After two consecutive posts about communication and relationships, I’m going to switch gears today, but I’ll definitely come back to that topic again soon. In one of my first essays on this blog, I shared my theme for the year, “essential,” and how I plan to ask myself a lot of hard questions this year about what truly adds value to my life and thus deserves a place in my home, experience, and psyche. I subsequently explored the role of information in my life and detailed the steps I’ve taken as a sort of “digital detox” with the technology I use. I’ve also shifted the way I plan my days in order to maximize efficacy over efficiency.
As we move into the second quarter of 2018, I already feel that my theme of “essential” has made a profound difference toward increasing my sense of calm and improving my quality of life. My stress level has decreased as I consume less information, eliminate “digital clutter” on my devices, and include fewer items to my to-do list. Now it’s time to turn back to a subject that I wrote about for four years on my previous blog, Recovering Shopaholic – my wardrobe.
Increasing Awareness of Wardrobe Issues
Wardrobe management won’t be a primary focus on this new blog (if you’re interested in that topic, check out the full archives of Recovering Shopaholic, as well as my specific posts in that category), but I will address it from time to time here. Although it’s not the source of constant struggle that it used to be for me, there’s still room for improvement. On the plus side, I no longer have a jam-packed closet, nor do I spend far too much time and attention on shopping and wardrobe management these days. However, I feel that I still have too many clothes, too much duplication, and perhaps not always the best pieces for my lifestyle.
Taking on challenges and experiments has always helped to increase my awareness about various areas of life. In regards to my wardrobe, I benefitted greatly from doing several stints of minimalist fashion challenge, Project 333. You can read all about those experiences HERE, as well as learn my top 8 lessons from doing that challenge. I highly recommend Project 333 as a tool for closet downsizing, style improvement, and overall wardrobe awareness, but I’m going to do something a bit different this time around.
My New Wardrobe Experiment
My new wardrobe experiment shares some common features with Project 333, but it’s actually more in line with another challenge I read about years ago called the “30 for 30 Remix.” The gist of the “30 for 30 Remix” is that one selects 30 wardrobe items – garments and shoes – to wear and remix for the next 30 days. Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t put my own spin on a challenge, so here’s what I’m going to do…
- Instead of selecting my 30 items before starting the challenge, I’m going to build my wardrobe capsule organically as the month progresses.
- Also, since my at-home wardrobe is such an important part of my life, I’m going to build two parallel capsules, one for “out and about” and one for being at home and going on walks or to the gym. I will include sleepwear items in my at-home capsule, in addition to lounge and workout wear.
- I’m going to list each item as I wear it and keep adding pieces to each capsule until I reach 30 items.
- I’m also going to note how often I wear each piece and keep an outfit journal for my “out and about” ensembles to help me better understand what is and isn’t working for me.
- Finally, since I only wear “out and about” clothes a few days each week, I’m going to extend the challenge beyond the month of April until I reach at least twenty outfits in that category. I may continue on for thirty outfits, but I’m not sure at this point. I’ll make that determination once I reach the twenty outfit mark.
I have cordoned off two sections in my closet to contain my two “30 for 30” capsules. This will help me with outfit creation and building in cohesiveness for the capsules.
How The Challenge Has Already Helped…
I started this challenge on April 1st, so I’m already almost a week in. I’ll do a full debrief after the experiment is over, but I can already share some insights into what I’ve already learned about my life, my wardrobe, and myself so far.
I already was aware that I spend more time in my at-home wardrobe than in “out and about” clothes, but I didn’t realize the degree to which this is true. Thus far, I have only worn two “out and about” outfits. The remaining four days have been spent in lounge wear, workout clothes, and sleepwear, so there’s a two-to-one ratio so far. My weeks vary and sometimes this ratio shifts, but it’s always the case that my at-home wardrobe predominates. In fact, there are already 21 items in my “build as you go” at-home wardrobe capsule, in contrast to only eight pieces in my “out and about” capsule. It won’t be long before my at-home capsule of 30 items is complete.
My life is very casual, yet I tend to dress up more than many others in my area when I go out, so there isn’t a lot of crossover between my two wardrobes. I do wear many of my casual tops both at home and out and about, however. This wasn’t always the case, but it’s something I’ve made a conscious effort to change over the last couple of years. I also wear many of these tops when I go on walks and sometimes to the gym as well. My bottom pieces tend to have virtually no crossover for reasons of comfort. I just don’t find most jeans and pants to be comfortable enough to sit around in all day long. In terms of shoes, I wear the same pair of hard-soled slippers every day when I’m at home and I have two pairs of sneakers that I wear for exercise.
