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The Ten-Item Wardrobe

You need to go watch this short Tedx Talk on the 10-Item Wardrobe. It’s really inspiring and motivating — and just might challenge you to re-think your wardrobe and how many clothes you own.

As you probably well know, I’m a big fan of the minimalist wardrobe. Not only does it simplify my life, it requires less space, it makes packing for travel so simple, and it also saves money since you are shopping much less often, only owning things you love, and wearing the same things over and over again.

Another thing that I’ve noticed is that I think it makes me more relaxed and able to just focus on people in a situation versus worrying about my clothes since I’m wearing something I love, look good in, and (usually) have worn many times before.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the video. Did you agree with the idea? Did you think it was crazy? Did it make you think of your wardrobe in a different light?

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42 Comments

  • jennifer says:

    Interesting! But my question — Do the French come home from work and change into comfort clothes? I can’t imagine wearing expensive tailored clothing while cleaning toilets and picking up after the kids. Do they have an “at-home” wardrobe?

    • Yes, they do. My first trip to France was an in-home exchange program in Saint-Lo, and my family certainly had a myriad of items that could be converted for casual or business outings. What’s interesting to me is the lack of mention that their accessories have; the French are very resourceful about filling their lives with more quality items, while having less space, but they do not skimp on shoes, scarves, hats, and purses. All items I would say certainly help makeup a wardrobe.

  • Rachelle says:

    I totally agree with her. I have been trying to implement this for a while. I only want to own things that I love and make me feel great! I went through my closet and got rid of everything I did not truely love. Now I just have a very tiny wardrobe. Now I need to have a few more core items. Presently I may have less than 10.

  • Liz H says:

    I really enjoyed this video, but if you are in need of the closed captioning, please be aware that it is all wrong. Example: Shiek was used for Chic. Incorrect words were used because they sort of sounded like what was said, but the meaning was totally different. It was comical, but not if you actually wanted to know what she was saying. I had to watch three times to get the full meaning as the closed captions were so far off from the meaning.

  • Gretchen says:

    I love the idea of this and totally agree that it is better to have a small, stylish, and well-fitting wardrobe. I just wish it was easier to find well-made quality clothes to implement this. It seems that even expensive clothes are poorly cut and pill and shrink so easily these days.

    • Lisa says:

      Yes! This is my challenge as well. Two years ago I lost enough weight I had to replace my entire wardrobe and I’ve tried to be more discerning about what I buy so I only have items that truly work for me . It’s a nice idea in theory but more difficult in practice. I’m a much better shopper than I used to be but I still end up either bad purchases on occasion. There have been quite a few times I’ve ended up buying clothes I hated because I needed an outfit for an event and had no other choice. I have a very strict dress code for work (I’m a musician) so that’s pretty much a wardrobe category unto itself with it’s own challenges. And don’t even get me started on planning around retail seasons compared to the actual weather!

    • Renee says:

      If you make it down to a minimalist wardrobe, consider having pieces custom made for you. That way you can pick a quality material, and have the item specifically tailored to your specific body shape. Yes, it may cost more than off the rack,(or not) but for something you’ll wear often, that fits you perfectly, and should last for years – it’s worth it.

      • GoddessMel says:

        Fantastic idea! I recently purchased my first item through Etsy – an almost-custom-made skirt, that allowed me to choose the length, colour, with or without pockets, and sizing based on waist measurement. Super pleased with my purchase and am contemplating buying a 2nd one once I’ve found a few more ‘love them’ basics that I need to fill actual gaps.

  • I love Jennifer Scott’s book, and I also have a minimalist wardrobe and love it. Mostly this is due to the fact that I am still losing postpartum weight and don’t want to invest in pieces that won’t fit in a month or so. But even when my weight goes back to pre-pregnancy, I’ll have a small wardrobe. I love it. I do need to work on the quality over quantity principle though.

  • Julie S says:

    I love this idea! While it does sound a bit scary at first 😉 I can find many benefits. One that stands out to me is the change I’ve been wanting to make to buying only or mostly, fair trade clothing. Which is obviously more expensive. However, coupled with this method of only buying those few, high quality items makes sense.
    As a mom of four kids who have way too many clothes and only wear the same few outfits over and over, I can also see the benefits there as well. Think of how much less time we’d spend on laundry!
    On a side note, one thing I’ve recently implemented to cut back on the massive amount of towels I used to wash each week, is to buy each child one towel in a different color. They each use their towel all week, hang it up (hooks work great!) and it gets washed on Mon.
    Love all the minimalist living tips, Crystal! Please keep them coming!

  • Nelly says:

    I like her approach and agree with what she is saying, that we should have a foundation of items which we love and look great on us and from there we should built a wardrobe that is suitable, changing and fun that includes basics, outwear and accessories.

  • Terri says:

    This was great, Crystal. I saw it come thru Facebook. I am inspired to try it.

  • Mary says:

    Love this idea! I’ve been contemplating having a “uniform” so this came at a good time. I watched some of her other videos on youtube, inspiring.

