10.04.2010

The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris- #16- The 10 Item Wardrobe



I’ll never forget the moment I saw my bedroom for the first time chez Famille Chic. Madame Chic led me to my room and I eagerly took it all in. There was a single bed with a charming velvet coverlet, stately floor to ceiling windows that looked out over a picturesque courtyard, a perfectly adequate desk for me to study French on and a very tiny freestanding wardrobe in which to store my clothes.

Attendez.

A tiny freestanding wardrobe?

It had all been going so well until that moment. I remember panicking slightly as I regarded my two largely overstuffed suitcases. Where was the closet? I opened the wardrobe doors- there were only a handful of hangers inside. Now I really panicked. Was this where I was suppose to keep all of my clothes for the next six months?

Well I was in denial at the time, but the answer to that question was undoubtedly Oui.

I quickly learned that that tiny space is about all the average French person needs as they generally have a wardrobe of around 10 items. Famille Chic definitely did- Monsieur Chic, Madame Chic and their son all had really nice clothes- they just happened to wear the same things in rotation- over and over again (a concept that is very foreign to us in America- most of us have enough clothes to never repeat the same outfit twice in an entire year).

For example, Madame Chic’s 10 item wardrobe roughly consisted of two wool skirts, one cotton skirt, 2 cashmere sweaters, 3 or 4 lightweight blouses, 2 coats (one for winter, one for spring) and a couple of pairs of Ferragamo-esque flats. (Madame Chic never wore trousers remember).

Monsieur Chic’s wardrobe roughly consisted of 2 grey suits, 1 navy suit, 2 or 3 sweaters, about 4 collared shirts and a couple of ties. The same went for their son (although he rarely wore suits- mainly collard shirts and sweaters. Their son was the only one in the family to occasionally wear jeans).

Now I’m not trying to claim that I myself have a 10 item wardrobe (far from it- I probably have a 40 item wardrobe) but I am a lot better than I used to be. I edit a lot more these days, am much more discerning and try to only bring in well thought-out, high quality pieces into my space. And if I buy something new- I usually get rid of something old…

I do dream of a day when I can get my look together enough to have a 10 item wardrobe. Think of all of the money and aggravation that would be saved! Not to mention never having to ask myself “What on earth am I going to wear today?”

Maybe one day…

Won’t you stay tuned for #15?

The above picture is of the desk and window in my Paris bedroom. I did not have the foresight at the time to take a photo of the tiny wardrobe. Perhaps I was still in shock!

My book, Lessons from Madame Chic: The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris will be published by Simon & Schuster and re-released in the fall of 2012.

18 comments:

Lisa@Pickles and Cheese said...

A smaller wardrobe is a worthy goal especially if you are able to choose wonderful quality items. I have so many things that I never wear and find that I wear a lot of the same things over and over. I really need to improve the quality of what I buy and reduce the quantity. I feel another closet purge coming on!

Charlene said...

Just read your post (I always wait eagerly for the next one.) and I'm still sitting here thinking, "Wow. How do they do that?" It's just so hard to imagine myself with a 10 item wardrobe. I'm trying to edit but I still have so far to go. Thanks for the encouragement.

Josephine said...

I love this series of posts - very elegant and inspiring!

Thank you for sharing what you have learned.

Michael Rivers said...

I can't imagine only 10 pieces. We're so different in the U.S. I have so many clothes and still buy. I don't like people seeing me in the same things twice. LOL.

BonjourRomance said...

I can relate to that sinking feeling when I first came to gris with the reality of the 'closet situation' here! You are right, a few good wuality pieces that you rotate, can be more fashionable than a huge walk-in wardrobe. Is that when you understood the French flair for accessories?
This has been a great series, and will definitely stay tuned for #15.
Bon semaine,
Mimi

BonjourRomance said...

SOrry for all the typos - I am forever typing too fast.
Mimi

Rose said...

I am terrible at capsule wardrobing- one day, one day.

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for this series! I would love to have such a wardrobe. Looking forward to the next installments.

Sarah said...

There was a wonderful closet challenge I read about this summer, Six Items or Less. A person could choose six items and wear those items exclusively (work, party, errands). Later they were asked to share their results. Fascinating!! To see for yourself go to www.sixitemsorless.com/the-project/

I LOVE following this blog. Thank you for sharing your insights!

