Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Jennifer Scott and the ten-item wardrobe - mostly a ladies' post

After some of our comments on the previous post, I thought I’d like to say a bit more about how valuable I’ve found Jennifer Scott’s blog, videos and books.

Her TED talk on the ten-item wardrobe has been key, for me. I looked at capsule wardrobes for ages, but couldn't get it figured out somehow. But it's all fallen into place for me since I saw that - I'm not quite sure why. Now I can operate on a really small minimum of clothes without feeling I'm missing anything. I whittled it right down, and then a bit more.

Maria, who used to read on here, once made the wise suggestion of keeping a quarantine box, so if I change my mind I could retrieve things rather than having to buy again.

I do that, and have found it very successful. If, over time, I keep retrieving an item, wearing it for a morning, then remembering why I thought it wasn’t working in the first place, I  move it on (laundered of course) because by that stage I’ve got it firmly fixed in my mind why it doesn’t work, and I won’t replace it.

I think part of what has worked is the idea of a wardrobe with ten hangers in it.  My hangers are large and strong and have clips on the cross bar, so I can put a whole outfit on them – a skirt, blouse and cardigan. That helped me to think in outfits, and also limited me to thirty garments rather than ten, which felt easier to begin with.

Another contributing factor is that I’ve aged a lot in the last couple of years, and the tops I used to wear don’t suit me so well. Plus my size tends to fluctuate, so I had to work out how to address that: loose lagenlook linen dresses in the summer; in the winter stretchy straight skirts, shirts two sizes up tucked in, and a cardigan or waistcoat and jacket. If you aren’t sure what ‘lagenlook’ dresses are like, search ‘lagenlook’ on eBay/Google/Pinterest – very helpful solution for less than perfect figures and for women who like modest clothes but are not over-keen on the Little-House-On-The-Prairie look.

It’s well cold here in England at the moment, so I’m still in my winter wardrobe.

This is what I wear, from the base layer out! Full briefs, because they are practical and comfortable and I can’t see the point of briefs that cover only half my ample posterior. What they call a ‘comfort bra’ – ie a sort of stretchy crop top thing – because I have become very suspicious of the idea of tight corsetry around the bust; what about all those lymph nodes etc? What I wear is not very Trinny-and-Susannah, but I’m not all that enthusiastic about the Headlamps-Full-On look anyway, so hey. I wear a vest (underwear not waistcoat) if it’s cold.

Then in winter I wear merino tights. I am ashamed of the amount of money I’ve spent at Marks and Spencer buying tights in synthetic yarn, that all work downwards so the crotch is uncomfortably low. No thanks. Merino (also Marks and Spencer) stays put, is not scratchy, is warm but not hot. I like it. On my feet I wear ankle boots, flat walking shoes, or Vivobarefoot running shoes (depends where I’m going). I like the advice I read somewhere that you should be able to walk, run and dance in every pair of shoes you own. Not hobble please!!  In summer I wear leggings and sandals. I have to keep my legs covered because I have cankles and awful varicose veins.

Summertime I wear scoop-neck tees under a sleeveless linen lagenlook dress, with a loose linen jacket over the top if it’s chilly.  Winter, it’s skirt, blouse and cardi.

My summer colours are mainly grey, white and blue. My winter colours are brown, green and grey. I have three cheery scarves and some fingerless mittens. If it’s windy and freezing and I need a hat, I fold one of the scarves and wear it as a headscarf.

Until recently I had some trousers, but I found them difficult to manage. Fine when just washed, baggy in no time. And then that verse by Noel Coward kept nagging away in my head:

Go clad your lower limbs with pants; 
Yours are the limbs, my sweeting. 
You look divine as you advance – 
Have you seen yourself retreating?

Once the thought’s in your head . . .

But I kept one pair (winter) and have some to wear with/under a dress (summer).

I wear a little blusher and lipstick, and I always wear earrings.

Oh – I have two pairs of PJs and a dressing gown (a warm winter one and a light summer one) and bedsocks. And I have a set of funeral/formal ceremony clothes (black jumper/pinafore-dress and shirt, black cardi, with black tights and black flat shoes winter or summer).

That’s it.

Here’s my winter wardrobe.

Here are the cheery scarves. 

The empty shelf above is where I keep my PJs, but one set is in the wash and I’m wearing the other right now. The small flat box on that shelf has my beeswax candles in – protects them from bright light and makes the clothes smell nice.

See the two big boxes under the wardrobe? One has all my shoes (I have big feet!) the other has my summer clothes.

This has all come together so brilliantly; I am delighted. The need to live with very few possessions is of great importance to me. Partly because of our slightly complex living arrangements – if I needed a large room to accommodate my belongings, the whole set-up would come unstitched. It’s also because, as a result of a series of big life events that made it essential I could manage in a tiny space with almost no storage, I gave up insisting on owning things and having the consequent space to put them in. I came to see that the possibilities open out in proportion to how few things I own. But, like other readers here, I do value books, so thank goodness for Kindle, eh?


