As March winds down and warmer weather flirts with us, I want to take the time to review how my Project 333 for the first 3 months of the year worked.Overall, 33 items of clothing is WAAAAY more than enough for a season, or, realistically in Chicago, for the 6 months or so in which one must wear winter clothing. If I have another 33 garments for the warmer weather (with a few items that will appear in both selections), then I think a wardrobe of 66 or fewer garments is a good start, for me, toward minimizing the amount of clothing I own. Less money spent, less mental morning confusion, a clearer personal style projected to anybody who’s paying attention.
Specifically, I had some garments that I loved and wore every week, and I had some (surprising) items included in my 33 that I would NOT choose again… Lessons to be learned…
I wasn’t surprised to find that I loved both of my bulky cabled sweaters, and that my new denim shirt was an absolutely core part of my wardrobe at least once a week. However, I never seemed to reach for my grey wool skirt very often. I need to really consider if I like wearing grey as much as I like the idea of wearing grey. My black pants – I knew I would be happy with them, and my black velvet skirt is still, after 5 years or so, one of my favorite things to wear…
Here’s where the real lesson was learned: as much as I liked the concept of red jeans, and the way that they worked in my wardrobe, I found that 9 times out of 10, I’d still reach for my blue jeans. Now, my blue jeans are a miraculous garment that make me taller, thinner, younger, and make me look like I have long blonde hair, and like I don’t WEAR GLASSES…. (okay, they’re not THAT amazing). But a 2nd pair of jeans, when I have 1 pair I adore, and I only wear jeans maybe once a week – it was just not necessary to have them. And the slate blue turtleneck? 10 years old, merino wool, and for some reason I rely on it. Grey flannel pants – I could wear them with black, and so they were in heavy rotation.
I’ve already written about the failure of the tweed jacket. I KNEW from the very outset that this wasn’t going to work, but it seemed like a good concept, so I fell for it… Never let the idea of a perfect garment for your wardrobe get in the way of choosing the perfect garment for you.
And the herringbone skirt… Can’t explain why it went awry this winter. Might just be that it needs a season off, and I’ll turn to it again next winter…
Black cashmere turtleneck, argyle cardigan, argyle turtleneck, and white shirt – WINNERS. They’ll be back next winter.
So I have some things to think about – the role of grey in my wardrobe, the fact that I got caught up in the whole “colored jeans” phenomenon and then didn’t really make good use of them, and an always-essential reminder that the perfect garment for my wardrobe “ideal” plan might just plain not work in reality.
Anybody else learn any valuable style lessons this winter?
This has been an interesting follow up. Did you ever wish you had included an item or 'cheated' by swapping one item for another? And the style lesson I learned is that I have way more clothing combinations than I ever thought and I am wearing them now. Also, sometimes I felt self conscious that I 'dressed' when I left the house. It is okay to look well put together even for a trip to the grocery. The service one receives is much better. Thanks for your blog.
I enjoyed reading your discussion. One question I had, several items were shown that had neither a heart or an X. Could you give us a brief summary explanation about how those items fit into the mix? Thanks.
Those were items that were fine – I wasn't necessarily wild about them, but they certainly were used enough to remain in the mix. Ultimately, I just couldn't muster something to say about ALL 33 items!
Isn't it interesting when we look at items we love, wear often and can calculate their 'price per wear' into pennies quite quickly? And those others that we can think "This is great! This will spruce up my wardrobe!", often as a bargain, and we never end up reaching for them? I was like this with a lavender blouse. I was sure I'd wear it often…as it's washable silk and just lovely. The problem? I don't actually feel pretty in lavender. And I put it on, am sure I look fat, pale, dowdy, etc. And hang it right back up. So, despite it being from a really excellent designer, and bought at a fraction of the price on clearance, I never, ever wear it.
I wish we had a crystal ball before every purchase…just so that we would know. I would love to get out of my black and gray and navy and white rut. But, it never seems to happen.
Ellen we do have a crystal ball. Our feelings and sensations. We know deep inside if we are brave enough to go there. We have a quiet inner voice of wisdom we may or may not want to hear. Our skin screams yes or no.
Stephanie Holladay Johnson says
I LOVE Lavender. I'm a light summer coloration. So, it looks great on me too. :) I'll take it. Maybe you can have some of the black clothes I never wear…
Lol. Love this.
