June 22, 2022
By this time of year, most of us should be easily able to whittle down our warm-weather wardrobe to a tidy 33 pieces. While this is NOT what Courtney Carver suggests for her Project 333, I’m pretty confident that she wouldn’t be too upset with us starting at this point. So long as we look seriously at our wardrobes from time to time, she will probably approve!
buy her book and read it; trust me!
How to minimize what’s in one’s closet is a question that I am asked almost every day, and thus I keep thinking of different ways that someone could go about eliminating a big chunk of their wardrobe… Let me share one idea!
Let’s start here – I think (but am by no means sure!) that there are 69 garments here… If all of these were hanging in 1 closet, I would be overwhelmed:
My thinking for THIS version of Project 333 is to grab 3 dresses, and then work with outfits:
So our heroine dutifully digs out her seven dresses, and after some thought, chooses three that she will keep through ’til the Autumnal Equinox…
Her next step is to choose the 10 “bottoms” upon which she will choose her 10 outfits. Well, she could choose legitimate 3-piece outfits, or just pick 2 tops to wear with each bottom…
Here’s where the fun starts – take a couple of pairs of pants and choose a couple of tops to wear with each…
Our heroine often wears shorts in the summer; she choose bright, light tops to go with…
33 seems like a TON of clothing (sometimes…), so it’s a little bit startling to realize that we are already almost halfway through our wardrobe selection:
Things start to snowball pretty quickly when our heroine takes ALL 4 of her navy bottoms (well okay, navy striped…) and decides to choose tops for all of them at the same time. This actually makes sense, since she’s got a finite pool of tops from which to choose.
For example, if she grabbed her solid navy tops to wear with solid navy pants, she might not having her best choices available to wear with her striped pants…
Six more garments to go! And warm-toned pants, which come together in a tidy little cluster with 4 tops…
Where does this leave our heroine? Well, first up, she has all of this to put into storage:
yes, I think I lost a garment somewhere!
And this is our heroine’s Project 333 Wardrobe to wear from the beginning of summer ’til at least the Autumnal Equinox:
There’s quite a range of colors here – and a huge number of possible outfits! Let’s look at 20 outfits, which (along with 3 dresses) might be enough to get most of us through 3 months!
I really REALLY need to do this in my closet, and to put the remainders either in donate or storage. Feeling overwhelmed when trying to get dressed doesn’t do anything to improve your quality of life!
p.s. Five years ago, we looked at a travel capsule wardrobe based on the pastel colors of a beautiful ring…
Beth T says
I love your ‘process blogs’. I would find it a challenge to limit my wardrobe to 33 items to last me till the end of September. However, once it had been achieved, I would like the flexibility to be able to whip out a 4×4 or a 6 pack or a Whatevers Clean, including a co-ordinating dress, to go away for a few days. At the moment, I doubt that I will be able to go away for a longer holiday until the autumn but we are planning a long weekend at the end of July for my son’s graduation. So that will definately include a dress or smart skirt and blouse.
With this wardrobe, I would choose tops, bottoms and second layers first then slot in the dresses which best pick up the colours I’ve chosen. I’m not sure that I would choose three dresses of the same colour leaving behind other dresses which might then pick up the colours of the rest of the clothes, thus adding to flexibility and options.
So the warm pastel dress picks up the colours of the warm pastel separates. Likewise the navy and coral plaid dress picks up the navy, coral and ivory separates. My choices for dresses in this wardrobe would thus be one of the blue dresses, the warm pastel dress and the plaid dress.
I’d also swap out one or two pair of trousers for a skirt just to expand options. Colour saturation is important to me. Much as I love pastels, the lavender/aqua plaid shirt, the light green tank and the pink seersucker shirt just seem a bit insipid next to the other medium to dark value tops. I would review the rejects and swap the pale pastels with the coral tee, the navy/pink/yellow plaid short sleeve shirt and one of the striped tees.
I’m not sure that I could survive three months with only two jumpers. A blue jumper/hoodie or cardigan would be essential and possibly coral as well.
