My 10-item wardrobe: a fuss-free, liberating choice to downsize my closet

Pluck
Kim Schomburg

A couple of months ago, I wrote about my quest to create a 10-item wardrobe, a “mom-drobe,” if you will that would help me feel chic, polished and presentable without constantly wondering what to wear. I took my guidance from the wonderful Jennifer Scott, blogger and author of Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris.

I’ve been wearing my 10-item wardrobe for a couple of months now, but I just haven’t had time to blog about it. I had this vague fantasy that I would create a cute video like Jennifer’s of all my outfits. Didn’t happen this time… Perhaps I’ll make it happen in the fall!

Just to refresh your memory, here were the rules. Everything in the wardrobe has to fit. Every piece goes with everything else. Everything is something I really like and is well-made, in good condition. I also added that everything had to be washable, because I hate drycleaning and can’t add another errand to my life.

So, off I went, armed with the task and some money in hand. A few people have mentioned to me that they wouldn’t have the money to do this, so I am going to be honest: I took some money from my savings. I didn’t want to, but ever since I had this baby, I have been telling myself that I’m going to set aside money to buy a new wardrobe. And no matter what, that money, no matter how good the intention, gets eaten up by household expenses. I am always my last priority. So, to make this happen, I decided to take money I’d saved and put it toward myself. Maybe that’s financially irresponsible, but I’m happy with my decision.

My husband agreed to allow me to have a day to shop. I explained to him how important this project was to me, and how one of the things that was the hardest was the feeling of being pressured to come home. I don’t think he ever meant to make me feel that way, but I feel guilty taking time and money for myself.

I went to the mall and got down to business. Except by “getting down to business,” I mean that I wandered around and stared at clothes. I walked in stores and walked out without even trying anything on. There were two problems. One, the styles and colors that are “in” this season aren’t particularly flattering to me. I don’t look good in neons or these floaty trapeze-like blouses I’m seeing everywhere. Moreover, I don’t like them.

That last revelation was the big one, and one that I finally felt free to admit because of Jennifer’s book. She talked about how her house mother and mentor Madame Chic didn’t care about the trends. She knew what she liked and what looked good on her, and she stuck to that.

That felt so freeing to me. All my life, I’d looked at some trends and felt obligated to like them because they were what’s hot. All those stupid magazine articles I read with the “must-haves” for this season, and all along the answer to what I “must have” was as simple as what I wanted to wear.

This, however, presented a problem. Because I needed to buy clothes, and the trendy ones that I didn’t like is what the stores were selling. At first, this was frustrating and made me feel sad. But then, I remembered the ultimate goal – to have clothes that I liked and felt good in. If that meant it was going to take some searching, so be it. It would mean turning up my nose at a lot of stuff, and that was OK.

I found two things in Ann Taylor Loft that turned the corner for me. One was a T-shirt I loved – a navy and ivory stripe tee that fit great and was just what I was looking for. The other was a sharp pair of sunglasses. Neither of those fell into my 10 items, but they did make me feel like I was getting somewhere. I also tried on a dress that I later ended up ordering from their website in a size the store didn’t have.

Then, lightening struck. I walked into Banana Republic and found a red skirt. It’s just a plain red A-line skirt with a higher waist. Nothing fancy. But it pulled together in my mind some other pieces I’d seen at some stores. I could picture two blouses I’d seen at Eddie Bauer with that skirt. In my previous life, I would have been embarrassed to shop at Eddie Bauer, but you know what? I liked those blouses, and they looked good on me, and besides, the trendy clothes could shove it. I’m not in high school anymore, so I don’t have to care about labels. Those blouses would also look good with a pair of pants I saw at Lands End, tan drawstring cargos.

I thought back to Jennifer’s wardrobe. Four dresses, two pairs of jeans, two blouses, two sweaters, a skirt and a few T-shirts. Slowly, it began to come together in my mind. For my bottom half, the skirt, the pants and some jeans I already owned, and those blouses and t-shirts for the top, plus a few dresses, I would be golden.

In reality, it took a bit longer. I ordered some things from catalogs, convinced that they were the last thing I needed, and then was disappointed a few times. But it’s finally coming together. Here’s what I ended up with. Sorry there aren’t links to everything, but some things weren’t available online. 

  1. Cream colored lace blouse from Eddie Bauer
  2. Ivory lace blouse with grey and red dots from Eddie Bauer
  3. Two pairs of jeans
  4. A grey and white print linen dress with a drawstring waist
  5. Navy blue and ivory ikat print dress from Ann Taylor Loft
  6. Blue and grey striped dress from Max Studio
  7. Grey and white print blouse from Gap
  8. Red circle skirt from Banana Republic
  9. Grey hike shorts from Lolle

I also bought a few more T-shirts from Ann Taylor Loft. According to the rules, T-shirts don’t count!

I have to say, I do really love everything. Everything fits nicely and flatters me. It may not be super trendy, but I feel like I look put together and polished. Honestly, when do I ever notice if someone’s trendy? Perhaps some folks do, but it’s just not my bag. I’m more apt to notice if they look comfortable in their own skin and put together, and that’s how I want to be.

I’ve gotten lots of compliments on my outfits. It is weird sometimes to feel like I’m wearing the same thing over and over again, but usually, if I think about it, there are additional combinations that I haven’t even tried yet.

The other thing I love about this wardrobe is the small number of items. It really is liberating. It makes the laundry easier too. I really love having fewer things. It makes me feel lighter. My closet looks so much neater. I even find that my hair looks better because instead of spending so much time rooting through piles of clothes and wondering what to wear, I get dressed quickly and have time to pay attention to my hair.

I definitely want to do it again for fall. And I sort of have to, since I gave away about 95 percent of my clothes. I kept a few winter things so that I won’t freeze my butt off if we have a cold snap in the few weeks it takes me to get the wardrobe together.

Overall, I have to say Vive le 10-item wardrobe! It was a really fun experiment and a life-changing choice!

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