This post has been updated. Click here for my current wardrobe.
Moving to Paris and walking everywhere changed the way clothes fit, leaving me with little to wear. Now my wardrobe consists of ten core pieces, plus a few seasonal items. A little background: I need day-to-night pieces that carry me through the seasons, and clothes that withstand a sweaty commute. I bought almost everything secondhand, when I was supporting myself through college- I grew out of fast fashion years ago, and purchasing runway pieces used for less than the price of a bowl of risotto provides a satisfying rush.
10 key pieces:1. Pink dress
2. White t-shirt
4. Green trench coat
5. Wool skirt
6. Navy dress
7. J Brand jeans
9. Nike Dunk sneakers (they look nice with all my dresses, in a Kelly Rowland sort of way)
10. Longchamp bag
Seasonal / essential items:1. Shirtdress (spring/summer only)
2. Petit Bateau dress (spring / summer only) UPDATE: I wore this to the market and met a four year old wearing the same dress- donated.
3. Vera Wang dress (my wedding dress, fall/winter and special occasions only)
4. Glasses and sunglasses- I need them to see, not complete an outfit
5. Wedding ring and watch, which I never remove
In other words, two tops, two bottoms, two dresses, two pairs of shoes, a coat, one bag and a couple seasonal items are all you need for a fully functional wardrobe year-round. Don't go out and buy new stuff! Almost everybody already has things they love in their closet. Why not try wearing those for awhile and see how you like it? Twice a year, at the end of summer and the beginning of spring, I inventory clothes. Ruined items, anything that doesn't fit, and anything I don't wear gets tailored, donated, refashioned, or sold. Each season, I'll choose two or three secondhand items from my closet to supplement this ten-piece wardrobe- a casual dress or extra t-shirt in summer, and a heavier coat, gloves, and boots in winter. I don't keep anything in storage, and if I lived somewhere else, I'd probably incorporate more color. In Paris, bright clothing feels conspicuous- as it is, I own only one black item.
If you're worried about the effect frequent wear has on an item's condition, each article of clothing has a set life cycle, and constant use does not alter that. Any materials scientist will tell you clothes and shoes need only 24 hours rest to maximize their life span. I may mend or darn pieces more than other people, but that's because I buy secondhand and live in a city without a car. My friends still ask me, "Is that dress/shirt/pair of jeans new?" when I've worn the same things every day for years.
Dresses make it easier for me to get ready in the morning. Instead of dealing with a bunch of suit jackets, tops, and bottoms, dresses look professional and pulled-together for work, dates, parties, or walking around Paris. I wash clothes every two weeks or so, including dry-clean only items, my purse, and coats, at home. Turn garments inside out and machine-wash or soak in a bathtub with two inches water and savon de marseille. Don't use your dryer- turn right side out, steam, and hang to dry. This works on pure silk, wool-silk, virgin wool, cashmere, cotton, and linen fabrics. Dry-cleaning is wasteful and expensive, and I haven't found a Paris cleaner that didn't ruin everything anyway (shame on you, Record Pressing on Avenue de La Motte-Picquet, for scorching my favorite Dior dress).
I use a safety razor to defuzz wool and cashmere, but Truffaut, Nose, and Buly 1803 sell unpackaged brushes, sweater combs, and stones for zero-waste lint removal. A vodka spritz and vigorous combing freshens clothing between washes. If something gets dirty and I need it the next day, I scrub out the armpits and any stains with soap, rinse, and hang to dry. It takes minutes.
A coordinated closet
I like the idea of a uniform- a white t-shirt with a skirt and heels or sneakers; tucked into jeans, like Cindy Crawford in the 90s; or untucked, like Jane Birkin. Sandals aren't good for city streets, with broken glass, lit cigarettes, and people stepping on your toes, but I wore Ancient Greek Sandals from eBay the past five summers. Two swimsuits, one pair pajamas, and a dozen undergarments round out my closet. To extend their life span, I never wear shoes without stocking or socks. Six pairs of socks (ankle and winter-only wool socks) and two stockings (update- I wore only one pair all winter) are enough.
My goal was to own a single, perfect outfit for every occasion in life. I wear the same clothes over and over again, but nobody noticed until I wrote this post. Once a week, women stop to tell me my coat is "Jolie," Americans on the Métro compliment my shoes, or friends say, "I love your dress- it suits you." To curate a colorful, minimal wardrobe for round-the-world travel, click here. To read more about my wardrobe and beauty routine, click here, here, and here.