To do this with my own wardrobe would be a useful.exercise. My bottoms would be five pairs of trousers in shades of blue and grey, a lilac linen skirt, a sky blue floral maxi skirt and a navy georgette skirt. My four dresses are lilac floral, aqua floral, sky blue/light green and orchid pink. Twelve items so far. Seven to ten cardigans/jumpers in aqua, lilac, grey, blues, orchid pink and white/ivory – patterned and plain – UK weather is fickle even in summer. The rest would be a variety of tops, tees and shirts that best pick up the colours and/or floral theme. I might put my coral and warm pinks to one side this summer and concentrate on orchid pinks.
Accessories and shoes are important in the summer. This is when I wear colourful shoes and sandals and accent bags. Jewellery is vital. I might need a jacket and mac as well. I’m just trying to imagine what your heroine would wear?
Lori Biesecker says
Beth T, should you decide you are up to the challenge, I would love to read your process here. I think you could just write a comment on days as you make your selections and as you experience a few months of living with your choices.
Beth T says
O gosh – the biggie is choosing the tops and 2nd layers. This is where I have often have more options in the background just in case we have a heatwave or the temperature is 10C lower than it was yesterday or it’s raining and my desire to wear a dress or skirt is thwarted because I need to wear non-slip shoes.
So that’s why I find reducing my wardrobe to specific numbers so limiting.
Today I’m wearing light grey trousers and a white tee with a purple/lilac/orchid pink floral pattern. It’s very warm today. If I required a second layer, I would choose an orchid pink cardigan with 3/4 sleeves or cable jumper, depending on the temperature. Alternatively, if It was colder, I would wear a long sleeve floral tee or shirt and a lilac or grey jumper. This is why it is such a challenge for me. Tomorrow it starts off dry and sunny but severe thunderstorms are forecast in the afternoon.
Thank you for including the link to the book. I could probably do this for summer – but maybe not once school started in fall, so I wouldn’t be going through to the Autumn Equinox. I find most warm summer days I lean towards dresses, and wear the same one for days on end when just at home – except for when I’m working in yard of course. Most of my current bottoms are black – which isn’t really fitting into my color scheme for this spring/summer, so I might actually need something there. This does seem like a lot of clothes though. Summer items comprise the smallest part of my wardrobe though, given where I live. Thanks for this – I see more sorting in my future! Always look forward to Mon, Wed, Fri to see what you have for us. Beth T – always love your analysis.
ps does anyone know if these particular rip stop pants make a swish sound when you walk? I’m thinking no since they are cotton not nylon, but that sound drives me beserk.
This is great! And so timely for me. I am always looking for ways to pare down and organize my wardrobe. But when I open my closet door I am so overwhelmed. I may make a halfway effort but I’m quickly exhausted just looking at everything and trying to decide.
This morning, after reading this, I went directly to Stylebook and began. This process is easier for me to follow and possibly execute.
Looking at the “looks “ I’ve come up with, I see a much more cohesive wardrobe. Maybe everything doesn’t coordinate but more does than not and I won’t get bored like I usually do when I try to organize my wardrobe.
Thanks, again, Janice.
Jackie Katz says
Your process blogs are extremely helpful.
I was not sure how you were going to reduce the initial wardrobe down to 33 pieces since it had a lot of variation in color and patterns.
I think the pieces you selected work well together because all the bottoms are solids (except the strip pants) and limited to 2 neutrals.
Since I started reading The Vivienne Files, I have reduced the number of colors and patterns in my wardrobe. Now, it is so much easier to get dressed!
For the summer, I target 36 items consisting of 14 bottoms + 14 tops + 7 2nd pieces + 1 dress. I find this allows me to do laundry on a 2 week rotation.
Linda P says
That’s a good equation!
She should donate the dress she considers too short for summer. It isn’t going to grow in the closet.
That’s true! Mine haven’t grown or stretched in years :/
Laughing… good bye mini clothes!
Hahaha hahaha, that made me laugh so much!! I support the bye-bye to mini clothes as well :D
This is a great demonstration of the process. Thanks! I was surprised that no skirts were included. That would be one modification for me here in the South. Also the only sweater needed here in summer is a very, very light weight open front one. Great post.
