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.

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.

If you can’t wear that wool sweater or sundress this month, it’s visual clutter. Put off-season clothing out of sight.

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.

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

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: 


10 item wardrobe

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


  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?

    • tammy says:

      Hi Molly, I had the same issue. What I did is I have 2 suits (Jacket/pants) one in black one in tan. I have 1 button down and 3 t shirts in white, black, and navy. I have 1 pair of dark jeans and 1 white jean. I wore my t’s with my jeans on casual days and t’s under my suits with a scarf for color and formality. I noticed that when I was home with my kids I was prone to sweats so I got rid of them all and after watching the aforementioned “Scott” on youtube discussing “always dress presentable” I went to a thrift store and bought 7 (days of the week) printed dresses in stretchy comfy fabric for $3 each to lounge around in and clean. I don’t worry about them getting messed and my investment was so small. They each resemble a wrap dress or the maxi dresses.

  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):

  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…

  5. Jan Stone says:

    10 items? I might be able to manage with that for a one week trip…but would soon grow very bored. For me there would be a lot of minimising just to get down to 100 items….or ten in each category….which would be something like
    10 short sleeved T shirts
    10 long sleeved T shirts
    10 blouses/ shirts
    10 jumpers/ pullovers/sweaters ( depending where you live)
    10 cardigans/ jackets
    10 dresses
    10 pairs jeans…various shades of denim, various shapes
    10 pairs other long pants…dressy, casual, black, white, harem,stretch
    10 skirts….long, short, floral, plain, cool, warm
    5 pairs shorts and 5 tank tops
    Well….there’s my 100 items and I haven’t even mentioned shoes. Yes if I could achieve the 100 item wardrobe, that would free up a lot of space for me! I suspect I am not alone.

    • Lisa says:

      LOL. well that works ..
      One rule I have is if I bring a shirt or sweater home I have to get rid of something that has been hanging around that I hardly wear.

    • Colleen says:

      I like your thinking on this, I feel 10 in total to be a bit overwhelming. But 10 in each category… now that I can do. Thank you for being honest. I am going to clean up my stuff this weekend.

    • Suzy Korel says:

      Thank you – love this!! it is so true but i do not have 10 of everything mentioned – less in some and more in others, i think 100 is a very good idea and that is where i will start – much less scary!! also what about those fatter days???

  6. Jan Stone says:

    Hello again from Jan, of the more than hundred item wardrobe….I did make some progress! I threw out at least 10 pairs of shoes….5 of which were brand new and never worn…they seem comfortable in the shop but there is a reason why you don’t wear them…too wobbly, cut in at the toes, look like something your grandmother would wear (I am a grandma but there are comfortable shoes which are not , and I also got rid of a wrap top….supposed to be a good style for the larger bust…but didn’t work on me because it clung too much to the stomach pooch and the back fat! (Sighs)

    • Joan says:

      when I travel I pack all of my clothes and toiletries into one carry on bag and love the ease! Now to get there at home!

  7. Maggie Bolt says:

    My friend and I went away to celebrate another friends birthday last weekend, when I turned up at her house, she was surprised that I only had one small vanity case and asked “is that all your are taking?”, “yes” was my reply. The back seat of my friends car was piled high with clothes, she had a bigger, heavier suitcase and a large carrier bag, as she couldn’t find anything suitable to pack. I even had my GHD hairdryer and straighteners in, as well as two pairs of shoes.
    I have been editing out my wardrobe and no feel I have getting the hang of the capsule wardrobe. Off to London this weekend with the same suitcase and items.

    • Tammy says:

      That is awesome so proud of you. Now you can focus on having a good time and not worry about too many options in your wardrobe. Hope you find a delightful scarf etc… on your trip

  8. Debbie says:

    I love the idea of a pared down wardrobe. Just for summer I have about 40 to 50 pieces that include T shirts. I may pare that down some more as the summer goes on.

  9. Libby Neves says:

    I agree!
    One thing, in defense of a full closet, is that your clothes will last longer the fewer times you wash them.
    Packing light is my new self-imposed status symbol. Maybe because I like to pack my bed pillow and small neck pillow. Those two things take up half my large suitcase, but my suitcase is light weight.
    Linda Dano wrote a helpful book LOOKING GOOD, IT DOESN’T HAVE TO HURT. She advocates a closet limited by color. Choose black, brown or navy as your basic and stick to it. Choose one bright color and one soft color. Choose silver or gold jewelry and stick to that choice.
    So it is very helpful to settle on the colors which look good on you. presents detailed suggestions for personal color choices. You can purchase a set of fabric samples for your own coloration. Those have been very helpful to me.

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.