I’ve been doing The Project 333 – a minimalist Capsule Wardrobe Project – for a year and a half now. I started in August 2014, and I’ve nearly come full circle.
I’ve learned a lot, and I want to share it with you. I’ve made some important mistakes along the way, and I hope my mistakes will help others who are trying to simplify their wardrobes and their lives.
When I began
When I started doing The Project 333, I had no idea about:
- what suited me,
- what I needed in my wardrobe,
- what quality meant, and
- what I needed to buy.
I was a gym junkie living in tracksuit bottoms, t-shirts and hoodies. That was my uniform, day in, day out. I had pretty much nothing else in my wardrobe, and I had no idea how to approach fashion. Fashion confused me, so I hid in sports clothes.
Despite having read countless books and articles on how to assemble a wardrobe, the “classic wardrobe” type articles seemed far more about what to wear for other people than what might work for me.
Why I found fashion so hard
Fashion was hard for me because I’m hard to fit. I’m tall (5’11”) and broad-shouldered, so even at my leanest I’m a size 16-18 in tops. And I’m long-limbed – finding jeans long enough was (and is) a nightmare. Short people have it easy by comparison – at least they can cut the extra length off!
I wear size 11 shoes, so I couldn’t “just go shoe shopping” when I felt bad about myself either. Most clothing shops had little to fit but, me being muscular rather than chubby, the “plus size” shops had little to offer. What they did have was frumpy and fit poorly, and felt like it belonged on my grandmother rather than me.
In short, I felt like fashion was for everyone except me. If you’ve ever felt uncatered-for by fashion, you’ve probably got a pretty good idea of where I was, two years ago. Lost.
Starting with minimalism
“Because my wardrobe was so crammed full of junk, I never could see what I actually needed. It was covered up by everything I didn’t need…”
I didn’t have much hope for The Project 333, in the beginning. But that quickly changed.
You see, The Project 333 worked because it started with what I already had, and encouraged me to question why I wore certain clothes I owned and not others.
Instead of looking at what I couldn’t have and what didn’t work out there in the shops (just about everything!), it began by starting with what I did have, and what did work for me.
In short, it focused on the positives rather than the negatives.
By focusing on a small number of items, The Project 333 also helped me figure out what I actually needed for my day-to-day.
I found for example, in Capsule 1, that despite having great tops I didn’t have jeans that fit! I had precisely one pair of jeans that fit me, once I’d pulled everything out of my wardrobe and done an initial assessment, and those jeans were in bad shape. You’d think it would have been obvious, but no. You see, because my wardrobe was so crammed full of junk, I never could see what I actually needed. It was covered up by everything I didn’t need.
I took a good look at what was in my wardrobe and worked well for me, then focused on those manufacturers, to start with. They were to become my hunting ground.
I made plenty of mistakes, especially at first. I learned, for starters, that there are no clothes that work for me available in Dunedin. I’d love to shop locally, but I can’t. Until this changes, I shop online and mainly overseas, because that is where the clothing that fits me is available.
The Project 333 made assembling a wardrobe affordable, because it began with what I had. I don’t have the money or inclination to spend thousands of dollars on designer clothing, as suggested in magazines and books. It wasn’t going to happen. The Project 333 was based in reality – my reality. It never told me what to wear – it helped me figure it out, by myself, for myself.
The Project helped me learn that I had – and have – a style of my own.
I learned I love leather, and vintage clothing.
I learned I love jeans.
I learned I love bright colours.
I learned it’s okay to make mistakes – as long as you send them back when you do!
I learned I love clothes that fit and work well.
I learned that cheap is, well, cheap, and you do get what you pay for. And sometimes – more often than I’d like – you don’t even get that.
Over the last two years I’ve learned to love dresses. I experimented with maxi dresses, only to find they didn’t work in the city for me – you know, escalators! More recently, I’ve moved into vintage style knee-length and tea-length dresses. Not only do they feel and look great, they’re very practical for pretty much any event.
What I’d do differently from the start…
No cheap clothes! If I could do the Project over, I wouldn’t buy cheap clothes. Ever. Every time I’ve bought cheap clothes – usually tops – they’ve looked cheap and they’ve not lasted. In two cases, they shrunk ridiculously on first wash (one top shrunk a good six inches in length!) and became unwearable.
Don’t buy just for the sake of buying! I bought a black shirt and a white shirt because “the Experts” told me I had to have both in my wardrobe. Except I don’t. The truth is, I don’t have to have anything in my wardrobe that I don’t choose to put there, that I don’t love and that I don’t want to wear. These days, I ignore “Experts”. I’ve realised they’re just trying to sell me stuff I don’t need or want.
Learn to return! I’d also have returned things that I didn’t really love. I buy a lot of items online – and always have – but when I first started the Project, I kept some items thinking I could grow to love them. That was unwise. If I didn’t love them now, I was unlike to ever love them later.
Stick to 33 items! I’d have stuck more tightly to the number 33 in items. At various points I exceeded 33 in items. I should have stuck to that number more tightly, and been quicker to get rid of items I was never going to wear. I guess I’m just someone who takes a while to accept when I made a mistake! 😉
If I don’t like it now, I’ll never like it in the future! I was slow to get rid of items I’d bought then didn’t wear, at first. I kept on telling myself I’ll wear them…eventually. But “eventually” never came. It took me more than a year to realise that if I don’t like something now, I’m not going to start liking it later. Sometimes I don’t even understand why I don’t like something, but if it’s not me, it won’t ever be me.
I’m looking forward to continuing my journey with The Project 333. I strongly recommend it. I’m no fashionista – not yet! – but these days I scrub up well.
I don’t step outside in tracksuit bottoms – unless I’m off to the gym or I’m working outside in the garden. I even wear jewelry and a few accessories, which is something I never thought I’d do. And the crusty old t-shirts are long gone.
Are you doing The Project 333 – or some other Capsule Wardrobe project? How is it going, and have you learned anything you’d like to share?
My capsule wardrobe, as it was. Everything is still here 1.5 years on, except the plain blue shirt and the plain white one.