The latest trend in fashion has been to see just how little women can have in their closets in an effort to get it down to what is called the ten item wardrobe. An admirable task for sure, but is whittling down your wardrobe to only a few pieces really all that worthwhile or necessary?
The Ten Item Wardrobe movement is a Parisian inspired way of shopping and wardrobe management that consists of ten core pieces, plus extras like t-shirts, which don’t count, according to some of the rules I’ve read. I’ve also read that the ten piece count is to act as a rough number. I guess the fashion police won’t knock your door down and arrest you if you sneak in the 11th. The point is, keep it small, keep it tight and keep the clothing in your closet interchangeable to guarantee maximum mix-and-matching.
Okay, I’m on board with that. So, what’s the problem? The problem is that dictum like this ultimately misses the point. A workable closet isn’t about how much is in there as is what is in there. Have two closets full of clothes, have ten items total, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is how usable it all is.
Women have this strange need for rules and numbers. In the case of this ten item rule, I’ve heard about women with spreadsheets who have put themselves through obsessive purge after purge just to get their wardrobe down to ten items. It’s not unlike the woman who spends hours on the treadmill so the scale reads a certain weight, or the woman who starves herself to say she wears a size 2. So you have ten items in your closet, so the scale says you’re 110 lbs., so you can slide your unhealthy and skinny self into a slim pair of jeans. Congrats! For what, I’m not sure.
I’m all for less is more. In fact, my entire summer wardrobe probably consisted of about ten pieces total. I never bothered to count. Given what I do for a living, shopping mindfully has never required much effort from me. Like most, I also don’t like or do well with restrictions. Few people do. If I shopped with the mentality that I could only have ten items total I can guarantee you that everything in the store would look much more appealing. We always want what can’t have. Case in point: The week after Hurricane Sandy, living in Brooklyn with all the subways down in my area, I had no way of getting off the island and into Manhattan. Basically, I was cast adrift for a week. While I can normally go a week without much of a desire to venture out of my neighborhood into Manhattan, the second I knew I couldn’t I suddenly felt trapped and confined, like I had to get out of Brooklyn. Funny how that happens. Likewise, it’s no different than when you go on a restrictive diet. How much more do you crave things when you’ve restricted yourself from them? Restriction doesn’t work, period, but balance does.
Yet for the woman who is recovering from over-shopping or whose closet requires a machete and a hard hat with a light on it to navigate, how does the woman who is not naturally inclined towards a less is more mentality to gain control? Here are my tips that may be a bit more palatable than forcing yourself to have just ten items in your closet:
#1- Go Easy on Yourself
So, you think you can just go from a closet full of clothes to a ten item wardrobe overnight? Well, I’ve got news for you, you’re setting yourself up for serious failure. Can you get up tomorrow and run a 26 mile marathon if you’ve never run a day in your life? Doubtful. The attitude of women when they seek change is often extremist and unrealistic. Women want to lose 10lbs. by tomorrow, meet the man of their dreams next week, have a clutter free home in an hour. These examples of unrealistic and difficult expectations that women put on themselves are what cause failure.
Okay, so your closet is out of control. You want to to do less with more. The first thing I suggest is a serious purge– not a gasoline and a match purge, but a purge that at least creates a better sense of organization. On the first pass there is no way you should expect yourself to have just ten items remaining, nor should that be your goal. Your first goal should just be organization, and that’s it. Whittling your wardrobe down to just ten pieces is an unnecessary pressure that’s not worth putting upon yourself. Make your first goal organization and to get rid of what you don’t need. Don’t bother counting how many pieces you have left when you’re done. It doesn’t matter. What matters is you’ve taken a step towards greater clarity. Here are some of my tips on how to edit a closet that I wrote for Answers.com.
