe needs to reflect that.
Here’s a bit of my reality:
– My lifestyle: I spend most of my time parenting a toddler, and the high number of “dry clean only” pieces in my wardrobe does not reflect that. I need pieces that don’t wrinkle like crazy when I get on the floor to play with my daughter, pieces that wash easily if they get peanut butter or marker on them. When I do make clothing purchases, I need to pay extra attention to the care instructions.
– My body: I am average height, I have extraordinarily flat feet, I am a fair-skinned redhead, etc., etc., etc. I want to dress and appreciate the body I have, and I am beginning to accept that some styles and colors (like capri pants, ankle strap shoes, or lemon yellow) aren’t particularly flattering on me. No matter; there are plenty of things that suit me just fine! I can stop eyeing trends that don’t work for me and focus on what does (like bateau necklines, jewel tones, sleeveless tops).
– My budget: If I want to focus on acquiring fewer, higher quality clothes (which I do), I will have to start saving. My years old Target boots are finally falling apart, and I would like to invest in a new pair for Fall/Winter. But I’m not going to be able to do that with a $25 impulse purchase. I want to develop the discipline of saving money so I’ll have a reserve when I want to upgrade or need to replace something.
Clothes won’t fix a fashion crisis.
Before I began this experiment, I regularly found myself going through a pile of clothes in attempt to put together an outfit that I liked and felt good wearing. I refer to this “nothing to wear” moment as a fashion crisis. I used to feel that I didn’t have enough clothes (or good enough clothes) to put together great outfits. Then I started to feel like perhaps I had too many clothes (but still not the right type or fit). Oddly, or perhaps obviously, neither buying more clothes nor limiting my options has solved the problem of the fashion crisis. Even with thirty-three carefully selected, generally well-fitting and favorite items, I have still had instances of running through options and feeling I had nothing good to wear.
I’ve finally realized that the fashion crisis is not an issue of clothing but of self-image. When I find myself surrounded by the pile of rejected clothing, I need to look deeper. Am I lacking confidence, feeling insecure, fearing judgement? I know who I am is not determined by what I wear, and I want to make confident fashion decisions. Even if I have some misses, I am likely the only one who notices.
Having less in my closet gives me space to think.
I keep gazing admiringly upon my freshly organized closet. It really is a remarkable sight. Apparently I was mistaken about the size of my closet. It is not, as I previously thought, tiny. It is rather large! At least it appears that way now that two thirds of its contents have been removed. Here is a glimpse:
I am one week into my Project 333 experiment, and my simplifying efforts have already produced a surprising effect (in addition to my expanding closet space): I find I am wanting more . . . more of less.
After my great closet clean out, I found I was motivated to simplify other crowded areas of my home. I tackled the overflowing Tupperware cabinet and sent all stained, warped, and unmatched plastic containers and lids to the recycling bin. Our food storage containers are now neatly stacked with their proper lids, and nothing falls out when you open the cabinet door.
I also addressed my make up and cosmetics, finally freeing myself from that too dark foundation that will never match my skin, the dried up nail polish that I used to love, and the perfume sample that I didn’t like but kept anyway. I moved products from the bathroom counter to the cabinet underneath, where I discovered I now had more storage space.
I even found a friend to take my light bulbs (that I won’t use because they have a cool, greenish color cast). Yes, I was keeping a bag of light bulbs that I did not intend to use; they were perfectly functional, so I hated to throw them away, but I am picky about my light and kept ignoring this fact while purchasing more.
Beginning Project 333 has helped me re-frame my relationship with my belongings. I am considering what place these things have in my life. If the plastic storage container no longer has a properly fitting lid, why I am keeping it? In hopes that one day the lid will magically return? In what world will I, with my perpetually fair skin, ever wear foundation that says “Medium” on the package? Why am I saving a bag of light bulbs that I cannot stand to use?
I want a full life but not a crowded one, and these things take up space. They get in the way.
I know that eventually, in some weeks or months (or days if my toddler gets in there), the Tupperware cabinet will need to be organized again. More lids will get lost and more tomato sauce will stain. I will likely purchase another cosmetic item (or two or three) that doesn’t work for me, and I won’t use all of my new royal blue nail polish before it separates and must be thrown away. Organizing and simplifying is a process.
But I feel I’m breaking free from the burden of holding on “just in case”, or “because it cost good money”, or “because it still works”, even though it doesn’t work for me. I am practicing letting go of things, and my house and I are breathing a sigh of relief.
Now please excuse me while I go find something else to organize.
I love to shop. Even with a tight budget, I get an intoxicating rush when I discover a perfectly fitting dress on the sale rack or find a secondhand shirt for a fraction of its original retail price. I am swept up in the thrill of the bargain, and if the deal is “too good to miss”, I will overlook a multitude of issues (the fit is slightly off, it’s not really my style, I already have something similar, I have no occasion to wear it in the foreseeable future…). I will reason that I am making a good investment, that I am actually saving money by spending so little, and I will leave with a shopper’s high and a happiness that will never be matched when I actually wear the item.
And I may not even wear it. I may try it on briefly before abandoning it for an outfit I like better, and my “super amazing steal of a deal” will languish in my closet.
You know the game where you try ten things on while getting dressed and nothing quite works? And then you end up wearing your favorite jeans and sweater for the third time that week. And then you are fifteen minutes late to wherever you are supposed to be because the simple, daily act of getting dressed took way too long. Tell me I’m not the only one who plays this game.
I love to shop, and yet a nagging discontentment has crept in as I’ve added more and more to my tiny closet. My closet is crowded, but I struggle to find something to wear. My heart feels crowded, too.
I am ready to try something different, something radical.
For Lent this year, I am giving up (at least temporarily) the vast majority of my wardrobe, and I’ll wear just thirty-three things from now until Easter.
I’ll be doing a modified version of Courtney Carver’s Project 333, which challenges participants to dress from a 33-item wardrobe for three months. Official P333 rules include shoes, accessories, and outerwear in the count; I’ll be counting these separately. Pajamas, loungewear, gym clothes, and underwear (including tights, socks, etc.) aren’t included in the count. Though I’m bending the rules a bit, I do plan to work from a limited selection of all of these items. One of my favorite quotes from the website is this: “This is not a project in suffering. If you need to create a version of Project 333 that works better for you, do it.” I’m going with that.
I’ve made lists, sorted piles of clothes, selected, swapped, and worked my way down to 33 things (plus three coats) which are now back in the closet. I moved everything else to the guest room closet, which is now overflowing. Please don’t open that door if you are at my house . . .
I am looking forward to the challenge, and I’m also fighting some trepidation. I wonder if I will get bored of my limited choices. I’m bridging two seasons, so I’m concerned I may not have all I need to bridge dramatic temperature swings. I worry about what other people will think. Will anyone even notice or care if I’m wearing the same thing more often? Were these the items I was wearing all the time anyway? I wonder if I’ll feel guilty for forsaking all those other clothes, as if inanimate objects somehow know they are being neglected. I am considering what it would mean to fail and put everything back next week . . . or to succeed and end up giving most of it away.
Lent is a time of remembering and practicing sacrifice, of reexamining priorities and values, a time of not only giving up the bad, but of giving up the good in favor of the better. All that extra space in my closet makes me anxious, but it also makes me excited. There is space, breathing room, and that feels like the start of something better.