Project 333 and Wonder Wardrobe

Bet you thought this post was going to be about the pandemic, huh? Nope. I’m talking about that everywhere else. Here, I want to get into fashion. At least for a minute.

So. Back in the last part of 2019, I stumbled across Project 333 by Courtney Carver. What’s that, you ask? Well, you pick 33 items from your closet, including shoes, outerwear, and accessories, and wear them and them only for three, count ’em, THREE months. I did something along those lines waaaay back when I started my blog and being an organizer, and it is an exercise in restraint. This time was different because the idea spans 3 months instead of 1, and it included everything: shoes, bags, coats, hats, is this possible? No, really. If you’ve seen my closet,  you may be wincing right now. I am a tremendous clothes horse.

When I picked my first 33 items back in late December, I had an interesting observation: I knew I had a lecture in my hometown in February, and I kept picking pieces for that trip that didn’t suit the rest of my wardrobe. Eventually it dawned on me I was picking outfits for that trip specifically to please my parents. (helloooo, introspection.) After becoming aware of that, I was able to take a deep breath and go through my choices again, picking things that would stand up to a midwinter trip to Chicago, but also still please me. Didn’t expect a wardrobe challenge to get me thinking about living my life to please myself vs someone else, but here we are.

Now having the 33, as I referred to it, didn’t include purpose driven clothes. I (used to) go to a gym. Lifting clothes don’t count towards the 33. I work on building a trailer at home. Coveralls and hard shoes don’t count towards the 33. Gardening and mud clothes? Nope, didn’t count. And this is where I turned an eye towards my work. When I’d go to a client’s home, I’d wear several different versions of what I considered a “uniform,” but none of them ever felt quite right. The pants and shirts combo just made me feel weary. Cleaning out my closet, I found a pair of Rosie the Riveter style coveralls in black heavy twill, and wheels started turning in my head. I decided to make coveralls and clogs my uniform when working with clients hands on. Suddenly, my brain had more space. I wasn’t trying to figure out what shirt and pants combo was sturdy enough to possibly be crawling in someone’s garage, but still presentable. I know Project 333 is all about your daily wardrobe, but I really, genuinely appreciate how it made me consider my work wardrobe and how I choose to show up in my practice.

Come late January, I started to get itchy. I liked all the individual items of clothing I picked, and was delighted with the coveralls solution for work. But I felt stuck when it came to putting together outfits from the 33. Enter Daria Andronescu and her Wonder Wardrobe method. Her thing is that when you have a small number of items in a wardrobe (ahem) it’s not enough that you like them all. The key to being able to make a small number of items truly work together is to also be aware of style and color when selecting pieces. This explains why I was so frustrated when I realized I couldn’t wear my favorite skirt with just any top I had in my wardrobe, it only really worked with 3 of them, so I wasn’t wearing it as much as originally planned. The pieces I picked were all things that were loved, durable, and comfortable, but I didn’t really consider how they looked together as a whole. My colors were all over the map, and the styles were casual all the way through without much in the way of interest. I spent February trying to nail down what I liked or didn’t like about various styles and combinations based strictly on what was in my closet, and come March, I was feeling confident about picking my next 33 items and looking forward to meeting Courtney Carver in person in San Francisco at Book Passage.

Dear readers, that did not happen.

As wariness started to creep up around the spread of COVID-19, I was again really grateful for adopting coveralls as my work uniform. I already worked with gloves, so I’d shuck out of everything in the laundry room as soon as I got home from a client and wash it all. Things started getting canceled. Slowly at first, then all at once. The trip to London to geek out with other death organizers at APDO? Nope. The multiple book signings I was looking forward to? Canceled. And I wasn’t even mad, it made perfect sense. But it gave me some extra time to ponder my closet.

I hauled out the boxes and bins of clothes I didn’t wear the previous 3 months. (Part of the challenge is that you box up or otherwise remove from sight any clothes and accessories you don’t wear.) When I opened the first box, I saw 3 things on top that made me ask out loud “When did I think I’d ever wear that?” Dug a little deeper in the box and was greeted with several more “Nope” items, all of which got pulled out and put in the donation pile. Sitting with my style in such a restricted manner made me very aware of clothes I wasn’t feeling. I started picking my 33 items for the next 3 months, and this time, I paid closer attention to the colors, the cuts, the fabrics, the flow and drape of things. This time, I feel like more of my wardrobe is interchangeable, not just versatile. I washed and packed away the winter items that got worn, put the items that didn’t get worn into purgatory, and looked at my new wardrobe. There aren’t really any major events on the horizon, but I picked things that would help me feel upbeat and comfortable.

My coveralls are on standby, but I’ve started doing more organizational coaching online, which seems to be the Thing To Do Right Now.

If you’re interested in Project 333 with Courtney Carver, you can learn more at the Project 333 website.

If you’re interested in Wonder Wardrobe with Daria Andronescu, you can learn more at the Wonder Wardrobe website.

If you’re interested in being coached by me around navigating major life transitions (like what’s going on right now), email me to set up a time.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay curious, stay brave, and stay fabulous.

-C