52/52 Project Update

Mar 08

Way back in September I embarked on my 52/52 (52 items for 52 weeks) project. Debbie asked how it was going recently, which motivated me to post about it.

Here’s the short truth: I am bored.

I examined this during a writing session last week, and I realized that I’ve been wearing pretty much the same wardrobe since October 2010. There have been some additions/replacements, but dressing minimally, starting with Project 333, has been a habit for well over three years now. Don’t worry. I’m not rushing out to fill my closet. Instead, I’ll review what I’ve been wearing and push through the boredom.

Of the items on my original 52/52 list, there are several I haven’t worn at all or only once (I won’t include the summer-only clothes since, well, it hasn’t been summer since I started):

  • Eileen Fisher dress (I never bought it!)
  • White blouse (it’s still packed away from summer’s P333)
  • Black tank (I had planned to buy a second, but I don’t need it yet)
  • Black turtleneck (couldn’t decide on one to buy)
  • Chinoa boots (still need repair)

I have added a few things, allowed in my monthly swap rule–two sweaters given to me as Christmas gifts, and a gray dress with elbow-length sleeves.

Over the next week, while I’m on Spring Break, I’ll clean my closet and bureau and decide if this is really project 47/52 or if I want to add items into the mix.

Despite my recent boredom, I continue to prefer dressing with less. Eventually, I’d like to figure out an even smaller year-round wardrobe.

What have you been wearing that you love lately?

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52/52 Project

Sep 01

4:365

closet: January 2011

I mentioned my new dressing-with-less endeavor, the 52/52 Project back in April, and, at long last, today is my official start date!

“Wait a sec,” you might be saying, you sharp, sharp reader. “I know for a fact that 52 > 33. WTF, Beverly?”

You’re right. I’ve increased my wardrobe by 19 pieces (see how I really can do math?). The other 52 in the project title means 52 weeks. So instead of 33 items for 3 months, I’ll have 52 items for a year.

Let me share some of my self-made rules, with a tip of the hat to Project 333:

  • This is not about suffering. If an item gets shabby, I will replace it. If an item no longer fits and can’t be altered, I will replace it.
  • Work out clothes and undergarments are not included in my list. Work out clothes are not to be worn for anything other than working out.
  • Jewelry is lumped together as one item. I have culled my jewelry collection to the pieces that I will not get rid of. It’s a small, sentimental collection.
  • If I make it, I can wear it. I’m not a prolific seamstress or knitter, so this doesn’t add more than a few shawls, hats, and maybe a sweater or two to my wardrobe.
  • Outerwear does not count. I don’t have a lot of variety with coats, so I’m counting outerwear as one. I don’t buy these things in excess; to me they are necessities of living in New England. I’ve pared coats down to trench, jean, cloth, and short winter jacket.
  • I can exchange one item that is not working each month. My goal is to create the most versatile, elegant, small wardrobe possible so that this transforms from a project to a way of life.

Want to see my list? Of course you do!

  1. Grey sheath dress
  2. Gray pattern dress
  3. Eileen Fisher dress (I don’t own this, but I plan to order it)
  4. party dress (floral)
  5. Red spring/summer dress
  6. Gray spring/summer dress
  7. Liberty of London summer dress (white)
  8. Liberty of London summer dress (blue)
  9. Rita
  10. Gray skirt
  11. Jean skirt
  12. Denim wrap skirt
  13. party skirt (black)
  14. black tank top
  15. black tank top (need to purchase second one)
  16. black v-neck t-shirt
  17. white blouse
  18. red blouse
  19. denim shirt
  20. lace blouse
  21. Floral short-sleeved
  22. Floral button down short-sleeved
  23. black cardi
  24. cashmere cardi
  25. gray cardi
  26. Gray turtleneck
  27. Black cap-sleeved shirt
  28. Black long-sleeved shirt
  29. Black turtleneck (to be purchased)
  30. Black velvet blazer
  31. Camel cashmere capelet (wait until you see this! I bought it in France this summer-divine!)
  32. Jeans
  33. Green pants
  34. Black slacks
  35. Skinny jeans
  36. Black slim jeans
  37. Malibrans
  38. Pearl Harts
  39. Flip flops
  40. Ballet flats
  41. Chinoa boots (these need repair)
  42. Ugg sneakers
  43. Ugg boots
  44. Danskos (these may get swapped…I haven’t worn them often in the last year)
  45. Frye boots
  46. Spike sandals
  47. jewelry
  48. Orange Kate Spade handbags
  49. Leather bag purchased in Mirepoix, France
  50. MZ Wallace bag
  51. La Trop

I’m one item short, and in the next week or so as I pack away anything not on the list, I may find an item I don’t want to do without. What wouldn’t you want to do without in a minimal wardrobe?

