# Comme les Français # fashion

10 Item Wardrobe – Getting Started

Last month I took the plunge and got started with my 10 Item Wardrobe. Many of you have expressed interest in this subject so I will be devoting the month of February to my findings.

The topics I will explore are: how to get started, customizing your very own 10 Item Wardrobe, observations on my month long experiment, thoughts on how to maintain your 10 Item Wardrobe and going forward.

Today I will discuss how I got started and how you can too. If you are interested in creating your own capsule wardrobe I highly recommend doing this experiment with me in real time! And as always I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on your experience.

As a side note, this series of posts is not just for ladies. Men, too, can benefit from a 10 Item Wardrobe and the philosophy of quality over quantity. Next week I will be posting an article by guest writer Mr. Chris Cox, from Easy and Elegant Life with ideas for a gentleman’s 10 Item Wardrobe.

So let’s get started.

Definition of a 10 Item Wardrobe

The 10 Item Wardrobe should not be taken so literally as to inspire panic. Remember, the French are not the sort to beat themselves up over a regime- certainly not over diet or exercise and definitely not over their wardrobe. So do what works for you. The point of the 10 Item Wardrobe is to ultimately free yourself from a jam packed closet full of ill fitting, underused or poor quality clothing. Your ultimate goal is to create a wardrobe that you love- where every item of clothing speaks to who you are. Also to create a space for your clothes to breathe- where there is no clutter.

Your wardrobe should roughly consist of 10 items (give or take- probably give), but those 10 items do not include outerwear (coats, jackets, blazers), accessories (scarves, gloves, hats, wraps), shoes and what I call under shirts- mainly t shirts, tank tops or chemises that you wear as layers or underneath a sweater or blazer. (I found it necessary to have several of these to avoid having to do laundry every other day and to prolong the wear on things like cashmere sweaters).

Also the 10 item wardrobe is assessed each season and items are interchanged accordingly. For example, if you do this experiment in the summer, you will not have 3 cashmere sweaters as part of your 10 items. Those can go in storage and in turn you can usher in 3 summer dresses to replace the sweaters (or whatever suits your lifestyle).

Clear out the wardrobe clutter

Before you finalize your 10 items, clear the clutter from your closet. It is very important to physically clean out your wardrobe and only have your 10 items (plus extras discussed above) hanging. It is very easy to think you’ll just wear your 10 items during the month but still keep your 50+ items jammed in the wardrobe ‘just in case’ or out of sheer laziness or lack of anywhere else to put your clothes. But the physical act of taking all of your excess clothing and getting rid of it or storing it elsewhere is very powerful and prevents you from ‘cheating’.

During the process of clearing my closet clutter I took the plunge and got rid of 70% of my wardrobe. This, for me, was a tremendous accomplishment. Giving my clothes away was so much easier this time and I attribute this to the physical act of taking it all out and assessing. When my excess clothing was all thrown on my bed and one by one I assessed each garment, I asked myself a few key questions that helped me to let go.

Wardrobe Assessment Questions:

“Do I still like this?”- in so many instances I was holding on to something because I paid a lot of money for it- not because I actually still liked it.

“Do I ever wear this?”- I had so many clothes that I simply did not wear- some I hadn’t worn in over two years! - and inherently I knew I never would wear again, but for some reason I couldn’t let go.

“Does it still fit/ look good on me?”- I did have a baby 6 months ago, my body shape has changed slightly and some of my pre-baby clothes simply do not fit.

“Does this article of clothing still speak of who I am?”- This is a very powerful question and in most instances the answer was a resounding NO. I was holding on to blouses and skirts that I purchased in my early 20s (I even found a few babydoll dresses- yikes!). A lot has changed since then. I am a wife, a young mother- I’m now 30 years old and my tastes are more refined and sophisticated. Those clothes were not right for the new me.

