December 6, 2014
Everywhere you look, there’s a “number” wardrobe that’s recommended to make life easier! I am as guilty of that as anyone, because I like nice, tidy, finite wardrobes, and I’m crazy about numbers.
But what do all of these number ideas teach us?
The French 10 Piece Wardrobe
To me, this idea translates into a core wardrobe with lots of versatility. It is the canvas upon which you demonstrate your personal preferences, whimsy, and style.
Ten pieces of clothing is a pretty excellent number for those of us who are out in public 5 days a week, in that it provides a week of “tops” and a week of “bottoms”.
If they’re carefully chosen, these ten items can give you 25 base ensembles from which you can go crazy with accessories, jackets, or cardigans.
The French 5 Piece Wardrobe
I think the general premise of this idea is that you buy five items for the season (autumn/winter, and spring/summer). Now that I’ve concluded that my short-sleeved summer dress purchase must be relegated to summer, my purchases fit that criteria.
This is a handy guideline for limiting the number of “punctuation” pieces that you buy. Core neutral garments don’t count in this purchasing number, so it’s only the really statement clothes that must be limited to five. By adhering to this limit, you force yourself to be more selective, and you FREE yourself to buy nicer things than you might have bought if you just ran around willy-nilly picking up something every week or two.
In terms of mileage, a dress might not be the best item to include in a French 5 Piece Wardrobe, but this dress is so easy to wear that it will be out and about every week. And I have all kinds of accessories that go perfectly with it, so it will never look the same twice! (see my accessories that are currently part of my Project 333 here)
My very snappy star cardigan has at least 10 possible options – more like 20, since it would also work well with my black shirt and my white shirt. Probably even the denim shirt would look fun with this…
Although I can easily wear the star sweatshirt without an “under”, this time of year it’s much warmer to wear 2 layers. So any shirt with a collar that peeks out will be paired up with the starry fun – another 15 possible ensembles.
Same with my new red sweater – any shirt will work. Although I’m not quite sure about the denim shirt with the red sweater – I may not feel comfortable with that. The joy of the red sweater is that it gives me a really easy way to wear one of my scarves with red in it (like the new one I bought on vacation). And it looks really appropriate for both the Christmas holidays and Valentine’s Day!
And if I toss a cardigan into my French 10, my red tee shirt suddenly will be out and about. But I’m not about to violate the 10-piece criterion here!
The best person to explain Project 333 is Courtney Carver, who invented the whole idea, so I suggest that if that idea appeals to you, read about it here.
Brilliant, as always! Even your core garments are elevated basics. I love your punctuation pieces and I personally need those to keep from getting bored but this is where I struggle. There are so many things to consider beyond color & fit – such as fabrication, proportion and versatility, and you've hit them all. How do you "know" when you've found the right piece (especially when shopping on vacation)?
Janice Riggs says
Finely honed instincts, built from listening to my heart, and paying really CLOSE attention to what I own that gets used to its fullest potential. It's a quality we in my household call "whappage" – an item that you area drawn to, can't get out of your mind, and can picture wearing a dozen different ways.
Madame Là-bas says
This collection is so versatile and stylish! I still have too many items in my closet. Less is really more! The COS dress is something that could be worn to so many occasions. We seem to have fewer choices to buy "more mature" styled clothing in Canada.
Love these – so versatile – dressing up or down – this is such an easy formula ! Thanks for constantly making us think about using what we already have.
More love for this. I would not be as likely to spend my 5 punctuation pieces on two similarly-motifed patterns, so you must luuurve stars! After years of overstuffed closets, a wardrobe like that shown has brought me much sanity It occurs to me, Janice, many women do not have wardrobes- they have a vast assembly of clothes. The real switch is when she realizes everything has to work with most other pieces.
Janice Riggs says
Oddly enough, I'm not all that mad about stars, but both pieces just really appealed to me. The quality in both is exceptional, the essential whimsy factor for my life was there, and I went with my instincts. I also have a pair of tiny silver star earrings, and that might very well finish me off for stars. I think it was just… in the stars?.. that these were two of my purchases. The unexpected is often the most fun!
I love the stars for the holiday season! Even for simple gatherings, Janice, you'll be instantly festive.
It's nice to see how these plans work in action in your wardrobe. Don't you wear your shirts open over t-shirts? That's a favorite look for me and would give you more outfits with your red t-shirt and a black column with your black one. I think especially the denim shirt over the black column would be great.
Janice Riggs says
I can't believe I didn't remember to show those options – I will of course wear my red tee shirt under my black shirt a ton. What a lunkhead I am some days!
Thanks for the great post. As a seamstress. I get distracted by the 5 fun pieces and have way to many of those in my closet. I need have a plan for the 10 pieces.
Hi, your readers and ardent supporters will never allow you to say you are a lunkhead!. I have the Eileen Fisher slouchy pants and love them. I usually wear skinny jeans and tailored pants so they were way out of my style concept for me. But they are so comfy and very bohemian.
Deb from Vancouver
hostess of the humble bungalow says
I like the idea of a basic 10 piece wardrobe but cannot quite whittle mine down that far yet….getting closer though thanks to your clever posts.
Janice Riggs says
Dearest Hostess – it's a process, and sometimes, for some people, ten pieces isn't going to work. Frankly, I also have a black turtleneck, and a couple of additional cardigan, as well as a black v-neck sweater… The only real goal is that you have what you need, you love what you have, you DON'T have things that you don't love, you DON'T have things that distract you, and you're happy every time you open your closet door. The way that this happens for each of us will be different, thanks heavens!
Deborah Montgomery says
Love this, Janice. I have recently discovered Eileen Fisher and will add as I can afford to. So comfortable and stylish. I think a very classic, basic wardrobe can use a little playfulness to keep it from being boring, and the stars are perfect. So are your beautiful scarves.
I absolutely love the idea of limiting your wardrobe like this, so everything is worn and is of better quality. Any chance of a version for those of us with warm coloring?
Coco Colmani says
Thank you Janice! This is a helpful reminder of the goals implied in each of the numbers, all of course tending to help us establish a nicely curated core wardrobe of versatile, wearable items with some starry highlights. You're so good at encouraging us to find our way in our own wardrobes too.
Fabulous post! Thank you, Janice, for turning on yet another lightbulb in my head.
Just a quick thank you, not just for this post, but for all of them. We traveled over the Thanksgiving holiday, a very fast four day trip. From my winter core, I pulled nine pieces (pants, shirts, and sweaters); colors of gray, cream, and soft pink, with a couple of scarves and jewelry. A minimum of packing and my mother-in-law complimented my outfit EVERY SINGLE DAY!! So, thanks.
Virginia, with compliments from the MIL that sounds like a winning travel capsule to me.
i've never been one for numbers, but i love your explanations here – especially of the french 5 piece wardrobe, which has confused me from the start! but now i see the idea, and wish i'd adhered to 5 items this season :)