The 10 item wardrobe

Jorunn Hernes // July 18 // 10 Comments

Let's start with the "why???" that you're whispering into your second cup of almond milk chai latte (yes, I heard it).

Why limit your dressing options? Isn't it better to have 16 floral blouses, 2 striped Ts and 3 white shirts, 7 jeans skirts, 5 black skinny jeans (and the sailor pants that used to fit that you're so sure will fit again some day so you're hanging on to them) to choose from?  

Is it possible to live a rich and fulfilled life with a wardrobe of only 10 items? And why should you?

Why indeed?

Let's back up a second, just to explain where I got the number 10 from: The 10 Item Wardrobe by Eden Kaminsky. Go order it if you haven't already read it.

Being obsessed with simplicity, this title instantly made me put down my cup of tea (PG Tips, milk, no sugar) and order it to my Kindle. 

The 10 item wardrobe

Intrigued and delighted, I entertained the thought of limiting my wardrobe to 10 items, and followed Eden Kaminsky's recipe, which is roughly this:

1 jacket (she had me at the jacket, to be honest, since that's how I often start when building a capsule wardrobe)

1 coat

1 pair of black pants and 1 pair of jeans

1 white shirt

1 T-shirt

1 sweater 

1 LBD (Little Black Dress)

Shoes (one pair of heels, a pair of white sneakers and boots). She counts the three pairs of shoes as one item. Fiendishly clever. 

And then, she says to have one set of "leisure clothes", leggings and a top, which she mysteriously counts as one item, but proceeds to combine separately with all the other items to create more casual outfits.

Since I can't leave well enough alone, I proceeded to make my own version of this 10 item wardrobe, so I substituted a handbag for the leisure clothes. Because no wardrobe is complete without a hold-it-all, fabulously yours handbag individualized down to the Mickey Mouse keyring that your daughter gave you that has been clipped to every handbag you have owned since she was seven. 

I then threw in a smaller, dressier handbag. Just because I could. Here it is:

10 item wardrobe

Fun fact: I had all these items in my wardrobe from before, with the exception of the blue jeans and white sneakers. I have yet to own white sneakers. They may be on my next shopping list, because I do see how it might change up and brighten my outfits instead of wearing black shoes all the time.

Here's where it all comes to a screeching halt

Because this wardrobe does not reflect my lifestyle. At all.

They might be perfect for that week I'm spending in London doing Personal Colour Analysis appointments. (Did you know that you can get your colours sorted and know exactly which colours to build a wardrobe from, with me in London, UK? Did you miss that announcement? Well, read this).

But they're not perfect for the life I lead here in this small rural community on the west coast of Norway, where I divide my time between writing, the odd wardrobe therapy session via zoom or in person, some colour analysis (in person at my studio), walking the dog, more writing, drinking tea, and pulling fishing nets with my husband. 

The question is, can I build a 10 item wardrobe that is unique to my lifestyle? Oh, yes. The thing is, I already do. Because while I still have the items pictured above in my wardrobe, let's call them my urban (hello London!) capsule wardrobe, I have approximately 10 items that I wear over and over again, every day, every week. Here, let me show you:

My real life everyday 10 item wardrobe

A panel of the 10 items I wear over and over in cool weather looks something like this:

10 item real life wardrobe

1 jacket - a black, hooded very versatile sleek zippered jacket. Casual enough to walk the dog without looking overdressed and sleek enough to go with a skirt when drinking my iced coffee and chatting while pretending I'm knitting at the local knitting café. 

1 anorak. I do own a really classy coat but this anorak is what I grab when heading out the door and the wind is whipping my hair every way possible. And wearing an anorak with a skirt is totally possible for me, you'll know by now that Practical is pretty much my middle name. 

Black jeans, grey wool skirt. Because I can't imagine a life of not wearing skirts.

Black collarless silk top, long sleeved. I couldn't find an image of that exact one, so the on in the panel is short sleeved.

Crisp white shirt. The one I own now is cotton, but I'm aspiring to invest in a silk shirt, because that till be easier to layer under the black dress. Which brings me to:

The black dress, merino wool, soft and comfy, with pockets. I'll wear it all the time. And wearing a white shirt under it changes the look and gives another layer of warmth. Did I mention the cold wind around here?

Grey merino wool sweater. See paragraph above about layering.

Shoes: Forget heels. I love them but they make my feet hurt. Loafers and Dr Martens get the most wear in this house.

Bag. Like I said before, it's not on Eden Kaminsky's list, but I include it because it's such a staple, and where else would I keep my notebook, fountain pens and lipstick?

Now, the mysterious leisure outfit that she includes in her book. For me, they are a pair of Norrøna hiking pants and a plain linen ling sleeved top, in ice blue. So why not include them in the items, and call it what it is? OK I see the point. I counted the items in my panel, 11 items of I count the shoes/bag as one, like Eden does. Not nearly as sleek as the 10 items, so never mind.

Why do it?

Yes, why indeed. Well, I can list quite a few reasons why it's actually very liberating to limit the number of items in your wardrobe, up to and not limited to it being kinder on your wallet and on the planet, and that it frees your mind to think about more important things, like how to explain in French that you're looking for the lady at the market, the one with the multi-coloured eggs from her independent, free ranging chickens so that you can let her know that you want 10 eggs, not 6. 

I have been thinking about this. The thought of limiting your clothing options makes you reach for a brown paper bag to breathe in. It's OK. Just breathe. Think about this: You use you favourite clothes over and over, all the time, am I right? The thing is that you crave variety as well. 

So put the paper bag down, let's do this instead:

Change the concept from the 10 item wardrobe to The 10 Favourites Wardrobe. Can you hear how that changes the concept from a limiting straight-jacket (the kind of jacket that is definitely NOT on anybody's list of items, am I right?) to a core wardrobe to love and that you can supplement with other (colourful) items for variety.

The 10 Favourites Wardrobe

Which means you don't HAVE to limit yourself only these items. It means that you are curating and upgrading the backbone of your wardrobe to items that you love, and that it's never a problem to get ready for a night of playing canasta with your besties. You may be worrying about whether Gladys will catch you cheating (again), but not about what to wear.

So go ahead and assemble your 10 Favourite Wardrobe, I'm sure you can do this with clothes that you already have. Put these to the front of your closet, and use them with pleasure. And then you can still keep a number of other items in the back of the closet (or in a shelf somewhere nearby) that you can grab when you feel the need to change things up.

I'll be willing to bet that it will happen fewer times than you think.

So, to reiterate:  The 10 Item Wardrobe by Eden Kaminsky. Go order it if you haven't already read it.

Then see if you can play around with creating a 10 Favourites Wardrobe from your clothes, to suit your lifestyle. 

And then, write me an email or comment here in the blog post if that is easier. Let me know if you climbed the curtains in wild delight at the thought of limiting the items, or write to me describing the vase you broke when you hurled the book across the room in frustration (and what it is that makes you grind your teeth when you open your closet).

I can help. Not with the vase, obviously, but I can help you sort your wardrobe. Talk to me.

How do you feel about the amount of black in this 10 item wardrobe?

And how is your relationship with black anyway? Ah, wait, there's a quiz for that:

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