Getting rid of your excess clothing is definitely a process and I realize you might not be ready to purge everything the first time around. That is OK. I suggest taking out your entire wardrobe, asking yourself those questions and weeding out the items you know you no longer want. If you still have a lot of excess may I suggest storing the rest in space bags or a container in another room, or in your garage? Just keep them out of your sight. You might find you go for an entire year without thinking about them at all, in which case you know, you could probably do with out them.

Next week’s post: Customizing your 10 Item Wardrobe and pictures of my own capsule wardrobe for Spring.

I hope you’ll stay tuned!

My own wardrobe, with its 10 Items and a few extras (such as dressing gowns, etc.) is pictured above.


Anonymous said...

Oh boy. I just posted about having 43 items now and what an accomplishment it was for me. Taking it to 10---I don't know. I will be reading out of sheer curiosity. : ) xxBliss

Lisa D. said...

I can't wait to read more about this. I'm doing the 30 for 30 challenge again on my blog, and I'm actually kind of regretting that I didn't choose some of the same 30 pieces I used a few months ago when I did it. I guess that tells me something about my original 30 items. =) I'm about to turn 30 also, and I've been making a point to get rid of a lot of things I've had for years and simply do not suit my style anymore. I find that having all those old clothes in my closet is just distracting, and it keeps me from being able to see what I really love and what fits me well. My current rule for shopping is "1 in, 2 out." It makes me really consider what I'm buying, and what pieces new stuff will replace. It's working out well so far -- my closet is getting less cluttered, and I'm spending a lot less money. =)

the gardener's cottage said...

wow, i'm on my 5th month of wearing 33 items of clothing and loving it. i cannot wait to see 10items!!!!!!!!!

who knew having so little could create so much joy?


Josephine Tale Peddler said...

Hello Jennifer, Happy New Year! I have been away on a research trip (no computer which was a joy) And I'm still tackling all my mail. I really like this post as it's very timely for me. I have to find time to cull my wardrobe as well. I love the question of whether the outfit still suits who I am. That does sound very powerful.
Cheerio, J xx

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Renata said...

I recently decluttered my closet and it felt really liberating. I still need to ask myself those key questions you posted to narrow it down to my essentials. Next is my makeup bag, which will be harder for me, even though I don't wear half the lipsticks I have. I really look forward to hearing more about the "10 item wardrobe" essentials!

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

I am excited about your experiment here...I'll be staying tuned!

RKG said...

This will be a fun month with your 10 item wardrobe series.

I've been working on what my own ten item wardrobe would look like.

So far, I've come up a bare-bones 10 item wardrobe and what for me is a more reasonable but still highly edited 20-item wardrobe.

But I'm cheating a lot on both counts, and am not even sure it's valid to call these 10- and 20-item sets!

First, I totally agree that undershirts are a vital exception unless you plan to wash your clothes in the sink every night. I've given myself relatively free reign on basic tees, camis and tanks of all types (from casual little summer tees, winter layering tees to more polished tees that go under suit jackets). But my caveats are
1) be reasonable, no more tees and camis per season than I would expect to wear in any rotation of a week or two
2) each piece has to be lovely and perfect for me, as good as if I was counting it as one of the 10 or 20. In other words, out with the stained, faded, stretched, color that works with only one outfit, neckline doesn't really flatter, etc.

But I've also allowed myself white shirts and jeans as categories. I count "white shirt" and "jeans" as one item each, but I'm allowing myself multiples (with the same caveats as for undershirts), because white shirts and jeans are essentials for me, and needing both work, semi-casual and really casual clothes in my wardrobe, I would be left with just 1 pair of jeans or 1 white shirt if working strictly to a 10 or 20-item plan. And frankly that wouldn't work. Not quite as bad as having only 1 tee and 1 cami, but almost.

And my final cheat is that a suit is something I count as 1 thing no my list, but it's always at least 3 pieces for me (jacket, skirt, pant, and maybe another pant if I get one pair to hem for heels and another for flats).