Zaidie Brown says
Living in the British Isles, that won’t do three months of British weather. What will our heroine wear in the snow? Ah, for predicatbale weather.
I am going to need to go back to a “proper” capsule wardrobe in September when my youngest goes to school and I return to full-time work as decision fatigue is all too real. Might do a practice run now for the next 4½ weeks of work, and another for the summer hols (always harder because I pack a different set for going away). Off to have fun with my wardrobe – with a very different process to this one.
Oh and thanks for the look back – that wardrobe was gorgeous and felt more “me”, despite not being my colours at all, than a lot of other posts. Very inspiring today Janice, even more than usual.
I love project 333! I’ve been through a whole year of it now and never realized that I needed so little to get dressed for a 3 month period and I live somewhere with huge extremes in temperature. The only caveat that I will add is that I have not gone into the office every day, so maybe it would be slightly different if I were.
I usually have a similar spread every season – 3 coats, 3 pairs of shoes, 3 purses, 3 dresses, 7 tops and 7 bottoms, and then either more 2nd layers (i.e. sweaters) or tops depending on the season. As per Courtney’s instructions, I don’t include lounge clothing, active wear or pyjamas. I also do not include ‘fancy dress’ clothing. If I have an occasion like a wedding, I wouldn’t include that outfit in my project 333.
Janice, please do more Project 333 like you used to!
Linda P says
That’s a good equation too!
Another helpful post…and received with much appreciation here. I must confess that I had a colour fail yesterday. My plan to reduce was to only buy blues (including navy), greens, yellow, white and beige to brown. The Mr opened the pool and stated that we would be using it Friday. I checked all the swimsuits that have served for the last 8 years…elastic finally gave up the ghost on the few that still fit. I shopped in store as swimwear really needs to be tried on and evaluated for comfort. Thanks to Janice, I did try the rack of Lands End…which fit fairly well. However…as I need to have 3 suits in rotation since they get a decent amount of wear, I flunked the colour restriction when I bought a black swim skirt bottom to round out the 3rd suit. Should one make special items such as swimwear always fit the planned colours or is it permitted to have a deviation when in a time crunch? Event coming & only a few hours to shop with no time to do the online thing? How do the special pieces get handled in today’s 333 example? Are they no count items? Thanks.
NATALIE K says
I think swimsuits are Active wear so they don’t count!!
Susan G says
This is a wonderful idea! I’ve been overwhelmed with my wardrobe for the last year and a half. I moved and I can’t hang it all in one space anymore, so I can’t see it all at once. 33 items seem like good amount and i can always switch out if i remember something I would rather wear. I’ll try this
Why so many shorts and no skirts? I haven’t worn shorts in eight years. No need too, even in upper 90 degree weather.
I don’t think LLBean sells them. Since Janice limited the clothing to that sold by them, the selection had no skirts.
I’ve noticed many stores have cut out skirts altogether. It’s a crying shame.
I looked at Zaidie’s comment and looked at the post from June 21, 2017. I agree with her on this. That post is also more me. It could be done in Black, but I love the Navy Blue. Using the Rose Quartz, Blue Chalcedony, and Labradorite, I think I could use this post for a Project 333 capsule. It would be beautiful.
But no shorts. Lol.
Amanda Hudson says
I certainly agree to pass on the too short dress. I don’t pretend to have a small wardrobe or closet but I do wear things for years. We are having the hottest June ever in TX and I am living in my linen dresses. I have 13. Two are 25 years old! (although one is rather dressy so doesn’t go in regular rotation) others are 5-10 years old and I have added three this year. It probably is excessive but for the most part they need washing after wearing once or twice. Even walking the dog early am or after dusk is a sweaty business! Of course I need a sweater any time I’m out somewhere as the AC is set to FREEZING. I also like skirts and shorts with a tee or linen tank. Again, usually can only be worn one time and then to the laundry. I do far more laundry and ironing in the summer which is apparently going to be very long this year.
33 garments is quite a large wardrobe, so while the concept of paring down to 33 is relatable for some women, for others it would mean ADDING garments!