If you’d like to join me or start Project 333 (you can start any time; there’s no reason to wait), but you’re feeling a little anxious about cutting down the wardrobe, I recommend you start with Courtney Carver’s excellent Micro-Course Dress with Less: Click here to view more details.* The course is a week-long, and it includes pdf worksheets, playlists to inspire you (Courtney’s a real Mix Master), and access to a private FaceBook group, where you’ll find lots of people ready to cheer for you and answer questions.

And if you have any questions about paring down your wardrobe, well, I’m here for you. I’d love to chat with you about your clothing list-sometimes it helps to hear that you really can get by with one pair of black pants!

*Please note: I am an affiliate for this program. I believe with all of my heart in Courtney’s work. Having done Project 333 for almost 2.5 years, I know her advice works!

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Four Years of Dressing with Less

Aug 27

The Story

August 9, 2010, just after noon. I must have stumbled across Courtney’s Minimalist Fashion Project post while eating lunch. I read it several times, thought about how I’d been longing to simplify my closet. I wanted a wardrobe in which everything fit all of me–my body, my style, my values.

I left a waffling comment:

I think I’m in. My fall / winter clothes are packed away, so I’ll have to go to the basement and see what I would want to keep for the project! I love this idea!

Boy, did I ever love it. October 1 will mark four years during which I’ve kept a minimalist closet. I’ve written about it for the Project 333 site, as well as here. I’ve persuaded IRL friends, Twitter pals,clients, and blog readers to give it a try. The initial reactions to the project are often the same: fascination, trepidation, sometimes a defensive “I don’t even wear 33 different items” (often recanted when the speaker goes back to her closet and counts), and sometimes “I don’t like the way my clothes look. How could I find 33 items I’d wear for three months?”

My response to all reactions is the same: give it a try. Just one round of it. Box up what you’re not wearing that round, and see what happens. You don’t have to give it all away, but I’m betting once you get hooked, you’ll give away a lot of those boxed clothes. And I’ll bet you’ll get a better sense of what does flatter you, and as you build your small wardrobe, you’ll be happier and happier with how you look each day.

Project 333 morphed into Project 52/52–ending on Sunday–and that morphed into Project Ethical Elegance.

I asked on Twitter and Facebook what folks want to know about dressing with a minimalish (yes, -ish!) wardrobe. Here are my responses to questions–please feel free to share your own experiences and questions in the comments.

Questions

How do you incorporate “outsiders” in your wardrobe–the occasional colors to brighten up the uniform? Since the 90s when I realized New Yorkers (most city women) wear black to hide dirt just as much as for its chic factor, I’ve been a devotee of black. During my early Project 333, I shifted to gray–I’m no longer a city dweller, and I wanted something ever-so-slightly off of the expected. Last year when I gave up dye and grew out my silver hair, I felt a strong need for color, and I turned to accessories for that bit of bright. Over the past four years, I’ve invested in an orange handbag, a chic pink scarf, a red DKNY cozy. I think hard about each accessory, try to imagine using it with every option in my closet. This spring, I got a ton of compliments when I carried my orange bag and wore m hot pink rain coat. Underneath? Gray sheath dress, fishnets, and gray Malibrans. Accessories are like the party-in-the-back part of a mullet!

Do you feel like you have enough options? I do! After almost four years, I’ve filled wardrobe gaps, found pieces that offer flexibility (check out the DKNY cozy linked above). Accessories (do I sound like a broken record?) help. I may only have two belts, but I have scarves that I also wear as belts. I may have gotten bored a few months ago, but it wasn’t the lack of options!

