Thursday, 27 June 2013

Project 333 - my Summer 33

For any new readers, Project 333 involves limiting yourself to a wardrobe of 33 items to last 3 months. Click on the link above if you are interested in finding out more. Some of you may feel that this is a large wardrobe, whilst others may be exclaiming "Only 33!" To be honest, when I first started out on Project 333, I was worried that I would find 33 items a bit limiting, so although I included my bags and shoes, I excluded scarves and jewellery. After the first season, I decided to exclude all accessories to give me a bit more freedom. The really dedicated followers of Project 333 will include shoes, scarves, handbags and jewellery, but I have decided that this would be a step too far for me at this early stage of dressing with less!

Looking back, having completed three seasons of Project 333, I can honestly say that though I have found it a bit challenging at times, I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It has encouraged my creativity,  in trying to make the most of a more limited wardrobe. It has also made me very aware of how much money I have spent in the past on clothes that never really suited me, that didn't fit me very well or that were fashionable and clearly not meant to last. Project 333 encourages you to be ruthless when going through your wardrobe and only keep the clothes that you really love, that fit you properly and that flatter you. I've lost count of the number of bags of clothing that have gone to the recycling bins over the last nine months!

So here is my first Summer 33, with lots of colourful tops and slightly more restrained colours for my skirts and trousers, which gives them more flexibility when creating a variety of outfits.

There are sixteen tops above, with a mixture of sleeveless, short-sleeved and lightweight long-sleeved tops. By wearing them with different trousers or skirts from the selection below, plus playing with a variety of accessories, I can create numerous outfits. The two longer pairs of trousers are linen, the trousers on the right are cropped and they are all perfect for my mainly casual lifestyle. The four skirts below them have the potential to create smarter outfits or can be dressed up or down to suit.


I have several evening events lined up over the next couple of months, so I have included two short dresses and one longer dress. I can also wear them during the daytime if any other smart occasions occur.

My winter coats and heavy jackets have been packed away, however the forecast is for a cooler summer than in previous years so I have included some cardigans and light jackets. Summer may have officially arrived here in Spain, but I needed to wear a jacket last night and a cardigan this morning.  If the forecasters are wrong, I may pack away some of these outer garments and replace them with more bright tops!

Although the idea with Project 333 is to select your 33 items to last the whole season, there is a certain amount of flexibility that allows you to swap items if, for example, the weather suddenly changes. I see Project 333 as an exercise in awareness, not deprivation. You are allowed to buy new clothes but are encouraged to throw something old out when you do so. Even though I may bend the rules a bit, I have still found a huge improvement in the amount of clothes in my wardrobe that I now actually wear since starting this challenge. Not only that, there is plenty of room in my wardrobe so that I can see all of my clothes, which is a major benefit. If you aren't already taking part in Project 333, why not give it a go? You may surprise yourself by enjoying it, just like I did! Please come back here to leave your comments, any tips from your own experiences or to ask for advice.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

At last - the final travel wardrobe!

Here is my final travel wardrobe - well, almost! I had my clothes neatly laid out on the bed in the spare room, ready to pack, and took the photo of them that you can see below. I then decided that I only needed one cardigan as I had several long-sleeved tops so I removed the light one. I also realised that the stone trousers would show the dirt too easily so replaced them with a navy striped pair.  I had already decided to take my navy trench-coat, which I carried onto the plane, ready to put it on as soon as we landed in Newcastle. Yes, the forecast for northern England and Scotland was a lot cooler than here in Spain, so I was planning to wear several layers to keep warm.

I eventually packed eight tops, one cardigan and four bottoms to cover my twelve day holiday. I had the luxury of a case in the hold, as I also had to pack the dress and jacket that I was going to wear to my niece's wedding. The next photo shows my wedding outfit, which wasn't exactly practical for a sight-seeing holiday in Scotland! As you can see it was a lovely day, so we decided to stroll beside the deer park before the evening festivities began.

The white shoes that I wore for the wedding were, not surprisingly, only worn for the one day.  I had trainers for going on long walks, a pair of green shoes that I wore in the day-time when we were sight-seeing and some navy shoes to wear when we went out for dinner at night. I also packed a lightweight (and crush-proof!) jacket that was destined to be my top layer - and several scarves, which helped to brighten up my navy trench-coat when I wore it in the evening.

If I had just been going on holiday, and hadn't had a family wedding to attend, I would probably have travelled lighter. Having said that, as we stayed in five different hotels and B&Bs, I only managed to wash a couple of tops and underwear in one location, drying them on a radiator in our hotel when we went out for dinner. 

How many clothes do you take on holiday? Do you wear them all (I did!) and do they cover all eventualities? The one item that I wore the most on my holiday was my pair of navy jeans - now there's a surprise!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Do clothes maketh the woman?

Many years ago when I worked in Human Resources, interviewers were warned not to judge applicants by their appearance. As an obvious example, if a young blonde woman wearing a mini-skirt walked into the interview room, it would be very wrong to assume that she was a bimbo: chances are that she's better qualified than the interviewer! I remember one place that I worked at where our receptionist used to give us the low-down on candidates: "Dirty finger nails - a bit scruffy looking." "Stuck up. Totally ignored me." It was hard not to be biased against certain applicants after her comments!

Candidates too are warned to wear appropriate clothes: "If you are going for an interview at a finance company, then dress conservatively" is the standard advice. I guess that I've always been a slight rebel at heart, as I have always been of the opinion that if a company didn't like the way I looked, then it wasn't a company that I wanted to work for. Having said that, I kept denims for out of office wear unless it was a dress-down Friday.

Now that I've retired I don't have to worry about dressing appropriately for work, however I think I am even more aware about what messages my appearance may be sending to people, although the rebel in me doesn't really worry about it! Women over 60 used to be told that they shouldn't wear jeans, to cover their knees, and to avoid the latest fashion trends like the plague. The one terrible fate that we wanted to avoid was appearing as mutton dressed as lamb! Our grandmothers and great aunts seemed to spend their time in the kitchen with their pinnies on and, to our younger selves, seemed positively ancient. Does the picture below look familiar?

Many of our grandmothers didn't go out to work, were practically chained to the kitchen sink and dressed dowdily, whereas my generation of women expects to have a career outside the home, to be treated as equals and we enjoy wearing more flattering clothes.

The good news is that there are lots of older role models out there: Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep and Susan Sarandon immediately spring to mind. However those of us who haven't been born with their natural beauty and talent, and who definitely don't have a film star's budget, have also learnt to make the most of our assets.

Being interested in fashion, I am fully aware of the styles and colours that many other older women wear. They look stylish in a low-key and age appropriate way, which used to be my aim too. Their wardrobes contain black, navy, grey or other neutrals, all beautifully matched and stylish. However over the last year or so I have embraced my inner rebel and started wearing more colourful outfits. Why? Because they make me feel lighter, happier and because I think that they flatter me more. What do you think?