Poking around the edges of Project 333

Over the weekend, I decided to pour my midlife makeover energies into my closet — not for a KonMari deep purge, but instead with an eye towards trying Project 333.

For those not familiar, Project 333 is a sort of extreme capsule wardrobe challenge. Select 33 wearable items, including clothes, coats, shoes, and jewelry (underwear, lounge wear, workout gear don’t count), and wear only those 33 items for 3 months. The idea is that leaning into only 33 items will force you into selecting only the things you like, and only the more functional, fashionable stuff in your closet. Then, in three months, you can adjust your capsule for new pieces or changing weather, and also consider if all that stuff you boxed away for three months is still even worth keeping.

In theory, I love the idea. Even after two KonMari-style purges in the last few years, I have too many clothes in my closet. They just seem to find their way in. None of it is designer or trendy — honestly, half of it is thrift — and because of my recent weight gain, half of it doesn’t fit right now. So the idea of pairing down to a smaller collection of stuff that both fits me and looks good together is very appealing.

My weekend was spent trying things on, tossing things aside, and constantly writing and erasing on a whiteboard as I tried to come up with some balance of 33 items that fit me, fit my life needs, and fit the constraints of Project 333. The experience was eye-opening, as a good closet dive ought to be. At first I found my decisions about what should or should not be in my core wardrobe fairly easy, as I could confidently point to some things and say “I wear that all the time!” or “That goes with everything!”

But then things got more difficult. It turns out that capsule wardrobes like Project 333 break down when you start to consider items that you personally love, but that maybe doesn’t quite fit into the rest of it … at least, not enough to be functional for three months.

For example, I have a really pretty skirt that I absolutely adore — it’s primary color is black, but it’s covered by a light pink, yellow, and leaf green floral pattern. I love the skirt, it still fits me (yay elastic!) and I always get compliments on it when I wear it. However, I don’t wear is as often as I might, because pastel pink, yellow, and leaf green aren’t at all prominent in my wardrobe (which trends towards autumn colors). It only goes with a small subset of things, and most of those are black. So I can either put the skirt in my capsule and essentially force some other choices to make it functional enough, or set it aside in favor of something that I like less, but that would function better in the capsulel.

White, beige, black,and navy mix and matches well but can be boring after awhile. A neutral, minimalist color palette may suit some people, but I prefer more variety. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Also, I can’t even say that I have the right pieces to build a fully functional capsule wardrobe just yet. I don’t currently have tan/beige slacks that fit me, and the presence of gray/charcoal in my closet is sorely lacking; both colors play well in a proper capsule wardrobe. But with my current no-buy rules in place, I won’t be picking anything up anytime soon.

Ultimately, I cannot commit to a Project 333 run just yet. But I am on board with the idea. There’s about 30 pieces in my proto-capsule right now, between tops, bottoms, and layers, plus five pairs of footwear that I think will go with them. I’ve already seen a few interesting color and piece combinations hanging there, that I wouldn’t have thought of before. I will take a few of them for a spin this week, and then consider things again next weekend.

And yes, my first test case today is to take my favorite skirt and see what I can do with it. It may not be perfectly suited to my closet, but in the spirit of Tim Gunn, I will “Make it work!”


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