How do you keep from being stinky? This question really cracked me up, but I was assured it was serious. I rarely wear perfume, and I avoid smokers like the plague, so I don’t get too much environmental stink on my clothes. The first “term” of Project 333, my dryer was broken, and it was a chilly fall (read, not much outdoor clothesline action). I was pretty stingy about how often I washed clothes. I have plenty of undergarments to see me through a week without laundry, and unless I spill, I can wear my black pants, jeans, and skirts several times without washing. If you don’t have a washer/dryer at home, it’s easy enough to do a quick hand wash of that day’s clothes in the sink. Very few of my items require dry cleaning.  Most of the time, if I’m in a sweaty situation, I’m wearing my work out or cleaning clothes. Finally, I wear an apron at home, in the kitchen, when I’m working in my sketchbook, sometimes if I’m out in the yard with the dogs. That’s more to prevent stains than stink, I guess.

How do I deal with relatively inexpensive jewelry I don’t wear but was gifted to me? This can be a pickle, but I’ve used a few different approaches. First, I’ve shared with the folks who tend to buy me costume jewelry that I don’t need or want about my project before a gift-giving occasion. Another option is to see if you can create something you would love to wear out of the pieces. My talented bff Sara of Et Voila Design, for example, will take your unworn bijoux to create a stunning OOAK piece that will preserve the sweet intention behind the gift and let you enjoy it.

How do you deal with those deep-season items that are essential at the weather extremes, but not really used at any other time? I like to layer, which makes many of my warm weather pieces adaptable to cold weather. For instance, my Karina dresses are short-sleeved or sleeveless, making them perfect for summer. With a light cardi, they work in early fall and late spring. Add a heavier sweater, and I’m set for winter. Add tights or no, pull on boots or sandals: endlessly flexible. As far as heavy winter coats and boots? I streamline what I have, purchase with flexibility in mind, and accept that living in New England means I can’t do without cold-weather gear.

I get bored easily with my clothes, even now that I buy fairly nice clothes. Not designer, but well made clothes for work. Do you get bored? In nearly four years of dressing minimalishly, I’ve only gotten bored once, about halfway through 52/52. I love the challenge of styling what I have in new ways (and since tights don’t count, I’ve amused myself by building a small, funky collection). Accessories, selected with care and an eye to edginess, help a lot. Project 333 is great because it only lasts three months, and I don’t know about you, but I can do almost anything for three months. At the end of each three month session, I refined my closet. I thought about what I’d been missing, what would have made me even happier when I got dressed. And then I made those very specific purchases (I’m looking at you, hot pink pleated rain coat!).

How do I get my husband to throw out stuff he hasn’t worn since college? Courtney wrote a terrific post on how to live with family who aren’t participating in your changes. When Neal saw how easy my refined wardrobe made my life, how having an emptier closet brought me more ease, he made some changes to his own closet. 

What do you do when you look into the closet and you hate every single thing in there? I suck it up. It’s only happened one or two times, and it’s usually just my bad attitude that I have to smack back to its cave. By considering what makes me feel good (for me, that means well put together, like if Cary Grant suddenly stepped out of a movie and asked me to go for a drink, I wouldn’t be ashamed of how I look), what flatters me, and what is aesthetically pleasing to me, and investing in those pieces over time, I’ve made it easier to love my closet every day.

I still struggle with balancing a work vs weekend wardrobe…suggestions? Working as a professor makes this a little easier for me than if I worked in a company requiring a more corporate dress code. I don’t dress much differently on the weekends than I do for work. During the summer, I wear dresses or skirts and a tank top or t-shirt. I have work out and cleaning clothes that don’t count towards my 33 or 52 items. I love wearing my black slacks, a tank, and cardi to work with Fluevog Malibrans, and with my Ugg sneakers on the weekend. I have a few dresses that I’d never wear on the weekend, but most of the items, by changing out accessories, are great for running errands, visiting, or even hanging on my porch, writing or drawing. Honestly, I like feeling well put together when I pick up my CSA share!

Intrigued?