  • I enjoyed this video. I have a small wardrobe, greater than 10! I started scaling back about 5 years ago whenever we started homeschooling. There is such freedom in decluttering and downsizing to a few basic items. I don’t think I am brave enough to scale down to 10. However, I love a challenge 🙂

  • Karen says:

    I think my wardrobe is fairly minimalist and I like to only have pieces that I really like and fit well. That can be a challenge. However, Crystal, what do you consider minimalist? I can see the 10 pieces for every day wear, but how about extra exercise pieces, and church pieces? Then, she said that t-shirts are extra. I wear nicer t-shirts as part of my every day and dress them up. How does this look for you? Do you get a new 10 pieces every year? I tend to add just a few things a season. Thanks.

    • My view of “minimalist” is that you only have items in your wardrobe that fit, that you love, and that you wear very regularly. That means about 10-15 tops/blazers, 5-7 bottoms, and a few dresses for me right now + jewelry and accessories. I don’t count exercise wear or sleepwear in this. I usually add a few new pieces each season and get rid of a few that I’ve worn out.

  • Kelly S says:

    I love the idea of a small wardrobe, and think I’ve gotten to a pretty small one already. But, I have trouble finding pieces that make me look GOOD and not just kind of sloppy with only a few items. Even more expensive items don’t tend to hold up as well (and, unexpectedly, some items from Ross and clearance items from Old Navy seem to last the longest!), and so I’m hesitant to spend much money on them. Still trying to figure this one out! 🙂

  • Stephanie says:

    i just recently started revamping my wardrobe, my little one has stopped nursing so I no longer have clothing “restrictions” and I’m at a steady size. I had lots of items that had to go and as I find things that I love and fit well and that I am comfortable in I’ve been buying them. Less focused on the price tag (though still fairly inexpensive). Any ways in terms of quality I’ve learned over time what kinds of things don’t work for me, for example knit items don’t last for me, the fabric gets covered in little balls and t-shirts get those terrible tiny holes and they fade. They don’t last, one season tops. So I’ve started avoiding most knit materials and try to stick to more of a linen or woven type of fabric. I do still have t-shirts but I don’t invest much in them and only have a couple. I’ve also discovered that button ups are extremely versatile and can be worn nearly year round in many layers and they look so much better than clingy knit long sleeve tops I used to buy. I have kind of a mental checklist to check before I buy stuff, armholes, straps, bra, is it too thin, too short? I buy things now that should last for a long time and I feel like I should be thrilled to wear every single item in my closet every day instead of having lots of stuff and only wearing the same t-shirt and jeans every day. Having way less items that I’m in love with makes it so much easier to get dressed!

  • Lori says:

    I’ve always wanted to do this but have found it impossible. My life-long issue has been with weight. For the longest time I purchased anything I could find, just because it fit. I knew it didn’t look good on me, but I couldn’t find anything that fit me. I was never morbidly obese, but I am apple-shaped, and when you carry your weight around your torso, upper-arms and upper-thighs, it’s very difficult to find flattering clothes.

    I’ve lost a lot of weight and inches, through hard work, but my body shape hasn’t changed so I am still forced to purchase clothes that are loser in the middle and not tailored. I know there are many people who are very stylish no matter the size, but when I try to emulate them, I feel uncomfortable.

    Any suggestions?

    • Laura says:

      Lori – I can relate! My sister is tall and willowy and has fabulous style, and while I don’t have major weight issues, I have finally learned that I am just not shaped that way, and some things that look great on her look awful on me! I’ve learned some about my individual style over the years, but I would love to find a resource that could help me understand what looks good on me and why (preferably for cheap or free). I’m just not willing to make the investment of money (or time, if I’m sewing it myself) to get good quality, expensive clothes that will last unless I know they are going to look amazing on me. Any suggestions for such a resource?

      • Anjanette says:

        Love this idea and the TED talk, thanks Crystal!

        Laura- Imogen at insideoutstyleblog.com has been doing a great series on how to dress for different body types. She is great at explaining things in words and with super-helpful visuals (so many “aha” moments for me personally!)–I highly recommend checking it out.

        It’s So You: Fitting Fashion to Your Life, by Mary Sheehan Warren (2007) is also great– part workbook, part reference resource.

    • Becca says:

      Lori – The beauty of the apple-shape figure is that apples generally have killer legs. So, emphasize your legs – leggings and tunic style tops should work great for you. Use a belt but make it blend in and not stand out – for instance, a wrap dress with a built-in belt in the same colour (keep it knee length to show off your killer pins). Don’t try to use a belt to draw attention to your waist but use a belt to camoflauge your waist, if that makes sense. If you hate your arms don’t go sleeveless but you can often find sort of cap sleeves with flouncy bits that hide the problem areas but are still stylish and fun and cute (you don’t just have to wear long sleeves all the time). If you can afford it, get a few pieces tailor-made – this doesn’t have to be expensive, Thailand and Vietnam have amazing tailors and many them take orders over the internet. My husband gets his suits from Thailand for about $200 each, custom-made out of very high-end fabrics.

      • Lori says:

        Thank you everyone for the great ideas. I will definitely look into them, especially the tailoring. I’ve never thought about it because of the price.

