10×10 Challenge: Lessons learned

10x10 Challenge: Lessons learned

The just-completed Spring 10×10 Challenge, my first time doing one of Lee Vosburgh’s 10x10s, was a little more challenging than I expected — in large part due to the fact that these are almost all the same garments from my personal 20×30 thingy last October, so my extra challenge was to try to find new ways to wear the same old pieces … and not feel bored. I.e., the perennial challenge of a smaller, longer-lasting wardrobe. I did manage to put these pieces together in ways I hadn’t before, and I did also get bored. But here are some things I learned and views I had vividly reinforced along the way—

1. A good pair of shoes is everything. These handmade flats were an investment I made late last year — my birthday gift/holiday bonus to myself — and they made everything here look more current and interesting than would otherwise have been the case. It’s a long-held view of mine that a change of footwear is the easiest way to breathe new life into old clothes, and I think that’s infinitely more important when you’re trying to take a Slow Fashion approach to your wardrobe, and intend to wear things for years, not one season. I also realized how blasé I’ve been at times about how hard I can be on shoes, as I used to buy new ones so very often anyway. Wearing these so many days in a row, I realized just how precious they are to me — I mean, I got to watch Julio make them for me through his Instagram Story — and I want to be thoughtful about wearing them.

10x10 Challenge: Lessons learned

2. Comfort is key. I was right in October when I said prints/patterns matter (having included a stripe, a camo and a snake-print flat in that batch of items). I missed that with these 10 pieces. But even more important, comfort matters so so much to me — meaning easy-to-wear, non-restrictive clothes but also “comfort clothes” in the same sense as “comfort food.” In these 9 garments, I included only one knit, and my two pairs of pants were both jeans. I’m a big believer in knits (and not just sweaters), and even had a rule for ages that if a thing required ironing, it didn’t belong in my closet. This was a disproptionately woven mini-wardrobe for me, and that definitely got on my nerves. Especially since we had some seriously cold, damp and depressing weather along the way, which had me longing to feel comforted by my clothes. The stiff jeans almost felt punitive at one point along the way, so I was happy to have a break from them over the weekend.

3. Layers are always the right idea. During this period, we had a high of 37, a high of 82, and everything in between. Which is part of why the silk smock got 4 times as many wears as the sleeveless top — turns out the smock works nicely under a shirtjacket (awesome to have discovered!), and is warmer (and more comforting) than the sleeveless one. Going into this, I thought I might be overdoing it on top layers, but not at all.

4. Selfies are hard! I took a simple mirror selfie all ten days for my IG Story (they’re saved in my Highlights @karentempler if you’re on IG and want to see them all) and had intended to only do the occasional self-timer outfit-of-the-day situation. But I realized I wanted to try to have all 10 ootd’s in the end, plus I’ve had a general aim for myself to get more comfortable having a camera pointed at me, so I added that to the overall challenge. I managed to take one for all but Day 2 (seen above only as garments), and omg I was so over it by the end! But I’m glad I did it — it was good practice, and I even like a few of them. My husband took the best pic, though, when I cheated on Day 8, below.

10x10 Challenge: Lessons learned

(On the 8th Day, above, I cheated. It was 35 degrees and I also couldn’t face my jeans for going out to dinner, so I wore my denim toddlers and boots with my Eliz Suzann silk smock and coat, and toffee Log Cabin Mitts. I’ll tell you about the cowl in this next pic tomorrow— )

10x10 Challenge: Lessons learned

5. Flexibility, as in life, is a necessity. I had said at the outset that I was only including one pair of shoes in the official count, but expected to have to sub in my rain boots on occasion. That did prove true, along with the emotionally and weatherly mandated Day 8 cheat.

10x10 Challenge: Lessons learned

6. I love not having to think about getting dressed! And yet still looking put together day after day. The more Closet Rummy™ I play, the more lost I am without my little outfit grids to consult in the morning. As a small business owner, I am pretty much always on decision overload, and not having to decide what to wear in the morning is a genuine help. (I eat the exact same breakfast every weekday for the same reason.) For the 10×10, I made myself a little set of suggestions and taped them into my mini bullet journal, which kind of cracked me up (so I enshrined it at the end). And even though I did change up a few things along the way, I felt a little bereft the following day when there was no handbook of what to put on!

7. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. This was the biggest surprise. Rather than fixating on (or even thinking about) what new stuff I might like to make or buy, this whole thing left me excited about so many of the beloved clothes in my closet, and the chance to wear them again! Of course, there is still that whole no-sleeves problem, but I’m starting to solve it!

All in all, worth doing. Did you participate, or have you before? What did you get out of it?

. . .


10x10 Challenge: Lessons learned
10x10 Challenge: Lessons learned

The garments represented, by number of wears—

7 WEARS: blue jeans (Imogene+Willie)
4 WEARS: black silk smock (Elizabeth Suzann 2017, no longer available)
3 WEARS: black linen-wool cardigan
3 WEARS: army shirtjacket 
3 WEARS: white smock (State the Label)
3 WEARS: natural jeans (Imogene+Willie 2016, no longer available)
2 WEARS: ancient denim shirtjacket (J.Crew, c.2003)
2 WEARS: blue button-up
1 WEAR: black silk gauze shell

And 7 WEARS for the tan flats (Solid State Studios, no longer available), since I wore my rain boots twice and my nice boots out to dinner on freezing day 8.

