This site has limited support for your browser. We recommend switching to Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.

🌸NEW! Your perfect Breathable basics SHOP NOW

Congratulations! Your order qualifies for free shipping You are $225 USD away from free shipping.
The 3 x 3 Grid Method: Maximizing your Minimal Wardrobe

The 3 x 3 Grid Method: Maximizing your Minimal Wardrobe

If you began the new year with a freshly curated capsule wardrobe but now feel stifled with your outfit options or made it a goal to become a carry-on only traveler, the 3 x 3 grid method is a helpful styling tool to help maximize a minimal wardrobe. 

Why the 3 x 3 Grid Method?

Also called the Sudoku method, the 3 x 3 grid method is used to change the way you dress (or pack!) by optimizing your outfit possibilities with a little creative mixing and matching. This process not only provides freedom in its simplicity but is also valuable for uncovering the versatility of your closet. Plus-if you are using this method to help you pack, now you will have more time for the important stuff, like sampling all  the gelato flavours at the ice cream shop beside your hotel. 

How Does It Work?

This approach first consists of picking three tops, three bottoms and three layering pieces (cardigans, blazers, coats, etc). Once you’ve made your selection, lay the items out into a 3 x 3 grid following this specific order. In the first row from left to right, place a top, a bottom and a layer. In the second row, a bottom, a layer and a top. In the final row, a layer, a top and a bottom. 

Now take a look at the graphic below. From this grid layout, you’re instantly provided with 27 new outfits. Follow along the dotted lines. Whether it's across the middle row or down the third column or even the corners of the grid-that’s a whole  outfit!

Tips on Choosing your 9 Pieces

The first step is narrowing down your initial 9 pieces and while it may seem like a daunting task, the following tips are here to help you get started. 

  1. Colour-Depending on your personal style, take into consideration how the colours of the pieces you pick go together, or don’t. If you’re a tonal dresser, choose hues that blend seamlessly. Think white with cream and tan. Conversely if you’re a dabbler in colour theory, play with tones that contrast each other like yellow and purple.
  2. Texture-Combining different textures is a simple way of adding dynamism to an outfit. When curating your items, don’t forget that different fabrics can create different vibes. For instance, leather instantly rocks up a look while silk offers a refined elegance. 
  3. Volume-Another avenue for putting together an interesting outfit is through volume and the visual movement each piece creates when juxtaposed with each other. Imagine billowing sleeves balanced by sleek trousers, or a slim-fitting shirt contrasted by an oversized coat. Pulling together looks that vary with shape and fit creates a fun visual dynamic. 
  4. Versatility-Although you are limited to 9 pieces, think about ways that you can style each piece. This is especially important to note if you are using this method for packing. For example a sweater can be worn regularly, thrown over the shoulder for elevated ease, or tied around the waist to flatter your curves. By evaluating the versatility of each item, you will realize that the 3 x 3 grid method gives you more than just 27 outfits. 
  5. Occasion-It’s important to keep in mind your lifestyle when picking your pieces. If you’re using the grid method to become a carry-on only traveller, take into account your destination, the weather and the activities you have planned. If you’re adopting this strategy to streamline your life while juggling work and personal commitments, curate items that effortlessly transition your 9-5 to your 5-9. 
  6. Personal Touch-While accessories are technically not part of the initial 9 items, don’t forget that adding jewelry, sunglasses or even a bold red lip, can instantly add a different dimension to your look. 

Edit, Edit, Edit

Now that you’ve honed your selection, the hardest part is over. Lay all your pieces out into the 3 x 3 grid, see how they play together and try on all the outfit options. If it’s not how you imagined, replace a piece with an alternative silhouette or colour. 

Getting Started

If you are still stuck on how to get started, our Business Trip Kit (psst it's currently 25% off!) will provide you with just the right amount of inspiration, and perhaps even help you fill in some wardrobe gaps. With versatility at its core, don’t be surprised if you walk away with more than just 27 outfit options.


Model wears The Effortless Merino Turtleneck in Light Heathered Grey, The BeyondSoft Scuba Jacket-Dress in Black and The BeyondSoft Scuba A-Line Skirt in Saffron.

What Next?

Once you dive into the 3 x 3 grid method to help pack or make the most out of your capsule wardrobe, you will find that its use goes beyond just assembling outfits. With the initial 9 piece selection, you are simultaneously completing an audit of your wardrobe by uncovering what pairs well together, what you are missing, and what you may have a little too much of. With this impromptu audit, you are also honing your personal style, exercising creativity to cultivate and edit your grid. As you emerge from this process, the newfound simplicity in your style grants you the time energy and freedom to effortlessly navigate your day and fully relish in your travel experiences.   


Sudoku vs. 4 x 4: Choosing a Capsule Type

How to Put Together a Style Sudoku Capsule Wardrobe

Wardrobe Sudoku: Your Handmade Wardrobe + Puzzle Fun


All photos are copyright Encircled. Contact us for permissions/rights to re-use or repost images

Leave a comment


Congratulations! Your order qualifies for free shipping You are $225 USD away from free shipping.
No more products available for purchase