Guest post for the 333 Challenge Website
Like many people, I’ve always wanted to pull off that casual, sleek and pulled together look. Glamorous friends have offered advice on creating looks or proper accessorizing, but I could never will myself to do the work. My overstuffed closet felt oppressive; too many choices and possible combinations. It was much easier to fall back on the same reliable comfy yoga pants and plain black tank tops.
During one lazy afternoon of web surfing I came across the 333 challenge and a light went off in my mind. It played to my affinity for minimalism, my love of challenges, and my desire to improve my fashion sense or, at the very least, finally face my closet full of bad purchases.
I marked the start date on the calendar and started to work on my game plan.
I began preparing for this project 3 months in advance knowing it would take some effort and looked for a few simple steps that would make my 333 Challenge easier to handle.
After some over thinking a came to 5 reasonable steps to do it right; Minimize, Set your wardrobe staples, Choose a few flattering and versatile feature pieces, Play dress up, Fill in the gaps.
Minimize – Clean out your closet and drawers
Going through a massive closet of clothing and picking only 33 items to be faithful to for 3 months is overwhelming. That’s why I decided it would be best to minimize first. I figured it would put me in the right mind set, clear away the distracting visual and mental clutter and give me a better sense of what I had to work with.
I was further convinced of the minimize step by Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, in which she mentions a paradox. Although she had fewer actual items after cleaning out her closet, and giving away 3 giant bags of clothing, it felt as if she had more since all the remaining items were things she would actually wear.
Here’s how to do it
Get 2 bags and a couple boxes. One bag will be for throw aways and one for give aways. The boxes are for things you want to keep but won’t wear, for example, seasonal items or things kept for sentimental value alone. Give yourself a good day to go over every sweater and gown, then go over it again.
There are lots of hanging organizers and other tools created to help you clean your closet, but I found that good music and a good mood were the most useful.
Tip: Don’t know were to start? Try taking out all the frayed, ripped or otherwise worn out items and toss them first, or if they hold sentimental value put them in storage. Items with their original tags or rarely worn are next up for scrutiny, if you’ve never worn it you probably never will. By this point you should be on a roll, just keep up the momentum and you’ll be done in no time.
Staples – Get set up with the fashion basics
Fashion staples are the items you build your wardrobe around. Although these items will be slightly different for everyone (for example, I work from home so I don’t need much in the way of office clothes) there are a few pieces most experts recommend.
From my research combing over fashion magazines, style guides and the advice of well dressed friends, the following are the most recommended fashion staples.
- Cashmere / knit sweater
- White button-up
- Black / white camisole
- Fitted T-shirt
- A-line skirt
- Black knee high day-to-night skirt
- Fitting jeans
- Versatile black dress pants
- Black leggings – not to be worn as pants but under dresses and skirts
- Sophisticated belt
- Wide belt
- Versatile fitted blazer
- LBD – little back dress
- Sun dress
Keep in mind that these items should fit your body shape, be comfortable and well built. They will get the most wear so don’t skimp on quality.
Tip: Try to identifying what activities you will be doing in your clothes. This will make it much easier to identify which staples fit best for you. Whether it’s business lunches or art galas your lifestyle should impact your clothing choices.
Choose a few feature pieces – Setting your style
The staples only make up the base of your wardrobe, you’ll still need to choose some feature pieces to the add personality and flare that makes fashion fun. These can be accessories, scarves, apparel, anything you like.
Choosing more versatile, flattering pieces will serve better for this project. I combed through my wardrobe and found a few items that reflected my personality and fit really well and make a mental note of these before starting on the next step.
Play dress up – Creating different look
I recommend you employ the help of an honest fashion wise friend who will tell you which things don’t fit right or should return to their proper era. If you decide to do this step on your own try to be honest with yourself; either way you will need a full length mirror and a good sense of humor.
Put on an outfit as if you are on your way out the door then ask yourself “is this the look I’m after?” Consider the colors, do they match? Consider the pattern, are there too many? Try swapping out items, adding accessories and, most importantly, have fun with it.
Here are some hard and fast rules I used to get started:
- White and black go with everything, except too much of themselves, for example, black sweater, black leggings, black shoes, back belt is too much black, but make the leggings and belt another color and it’s classy.
- Patterned items are best worn with solid ones and vice versa, for example, try wearing a patterned skirt with a solid colored shirt, preferably a color present in the pattern.
- Tight items are best worn with loose ones and vice versa, for example, what looks better? A tight tee and leggings? or a tight tee and an a-line skirt?
- Trying to match colors that are a bit off is no good, for example, a bright red and a slightly more washed our red or a slightly yellowish green and a slightly bluish green. Fashion should look deliberate, either the colors are exactly the same or they are different and complimentary.
- Avoid visible panty line by wearing boy short underwear or a thong under tighter bottoms.
- Silver or Gold, avoid mixing. There are ways to mix silver and gold jewelry in one look, but it required a far better eye than I have so I decided to stick to silver for the 33 challenge. How should you decide? In a nut shell, gold works better with warm colors, silver with cold or brighter colors.
Working out these different combinations now will help you get a good idea of the types of looks you can build out of your wardrobe which will save you the 30 minutes of trying different things everyday that makes most of us decide not bother at all. You’ll know what works and you’ll be able to spot any holes in you wardrobe for the next step.
Fill in the Gaps
After all these steps you might notice there are a few missing things, for example, when I finished the final outfits and had decided to keep my favorite patterned pants in circulation, I thought it would be nice to have an orange shirt to wear with it to bring out the orange in the pattern.
Make of list of the remaining items you need and remember to stay focused. It’s easy to get distracted and end up seduced into buying a dress and 2 shirts that won’t fit into your 33 items and will go unworn for the next 3 months.
In the three months it took me to get ready for this challenge I went through each of these steps a few times. Now when I look into my single drawer of expertly folded clothes I feel proud and excited, more organized and even a little more successful.
My 333 List
- Shirt – Spaghetti Strap Top, Black
- Shirt – Spaghetti Strap Top, Orange
- Shirt – Tank Top, White
- Shirt – Long Sleeve Knit Top, Horizontal Striped Black and Grey
- Shirt – Solid Red Fitted T-shirt
- Shirt – Patterned Yellow Fitted T-shirt
- Shirt – Patterned Black & White T-shirt
- Shirt – White Buttoned Down Top
- Pants – Fitted Dark Jeans
- Pants – Black Dress Pants
- Pants – Black & Orange Flare Bottom
- Pants – Black and Blue Flare Bottom
- Skirt – Long, Black
- Skirt – Short, Red Striped
- Skirt – Medium length A-line, Grey
- Dress – Pink and White Sun
- Dress – Little, Black
- Shoes – Brown Moccasin Stye Winter Boots
- Shoes – Walking Shoes, Grey
- Shoes – Heeled Boots
- Long Brown Coat
- Gray Wrap Sweater
- Sun Glasses
- Belt – Wide, Black
- Hip Sack – Blue
- Bag – Messenger Style, Orange
- Shell – White Lace
- Shrug – Ballet Style, Black
- Knit Hat
- Jewelry – Earrings Dangling & Feathered
- Jewelry – Red Circle Necklace
- Jewelry – Amber Pendant Necklace