Agree, I could only come up with a total of 21 items for summer and even that was a stretch – of course, that’s things I know I will wear around the house vs later on when I return to work.
Beth T says
😂 Perhaps I should follow the advice in a post a while ago about the common wardrobe? Count groups of similar items as one I.e. cotton trousers, accent plain tees (count each colour as one), floral tops, shirts, long sleeves, short sleeves, dresses etc ! Then I might just get to 33 or 21 or even 10! 😉
Sandy b says
Megan, I am with you. I need to do some shopping!
Yee gads! 33 would be adding for some?!? Wow, I can’t imagine getting down past 45 or 50…so that statement left my mind totally frozen in amazement. No offense intended to those who are at that lower than 33 number…just shocked that it can be done. The laundry repeats would do me in on that number. I have found it necessary during the hot flash stage of life to change out everything…skin out…because wet garments are neither comfy nor attractive. So my numbers are trending quite high while I keep working out the excess that can go. Never ending process I think. Thanks for such an interesting bit of info Megan.
Sandy b says
Kari, I am retired and have been a minimalist for several years now. I do laundry twice a week, which is no bother for me at all. I know I would probably have more clothes if I still worked. Or if I could find things I like that actually fit.
Jackie Katz says
Looking at the final 33 wardrobe again, I would make a few tweaks. I find the 2 yellow tops too bright for the rest of the wardrobe. I also think 10 patterned tops is too many when you are limited to 20 tops. I would replace the yellow sweatshirt with the navy zippered sweatshirt and the golden floral shirt with another navy, blue or lilac top.
Amy in Indy says
Janice, your weekly wardrobe posts were hugely helpful. I combined the spring and summer templates and filled most (but not all) of the slots buying or thrifting anything I didn’t already own. I only purchased clothes in natural fabrics in navy and white, which made shopping SO MUCH EASIER.
It’s lovely to know that everything fits and goes together. With the basics covered, I’m keeping an eye out for a few pieces in blue-green as an accent. Even so, everything fits in the closet and dresser without requiring off-season storage. I love it!
I have been reviewing the weekly wardrobe lists before each season to make sure I have my basics covered and it’s so helpful! I love it when you cull a closet like this Janice. I am tempted to try 33 for the summer. I have so much going on and do not need decision fatigue. Thanks!
Reminds me of how I once saw an approach to eating on $x per day (low – like SNAP or TANF benefits here in the US- like $3/meal or $7/day) and the nutritionist/writer suggested expanding this idea to think for 21 meals/week or 7 days so at least you’re thinking in bulk, or overall. Then from there going down to per meal or per item, or per outfit in this case, is much easier and affordable than going from the more detailed to the more aggregate
Sally in St Paul says
This post was a revelation for me, but perhaps not in the way you’d expect. When I read “I think (but am by no means sure!) that there are 69 garments here… If all of these were hanging in 1 closet, I would be overwhelmed” and looked at the image, I did a double take because I don’t find this overwhelming at all! I mean, yes, of course I would organize items by type and color, but 69 items is nothing to me. I think I’m finally starting to understand why these capsules with small item count caps are popular! Hearing people talk about overwhelm, decision fatigue, etc., with closets, I always pictured a really huge closet that’s in absolute chaos in terms of colors, silhouettes, prints, sizes, styles, eras of clothing, etc. I’d never considered that it could set in at such a low number as 69 with such a relatively easy set of items (for example, all the bottoms are pants/shorts and all are solid neutrals).
It’s funny…I studied consumer behavior in grad school so I am very familiar with the literature on the paradox of choice, decision fatigue, etc., but it’s not something I experience with my own closet. I am not sure how large a wardrobe would have to be for me to be overwhelmed by it…but it would have to be *extremely* large…whereas other people find 33 items to be too much to deal with. It’s interesting how very different it can be for different people!
I agree with you. In theory, I find the idea of minimalism / capsule wardrobing intriguing, but in practice I have a ton of clothes. Probably 20+ summer dresses alone. Of course, I do still work in person full-time, but so does my son, and he manages just fine with 7 polos, 2 pairs of khakis, 2 pairs of jeans, three pairs of black shoes / boots, a rainjacket, and a leather jacket. (sigh)
I do love Janice’s work, though!
