Wonder Wardrobe and Project 333 One Year Later

Last January, I tried my hand at Project 333. This involves picking 33 items from your wardrobe and wearing just those items for 3 months. You also pack away the things you’re not wearing, so they’re not part of what you see when you look at your clothes. Honestly, I was terrified, but decided to do it for science, for you, dear reader. I wanted to have personal experience with it before attempting to engage with the idea for other clients. The first thing I noticed night one right after I put everything away and just had my 33 items in my closet?

The sleep. I got the deepest, most peaceful sleep.

Then the pandemic started.

I wrote about how weird it was to attempt a wardrobe experiment during lockdown, but decided to stick with it. That meant the first of April, July, October, and January, I’ve hauled everything out of my closet and drawers, taken a hard look at all of it, picked 33 items to wear for three months, and packed the rest away. So in the background of the virtual meetings, the cancellations, I’ve also been evaluating my entire wardrobe.

I was optimistic last April. The 33 items I picked out still had outfits for having meetings with people in person. I did continue to use coveralls for what in person work I still had, which simplified a lot of things for me and made it easy to strip down in the laundry room. Come July, the scale of things started to sink in. I kept some tops that usually got mileage during in person meetings, but they looked better in person and awful on Zoom, and conveyed a different vibe than what my client work was starting to become. By October, my work moved primarily online and my clothes were primarily about comfort.

Every quarter, looking through both what I wore and what I didn’t, it was amazing seeing how easy it was to work within the 33 items. If there’s ever a time to look through your closet and reevaluate what you wear, quarantine is a damn good one. But even with the reduced need for “professional” clothes (whatever that means), taking the time to dig into how I like to look and how to accomplish it concisely has given me much more confidence. It’s also brought my fast fashion habit to a screeching halt.

By January, I’ve whittled down the core collection of items I pick my 33 items from. I fully expect that selection to get cut more as time and more cycles pass. There are some items that I’m straight up wearing out, some will get mended or reinvented, others will be let go. And I’m being much more selective and stringent with my shopping. Because of quitting fast fashion, I’m looking harder at the things I do decide to buy. I’m looking for natural fabrics, and/or local designers and producers. The expectation is for long term use and wear. Not all at once, some things get put away for a season or two, which means being able to get excited to bring them back into rotation. But purchases carry more weight, and wind up being more expensive as a result, which gives additional weight. My consumption habits have changed from this.

In the previous post I mention Courtney Carver (for inspiring me to take the plunge and make those cuts) and Daria Andronescu (for helping me understand how to get the most out of a handful of items), and I still point to them as invaluable resources for figuring out how to distill a wardrobe into something essential that still reflects who you are. But now I’d add Aja Barber (for her sharp insight into the industrial part of fashion and sustainability) and Christine Platt (for her drive around personal authenticity in downsizing) to that mix as well. I’d also add Cora Harrington for her matter of fact breakdown of the labor and material (and the true cost of said labor and material) that goes into making things that go on your body.

If you asked me a year ago about this whole wardrobe experiment, I’d think it was driven by individual downsizing. Now? I’d say it’s less about getting rid of things and more about getting clear on what you’re comfortable in and focusing on that. I’d also add that it shines a light on a point I made a few months back, that the decision to not add anything to a landfill doesn’t come at the point of discard, it comes at the point of consumption, of purchase.

Now, I’d say try it. It’s easier than it looks, will teach you immensely about your own desires and tastes, frees up space in your closet, and frees up space in your head.

As I said before, stay safe, stay curious, stay brave, and stay fabulous.