#2- It’s what’s inside that matters
I want you to stop fixating on the number of items you must have in your closet. Let’s throw the ten item wardrobe out of the conversation completely. I have a client who has two closets of clothing. You can bet she has more than ten items of clothing. This client’s closet has been managed by me for the past three years. Therefore, I stand by the size of her closet and think there is nothing wrong with it…for her. The closet is as neat as a pin and at the end of every season there isn’t a thing in her closet with tags still attached- she wears everything she owns. While not every client I have needs a closet this big, she does, and this is my point. When it comes to fashion and wardrobe management, there is no magic number that will suffice for every woman across the board to have. The ten item wardrobe, while extremely helpful for some, isn’t right for everyone. Before you obsessively strive to create a ten item wardrobe for yourself, did you ever bother to consider if managing your closet this way was a workable solution for you? No, this is not permission to go hog-wild and load yourself up with unnecessary buys, but to reiterate that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to wardrobe management. If you have and use more than ten items in your closet, you haven’t failed. The only way you fail is if you have a closet, big or small, that isn’t workable for you.
#3- Don’t split your wears
Just this morning I had a virtual style session with a client in Texas and after reviewing all her wardrobe items I told her, “No more pink and orange printed scarves.” We had a good chuckle after I pointed out her gravitation towards scarves in patterns of these colors. Too much duplication can be the death of a workable wardrobe and something I call “splitting your wears.” Basically, splitting your wears means having more than one item providing the same function which causes you not to get maximum use from everything you own. For example, if you have five white t-shirts you’re splitting your need for a white t-shirt over five shirts vs. one or two. It’s s waste of money, money that could be put towards more useful things.
I tend to be a little strict with function in my closet. If I have one pair of boot cut jeans, I don’t buy anymore. I tend to only have one of everything I need. However, others are more lenient with the amount per item they need. Bottom line is, I’ve yet to meet someone who needs eight pairs of black pants, four little black dresses or five white button down shirts, for example. If a need is covered, move on.
#4- If you have your favorite, the runner up isn’t necessary
When I’ve debated with clients over my suggestion to purge something from their closet, I’ve used this to trick to reason with them and I highly recommend you use it with yourself. Let’s say a client has a dress hanging in their closet that is a few years old, that they haven’t worn in a while and don’t love as much as they used to. When I suggest that it’s time to let it go, their argument is they might need it and don’t want to part with it. What I do next is I pull out a similar version, or something that can play the same function, of what I am suggesting they get rid of and ask, “Under what circumstance are you going to pull this second-rate item over the newer, better version you also own?” What that client realizes in that moment is that the reason they never wear the item I want them to get rid of is because they own something similar that they prefer. In times of purging, the best way to part with duplication is to seriously ask yourself under what circumstance is the item that you don’t love as much going to trump the item you prefer? My guess is never and it can be tossed.
#5- Workable wardrobe flow
When things work in life there is a flow to it that waxes and wanes harmoniously. An organized closet does the same thing. No matter what we add to or take away from our wardrobe a sense of flow is important. When it comes to closet there is often a long period of intake followed by a massive eventual purge once it has reached maximum capacity. This can be very tiring, emotional and hard to manage. Each time a new item comes into the closet it needs to be acclimated to the wardrobe, some items can be discarded, others get new life and new wardrobe needs are discovered. Wardrobe management is constant. If you’re someone who buys and buys, loads and loads and then eventually releases, there is no flow in your wardrobe and you’re not managing it on a regular basis. You can’t over-water a lawn once in the summer with hopes that it will stay green all season long. You need to look after it regularly.
In essence, the concept behind then ten item wardrobe is brilliant in the sense that it has encouraged many women who were once diehard shopaholics and fast fashion shoppers to rethink their shopping methods and has given many women a sense of freedom, ease and enjoyment from their clothes again. In addition, it’s actually easier to choose things when we have less options to pick from. However, if you cling to the idea of that it has to be no more and no less than ten items then you have ultimately and unfortunately missed the point. Instead of worrying about the ten item wardrobe, just focus on its intent- to use more, buy less and to manage what you already own.