Jennifer Scott on The Ten-Item Wardrobe at TEDxStGeorge (Full Transcript)

Full transcript of Jennifer L. Scott’s TEDx Talk: The Ten-Item Wardrobe at TEDxStGeorge conference. This event took place on September 6, 2014.

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Book(s) by the speaker:

Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris

At Home with Madame Chic: Becoming a Connoisseur of Daily Life

Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic: Lessons in Everyday Elegance


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Jennifer L. Scott – New York Times bestselling author

Today I’m going to be talking to you about the 10-item wardrobe.

A few years ago, I wrote a book called Lessons from Madame Chic, and the book explores the top 20 life-changing lessons really that I learned while living as a study-abroad student in Paris with a French family. And the book covers a wide range of topics — everything from clutter control to exercise, to how to live life as a formal affair.

And depending on where people are in their lives, they tend to gravitate towards certain sections of the book. But there is one section of the book that is universally gravitated toward. And that is the section called liberate yourself with a 10-item wardrobe.

The 10-item wardrobe. It’s a concept that sparks confusion in a lot of people, I think, and curiosity, because we are a society who has become accustomed to having closets that are completely crammed with clothes. It’s true. We go shopping, we go shopping, we fill, we fill, we fill and very rarely do we check out what’s going on inside there. Very rarely do we edit the content and see if what we have is actually working for us.

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Well, some people might say: So, what’s the problem with that? Well, one of the very strange side-effects of having too many clothes is that we still have nothing to wear. How many of you have experienced that before? Yes, so you’re getting ready for work or to go meet friends and you try on an outfit and it’s not quite right, so you take it off and you try on another one, and then another one and another one. And as soon as you know it you have clothes strewn across the floor and the bed. But then you’re running late, so you just pick anything. And then you go throughout your day slightly uncomfortable with the choice that you’ve made.

Yes, we are operating under the misconception that the more clothes we have the easier it is to get ready in the morning, when actually the opposite is true. The less clothes you have, the less choice you have. The more thought in organization you put behind your wardrobe the easier it is to get ready in the morning.

Other problems that arise from a wardrobe that is stuffed with clothes that we’re not discerning about what goes into our closet. So we are more prone to impulse buys. You’ll be at the sales and you’ll see, you know neon lavender lace shorts and they’re on sale, so you buy them, even though they have nothing to do with your true style or what’s going on in the wardrobe.

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Another problem that arises is that our own sense of style is actually clouded. How many people could actually define their style in one or two words? Not many, because we don’t really think about it; do we? And because this is so overwhelming for so many people, I think a lot of people give up and they just wear exercise clothes all day, even though they don’t exercise. So you know that’s a problem.

I’m going to take you back now to Paris in the year 2001 where I started to think about all of this. I went to live with a French family and I called them Family Chic and that wasn’t their real name but that was who they were to me. They were chic, not in a flashy nouveau riche kind of way but in an elegant comfortable in their own skin kind of way.

And the first afternoon when I met my host parents Monsieur and Madame Chic, they sat me down in their living room with a cup of tea, so we could get to know each other. And I sized them up and my first impression of them was very good. Mr. Chic was dressed in a nice suit and in dress shoes and Madame Chic was wearing an A-line skirt, a silk blouse, pearls and low heels. And I remember thinking to myself at the time: that is so sweet. They dressed up for me, when actually they didn’t dress up for me. That was just how they dressed on a regular basis. They were their best all the time.