The ten item wardrobe.

The ten item wardrobe.

I’ve been toying with the idea of trying a daily uniform, and last week I happened upon a combination that will work great for summer.

While I was still in the process of ordering an extra shirt or two, my friend Crystal posted about the ten-item wardrobe. The concept is from Jennifer L. Scott, borrowed from the French, and laid out in her book Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris and in this great TEDx talk.

When Scott was an exchange student in Paris, she noticed that stylish French women dress differently than their American counterparts. (The tiny closet space was her first clue.) They wore the same high-quality clothes in heavy rotation, and they looked great.

Not only did they look great, but getting ready in the morning was a breeze: the less choice you have, the easier it is to get dressed. A closet full of junk clothes won’t help you decide what to wear in the morning.

Some people might think this topic is superficial, but we all have to get dressed. If you put some thought and organization into this daily task, you can completely change your life.

STEP 1: TAKE OUT ALL THE CLOTHES.
Go through every single piece in your closet and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does this fit me?
  2. Is this age-appropriate?
  3. Is this my true style?
  4. Do I love this?
  5. Do I wear this?

If a piece doesn’t pass the test, get rid of it.

STEP 2: STORE THE CLOTHES THAT AREN’T SEASONALLY APPROPRIATE.
If you can’t wear that wool sweater or sundress this month, it’s visual clutter. Put off-season clothing out of sight.

STEP 3: BEGIN TO BUILD YOUR CORE 10 ITEMS WITH WHAT YOU HAVE LEFT.
Choose versatile, well-made clothes that you can wear in constant rotation.

Scott’s sample women’s wardrobe contains 1 pair of slacks, 2 pairs of jeans, 3 dresses, and 4 blouses.

STEP 4: ADD THE EXTRAS.
Round out your wardrobe with t-shirts, sweaters, outerwear, special occasion wear, and accessories. These items don’t count towards your ten pieces.

STEP 5: KEEP THE CAPSULE WARDROBE MINDSET.
The fashion police won’t arrest you if you have more than 10 core pieces. It’s okay to end up with 15, or 20: your true goal is to get your wardrobe down to a reasonable size. If you push it too far, you’ll lose the benefits of the ten-piece wardrobe.

When your ten-piece wardrobe is in place, you’ll be able to pick out what to wear with what you have. You’ll simplify your mornings and hone in on your true style. You won’t be prone to impulse buys, because you’ll have what you need (and you’ll know you have it).

(This concept is not that different from the capsule wardrobe, but the ten-item wardrobe doesn’t overwhelm me like the mix-and-match possibilities of the capsule wardrobes do. If you’re ready to simplify your wardrobe, pick whichever concept makes sense to you and run with it.)

Books mentioned in this post: 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestEmail this to someonePrint this page

64 comments

  1. kathleen says:

    I am so encouraged after reading this post and comments! I had already begun to simplify my “wardrobe” (I use *that* term loosely!). But I have lots of clothes from many years ago, because I’ve found they still fulfill my love of the Bohemian look, or have even come back in style!
    In spite of this, I’ve now filled several large donation bags, and plan that much more will go. My goal is to keep just 10 items ~ whether it’s following Madame Chic’s 10-piece, or the capsule wardrobe ~ and make my life much simpler … !
    Thank you for the inspiration.55

  2. Molly says:

    I have a financial services practice which demands business formal and business semi-formal wear most days of the week.
    And then I have two young kids at home which requires casual but cute wear.
    I’m thinking I probably need a capsule wardrobe for each role?

  3. Jenny says:

    Great post, Anne! I have been enjoying the capsule wardrobe for at least five years now, and I’ll never go back! I am currently doing a personal style challenge where I thrift my capsule wardrobe for 12 months. It has added another level to the “challenge” of the capsule wardrobe, but I am finding it to be super liberating, as well. And actually, I just wrote a post about why I don’t think personal style is superficial, if you care to read it (Stacy London retweeted it!!! :-O): http://www.jenericgeneration.com/style/why-is-personal-style-important/

  4. Beth says:

    Just found this via Pinterest and love the idea. I will say my biggest challenge is to be in the beginning phase- where I clear things out and wait to buy *the* pieces I love. It’s like growing out a bad hair cut…takes time and patience. Would love suggestions on that…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.