Sally in St Paul says
Yes, Sandi, so much of this work applies no matter what the size of one’s wardrobe!
Beth T says
I would love to have a separate all-in-one place closet – it’s a rare thing to find in an ordinary house in the UK. Some houses are so small that there is no room for storage. Often the smallest room might be taken over when the kids have left. I have a double wardrobe and two chests of drawers in my bedroom, a wardrobe in the small bedroom and a rail plus bags in the loft (for the non-seasonal clothes). Most men in my family get by with fewer clothes.
Sally in St Paul says
Beth T, that situation makes it hard to see what you have. I’m lucky to have a walk-in closet where I can store everything together.
Sally in St Paul says
I also meant to say: Yes to process posts! These are my favorite kind of post here against very stiff competition.
Renee D says
I just did this process (it’s like wardrobe sudoku) and it seems like SO. Many. Clothes! Even though I know I have more than that in my closets and drawers. definitely inspiring a bit of a purge…
“Wardribe Sudoku”: I like that.
I ordered the book. Thanks for the recommendation!
So excited, I just packed for a four day camping trip with a Whatever’s clean 13 worksheet. It worked perfectly! I added swimwear and one pair of jammies as an extra but I was thrilled with how it came out. Thanks for all the great worksheets you’ve made over the years Janice. I’m already filling in a 4 X 4 for a two week road trip in August.
I wear mostly dresses in summer so don’t know how this wardrobe project 333 would work for me
I just saw this blog post from Stacey that is a summer capsule in all dresses. https://radiantlydressed.com/summer-capsule-wardrobe/
Can we have Wildly – Extravagant Wednesdays, again? As mentioned in your post, on June 21, 2017. You haven’t made any comments, today. Hope you see this
Sigh…after reading more, I begin to wonder…are some women more inclined to have large wardrobes? I am truly trying to weed out so that everything left is great or at least good rather than fair in terms of pulling its weight in my closet. However the thought of having fewer items than what I have now…feels…off. There are certainly things left that do not work well with most other pieces, but I don’t know if I’m ready to release them. I know that there are probably 180 spring/summer pieces left after the last cull. I think that as much as I LOVE the minimal wardrobes shown in terms of how really practical they are, it may be somewhat difficult for me to achieve a number as low as the true minimalist. My nature tends to be that of a collector and preservationist. It may be that I need to think more in terms of culling to achieve a workable number of pieces so they all get used in their season at least once rather than shooting for a magic number that is considered minimalist. Something to ponder over my morning tea…
Morning. I like the idea of using the pieces frequently during the season. Many of my clothes span at least three seasons. I think someone else might have mentioned Stylebook. It’s been very helpful. Other than “special occasion” clothes and outerwear, if I haven’t worn it in a year, I’m probably not going to. If you track what you wear on their calendar the app will tell you exactly how many times you wore something, and when you last wore it. I just took 7 bags of winter/fall clothing down to Goodwill. I wait until the end of the season and then go through and donate what I haven’t worn – or maybe only wore once vs things I wore several times a month. I have items I wear once a week. No one seems to care or notice…..
Sally in St Paul says
Kari, as a woman with a large wardrobe, I get where you’re coming from. I think many people are attracted to minimal wardrobes because *for them* having a small number of items makes life easier and less stressful. Or because they have only small closets (or other practical reasons). Or because they enjoy a tight wardrobe aesthetically. But it’s not like having a small number is a good in and of itself, in my opinion…especially when it involves getting rid of clothing that you like, fits you well, and you enjoy wearing just to reach some arbitrary number. It’s not like there’s some great moral or ethical value in getting rid of clothes you already own. (Purchasing new clothes can be a different story if you are interested in sustainability, for example, but there’s nothing sustainable about getting rid of existing clothing.) And if you’re really not a minimalist (as I am really not), culling your wardrobe too far just sets you up to purchase a bunch of new things to replace the stuff you got rid of!