In jotting down notes about my capsules thus far, I’ve noticed a few things. For one, many of my at-home items are becoming worn out and need to be replaced soon. I need to make sure to devote enough time and budget toward finding the right types of replacements for these frequently worn pieces. Also, I have a lot of duplication for certain types of items, such as jeans, black pants, black cardigans, and striped long- and short-sleeved tops.
While these are all staple items for me, it’s a bit overkill how many duplicates I own. I think that I’m drawn to these types of pieces when I shop, plus I’m always searching for the perfect version of them. As long as something is still wearable and I like it, however, I keep all of those pieces in my closet. Selecting my capsule items is forcing me to determine my favorites, but I suspect that I may change my mind a few times along the way. This will be a good exercise for me to better understand what makes one item work better for me than another.
If I really want to create an “essential” wardrobe, I need to cut down on the level of duplication I have or else I’ll always have a closet that’s on the large side. I think it’s okay to have more than one version for item types that I wear all the time, but perhaps five or more is too many and will lead to “splitting my wears.” Another side effect of this type of duplication is that many outfits end up feeling the same despite the fact that all of the pieces are being switched out regularly. When I shop, I need to consider whether or not an item in question will add versatility to my wardrobe or simply occupy a space that is already crowded. As much as I love black basics and striped items, I really don’t need more of either of them.
I am not a “trend chaser” and I’m not too concerned with how “of the moment” I look. I don’t want to appear as if I belong on a makeover show, but I also want to follow my own style muse and define a way of dressing that works for me. I also need to feel comfortable in what I’m wearing, both physically and emotionally. I tend to be conservative in my style and I prefer to be more modest than revealing in what I wear. I don’t like “fussy” items that need to be adjusted often throughout the day. I mostly dress in a classic manner, but I enjoy injecting a hint of edge into my outfits. This is often done by means of accessories, which I am not including among my 30 items but am tracking throughout the challenge to increase awareness of what I like and wear in that category.
I will always be a person who enjoys having variety in my closet. I don’t think I’ll ever have a truly minimalist wardrobe, and that’s okay. What I do want, however, is to cut down on wardrobe mistakes and closet waste, as I still have more “closet churn” than I’d like to have. I know that I’ll never be perfect in terms of buying only wardrobe “workhorses” and I understand that we all make mistakes, but I still make too many for my comfort level. It’s my hope that doing experiments such as this one will help me to better understand what I need, want, and wear so that I will continue to improve my shopping track record.
Conclusion and Your Thoughts
Since the weather is still cool where I live (it never gets truly cold here), this current challenge is addressing only about half of my closet. Therefore, I plan to do a second round later in the year after it warms up so that I can address my summer wardrobe as well. I’ll share my process and conclusions for that follow-on challenge when the time comes. Who knows, I may decide to change a few aspects of the experiment at that point to better suit my needs. It’s all about exploring what “essential” really means to me in terms of my wardrobe.
I would love for some of you to join me in this wardrobe experiment. Of course, just like I have done with Project 333 and the “30 for 30 Remix,” you’re welcome to adapt my process to suit your needs. If you wear “out and about” clothes virtually every day, you may only need to build one capsule. You may also choose to build your capsule in advance rather than as you go along. If you like the idea of doing this type of challenge seasonally, a pure version of Project 333 might be the best fit for you. I found that I got bored with wearing the same items for a full three months, but your mileage may vary. You may also have a completely different experiment in mind, if you opt to do one at all.
Whatever the case may be, I welcome your thoughts on this post. Here are a few questions to spur on your insights, but feel free to comment in any way you’d like.
- What is your definition of an “essential wardrobe”?
- What is your optimal closet size and how do you make that determination?
- Have you ever done a wardrobe challenge like Project 333 or the “30 for 30 Remix”? If so, what was that experience like for you?
- How many “multiples” within a given wardrobe category or style do you think are too many?
Thank you for reading! I’ll delve more into other aspects of “essential” in the coming weeks and months. If you have any suggestions for future topics, please share them below or via the Contact page. I have a reasonably long and eclectic list going already, but the more the merrier… I’m enjoying writing this new blog and I like the freedom to explore and reflect on a lot of different aspects of life. It was fun to dive back into the wardrobe world again today, but I’m glad not to be as limited to that realm as I once was.