Unknown said...


This is something I struggle with so much, although compared to most people I am ace. I have drastically cut down my wardrobe, primarily following Project 333, except I don't count my headscarves.

Part of my problem is I love jeans, but they really don't work in a wheelchair. I almost need a different wardrobe for that.

Also, I'm a scrufbag, but I do need to look good.

The other problem is I get obsessive, and was spending a huge amount of time going through my wardrobe, counting it and then going back again to whittle it down. I was then thinking about it lots and writing out lists, editing the lists and generally making myself a little bit crazy. I realise this is part of my personality and at that point I need to back away from the thing and have some breathing space.

I have a huge quarantine box at the moment, mainly because I have gotten too big for some of my favourite clothes, but I can't bring myself to throw them away. I've gone gluten free again and that is making a huge amount of difference - in terms of pain, fatigue and weight (which of course contributes to the other two).

Pen Wilcock said...

Heheh - oh, yes - ALL of that is such familiar territory. For me, tea, bread and sugar are the problem foods. And wouldn't you know, I could live entirely on tea bread and sugar . . . I try to stay away. And sometimes fail. Worried about the inevitable weight increases after weight-loss diets, creating an inexorable upwards trend, I've stopped weighing myself completely.

I'm not sure what foods you can/can't eat, Jen, but most days for breakfast I have a kale shake, which is very sustaining (no hunger pangs for hours). The contents vary but are usually: some coconut milk, almond milk, sometimes a little rice milk (careful - very sweet); a couple of handfuls of frozen berries (strawberries, blueberries - avoid high-sugar tropical fruit), a big teaspoonful of nut butter; a handful of rolled oats; a teaspoon of shelled hemp seeds; a teaspoon of chia seeds; a BIG handful of kale, a small banana. This lot fills up the beaker of the whizzer. I whizz it all for about 30 seconds - best breakfast ever. I also supplement with probiotics, seaweed and spirulina. I've got some goats' kefir on order - a bit nervous of it but it's meant to be so good for you, and when it comes I'll substitute kefir for plant milk sometimes.

Project 333 - yes, I had to count my earrings as one set when I had a go at that, because they are really important to me. If I'd counted each pair I'd have had to go without underwear or something. But then she doesn't count in her sportswear etc so, hey, you don;t have to count your scarves.

Unknown said...

I have a spinach, berry and 1/2 banana smoothie in the morning, with almond milk, almond butter and chia seeds, keeps me full for hours! Like you I use frozen stuff as it is easier.

No gluten, no dairy and I'm thriving on it. I think I also need to cut out sugar and meat, but one step at a time, I need to adjust to no gluten and no dairy first..

Yes, I don't count scarves, dog walking stuff or underwear and I am pretty much at 33, but then I don't count it anymore or else I get obsessive!

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) xx

Rapunzel said...

Your orderly wardrobe has brightened my day--thank you ma'am!

Suzan said...

Wow I wish my wardrobe was that small. I try and then the people around me seem to become very "antsy" that I do not have enough clothes! My struggles with excess seem to revolve around my beloved crafts. I can buy an enormous amount of stuff i no time flat and then realise I have jumped on the bandwagon again. I have enough wool to clothe several households for a long time and I live in subtropical Queensland.

Oh well. Confession over.

I am interested in your breakfasts. They sound wholesome. I should try a smoothie but the thought does not sit well. Any other beakfast ideas?

Pen Wilcock said...

Rapunzel - hooray! Waving! xx

Suzan - Sounds as though you have the makings of an Etsy shop! I do have one alternative breakfast. We have a really good juicer (a Champion juicer). Some mornings, I make some porridge with oats, Oatly (oat milk) and a small pinch of sea salt. WHile it's cooking I make a glass of juice from 2 large organic carrots and an organic apple. The whole apple and carrot, not peeled, core still in. I add the pulp from the juicing to the cooked porridge and stir it in well. I drink the juice first, with my supplements, then eat the porridge. Love it. x

Jenna said...

Woo. . .I was just thinking of asking you, from your last post about where you posted a photo--about the exact items as you've done here. And Ta-Da! I have a word for the flowy, unconstructed look I like--"lagenlook." I've taken to covering (since your Pods I've gone toward wrapped) so I have a drawer for those "cheery scarves" but finding that maybe two or three in strategic color schemes would be smarter. Thanks so much for the post, Pen.

Suze said...

Thank you Pen.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Jenna - I was thinking of posting pics of the outfits, but the prospect kinda made me lose the will to live - but I might one day when I'm feeling bored. As to the 2 or 3 scarves in strategic colour schemes, yes - what happens in practice, I find, is that there are the two or three I always wear, and then there's the rest - which someone else may as well have. xx

Suze - Hiya - waving! xx

Nearly Martha said...