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Lisa- Ooh do let us know how the closet purge goes! I did a little one today too. Little and often is always good with wardrobe assessment. I have so many things I never wear too... I still hang on to them 'just in case'. I am a work in progress too :)

Charlene- Thank you so much. I still think "how do they do that?"! I think it is really a lifestyle overhaul. It requires a total shift of thinking to pull off. (I would probably need therapy in order to truly pull it off!)

Josephine- Thank you so much- and welcome!

Michael- I know right? It would be sooo hard. I might just hide all of my other clothes in a space bag or something and try out the ten items for a month and see how I do. Hey... I sense another post coming on!

Mimi- Yes! Accessories play such a critical part of the 10 item wardrobe (Thank goodness they don't count in the 10 items! haha) xx

Rose- one day indeed! xx

Anon- thank you! Your comments keep me going!

Sarah- Thank you so much for the link- I am going to check it out right now! And I am so glad you are enjoying the series! xx

Allegra Bridges said...

I, too, have enjoyed your blog but have never commented. I love your french insights and look forward to more. Thanks for your blog!

J. said...

I love the idea of a small, capsule-like wardrobe, but what always messes it up for me and what people never seem to be able to explain to me is the hygiene part.
Maybe it's just me, but I rarely wear the same clothes more than one day in a row, simply because they feel dirty and not fresh anymore. So if I had such a small amount of clothing, I would literally have to do laundry (and a batch of a few pieces at a time only) every day, no?

Or do French people simply wear the clothes for several days in a row? How often do they do laundry?

Sorry for being so nosy, and for focusing on completely the wrong thing, but this is really something no-one has ever been able to clarify for me!

(I am trying to build a capsule wardrobe for myself by the way, but I am not quite there yet, so the idea is fantastic!!)

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Allegra- Thank you very much for your comment. I love hearing from long-time readers of the blog xx

J- Excellent question- thank you for asking it! Famille Chic (or Madame Chic, rather) did their laundry once a week. If you have roughly 10 items in your wardrobe- that is pretty much sufficient to wear an entire weeks' freshly laundered clothing without really repeating. My theory is for the hard to wash items like cashmere sweaters is that they wear a lot of layers underneath- a thin t shirt or chemise, for example, that would simply go into the wash and perhaps the sweater doesn't need to be washed every week. I personally use The Laundress' Wool and Cashmere Shampoo when washing my sweaters and it really works great- that way I am not racking up the dry cleaning bills by wearing my nice cashmere all of the time. Best of luck to you building your capsule wardrobe. I would love to hear more about it! I think I will do an experiment where I employ a 10 item wardrobe for a month and post my findings on this blog. I will be sure to include the laundry aspects too! Merci again for your question xx

Fiona said...

Great idea to trial-run the 10 piece wardrobe J! I might have a think about that myself.

Kasia Dietz said...

This is SO true! The French buy clothes as if they were pieces in an art collection. And mostly of good quality, versus the American mentality of mass consumption.

When I packed up from NYC to move to Paris about a year ago, I threw away half of my clothes, not as easy task! This was after living out of one small suitcase during one year of travel, so I can say I've followed the 10 item rule though still have a hard time. But living with less is indeed liberating.

This 10 item rule is especially tough in the fashion capital, and it always impresses me how 'chic' everyone seems to look without spending a fortune.

Great post, adding you to my blog roll!

Kasia @ www.loveinthecityoflights.com

Mom of Many Blessings said...

I am enjoying your blog very much. Perhaps you can answer a question I have been trying to figure out. How do they stay warm with just skirts? Was madam chic running around in tights or thin stockings and just freezing? This is my biggest concern for going with mostly skirts. Thank you!

Mom of Many Blessings said...

How did madam chic stay warm with just skirts? I mean even in tights I am cold in them...I know she wasn't running around in ankle length skirts right? Thank you!

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Mom of Many Blessings- Mme. Chic always wore skirts, even in the coldest weather. She always wore panty hose and had a thick winter coat, scarf and gloves. The skirts were knee length. She somehow made it work!

 
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