Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Minimalism: the capsule wardrobe, part one

I have been debating a Project 333 for a while now.  You probably have heard of Project 333, but if not, it is a capsule wardrobe, or owning only 33 pieces of clothing worn on a regular basis for 3 months (changing every season). You can make your own rules or exceptions, but usually undergarments, workout clothes and accessories do not count in the 33 items, although you can include them if you want.

I am aware of my clothing proclivities, and I fall into the "wears 20% of the wardrobe 80% of the time" rule.  In the summertime, I have three pairs of cotton capris, five tshirts, five sundresses, and three light sweaters that I end up wearing most of the time.  I can do this.

First, lets discuss my fancy wardrobe vs. the clothes I wear everyday.  I know I've already discussed  my sensory issues on the blog, and how I can't stand wearing normal people clothing (anything not made of knit material.  I will not be confined.)

I have three separate wardrobes.  Wardrobe one is the stuff I wear everyday, like sundresses and sweatpants.  Obviously I am dressed more attractively in the summer than I am in the winter.

Wardrobe two contains attractive yet uncomfortable clothes (attending work/social obligations).  The nice/uncomfortable clothes range from business casual to cocktail dresses, and I mentally refer to them as the Stepford Wives clothing. They all go nicely with pearls.  I don't like wearing fancy uncomfortable clothes, but I can and I have to for a few hours at a time every so often, so I need to keep them around.  I put them all on one end of the closet, so I am not looking through them every day when getting dressed. (This wardrobe still has a gap--I need fancy shoes that don't hurt my feet, but I've been looking for this item for 20 years.)

Wardrobe three is workout clothes (yes, I have separate sweatpants for working out and the daily uniform).  I have seven workout short sleeve shirts, seven workout long sleeve shirts, three workout shorts, and four workout pants.

My efforts on creating a capsule wardrobe will be on wardrobe one--the daily sweatpants and sundresses.

I will give you a really big tip: start your capsule wardrobe journey in a season in which you have lots of clothes that you like.  Or start looking at your wardrobe for the following season early, if you know that you are missing basic items for that season.

I did the opposite.  I have tons of summer clothes and will have quite a few choices for my capsule wardrobe for the summer.  The difficulty for my summer wardrobe will be deciding which items to discard.

I have zero winter clothes that I like.  None.  Of course, I decided to start my capsule wardrobe in November.  I am lucky---California does not get severe winters, but December through March-ish I need long pants, long sleeves, close-toed shoes, and a light jacket.

Guess what items I don't own?  


In November, I went through everything in my winter wardrobe.  It wasn't a huge undertaking.  My winter wardrobe consisted of:

* four pairs of stained, worn-out cotton black sweatpants (my uniform the last 4 years)
* ten stained long sleeve crew neck cotton tshirts (I also own many aprons, but I am a klutz)
* one pair of jeans that I never wear but kept in the unlikely event I am required to wear jeans
* two ponte knit slacks (one black, one navy)
* 3 pristine button up dress shirts left over from my working days that I never ever wear
* one pair of black sneakers (sexy, I know)
* one pair oxblood penny loafers
* three heavy cotton short sleeve sweaters
* three heavy wool sweaters
* 5 pairs black athletic socks
* 3 pairs dress socks

I pulled everything out of the closet, then put back in what I wanted to keep.  Out of the list above, I kept my socks, sneakers, penny loafers, and two pairs of ponte knit pants. I packed the three heavy wool sweaters on the top shelf of my closet, even though I haven't worn them since moving to California, because I do visit family on the East Coast and it is possible that I will visit during cold weather, although I will certainly try to avoid it.

I donated everything that was stained, unattractive, didn't fit, or that I haven't worn in a year.  You'll notice that I kept only sneakers and socks and two pairs of dress slacks.  I donated everything else.

Then I came to my senses and went back to the donation bag and pulled out my four pairs of ugly black sweatpants, because hello, I need to not be naked until I can find some pants.  From long experience I know that it may take a year or five to find pants I like.

Thus began the Great Pants Challenge.  (Fodder for another post.)


This post is already far too long.  Next up, pictures of winter capsule wardrobe.


  1. What a great post! Love the idea, but have not tried it yet. Thanks for the push in that direction. I'm a person who also wears 20% of her wardrobe, while 80% just sits there. Looking forward to updates, as you find what you want/need.

    I have had excellent luck with QVC.com for pants that fit. The brands that work for me in pants are Susan Graver, Denim and Co., and George Simonton. I like these brands for tops as well, along with Liz Claiborne and Isaac Mizrahi. Liz and Isaac also make nice pants, but I haven't tried them. I'm a klutz doing housework, and I cant begin to count how many shirts I've ruined when I used a bleach product around the house. I kept 5 to use when I know I'm going to be cleaning with bleach, and the rest I saved to make T-shirt roses, which hasn't happened in 3 years. Probably need to deal with that.

    1. Does QVC have an easy return policy? I don't order that much online unless I have gone to a store and tried it on; clothes rarely seems to fit me.

    2. Yes! You have 30 days to decide if you are going to keep an item. If you don't want it, you can put it back in the packaging, fill out the return part of the form, tape the package shut, and place the return label on the outside of the package. You can also go to the US Post office website and set up a pick up, and your mailman will pick it up. The return form and return label are all part of the packing slip. When you shop on the QVC.com website, be sure to scroll down and click on the sizing for the item.

    3. I forgot about Quaker Factory's Dream Jeanne's on QVC. They look like denim jeans, but they are soft like sweat pants. And they come on tall, regular and "short." The originator's name was Jeanne, and that is why the pants are called Jeannes.. Jeanne was a plus sized woman, and she said there was nothing "petite" about her, so her pants would not come in "petite" length, they would come in "short."

  2. Ok, this is great. I've been drifting toward a capsule wardrobe (2 babies in 3 years, 1 part time job instead of 3), and am always interested in how others organize/distribute their item choices. One thought for winter- fleece leggings under a knit tunic/dress? This might allow a lot of overlap with summer clothes that you like. I was able to get a lot of use out of off-season clothes through pregnancy this way. Looking forward to more details!

    1. I love the look of leggings under dresses, and you would think it be such an easy way to extend a wardrobe...but I hate tight things around my waist (which is the reason behind my 40 year battle with jeans). I'm sure it would work for normal people :-)

    2. You might want to try these (when they go on sale because mygoodness). They're very non-binding. I bought a pair in November at 40% off. They fit then, and now, at 3 months pregnant, I can still wear them: http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/hue-ultra-wide-waistband-leggings/3177749?origin=coordinating-3177749-0-3-PP_3-Rich_Relevance_Recs_API-10002&recs_type=coordinating&recs_productId=3177749&recs_categoryId=0&recs_productOrder=3&recs_placementId=PP_3&recs_source=Rich_Relevance_Recs_API&recs_strategy=10002&recs_referringPageType=item_page

    3. it says they will stretch and to size down--have you found the need to size down with them?


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