Sunday, April 28, 2013

My Lessons From Madame Chic

I have always been a reader, but in the past month I have been devouring books with lightning speed. Every night I have been retiring to bed early, curling up under our duvet with a mass of pillows propped under my head and basically inhaling some book or other until I can no longer keep my eyes open. And if the book is really good, I refuse to stop reading and usually Charlie finds me sitting up comatose, book open, glasses on and head lolled to one side with my mouth gaped open. He's one lucky guy.
That is basically how he found me each night I spent reading Lessons from Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott. Erin Gates mentioned the book on her blog and I was completely intrigued. I had to get it. And you should too.
Jennifer Scott spent a year living as a foreign exchange student in Paris with the "Chic" family ~ a family of aristocratic stock and masters in the fine art of living. Madame Chic's lessons cover everything from dining to dressing and Jennifer relates her observations and experiences in such an affable way that you won't be able to put this book down either.
The part that struck the biggest chord with me was Chapter 4 ~ Liberate yourself with the 10 item wardrobe. 10 items??? I own like 10 hundred articles of clothing!!!!
I have worked in the apparel retail industry since I was 15. Clothing is my livelihood and my closets runneth over. While I have scaled back my shopping habits immensely in the past few years, I own enough clothing to fully dress a small third world country. It's ridiculous.
They say we wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time and I cannot deny that being true. But how do you scale back when you lean towards the "classic" and have spent years building what you consider to be a "timeless" wardrobe?
Well, here's how that "timeless" wardrobe was working out for me:

This is closet 1 of 2.
And shall I mention that this is my Fall/Winter wardrobe?
There are 8 Rubbermaid totes in the attic with the summer stuff.
It is so tight to squeeze anything in, that this past winter I just started hooking things to the bar over top of everything else.
My folded piles are so high that they tip mercilessly to the side.
My closets are, frankly, a hot mess.
And the craziest part?
The retailer I currently work for has such a restrictive dress code that I wear even less than 20% of my stuff 5 days a week! Pathetic.
I had already purged a large amount in early fall but clearly need an intervention of some sort or other.
So I took Jennifer's tip about being brutal with cleaning out closet clutter and I have spent the past week sorting through each day after work, filling trash bag after trash bag of clothing, shoes and accessories.
I'm not sure that I could ever get to a 10 item wardrobe, I'm not even at 25 items yet, but I am down to one closet from two and poor Charlie lugged 11 trash bags out to the garage this week. I unpacked the 8 totes of summer and only 4 of winter went back to the attic. I can now slide hangers back and forth in the closet and all my shoes fit perfectly. There will be more purging I'm sure at the end of the summer, but for now I'm pretty pleased with what I've done.
Here's what I learned:
1. I owned over 30 pairs of jeans and wear the same 4 pairs again and again. Can we say Denim Hoarder???  I kept 12 for now, but will probably revisit this pile and purge again.
2. I own so much vintage and I wear so little of it. I kept the "to die" for pieces that I will never come across again in my lifetime (like my white sequin jacket ~ amazing with a stripe tee, jeans and heels!) and have contacted a vintage dealer to buy the rest of it.
3. I have had some items for over a decade! Just because it still fits and may be a "classic" doesn't mean I need to keep it. That's where the brutal part came in.
4. Items I can't wear to work because of dress code I had to seriously ask myself "Will I wear this on my day off?" Many bags were filled because there are other things I would love to wear on those two precious days.
5. I'm turning 40 this year. My son starts college in September. Time for those pairs of 6" heels to go. I'll live on "the edge" with no higher than 4" and age gracefully with some sensible shoes. I'm just not ready for Aerosoles yet.  

What about you?
Do your closets runneth over or are you disciplined and in control?


  1. Girl. My closet runneth over just like yours! I requested the book from the library after you posted it on IG and am excited to dive in. I agree about having difficulty whittling down to 10-25 items, but I think a good closet purge is cathartic. I'm at that same age where I need to take stock in what I have and ask myself some hard questions. Like, is this more for a 24 yr old than 40 yr old!?! While I haven't stooped ADDING to my closet, I have started REPLACING items with things that fit better into my adult life.

    1. Pamela,
      The only thing I have added is that necklace you loved on IG and some black and white vneck tees for summer.
      I was so disgusted with myself for all the crap I bought just last summer that I can't even wear to work anymore. At least I will recoup some $ selling at my local flea market and I am listing a bunch of JCrew stuff on eBay.
      Now if I could only stop buying books..... ;)

    2. Atleast that one is easy. Buy a Kindle and download the fiction books you want to read. Keep real books for the beautiful coffee table books or research library and leave fiction to be stored on'the cloud'.

    3. Melissa,
      That one might be the hardest of all! I adore books and have a massive cookbook collection. I can't do the Kindle - nothing beats holding a hardcover!:)

  2. I am pretty good about my clothing since having kids. I do a purge about twice per year. I would like to only have a 10 piece item closet for the ease of picking out my outfits each day, but I don't think I will ever get down that far. I probably have 20 tops, 15 pants and 10 dresses/skirts. I also own an insane amount of sweaters and jackets considering I live in the desert where it is never really cold.

    I hate clutter- so that helps me keep things under control. I am a bit OCD in that way.

    I am very interested in that book now!

    1. Get it - you won't be disappointed!
      I hate clutter too, I'm very good at organizing my hoard!

  3. I ma obsessed with stripes - just bought two more striped sweaters, but here's the thing I really really wear them. Isn't it funny a striped top and high waisted trou are just perfection - and if you can get that right you are golden...I've just put my wardrobe in colour order and honestly - it's made so much difference. I'm much happier with my clothes and have re-dicovered some goodies!

    1. I'm so retentive that I am colorized within classification. I even run my tops from sleeveless to long in color order.
      All those years in retail really shine through!

  4. Hello to you. (I'm around lurking here and there.) I just cleaned out my closet and took all my shoes out and realized I have way too many shoes. No shopping for a while. Also, I have been way to busy with work to post outfits but will post if I travel. Hope you and family are doing well.

  5. Hello to you. (I'm around lurking here and there.) I just cleaned out my closet and took all my shoes out and realized I have way too many shoes. No shopping for a while. Also, I have been way to busy with work to post outfits but will post if I travel. Hope you and family are doing well.

  6. Thanks for including the details and pictures! I like what you said about your denim collection! I think it makes sense to edit as much as you can bear, and then go back and do some more later. Now that I have less choices, I find I'm more picky about which ones really flatter me. I loved reading Jennifer Scott's book and am trying to think more like a French woman:) My next sort is my collection of jewelry. I'm pretty sure I'm keeping my vintage "mood" ring.

  7. I've been inspired by Jennifer as well. I decided to try the ten-item wardrobe for a month. I'm on week two and it is going well. The only problem I have is that it is much more of a taboo to wear the same outfit two days in a row here in North America than it is in France so I have to think more about what I'm going to wear to make it look different. You can see my post and what I've chosen here:

    You sound like you are doing an amazing job clearing out your closet. It is such hard work. I always think it is much easier to clear out my husband's closet than my own.

  8. Guilty as charged
    I have so much clothes I would not even admit to how many wardrobes I have filled. I even wear less than 20%

  9. Do you have the storage to try a wardrobe challenge by literally packing all your items into one closet (you said you have two), pulling out 25 key pieces (plus lingerie, workout wear, a reasonable amount of shoes, and tees)? and live that way for a month? It would be a curious experiment.

    1. I do have the storage to try it and that is an interesting idea indeed!
      Over the past week I have purged some more items I know I will not wear and I feel pretty confident that there will be more to come.
      If I try your experiment, I will certainly share about it!