Project 333 and Capsule Wardrobes in Action: Xandra



I used to be the girl who scoured sale racks on a weekly basis – and I had a closet of treasures to show for it. So when I decided to go to university across the pond, fitting my clothes into a single suitcase could have been a nightmare. Putting life and opportunities in perspective, the thought that “stuff” mattered so much to me seemed silly. How could I even think about clothing when I would soon have Europe at my doorstep?

I devised a strategy. My suitcase would not limit me. It would be a minimalist challenge. I had scrolled through sites like Project 333 with admiration for so long. The time had come for me to join in.

When I trimmed my collection down to my very favorites, the first thing I noticed was that I spent less time standing in front of the mirror. When I have about 33 items to work with, I get to know them pretty quickly. It helps a lot.

The thing is, though, I used to love that time in front of the mirror. I loved the challenge of putting together new and creative combinations. But I had a new challenge: to remain as funkily fashionable as ever, just with fewer items.

Minimalism forced me to make pieces more versatile. I had purchased a formal gold dress to wear to my college ball, and the plan was to wear it only once. But one day, it hit me that it was kind of a waste to save that one piece for rare occasions while I was wearing the rest of my wardrobe regularly. Limitation fostered creativity: I threw a sweater over top to dress it down, and that formal dress became a glamorous new skirt.

Pretty soon, I was rocking the capsule wardrobe I had, but there was still room for growth. I became more fashionably brave. While vintage shopping, I found an outrageous sparkly sweater, and well, because it was sparkly, I bought it. This is the kind of thing that used to hide at the back of my closet. It’s nice that it’s there, in the same way that it’s nice to have a copy of War and Peace on the bookshelf. Maybe I would get to it one day, but if I’m honest, probably not.

To really push our boundaries, to really shout proudly about who we are, sometimes we need a nudge of encouragement. For me that nudge was a lack of clothes. When my other sweater was in the laundry, I had no choice but to take the sparkly one with me to the library. The choice was sparkles or shivers. I chose sparkles.

The right clothes make me feel a hundred times better. Yes, that much. Wearing the sweater felt terrifying at first, but then wonderful. I’ve noticed also that wearing gloomy colors makes me feel gloomy, so I’ve gotten rid of most of those. Now I have no choice but to wear sunny colors.

With my current capsule collection, I am happier than I ever was with the mountains of options I used to own. Thanks to the urgency of minimalism, I wear sparkles with confidence. I have eliminated the excuse of dressing down when I feel down. It’s all chic all the time, with a little bit of wacky, and that makes me feel awesome.

Xandra Burns writes about her fabulously simple life at Fashionably Light. Her pay-what-you-want ebook,Fashionably Light: Becoming My Own Heroine is available for pre-order now. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. sandi says

    I’m totally on board with the concept and philosophy of Project 333…
    Just one question: so the 33 items or capsule wardrobe does not need to include things like ‘gardening clothes’ or ‘yoga clothes’, correct?

    Thanks for sharing the inspiration!

  2. says

    Sandi –

    Officially, “work-out/lounge” clothes are excluded from the 33 items, so long as they are strictly used to work-out/lounge. By extension, I wouldn’t think anything that is designed for kneeling in dirt would need to included in the 33 items so long as you don’t also wear it to work/the mall/dinner/etc (when it’s clean)…

    Traditionally, P333 includes jewelry, outerwear, tops, bottoms, shoes, etc. (Underwear and PJs are also excluded.) However, the point is simply that it’s restrictive enough to force you to examine your relationship to clothing and accessories, rather than consume mindlessly. The right number may be 20 things for some people, or 50 for another.

    I did 33 items (exclusive of accessories and outerwear, and the standard exclusions) over five 2-month periods, and found it to be VERY workable and enjoyable 90% of the time (and I surprised myself with how well limited wardrobes worked during the 10% where I had to stretch or be creative). The last 2-month period, I upped it to about 45-50 items (essentially, a couple of necessary repeats plus everything else that hand’t been worn in 10 months) and found that much more challenging and reminiscent of the “Full Closet/Nothing to Wear” problem I had before starting P333.

    Currently, I’m wearing “the best of the best” – my most versatile and cherished items from all six challenges. It’s around 95-100 items, and it’s harder than 33. I can be more fickle with my mood (that part is fun/good), but it’s overwhelming at times, or I go long enough between laundry that even the “favorites” that worked well (by comparison) become the “back-up” items. Also, my wardrobe includes clothing for all seasons right now, and while it’s 65 today, my sleeveless tops are still a little premature, so they are just sitting there.

    I started P333 with the explicit goal of weeding out things that don’t work. I will continue to play with capsule wardrobes of various sizes and themes until I feel like I get it right. I had originally hoped to get down to 200 total “daily/dress-wear” items, but now I think 100 is a better goal (inclusive of shoes and accessories). That will take a little more time, though.

    I can’t recommend it enough. It’s changed my relationship to my clothes (and by extension, other items in my home), and it’s not a “one and done” practice, but a piece of you, evolving. Cheers!

  3. says

    I’m just back from a month in Australia where I had to cover hot and cold weather, formal events and laid back beach style. I packed light. Everything I packed could go with everything else in any combination. But still I had too much! I came home and decimated my wardrobe once again. I now have a small fraction of the clothes I had when I started this journey, yet it still feels too much.

  4. Sam says

    I think this is a great idea and I just discovered the idea of the capsule wardrobe. I am a minimalist in every other respect of my life besides this one. I am trying to better at it. My problem is that I am really bad at making outfits, so I have tons of black pants (different materials, cuts, etc) and I have a lot of tops which are all different but pretty much the same material and companies. I think it would be great if someone posted some pictures of their capsule wardrobes. I look at them on pinterest, but they don’t seem like a woman’s real closet.

    Great idea, definitely going to be an avid reader of your site.

    • LaLunaUnita says

      Hi Sam,

      I definitely want to encourage you with regard to finding your capsule wardrobe groove! I haven’t yet started a P333 challenge for myself, but in general, when paring down my clothes in the past, I’ve found it beneficial to give up the concept of “needing” repeats in my closet. For example, I know that my jeans don’t get all that dirty in 2-3 days of wear, but I used to have three or four pairs of jeans to rotate through. Now I have one pair for daytime wear and one pair as workpants (for gardening, painting, whatever). I used to have lots of t-shirts in different colors, because I wanted a shirt to “match” (and I’m not that great at outfits either, so having all the colors of the rainbow to choose from seemed a good tactic). Match what, I don’t know. Now I have a much more monochromatic wardrobe, which pleases my eye and works for me, and I don’t miss all the “just in case” repeat shirts that were basically the same shirt in a different pattern/color. Oh, and I now find it easy to match. 😉 Others may find that they need more than just 2-3 colors; everyone is different.

      Pinterest has a lot of images of full outfits, which maybe could help you build some outfits that you like? You could then collect 5-6 preferred outfits, and hopefully the pieces would cross back and forth to give you variety, and then you have a limited but enjoyed wardrobe where everything is a favorite and nothing is a back-up.