Though I'm still working on my scheme, my 10- and 20- item lists have a lot more pieces than it would seem on the surface. Haven't figured out it I'm giving myself too much permission to hang on to stuff, or if I'm just being reasonable about what's needed to get through my real life over a week or two without real laundry or wardrobe crises.

Another thing I give myself permission for is to store away multiples, *reasonably*, where it makes sense. I always pick up tees when I find great ones for a good value, because they have a relatively short life span and are an essential. At the beginning of each season I'm happy to greet my little stack of fresh, never worn, perfect-for me tees for that season, and sometimes in mid- late season I'll reach into my little stash of tees and grab a couple to refresh my current wardrobe, because something has always started to look tired and sad, wearing around the collar, faintly fuzzing up from wear if it's frequently worn cotton, etc.

And I sometimes stash multiples of terrific but hard to find things--like an extra pair or two stashed away of my very favorite
white jeans, because they, too, need to be available, fresh and happy when the old ones turn the corner to serviceable for really casual but not for anything else.

I don't count any of my little stashes in my main wardrobe count. They're like a little gift closet of emergency gifts, but the gifts are for my wardrobe.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a great experiment! I may have to try it along with you. Lord knows my husband would welcome extra (some) closet space...

correspondent said...

Your 10-item wardrobe challenge sounds like the perfect way to tackle overstuffed closets. Getting clutter out of the way helps people identify what is important to them and ensure it is readily available. Just wanted to say thank you for recommending Space Bags as a storage solution for clothing not in the 10-item rotation. Because the bags are airtight, they will protect garments from dust, mildew and bugs, and free up valuable closet space. Feel free to visit Space Bag's online community - the Space Savers community - for more info on the bags or to read our own space-saving advice for wardrobes. Good luck with the rest of your challenge! I look forward to hearing more from you.

Best wishes,
Space Savers community correspondent

Unknown said...

I love this, have been following your blog and its so inspiring. I started clearing out my closet a few months ago but realise am still hanging on to things just in case. Time to do it properly. I love the idea of buying more expensive quality clothes rather than filling up wardrobe space with stuff bought on a wimm because it seems nice in the shop but wasn't really necessary.

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Bliss- congrats! I will check out your blog this week to see what you've done xx

Lisa- that's wonderful- I always love the pictures you post on twitter! There is something about turning 30 that really made me evaluate my look. Glad to hear I'm not alone ;)

Janet- Congrats! It seems to be a trend and a wonderful one at that. Gone are the days of our stuffed to the brim wardrobe and wringing our hands wondering what to wear! xx

Josephine- Hello- I've missed you! I hope your research trip is going well- it sounds so mysterious. You will let me know when your book is available I hope! xx

Chanda- I had the same problem. If you do this challenge, even for only a week, you can learn a lot about yourself and your style and how you want to go forward. The biggest lesson for me was that I still resist wearing my nice clothes on a daily basis... but I'll go into that much more in a later post...

Renata- Hello! Yes- makeup bags are another area where we tend to not throw things away. Again, I can see why- makeup is so expensive these days it really pains me to throw any of it away- especially if it’s a lipstick or blush I’ve barely used. But makeup does expire… come to think of it- so does clothing! Sweaters will snag, shirts will turn an off color, yet we still hold on to these items. It’s very powerful to let them go. We can do it together!

Hostess- Thank you! x

RKG- Bravo- I couldn’t have said it better myself. I love that you are taking this challenge and really tailoring it to your needs. Like I said, the whole point is to ultimately assess your wardrobe- not to punish yourself with a strict 10 or 20 items. I firmly agree that a suit (three piece or what have you) counts as one item (*spoiler* my guest writer next week counts a suit as one of his items). Actually, I think that people who work in the professional world where suits must be worn should have two wardrobes- their professional one and their non-professional one or ‘weekend wear’. I know what you mean about multiples, but for me, that is a slippery slope. I have a bad habit of buying things in multiples when I like them (spending 2x or 3x the money) and then regretting doing so later. Also they add to my closet clutter. And as for whether or not you are giving yourself too much permission to hang on to things, that is something you will be able to answer in time. Every case is different. I know that it will probably take me years to break out of the impulse to want to hang on to things past their prime, but if I work on it everyday, it will become easier to let go. Thanks for your comment and I’m looking forward to hearing your experience as the month goes on!