People are different…we have different priorities, different abilities, different lifestyles, different hobbies…and so of course we will have different wardrobes of different sizes and that’s really OK. I have definitely seen capsule wardrobe/minimalist wardrobe sites that get pretty preachy and take a morally superior stance, but I have never seen that from Janice and can’t remember seeing it in the comments either.
Various commenters collect the Wise Sayings of Janice, and the one that I have very close to the top of one of my wardrobe files is this one:
“There’s no rush to go shopping nor to purge things from your closet.” Which is a paraphrase from this excellent post: https://www.theviviennefiles.com/2018/06/cleaning-out-a-closet-full-of-impulse-purchases.html/
I think it makes a lot of sense to ponder over your morning tea how satisfied are you with your wardrobe as it is…with the effort/ease in putting together outfits, the variety that you have, the range of activities that you have covered, the amount of space it takes up…all those kinds of things. Are there things about your wardrobe you don’t know but you’d like to…such as which things are favorites, which are less enjoyed, which are boring basics that nevertheless make great outfits happen, which are statement pieces that you don’t really enjoy wearing, which look better on the hanger than they feel to wear, which ones you forget about but love when you wear them…etc.
As Janice points out, there is no need to jump into action right away! I think people often jump into action because that gives a *feeling* of progress but they are just setting themselves up to make the same mistakes over again. In fact, there may be no action necessary at all if it turns out you’re pretty satisfied by how things already are!
For what it’s worth…my own wardrobe goals have nothing to do with reducing item counts; I am currently focused on increasing the number of wears and reducing the cost per wear of the items I already have. Along with that, I am in full shop my closet mode and not buying more.
Holy mackerel – I’m flashing back to that very post tomorrow! We are under so much pressure to have wardrobes of a certain size – when did THIS happen? Just be responsible and thoughtful, and then do what makes you happy!
Sally in St. Paul,
Well thought ought insight and expression of it ! We are not clones of one another and our individual needs and preferences are just expressions of our uniqueness !
Helen Haig says
I loooove all you posts, Janice, but today’s process post was especially the right one at the right time. I have successfully lost 10 pounds over the last few months and expect to be down another size by the end of September. I didn’t want to buy lots of new clothes, so, using this post as my guide, I picked out blue and beige/white pieces that I already have (with a bit of sienna for accents) and pulled together clusters. I saw right away exactly what I was missing to cover all activities for the rest of summer, and bought just what I needed — though I don’t wear dresses or shorts due to swollen ankles so my wardrobe came to 27 pieces. It included three jackets and a cardigan for work-related meetings as needed. This strategically assembled wardrobe will cover all anticipated levels of weather and dressiness! I’m so excited, and am focusing next on accessories. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!! ❤❤❤
Suzanne S says
Janice, I know your request list is probably miles long but if I could add one more: some sort of dressy, evening capsule wardrobe for the summer months that would work for events such as weddings. I’m thinking of something like the Monet Water Lilies evening wardrobe but for hot summer months (southern US) including some options other than dresses/skirts. Any colors. Thank you!!!
I love all of Janice’s posts about Monet Water lilies. I was thinking about her posts on Monet early this morning. They were absolutely fabulous posts.
Gigi La says
I think project 333 includes Al items of clothing, shoes and accessories! You would have to go barefoot!
This is absolutely true, but I think Courtney is pretty flexible about how people participate…
Linda P says
A little late joining the discussion…out of town supporting a friend undergoing a biopsy…
Well! I have more than 69 pieces in my warm-weather wardrobe right now in my walk-in closet, which makes me feel rather spoiled (or rather thankful). In reviewing everyone’s comments, I would say I have all these clothes because I just plain like having a variety of colors to choose from. Maybe this comes from growing up and –not– having an extensive or colorful wardrobe as it was pretty dependent on what was on sale at the discount stores. As you may have heard me mention, I am also a stain magnet, and so I have multiples of basics in case the stain doesn’t wash out.
With that said, I mentally keep track of what I wear during my 6-month season of clothes. If there’s an ‘outlier’ I push myself to find a way to wear it. If it’s still an outlier then it gets donated.