Clothes, anxiety and Project 333


Project 333 is a minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months.

I decided to take part in Project 333 because I worry a lot about what I’m wearing. The project (and minimalist fashion in general) appeals to me because I have a wardrobe full of clothes but still feel as though I have nothing to wear. My dream is to have a streamlined closet where everything goes together and I feel good in all of it. A small but carefully selected collection of clothing promises to do that.

So at the end of September I went through all my clothes, whittling it down to my favourites until I was eventually left with just 33 items. And then I drew them, as you do. I’m really going to do it, I thought to myself, this is it for the next three months. I’ve marked my commitment in my sketchbook and shared it on instagram.

And so, a month in, how has it gone?

Well. The novelty of the challenge was enough to carry me through the first couple of weeks, and then I got a bit bored. I went to a conference in London and walked past an Urban Outfitters sale on the way back to the tube. I bought a dress. Not only did I buy the dress, I put a load on unrealistic expectations on the dress: it signifies the new me, I’m going to be a glamorous person in this dress, it’s going to form the whole look and feel of my new capsule wardrobe. I’ve been this in love with things I’ve bought in the past. That is, until I’m not, and I have to buy something else to get this feeling.

This week I read a new minimalism blog post which suggested asking the following question about your clothes, and giving them away if not.

Do I feel like a goddess/warrior/the most brilliant person in the room/the best version of me when I have it on?

Wow. I cannot imagine getting to a point where all my clothes make me feel that way. Does that happen to anybody? When does your wardrobe stop being a work in progress and is complete? When you never have to go shopping again? Can you ever get to a point where all your clothes make you feel like a goddess and you don’t get bored of any of them?

It’s beginning to dawn on me that I just might have been looking at this in completely the wrong way.

I suffer from generalised anxiety and appearance is one of the things that my worries fixate on: I’m wearing the wrong things, people are judging me, I look frumpy. This sometimes makes me so self-conscious I can barely concentrate on anything else. My pragmatists mind decides that I need new clothes and I need them now: I have been known to run out during my lunch break to buy a new outfit as an answer to feeling insecure all morning. I feelĀ trapped in a cycle of shopping binges that leave me broke and feeling even worse about myself. Changing rooms are not the place to be when you’re already feeling self conscious.

I think this might be a hang up from when I was wearing the “wrong” thing on non-school uniform days. But it’s been ten years since I left school and there is no longer such thing as the “wrong” clothes. So I get frustrated with myself because honestly, I need to grow up and take control over my relationship with my wardrobe.

And so every now and then I resolve to stop buying new clothes, or to take part in a round of Project 333. But these resolutions never last long because I’ve not tried to resolve the underlying reasons why I buy so many new clothes. I buy new clothes because I never feel right in what I’m wearing. But after countless style changes, wardrobe revamps, and spending more money than I care to think about on what I think might be the right clothes but turn out not to be, I think it’s time to conclude that the clothes themselves might not be the problem. Yep, it’s not them: it’s me.

I’m never going to feel like a goddess/warrior/the most brilliant person in the room wearing an item of clothing if I don’t feel like a goddess/warrior/the most brilliant person in the room when I’m not. Or to put it another way: we can’t expect our clothes to fix us.

So can you ever get to a point where all your clothes make you feel like a goddess and you don’t get bored on any of them? Yes, when feeling like a goddess has nothing to do with your clothes. It’s easy to type that but terrifying to comprehend. Forget feeling like a goddess, how the hell do I stop myself feeling that I want to hide under a duvet and never be seen by anyone again?

I don’t want to write too much about my anxiety when this post is supposed to be about clothes. But I’m part way through a course of CBT and it has been helpful in getting me to recognise some of my unhelpful thinking patterns, and how I can (sometimes) stop them influencing my emotions until I’m a big ball of panic about life. It is difficult though, because even though I know that nobody gives a shit or even really even notices what I’m wearing, this doesn’t stop me feeling self-conscious about it.

I do still think that a minimalist wardrobe might be useful, but just not be as much of the answer as I’d hoped. After all, I have to wear something, and having a small amount of high quality clothes that all suit me will make deciding what to wear less stressful. Knowing that the clothes are good and look okay on me will help me challenge my negative thinking patterns and avoid the oh-my-god-I’m-wearing-completely-the-wrong-thing-everyone-must-think-I’m-so-stupid spiral. But I still have questions: how do I know what suits me? How can I trust my judgement in a shop when I might suddenly decide something looks awful on me the first time I wear it out? How can I throw things out when past experience tells me I’ll really want to wear that thing I thought I hated once there’s no chance of being able to?

Is anyone a stylist? I think I might need some help.

2 thoughts on “Clothes, anxiety and Project 333

  1. Cary Fortin

    What a brilliant post Kate! I so admire everyone who embarks on a Project 333 challenge. Isn’t it amazing what you actually learn when you thought you were just dealing with clothes?

    Cheers to you and the work you’re doing!

    1. Kate Post author

      Thanks Cary. I guess if it was just about the clothes then it would be easy. Hopefully it will get easier!


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