Fojoy- LOL our poor husbands. How their closet space has been relegated to a mere fraction of our own :) I look forward to hearing your experience too!

Correspondent- I don’t know how you found this post so quickly- sometimes I feel like I’m in Orwell’s 1984 and Big Brother is watching! But I do love my spacebags ☺ Thank you for your comment

Claire- Thank you! I think it is time for us all to do it properly. I went on a walk today with the baby- a looong walk and I saw so many different types of people. The well dressed ones just made me feel happy. There is something so comforting about well dressed people I’ve decided it’s time I joined their ranks… permanently. No more schlumpadinka! I look forward to hearing your experience…

Unknown said...

Thank you - I printed out your questions to keep me on track and avoid the emotional attachment to items that really need to go. I am excited to begin this journey!

Pug1 said...

Okay. I'm ready with to-go bag in hand!!!!! CHEERS! Michele

Lacey R said...

Great post, I am going to print off these questions and go through my closet again to purge what is really not needed. I have to go through my makeup bag again too -- I find that I definitely stick to my tried and true makeup, and the rest I really don't need! I have my favorite powder, eyeshadows, blush and 3 different lipsticks for different occasions (work day, casual, night).

Tish Jett said...

Hmmm, I just finished posting my 20(!) item warrobe and like you didn't count accessories -- impossible -- one winter coat and considered T-shirts a "category" although I counted them as one item.

This is lots of fun.


Jess said...

Hi, I've been loving your blog! Keep up the good work! Since you're in Santa Monica, and I'm in Malibu, I would love to hear about some of your favorite places around the city. Check out my blog, too, when you get a chance!

Anonymous said...

I hope you'll show the pieces in your wardrobe. I am so intrigued by the pretty things I can only catch a peek of hanging in your armoire.

The French Maid said...

Wonderful, challenging project! This is a great lesson to teach our girls, too. Teaching style by example is powerful. In fact, how great to use the same principle with kids toys, video games, etc. I also find purging much easier knowing that I am donating what are usually perfectly good items to someone else who could really use them.

Ines said...

I'm a bit late to this post. :)
I don't think I'm ready yet for a 10 item wardrobe but I think it's high time to seriously clean my closet. Even though I do this twice a year with the change of seasons, I noticed I leave some stuff in there I haven't worn in ages but really loved at some point in time. :) And the space diminishes all the time...

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading your book and the chapter on the 10-item wardrobe inspired me. It truly works! For the first time I feel completely satisfied with my wardrobe. Everything fits really well, and because I don't spend money on impulse buys, I can invest in quality clothing. I never dreamed that I would be wearing The Loft, Express, Banana Republic, The Limited, Coach, Tiffany's, J Crew, and more!

Sue said...

Over the past few months I have been binging on TheDaily Connoisseur. So two months ago I started the ten item wardrobe and it seems to be working. Most of my items are from what I already owned. Shamefully I discovered at least 10 pairs of jeans in my closet.
And several pairs of black slacks. Really, how many pairs can I wear??
Because, I get most of my clothes at thrift shops, I do not spend a lot of money, but I did spend too much time shopping and my closet was too full of repeat and uncoordinated items.
I loved the video in which you said "Stop shopping" . I needed to hear that. I was giving myself permission, to browse the stores once a week, but really didn't need anything, and the things I purchased were often good bargains, but didn't fit in well with my other clothes.
I am motivated to wear dresses more. Years ago, being influenced by other homeschoolers I wore dresses more, but they were frumpy - denim jumper, etc. I am in the process of defining what my current comfortable style is.