*Not included in the original 10 pieces


PREVIOUSLY in Wardrobe Planning: Me and the Spring 10×10 Challenge


22 thoughts on “10×10 Challenge: Lessons learned

  1. The term “capsule wardrobe” is starting to generate a weird sort of itchiness, like a mental rash, if you see what I mean. I might be becoming allergic to it, because of overexposure over the past few years – and I find that most capsule wardrobes tend to be extremely neutral, with very classic shapes and colors that do work in real life, for sure, but tend to be a bit boring in the end. The whole concept is an interesting exercise, but….maybe not for me.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head! I can’t do the extreme neutral with classic shapes that are basically an essential for a capsule wardrobe to work. It relies on outfits being somewhat un-memorable since you are going to be rewearing the pieces so often.

      I really admire the people who can make it work. As for me, I have lots of colorful clothes, funky prints, Indian block-print and embroidered tunics, etc. They are what most would call memorable so I need to let some time elapse before I pull them out of the closet again.

      Vive la difference! It’s what makes this world fun. I do wear my clothes for years and years, and Karen has prompted me to be much more thoughtful about my choices.

    • I’m definitely not a capsule wardrobe person, per se — I just like to keep it reasonable. But I like clothes too much, and need variety, to every pare it down THAT much. But it’s a useful experiment to do a thing like this now and then — whatever your style! — to see new ways of putting things together, or remind yourself that you really don’t need a Hollywood-sized walk-in closet, or try out a packing list, or whatever.

    • Have you read the Loud Slow Fashion piece from Pom Pom magazine (Fall 2017)? It touches on neutrals and capsule wardrobes and why they don’t resonate with people like me. You might find it a really good read!

      • No I haven’t yet, and it’s on my bookshelf. Thanks for pointing this article out, I am definitely going to read it this week-end. Glad to see I’m not the only one.

  2. I find I wear basically the same things more often than others. Paring down would probably be great for me. Since I NEVER pay full price and often buy clothes with tags still on them at Goodwill, I can afford to return them if they are not working for me.

  3. Yes, Vive la difference! I love everything I’ve learned over the last several years around clothes, how they’re made, where they come from, being aware. I’m 67 so have a keen sense of missing for the the high quality basics I love (t-shirt tops, denim shirts/pants.) Many neutrals I look horrid in. Since I’m required more these days in my studio than at my gallery, I wear clothes that can take a splat of paint. We shop heavily at our local thrift stores where there’s a chance of running into “old” favorites that are well made. We have an extraordinary clothes designer at our gallery so I have a few awesome hand dyed/designer silk tops and scarves for special times. (A dream fulfilled.) Our closets have been thinned down to our favorites and when new “finds” come in, something else goes. Shoes – I don’t care how styling’ they are, they need to be minimalist and comfortable. I need to be able to take walks in them at any time, be able to stand for long periods on a cement floor. So my shoe “collection” also has been greatly reduced.
    I pick outfits in the morning based on my mood for color and/or the tasks of the day. (Its so much about COLOR and comfort.)
    I eat the same breakfast every morning. ;)

  4. I love this series, Karen. It speaks to my constant efforts to pare down my closet and to really know what works for me.

    The concept of a Capsule wardrobe is indispensable (and probably familiar) to anyone who travels a lot and likes to pack light. It has been the basis of my wardrobe for decades and shapes the way I think of almost every garment I add or take away. I think it’s probably also the reason I mostly add color and quirkiness with accessories. I have a scarf collection that is astonishing.

    • Thanks, Clare. I kept thinking I was going to pull out some of the scarves I haven’t been wearing the last few years — I have a pretty great collection and loved seeing all of the fabulous scarves, fabulously worn, in the feed — but the only thing I wound up including was the black cowl. LOL

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  6. Years ago, after a season of traveling to very disparate places (Cleveland, Manhattan, Spain) with essentially the same coordinated 12 pieces, I decided “why not” dress like this all the time and severely pared down my wardrobe. Not to twelve pieces, but definitely to the essentials. “Capsule” was not a buzzword then, but that was more or less the concept. Within a couple of months, I was sooooo bored with my choices, and there was no going back because I had sent so many off to the thrift store. However it did force me to rethink as I restored my wardrobe to a reasonable size, and in that sense it was a good, although failed, endeavor. I need more clothes because of the weather extremes of my Minnesota climate, but I purchase only with slow consideration and I still impose on myself the considerations of a capsule wardrobe, even if its bigger than that; everything must work with everything else, so I can still get dressed without a lot of thought in the morning.

    • Sounds just like me — it began for me after a huge closet purge a few years ago, and deciding to be incredibly thoughtful about how I rebuilt it.

  7. I’m totally into your notebook and the grid. It speaks to my tendency to micro-organize/manage things while ignoring the macro (hah!). As for my fellow non-neutrals, I’m starting to see a weird kind of non-neutral collection in my own closet. It’s interesting how I have pockets of colour-coordinated (sort of) items. I’m starting to think in terms of little mini-collections in my wardrobe.

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