This is so interesting, Janice. I did a chart after reading this post and find I have a similar experience. This winter was just an experiment. I selected a base of navy, taupe and browns accented with teal/aqua/green. I found that my favorite outfits were a long column of navy with scarf or jewelry. Also, the taupe is a nice idea but I didn't really wear it much. I preferred the gold/brown mix and found it complimented navy better than taupe for me. I think I'll sell the taupe items and go with what I actually like and feel good in. My goal is to have a simple wardrobe with every item I love! Maybe ambitious but doable with your teaching! Thank you!
Jana Miller says
I' like those red jeans for myself! I love the idea of grey too but I don't reach for it often. For blouse, it shows sweat too. I have a yellow cardigan from Lands end and I'd wear it everyday if I could get away with it-so versatile. I'm adding in army green for one of my neutrals.
I love this summary. I thought it was interesting that the grey trousers had a heart but the grey skirts both had an x. (which I totally understood as I pretty much gave up skirts when I left the corporate world). I passed on the bright jeans and have been wondering if that was a mistake, but you've convinced me that it wasn't.
Your blog and one or two others have been a lifesaver for me. Two years ago I lost 20 kilos (45 pounds) and had to start from scratch with a wardrobe. I wanted a small but versatile and classic one, and you and Tish have taught me how to do that. I started with a list and built it one piece at a time, and I can now say that I only lack two pairs of trousers and a couple of pairs of shoes. Then I'm done. Except for the Hermès scarves, of course…
Thanks for your inspiration!
[Edit] Ok, I should have said "your blog and one or two others have been lifesavers for me". Too late to edit – Sorry.
What are the 2 other blogs? I am assuming Tish's but what is the other one?
Lee Carroll says
Janice, this is a 10 star posting ********** You get right to the nitty-gritty.I love the hearts
Grey skirts can look sad; grey has to be rich and a topnotch fabric to give that oooh factor. Charcoal grey flannels, though, are stellar pants This is one of those wardrobe mysteries. I ended up giving away every grey skirt I ever bought.
I love this post and appreciate your honest appraisal — success or failure.
Lessons I learned this season included:
–Just b/c a color is trendy does not make it right for me (case in point: green).
–Quality fabric does not trump wrong colors and styles.
–Even though I love stripes, that does not mean I look good in them!
–Yoga pants are not real pants. LOL.
–My best friend is my full length mirror.
I am not nearly as minimalist as you are (sorry, but I'm not sorry), and I am actually in the middle of the exact opposite exercise (semi-systematically wearing all my clothes, as opposed to selecting only a portion of them to wear for a season). But I have come to the same conclusion that you have: to have a wardrobe that works I have to start with what I, as an individual, actually feel comfortable in and want to wear, rather than what anyone else deems "essential" or "trendy." Or as you put it, "Never let the idea of a perfect garment for your wardrobe get in the way of choosing the perfect garment for you." It is so interesting to see how variously that principle can be applied!
Jen's Jaunt says
Thanks Janice… I love your reflections… how fascinating that we keep evolving. Either insights and/or an opportunity to put some things away for another season… Again thank you!
Love your blog! I recently went to Europe on a 2 week trip without checking luggage. I chose navy and gray and everything could be worn with everything else. It was great! What I learned is that it is really difficult to find those perfect pieces. Some of my items were perfect (fit, style, fabric) but others were stand ins, although workable. This has made me much more critical when shopping and has made me think more about what my personal style is. Thanks again!
La Belle Demimondaine says
I really appreciate your candour about those red jeans – I remember reading when you got them, how excited you were! I truly thought these would be a wardrobe workhouse for you.
For my part, I had your revelation about grey – but my 'grey' is color. I love being surrounded by rich, saturated colors – and while they flatter me, I find I prefer to wear neutrals: blacks, ivories, greys, blushes, metallics, and just add little pops of color in scarves or bags.
Little Miss Know-it-all says
It seems to be a life-learning-process, this colour thing! I found this a very valuable post, as reiterated by other commenters.
My surprise item this winter was a deep orange short skirt – I wore it far more than I ever would have thought and with all kinds of colour combinations: berry/burgundy/purples, mustard yellows, black, grey, white, blue and even with some green (with accessories to knit the two colours together) and it worked with either brown or black boots/shoes, too. An absolute hit and despite all this, it still looks in great condition.
Now wondering what my star item will be for summer – but not inspired to start on that wardrobe, as we still have icy temperatures and snow for Easter :(
Ah, Janice. So refreshing to read such an honest appraisal. I have spent my life buying clothes that I like on paper, and are sensible, and can be mixed – but I have no joy in wearing. Thank you for leading us upon this journey of the perfect wardrobe for ME, not anyone else.
