10 February 2015

Style Dilemma Solved: 10 Pieces, 10 Days

The Alexandria Stylebook team called for volunteers to join their “10 for 10” experiment: 10 pieces of clothing for 10 days. Accessories, shoes, and outerwear? Up to each participant how “hardcore” they wanted to be.

“I don’t have time. I don’t have clean clothes. I don’t like my clean clothes.”

Then I thought about it for a few seconds, without the excuses.

Truth of it is, I’m in a funk. The DayJob is demanding. The Beans have their own demands. Exercise and even eating well, which got me to my #healthyme goal a little over 2 years ago (first post in the series here, and all of them here), aren’t just in the back seat, they’re in the “way back.” I’m up 10-15 pounds from my fit, happy place, where I feel strong and sleek. My closet is full of clothes that fit the strong, sleek me much better than the now me, if at all. I have a few pieces that are more forgiving than others, and I rewear them. Over and over and over.

“So why not?” I thought. I do it anyway.

“But you don’t have time to pick out the 10 pieces,” my scaredy-cat self protested. I was up to the wall with deadlines as it started. I didn’t even know where in our house some of my “old reliable” pieces were hiding.

On that first Friday, though, I got out of bed, got the Beans ready, made my green smoothie, and got dressed. I thought carefully about what I would wear on that casual Friday that wasn’t completely casual (I had meetings).

That first Friday, I picked a simple black sweater (old, a v-neck version here), navy skinny “jeans” (old, but these would give a similar effect) a heathered blazer (similar), and riding boots (similar). I accessorized with a scarf (similar). I figured that I could rewear these three pieces with just about anything in my wardrobe. We’d see.

Saturday, we went skiing, so I “cheated” with cold weather workout wear. Then Sunday, even as I donned my church clothes, I was back to it. I added another piece (a pink shirt, old, but this army green would be a great option), but used the blazer and pants again, building to four.

As I've had most of these pieces in my closet forever, they're not available any longer, but Banana Republic always has a good grey trouser and pencil skirt, and I wore my Aerin booties from The Shoe Hive practically daily.

As the week progressed, I added a piece or two a day, until I was up to the ten. I opted to keep the outerwear, accessories, and footwear out of the count, though in the end, I wore a number of those pieces repeatedly. When it’s freezing cold, for example, I will only wear my one blue wool coat. My riding boots were a staple, and my sole pair (pun not at all intended) of black shoes - black suede booties - even garnered a “You’ve been wearing those shoes a lot,” from H.

I suppose I’m lucky. I work in two different offices, and had at least one day with meetings entirely outside of the office, so no one group of people saw me in the same clothes, even if I wore them 2 days in a row. (I do wonder if other people really would notice duplicate ensembles. Perhaps that’s another experiment.) As early as a couple of days in, I welcomed the limited choices. Not having to go through a full closet of things I didn’t want to or couldn’t wear every morning? The lack of choice felt like pure, comfortable luxury.

Capsule wardrobes are in. Stylists preach “quality over quantity.” Magazines publish article after article about the 5, 10, 15 basic pieces every woman needs to anchor her closet. I agree with all of them. While I love me a good Target find (and will “splurge” on a silly, fun piece like a Grinch Christmas sweater), for years I’ve considered possible new purchases as they fit both into my existing closet with other items and into my lifestyle. Yet somehow I ended up with a closet full of things I didn’t feel I could wear, and found myself freed by the 10 for 10 exercise.

Having 10 pieces of clothing for 10 days (if you can do the math, which I can’t, any longer, there are exponential combinations) was a relief. For where I am right now, having fewer - and carefully considered - choices let me focus on other things (like getting my makeup on daily, though washing my hair is another story) each morning. Looking back, this sort of closet should be a no-brainer for me. I’m the sort of person who can juggle a lot - as long as I maintain certain systems, like putting my purse, keys, and gloves in the exact same place every single time I come in the house. It makes perfect, logical, head-slapping sense that limiting my wardrobe choices when I’ve got a particularly full plate would work well.

Did I feel amazing in every combination? No, I didn’t. I did, however, feel polished and sleek. I felt considered, professional, and elegant. Even on weekends, when normally I’d err on the side of jeans and a T, I turned to my darker, dressier wash (albeit boyfriend) jeans and that original black sweater or one of two button downs I’d added within a few days. By the end of the 10 days, I also realized that I’d turned to menswear. I used a black skirt and a grey and black dress, but those button downs and jackets were straight up off a boy. My favorite ensemble, the one in which I felt the most kick-ass? Chalk that up to the the day when I channeled both Lauren Bacall and Lauren Hutton (and Kate Hepburn, my original trousers-wearing-idol) in a perfectly slouchy silky pink button down and tailored grey trousers.

I started the exercise as a bit of a lark. It became a tool to navigate a stressful time, and emerged as confirmation of my personal style. What I wore is what I love best - it’s what I feel best in, style-wise. In the end, you can take the girl out of...well, you can take the girl out of it, and give her boys’ clothes, but she’ll always add sparkly earrings and kick your ass while wearing red lips. At least this one will.

Would you do a “10 for 10?” What would be in your capsule? What would you consider as you selected pieces?


Alison at Wardrobe Oxygen said...

Love this post! I feel it would be hard, but then this morning as I put on my black cashmere sweaterdress that I wear weekly (and sometimes twice in one week), my black tights, and my tall black heeled boots I have had for a decade and adorned it with my labradorite pendant that I wear so often, I don't think it would be hard. I may have to try this myself!

Alison Santighian said...

@ Alison, this "reuse" you describe is exactly what put me over the edge into doing it. I learned so much about myself, and it really was a great coping mechanism for a crazy time.

I highly recommend you try it - maybe pick one of your own capsules, and do a "capsule wardrobe" IRL? I'd read it!

Deb - Real Girl Runway said...

As always, you took a challenge that seemed daunting and made it look easy. I did a 30 for 30 years ago. I may need to try a 10 for 10. Thanks for the great post!

Alicia said...

Alison - I loved reading your post! When I opened Stylebook this morning and saw you had completed the challenge and then followed through with a tell tale article to boot...I had to put the pedal to the metal and sum up my own experience (which is now complete on my site. In all honesty, I sent one text to Elizabeth (Shoe Hive) telling her I was over the challenge - that was day seven (perhaps the seven day itch). But I did feel moments of liberation throughout, discovered my love for my JBrand flares and how much I missed my leggings. I chose them in order to reacquaint myself with the style - tren
ding strong for spring! Thanks for taking the challenge and giving such a thoughtful summary of how it impacted you!

Alison Santighian said...

@ Deb, go for it - I think you'll find it a useful exercise (and then share, of course!)

@ Alicia - I would've been over it if it weren't for my insane life at the moment. It let me get moving w/out thought and stay polished & presentable. Can't wait to see your post!