If you’d like to start Project 333 (you can start any time; there’s no reason to wait), but you’re feeling a little anxious about cutting down the wardrobe, I recommend you start with Courtney Carver’s excellent Micro-Course Dress with Less: Click here to view more details.* The course is a week-long, and it includes pdf worksheets, playlists to inspire you (Courtney’s a real Mix Master), and access to a private FaceBook group, where you’ll find lots of people ready to cheer for you and answer questions.

And if you have any questions about paring down your wardrobe, well, I’m here for you. I’d love to chat with you about your clothing list-sometimes it helps to hear that you really can get by with one pair of black pants!

Are you intrigued? What’s holding you back?

 *Please note: I am an affiliate for this program. I believe with all of my heart in Courtney’s work. Almost four years in, I know her advice works!

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Chanin-istas: Ethical Elegance

Aug 21

I’m about to embark on a new stitching and wardrobe adventure. If blame is to be laid, it sits at the feet of Gale and Kay. Vicki must take her share, too. The blog posts, the Tweets, the Instagram photos: call me powerless against the pretty to be found on the Internet.

Last week I had lunch with Gale (we were plotting our Fiber College Savvy Storytelling class. Join us!), and she brought her stitching with her.

I woke up the next morning from a dream. An Alabama Chanin dream. Such dreams are not to be denied.

I made my way to a magical site.

book I ordered a book. I ordered a kit.

I stalked my mail.

I soothed my anticipation by learning how to love my thread and all about Natalie Chanin’s generous open source sharing of her work.

Last night when I at last could sit down with my book and kit, I devoured the book. Devoured. I nodded as I read, as I learned more about the beliefs that gird Alabama Chanin. It all makes so much sense.

And I think I had a conversion.

I sent this out into Twitter: “I want to make and wear every garment in this book”.

And Kay, ever the voice of reason, wrote back “Nothing stopping you.”

She’s right, of course.

So my plan, my next step in my elegant minimalist wardrobe project is to move, piece by piece, toward a more ethical wardrobe. I feel good buying dresses from Karina (check out my guest Dresstination post!), a cozy tunic sweatshirt from Cal Patch, a work bag from Moop. These makers, Alabama Chanin, too, have convinced me that I can dress ethically and elegantly.

fabric

I’ve never hand-sewn a garment before. I’m starting my conversion into a Chanin-ista with a shawl. I’m planning a short skirt next, and then I’m going to work my way up to a dress.

With my 52/52 project coming to a close, I’m declaring myself a new one: Project Ethical Elegance. I’d love to hear about your sources for clothing that fits both bills.

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Want to Dress with Less?

Apr 08

I’ve written many times about Project 333‘s impact on my life. Here’s a recap:

  • I always feel stylish and put together. The clothes in my closet are in good repair, fit perfectly, and suit my style.
  • I save time. I don’t waffle about what to wear every day, and it doesn’t take long to maintain a small wardrobe.
  • I save money. I rarely purchase new clothes now where once I shopped as a hobby. When I do identify an item I’d like, I spend time considering how it will fit in my wardrobe, why I want it, and then I purchase a high-quality garment that I can wear for years.
  • I learned a lot about myself and my values.

A little later this year (mid-June), I will embark on a new minimalist fashion project: 52/52. I will narrow my year-round wardrobe to 52 items, which I will wear for the entire year. Linda is taking on the challenge, too.

If you’d like to join me and Linda, or start Project 333 (you can start any time; there’s no reason to wait), but you’re feeling a little anxious about cutting down the wardrobe, I recommend you start with Courtney Carver’s excellent Micro-Course Dress with Less: Click here to view more details.* The course is a week-long, and it includes pdf worksheets, playlists to inspire you (Courtney’s a real Mix Master), and access to a private FaceBook group, where you’ll find lots of people ready to cheer for you and answer questions.

And if you have any questions about paring down your wardrobe, well, I’m here for you. I’d love to chat with you about your clothing list-sometimes it helps to hear that you really can get by with one pair of black pants!

Are you intrigued? What’s holding you back?

 

*Please note: I am an affiliate for this program. I believe with all of my heart in Courtney’s work. Having done Project 333 for almost 2.5 years, I know her advice works!

Read More
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