10 Piece Wardrobe

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
3. Sweater
4. Green trench coat
5. Wool skirt
6. Navy dress
7. J Brand jeans
8. Pumps
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.

Wardrobe maintenance

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 M├ętro 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 herehere, and here

Paris to Go

24 comments:

  1. Wonderful pieces! The colors are so complimentary and work together very well, even the sneakers. Very impressed.

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  2. Can you share your process for wiping down clothes with Savon de Marseille and a wet towel? I am intrigued!

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  3. Hello! No trick to it, I just rub the clothes lightly with a damp bar of soap, brush them if necessary, and then wipe with a clean, damp cloth. Spot cleaning, I guess :)

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  4. Lovely :) I always wanted some designer pieces that I will keep and use forever, but never found enough courage to spend couple of my salaries on one item that I won't wear so much out of fright that it might get ripped or something. But now, I don't know. Maybe it's time :)

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    1. Hi! You can do it! I could never justify spending much on clothes, because I ruin things too often. This mentality led me to waste more money on disposable clothing that wore out much faster than the clothes I have now. Buying designer pieces secondhand actually worked out to be a huge savings and plus, I've made profits reselling them when I get sick of wearing them :) Love your site by the way!

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  5. I have a small capsule wardrobe but I must say you took to a whole new level. highly inspirational! love you blog, lots of great content, your articles on zero waste are the best! thank you for sharing your ideas and lifestyle.

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    1. Thanks so much for your sweet words Lari!

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  6. I love this post, and it is very fitting as I am in the process of culling my wardrobe. I was wondering, what designers do you feel have good finishing techniques/ use good materials?

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    1. Hello Liesi! Thanks! Sorry for my late response. I can't really recommend designers because the quality varies within labels. I don't look for the label necessarily but more at the lining, the stitching, the edges, etc. And I feel the fabrics before trying them on. I've found some J Crew, Gap, Dior, Celine, Comme des Garcons, and even Louis Vuitton in thrift stores that were already used and 5+ years old and still in beautiful condition. By the same token, though, these brands still make garments that I feel are shoddy quality. So it's a judgment call.

      Sorry that wasn't really helpful...

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  7. Have you tried using dress shields in your garments? It can save on dry cleaning. You Velcro or tack them in and wash them as necessary (a model told me that she does this with her blazers).

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    1. It's so funny that you said that... I was just reading about making dress shields! Did the model have any recommendations? In the book Couture Sewing, it says you can sew muslin or cotton pieces to the armscyes of any garment. Some of my dresses already have them but not my coat- it would save the amount of laundry I do at home.

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  8. It was a little while ago that she mentioned that to me, and I think she said to go to a sewing store (the ones that sell bolts of fabric for making clothes) and they would have them. One of our local drugstores here in Canada sells disposable ones by the pack (10). I wanted to start using them in my blazers esp. in the summer time so that I can wear tank tops with them.

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    1. Thank you for this! That is really helpful. What a good idea for the summer!

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  9. This is *such* an inspirational post as I am currently retooling my own wardrobe with the goal of pared, minimal perfection (attainable as you've so clearly illustrated.) This will help me stay on the straight and narrow :) Grateful.

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    1. Hi Darcy, thank you so much! I'm glad to hear there are other people out there who see the beauty in a pared down wardrobe. What a sweet comment, please let me know how it's going with your wardrobe! I'd like to show readers how it's possible for everyone.

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  10. I had an extremely validating moment this weekend. After much lusting/ coveting/ fruitless searching for the LK Bennett dress above, I discovered it in my Pinterest closet, placed there some 7 months ago. Long before I found your charming site. So while I still can't seem to find one for my *actual* closet, at least I have a confirmed sense of what I love. Nice when that organically happens (the other way I track that is when I find the same loved piece pinned 3 or 4 times to a board bc I forget and repin it every time it shows up in a feed.)

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  11. Hi Darcy! We have similar tastes! I hope you find the stuff you love :) Vestiaire Collective has a bunch of these dresses right now, I've never ordered from them, but at least they are used in great condition.

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  12. really great selection, I love it

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  13. Beautiful post and a personal goal of mine! I'm finally erring away from fast fashion and trying to invest in better fabrics. Do you put your cashmere and silks in your machine ever or just wash them in the tub? Would you recommend investing in a steamer? I'm in love but I'm so nervous to have expensive fabrics to ruin!

    I also adore your wardrobe. I'm searching high and low for blush and rust colors, to no avail!

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    1. I have a small steam iron, and I love it. The steam setting is enough to de-wrinkle clothes and cuts down a lot on laundry. I put everything in the machine too- not lingerie but everything else is fine. I just never use the dryer. Thank you so much Danielle!

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  14. Hi Adriana, Thanks for this great post!

    You mentioned "choosing two or three secondhand items *from your closet*" each season. This has been a curiosity of mine since I first learned about capsule wardrobes... I've always assumed the terms "wardrobe" and "closet" were used interchangeably in minimalist cases. But am I correct in assuming that while this 10 item wardrobe functions as your basic foundation, you have a collection of other (presumably secondhand) clothing that you rotate in and out? And if so, how big is that collection? Do you wear it regularly, or keep any of it in storage?

    I hope I don't sound nosy -- I'm just trying to wrap my head around these minimalist wardrobes. I keep trying to narrow down my own clothes to 5, 10, 20 -item "wardrobes" (which, again, I assume includes my entire closet stock), and I keep getting stuck around 30 or 40 items. :(

    Tell me your secrets!! xxx

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    1. Hi, you're not nosy! Right now I have 20 articles of clothing (includes coats and for some reason I counted shoes too, but not stuff like my purse, scarf, mittens, hat, sunglasses, two rings, etc.) total, none of which is in storage. We don't have room to store stuff :) Because of weather, I used to wear only around 10 pieces per season, but this year has been so crazy weather-wise, I'm wearing all my clothes throughout the season- like last week I was in a parka because it was snowing, but it's 70 degrees today, so I'm in a t-shirt! I don't hold myself to a number necessarily, I just noticed that ten pieces was what I could get by on with my lifestyle at the time. I wrote more updated posts on how my wardrobe changed since then in the Wardrobe section under Categories.

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    3. Thanks for the response, *Ariana* (sorry for the name typo above)! It's helpful to know the weather details, because New York is in a similar bout of crazy hot/cold flashes, and I have been grappling with how to structure my own wardrobe around that. While I think my lifestyle/preference might involve a slightly larger selection, your commitment to keeping just the bare necessities is such a wonderful inspiration! Thanks again for your help. Going to check out your follow-up post now. :)

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