Ardyth Eisenberg says
Thank you for reminding me that personal style exists. I've worked at home for ten years, and devolved from clothes horse to nice grandma from River Forest. You've shown me there's a lot of possibility inbetween.
Janice ,thanks again for insights.Oh how I loved those red pants of yours.
Self keep saying it whould be like putting a neon sign on my rear end.Thanks to your
tried and true advice I refrained from an emontional reaction to something and thought
about it.This has been a good exercise for me.
Your analysis is fascinating, Janice.
The main clothes lesson I've learned in the last six months is that I almost never wear skirts or dresses as much as I think I will. Skirt-appropriate shoe choices are much more complicated, the right tights are required in fall and winter and even early spring–but, nonetheless,nothing makes me feel happier than wearing the perfect swish of skirt when I do overcome this inertia and reluctance about the trouble of finding and pulling up the right shade of Spanx tights. I'm planning my spring wardrobe and a few new cardigan and shoe purchases around the tried and true three or so skirts that I know I always love to wear–and always get compliments on. And none of those skirts are black.
Janice, would you share the brand and style of your miraculous blue jeans? I know one woman's miracle is another woman's disappointment, but I'd still love to know what works for you so I can try it out myself.
Thanks for this great post.
P.S. I had the same experience as you when I tried red jeans a couple of seasons ago. Better in theory than practice, it turned out.
Interesting that your 13 heart pieces pretty much make a capsule: 5 bottoms, 8 varied tops, and pretty darn close to a version of the Common Wardrobe.
Fascinating that it turns out you could live, if necessary, with just those 13 absolutely adored, proven pieces and, except for a jacket or cardigan, have a complete wardrobe, or nearly so. I'll bet that would be true for a lot of us if we paid as much attention as you have.
I appreciate you sharing all of your lessons with us – since I started reading your blog I have been shopping my closet and the occasional store with much more thought, and I have discovered new, flattering combinations. So thank you!
I do struggle with the Project 333, though. 33 seems like an arbitrary number to me, and although I tried it, I found I needed to rotate in additional pieces – not from boredom but to make outfits that were appropriate for certain occasions. I seem to need about a dozen dressy things for certain events that come up somewhat unpredictably at work or in my personal life, and if I count those in my "number" I have to do laundry every day or so to cover my normal activities. If I were starting from scratch, I see that I could structure things in a mix-and-match way that would require less, but that seems wasteful to me when I have things I like already even if everything doesn't go with everything else.
I guess part of it is that the 333 site seems to take a morally superior tone about the number, and I don't want to feel like a failure for having more. I hasten to add, Janice, that you are much more open-minded and I do appreciate that!
The results of your project analysis are very enlightening. I wonder how many of your choices were made in relation to weather in your area. For example, I purchased a grey tweed jacket last fall and found myself reaching for it several times a week. But, I live in the south and with a mild winter, that was the only cover I needed outside. If I were to have to layer with a heavier winter coat, I probably would not have worn the tweed as often.
Good question – in Chicago, I could easily have worn the tweed almost every day between November and March. It was just a plain and simple WRONG garment for me, and I knew it. It's difficult though, sometimes I can get very caught up in the "bundly wooly snuggly" thing, and then remember that I'll die in my office, which is always warm. Or conversely, all sorts of wispy lineny summery stuff holds so much appeal for the summer, until I remember that we air-conditioned at work to a lettuce-like crispness…
So many factors to consider, and keep in mind – no wonder we have problems, and make mistakes!
Thanks for the reminder to start a new cycle of project 333 for the spring. Will any of your winter items be transitioning to spring, or are you starting from scratch? I'll have to catch up tonight to plan my wardrobe for the next three months. There are a lot of weather extremes in Washington DC during these three months — it's in the low 50s now, but we traditionally have a 90+ heatwave before the end of June.
Going over my items for the last three months, there were three that didn't get much use — a gray houndstooth knit jacket (which is a suprise, because it's one of my favorites, I just didn't reach for it much), a blue striped buttondown shirt, and a dark green cardigan. The rest, including a mustard yellow silk pullover sweater, got a lot of wear.
I feel the same as anonymous on 333.The concept is a good one in terms of not buying more then I need and when I do make a purchase to be sure it is something that works for me.I have many things I love and will not get rid of just to adhear to a number.
If that works for some people good for them !!!!!
I wonder if you will give the red jeans a second chance for a summer wardrobe… You might like the bright colour of them better with a summer mind-set.