On Project 333, part 1 (or, How Am I Going to Look Good This Winter?)

Project 333 is the well-dressed brainchild of Courtney Carver, whose blog Be More With Less provides a consistently thoughtful and compassionate take on living a life with less stuff and greater fulfilment. When I first read about Project 333 in the early fall, I’d missed the start date and wasn’t up for jumping in midway through the project. Plus, I wasn’t ready. And I was afraid. And I have so many nice clothes. And did I mention I wasn’t ready? Three months and several garbage bags of donations later, I felt ready to take it on, and so my first run at life with only 33 things to wear began on December 26, 2010.

For those of you who don’t know what it’s about, Project 333 is a challenge to wear nothing but 33 items of clothing – including all accessories and outerwear – for 3 whole months. Courtney’s rationale was as follows (or you can read the whole post here):

For me, the purpose of dressing with less is twofold. First and very simply, I want to live with less, and second, I have used clothing to express my creativity, and tell a story about who I am. Now, I am ready to tell the story myself. If my clothing is simple and more of a canvas, then I can shine instead of my patent leather shoes. (I don’t really wear patent leather shoes).

For me, the appeal of Project 333 is to simplify my wardrobe for three reasons:

1. to create more time in the morning to hang out with my kid before we go off to daycare and work,

2. to eliminate the confused, sleepy standing-in-front-of-closet-in-underwear time, and

3. to see what it feels like to invest much less energy in my clothing choices.

But I can’t deny that I am one of those women. I LOVE fashion and style, and unlike Ms. Carver, I favour the idea of using clothing as a way to express my creativity, to “tell a story about who I am.” From tattoos to mausoleums to teacups to horse blankets, humans cross-culturally demonstrate what I think of as the decorative impulse – the desire to embellish, to add layers of visual meaning to objects beyond their strictly utilitarian purpose. And I am no exception. Part of my occasional ambivalence about the minimalist movement (if it can be called that – more on that another day) is the implication made by some that decorative/pretty = unnecessary = constraining to one’s personal freedom. Au contraire, friends! I ask: why let a great vintage 1970s polyester dress stand in the way of your personal freedom? It’s really cheap (if you get it at the right place), environmentally impeccable (unless you light it on fire), and says you are hot and foxy! What could be bad?

Anyway. None of this is to say that we need closets full of shitty, cheaply-made clothes, impulse buys, and things we don’t wear. Project 333, ho!

I must say that so far, the project’s impact on my day to day life has been positive. I’ve got fewer choices in the morning – hence more time to play with the kid, less closet-staring-in-underwear time, more time freed up for breakfasty things. Check, check, check. But how does it feel to resist my impulse to embellish, to throw on something silly or fun or (god forbid!) slightly frivolous? When I first began pulling out the things I would need for my three months in minimalist clothing-land, I tried to balance my usual desire for cute/quirky/funny/sexy items with 1., the coldest part of winter in Toronto, and 2., my 4-day-a-week office job. I wanted to wear less stuff, yet still look cute. And like myself. Would it be possible?

The short answer, so far, is yes – but like many other participants, I’m leaning really heavily on black and solid colours. Plain, well-cut things. And sadly, mostly items that just don’t have the zap-POW! of the perfect ’70s polyester frock.

And how will I feel about this by the end of March? Stay tuned.

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About Lisa

Living with stuff since 1972. Writing about it since 2011.
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