Eco Chic Challenge: The 10-Item Wardrobe, Part 1

February 13, 2014


When Jennifer Scott was a foreign exchange student in Paris, she learned beaucoup French style secrets from her host mother, who she affectionately calls “Madame Chic” in her French lifestyle guide, Lessons from Madame Chic. If you’ve ever envied the proverbial timeless chic we Americans often associate with French women, Scott’s lovely book on living well à la Française is a must read.

I’m particularly drawn to what Scott terms the “ten-item wardrobe.”  A ten-item wardrobe is comprised of roughly ten core items of clothing.  This doesn’t include outerwear, occasional wear (like evening dresses), under shirts, or accessories.  The ten-item wardrobe may change depending on the season, and, of course, it should be suited to your lifestyle.

Scott noticed that many French women—both in real life and in (French) film—stick to a basic wardrobe that they wear (in creative ways) week after week.  But what does having a smaller wardrobe have to do with being chic? Scott explains:

“The point of the ten-item wardrobe is to free yourself from a jam-packed closet full of ill-fitting, underused, or poor-quality clothing.  Your ultimate goal is to create a wardrobe that you love, in which every item of clothing speaks to who you are…”

Adopting the ten-item wardrobe sounds like a lovely opportunity to get in touch with the essence of your true style.  Ideally, your core items should be the finest quality you can afford—regardless of the brand.  Aside from being a fun way to get in touch with your inner-chic, this idea appeals to me because it’s simply a more eco-friendly way to live.  Imagine never buying a cheap, factory-made, synthetic sweater ever again! What if your clothes were made by people who really considered the quality and sustainability of their materials? Also, de-cluttering your closet and saving or adding items conscientiously will make getting dressed in the morning much easier!

I definitely want to try this, but I know it will take me some time.  One, I have a pretty small clothes budget, so if I need to add anything to my ten-item wardrobe, I’ll have to call on my recessionista savvy.  Two, I know I’ve got a lot of closet de-cluttering to do.  Period.

Currently, I work in a very casual office (my colleagues wear sweatpants). This doesn’t really jive with my personal style. If I could wear anything I wanted, I’d probably wear heels and dresses everyday! To avoid being inappropriately overdressed, I have to compromise with cute cardigans and nice jeans.  And thus, my ten-item wardrobe will (hopefully) be a blend of sophisticated casual that I can easily dress up with accessories if necessary.

The first item that’s definitely going (staying) in my wardrobe is a black, cotton Free People dress.  I’ve had it for about six years! It’s missing a button (fixable) and is certainly faded (fixable, I think).  This lace-fringed dress is so versatile—worn with tights and pumps, it makes a beautiful, dressy winter outfit.  Wear it with cowboy boots or “leather” gladiator sandals, and you’ve got a sexy outfit for a summer bbq. This dress is extra special because I found it at TJMaxx for $4!  I don’t think I’ll ever top that shopping success story.


My favorite black dress–I plan to make it last forever!


Black dress sleeve detail.

A note on under garments:


Undergarments like camis are crucial to getting the most wear out of your bigger-ticket items. And yes, I have tiny pink hangers–would you expect anything less?

As Scott notes, it’s crucial to have plenty of tanks and tees to wear under your lovely ten-items.  Switching out your camis and such will help extend your time between visits to the dry cleaners or laundry room.  I love camis with a touch of lace, but unfortunately, my favorite back cami is so past its prime, I couldn’t bring myself to post a photo of it.

This week’s challenge:

Spiffing up my old black dress and replacing my black cami.  (I promise I like colors!)  Here are a few camis I’m considering:

Women’s Everyday Black Shelf Bra Camisole by PACT

Aerie Girl V-Neck Tank by Aerie

Is anyone else up for the 10-Item Wardrobe Challenge?

Next: The 10-Item Wardrobe, Part 2! 

The 10-Item Wardrobe, Part 3 (Signature Accessories)

 Also in Style: 10 Prettiest Valentine’s Day Outfit Ideas

What is Recycled Leather?

Must-Buy Vegan Brand: Deux Lux

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Photos: Sharon Durthaler via Flickr, Mary Hood

Peaceful Dumpling Beauty Editor and creator of Bisou du Jour, Mary Hood Luttrell lives with her husband in Corpus Christi, Texas. Mary is a freelance writer and writing and blogging consultant. A lover of whole foods, Mary delights in learning new ways to prepare vegan dishes. Mary also enjoys reading and writing poetry, art journaling, running, and practicing yoga and ballet. Follow Mary on her blog Bisou du Jour, Instagram and Pinterest.


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