  • Susan says:

    I’m just wondering how I could get past the feeling that I am wearing the same clothes over and over. I have a lot of printed blouses and it would be obvious that I just wore it a couple days ago. Do you think that solid clothing would be better? I love the idea but just don’t see it working for me.

    • Lindsay says:

      Susan- you might be surprised that you don’t actually feel like you are wearing the same things over and over, especially when you accessorize like she talks about. Different scarves/jewelry/cardigans etc. really change the look.

      I wear about the same 10 tops to work (and 1-2 bottoms) and it’s really freeing not to have to think about what I’m wearing. Plus, with that number I’m not actually wearing things that close together– maybe once a week with my favorites, but I could go every 2 weeks in between wearings of an individual top. I personally prefer patterns to solids, but that’s just me.

      You could always try it for a week or two and see what you think! You don’t have to make any major commitments up front. 🙂

    • Jannelaine says:

      You should read the article about the woman who wears a work “uniform” and wears the same thing to work every day (she owns multiples of the same blouses/bottoms). This practice is also common in Japan: women (and men) frequently have a work uniform.

      I think it is all perception, and telling yourself “it’s ok” if someone sees me wearing the same dress twice in one week (which used to terrify me). Let go of the silly vanity. What are we trying to prove by wearing different things ever day anyway? Our finances? How silly. Save your money and don’t just buy to buy.

  • Thank you for sharing this, Crystal! This was very timely – I recently transitioned from a hospital job (so, wearing only scrubs 5 days a week) to working from home and wearing ‘real’ clothes again, and I realized I have a lot of clothes I probably won’t wear. Almost everything still fits, but I have clothes from 10 years ago that are falling apart. Like Miss Scott, I realized that I have no idea why I’m still keeping them! (Well, except one slightly holey shirt, which I love and haven’t found anything like in the past 8 years since I got it.)
    I promote creativity in limited space on my blog, and I realized I had some opportunities in my closet, haha. I already have two trash bags full of clothes to sell or donate, and I’m still slowly weeding things out! Woohoo!

    Thank you for defining your view of minimalism, too – that’s always been way too amorphous for me. Having that definition to at least loosely adhere to is going to make the rest of the paring-down process easier. I can’t wait to be finished and have an awesome, easy wardrobe!

  • beth says:

    I love Jennifer Scott’s Madame Chic books as well as her blog “The Daily Connoissuer.” I think she brings a lot of good attention to the idea of living every day life well.

    A minimalist wardrobe definitely works for me.

  • Lisa says:

    I agree with this. I decided, years ago, to try to look nice at home as well. I bought some comfortable, but flattering, “at home” clothes so I looked nice for my husband. I keep a bag in the bottom of my closet, so when I try something on, if it is not flattering, it goes into the bag. No more “I used to look cute in this” clothes. I’m a lot happier when I go into my closet because it has only things I know I can wear.

  • Lisa says:

    I just remembered how it felt as a teenager, moving back to the US after living overseas for a few years, and hearing girls make fun of me for wearing the same pants more than once in a week. What an American idea, but it puts a lot of pressure on young girls who hear it.

  • Lana says:

    Last week we spent two nights in Amish country and I kind of envied those ladies who don’t have to decide what to wear everyday. They all looked so well dressed, too.

  • Becca says:

    I’ve whittled down my wardrobe considerably over the past couple of weeks, and now for the most part it only has items I like. There are a few exceptions – I’m not wild about some of my sweaters – but it’s winter here now, and I value warmth over style sometimes! 🙂

    • Becca says:

      LOL – Just after I wrote that post I said to myself, Why ARE you keeping those sweaters? You have other sweaters you love. Just get rid of them! So now they’re in a bag for me to drop off at a charity shop the next time I’m out and about, and I feel just that little bit better about my wardrobe!

  • Amber says:

    I love the idea and I’m definitely purging a lot of my chothes, but I don’t plan on doing all of my laundry (in addition to kids and my husband) quite that often so I think I’ll be cheating a little and keeping a little over 20 instead of 10. I’m so excited to start though!

  • Ktown says:

    I’ve been trying to put more thought in my clothing purchases while reducing the overall number of items in my closet. I’ve seen report after report of terrible conditions in factories and warehouses where workers are exposed to dangerous chemicals and are at constant risk of losing their jobs or losing their lives. After a lot of exposure to these reports, walking into a clothing store makes me sick to my stomach. Anyone know of ethically made, high quality clothing companies that have basics clothing articles (black or white t-shirts, etc.)?

  • Amber says:

    Thank you for posting this! I’ve had her book on my wishlist on Paperbackswap since 2012. 🙂

  • Kristie says:

    How do you organize all of your clothing and accessories? I have too much stuff and forget I have things .. not that all are good quality but I need to organize better. Ideas please.

  • Rosemary says:

    Very interesting, i have a small wardrobe already, so this may work to declutter my mind.

  • Kelly says:

    I love this! The “holey sweat pants” hit just a bit too close to home, if I’m honest . . . ! But I now have the motivation to head to my closet and take out the things I’m clinging to and declutter once and for all. Thanks for sharing this!

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