I really admire capsule wardrobe people but have tried it a few times and it goes haywire. What works best for me is ten winter work outfits (mainly dresses and cardis) and ten summer. That way clothes get one week on and one week off. I have been known to speak to clothes and ask them "Is this your week on?" but only when it's REALLY early. Out of work it's mainly jeans and trousers with the odd frock. I don't buy loads and it is not what you would call a capsule set up but most of my stuff fits together with other bits so I have come to terms with this being as minimal as I am going to get at this point on my life.

Pen Wilcock said...

That sounds very practical and well-organised - I think each of us has to sort out what works in real life; it's such an individual thing. x

s said...

ReLly enjoyed this post, thank you. I long for the time where I have only what I need and can use on a daily basis. While shopping with my mother this week, I nearly bought myself a red "peacoat" and convinced myself "if only it was black I would take it" - I'm glad now I didn't buy it. My mum came away with another blouse and cardi.
Fluctuating weight is a problem here too. X

Pen Wilcock said...

Oh my - red! I have lost count of the number of bright red garments I've bought and sent to the charity shop. I love red, and red suits me, but I find it very tiring to wear - to keep seeing it. I always take off red garments about half an hour after I put them on. I've limited myself to one red scarf now! x

Rachel Nichols said...

Hi Pen, I feel like I should cover my head in church at least because of what the Apostle Paul said in one of his pastoral letters. My church would be more accepting of hats than head scarves. I have a large head. Do you or any of your readers have ideas about what kind of hat would look good on me?
Personally I like cloches but they would look funny on my big head, even if they fit. Maybe a derby or two for summer and a knitted beret for winter?

Julie B. said...

For me, a deep "aahhhh" of calm and peace comes from seeing pictures like that, and from keeping my surroundings from being too cluttered. The older I get, the less I want around me (people too, unfortunately), and I'm not finding it difficult to keep paring. You are an inspiration in how lean you're able to take things, Ember. And in other things too. God rest you today, and tonight... xoxo

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Rachel - Some pretty ones here:

I have a big head, too. Looking at the pictures, I thought some of the cloche hats looked very good and the model has a similar face shape to yours. xx

Hi Julie - waving! Hope you are okay _ February not an easy month for you. xx

Rachel Nichols said...

Yeah. I think so too. I guess the friend who gave me advice is not a fashion expert--but she is a good friend. If the hat fits wear it! :D

Pen Wilcock said...



Nearly Martha said...

Hello. This is probably not the best place to do this but have just read The Beautiful Thread and wanted to let you know how much I loved it. So I have just had to bung my thoughts in the middle of this thread which is not ideal but there you go. The development if the characters is brilliant. I felt so caught up with Abbot John and what was happening to him with Rose - I kept wanting to shout "Nooo!" at him so he would wake up. Two favourite bits for me. One - I think you write about sex really well without actually writing about sex. William's description of how he feels when he and Madeleine make love is quite hot actually and very moving - which is probably not something you expect to be saying about a series of books set in a monastery! Also the bit where Brother Tom tries to explain to Abbot John about Christ not handing him a branch from the bank to get out of the torrent but actually being part of the torrent (I don't think I've described it very well but I hope you know the bit that I mean) that has stayed with me since I read it. It is a great insight into the way life is I think. Anyway - just wanted to say thank you. You can print this or not - I am cool either way. I've left a review on Amazon. :-)

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Thank you so much. That is such an encouragement - and thank you for reviewing on Amazon. I'm so glad you liked the story. xx

Rebecca said...

Where ARE you, Pen? I'm missing posts from you. Praying that all is well. Confident that all will BE well ♥

Pen Wilcock said...

Heheh - hello!

Here's what is happening.

This quarter our Superintendent Minister goes on sabbatical, so I am preaching every Sunday, thus have to allocate preparation time.
I have been asked to edit a book at zero notice, and it is proving to be a large and complicated task. I have to work on it several hours a day to have a hope of getting it in on time.
The proofs have come in for Vol 9 of The Hawk & the Dove series, for me to read and correct.
This weekend is UK Mothers Day, so I have to fit in seeing my mother as well as my own children and grandchildren, as well as working on the book edit as well as writing a sermon and preparing the Sunday liturgy.
I have been clearing accumulated clutter in the house and making some household changes in response to the altered requirements of having my semi-retired husband now working from home.
This week our car broke - terminally - so we had to sort out trading in the old for a new (to us) vehicle, then I had to get used to driving it.
All the usual housework, grocery shopping, laundry etc have had to continue meanwhile.
I completely forgot to go to the church Lent group.
I have been focussing on health things as we have had a certain amount of illness.

So it's kinda kept me busy.

But maybe next week I'll uncross my eyes long enough to write a blog post.

Hope all is well with you!


Rebecca said...

Oh, my! Apparently your eyes are still crossed - but now I know why!
As they say down south, "Bless your heart!"

Pen Wilcock said...

Yes. It got worse ... But I'm working on it! xx