The Uncommon App: The Truth Behind My 10-Piece Wardrobe

Graphic by Isabella Xie

By Emily Fong

Web Master, Newton South Class of 2017

Prompt: In 650 words or less, reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

“Would you take $50?” The question lingered in my instant messaging inbox like a stray thread on a sweater.

I’d purchased the dress for $90 from Ann Taylor, and it was in perfect condition, tags still attached. $50 was not enough; I’d lose even more money once the consignment store website I was using to sell my clothes had taken its 20% service fee. No, I wanted to say, I will not take $50 for this beautiful dress. But then I looked over at the pile of clothes I still had left to sell and began having second thoughts.

At the end of my junior year, I discovered the concept of the ten-piece wardrobe. Exactly as it sounds, this type of minimalist wardrobe consists of a woman keeping her closet stocked with only ten pieces of clothing. These items are always high-quality and “classic,” with examples being a white button down shirt or a pair of well-fitting jeans— things that can be paired with everything and dressed up or down to be made appropriate for all occasions. Women who want to strive for a ten-piece wardrobe can pare down their closet by selling or donating clothing they do not wear anymore.

Unable to fathom how anyone could live with so little, I decided to try selling my old clothing while ignoring the “ten-piece” part. I just wanted to make money to replace my old items with newer, trendier pieces. Visions of dresses, denim jackets, and thick sweaters appeared in my head.

The idea of purchasing better clothing to replace the items I would sell soon flew out the window, however. The more I scrolled through fashion blogs and read up on the ten-piece wardrobe concept, the more I began to realize that there was a deeper reason behind trying to live with less. I saw over and over terms like “sweatshop,” “third-world, “fast fashion,” and “consumer culture.” The constant consumption of clothing fuels the unethical cycle of its production, a cycle I had just previously been made unaware of. If the media is always encouraging the public to purchase as much as they can, how can there be such a devastating flip side to such a normal part of our culture?

But my ten-piece wardrobe research had unearthed reasons to challenge this widely encouraged message, and after coming to this realization, I knew that I would no longer be comfortable contributing to a cycle of oblivious destruction. I would no longer be comfortable buying and buying and buying material goods just because I could.

It was frightening at first, challenging and giving up something that is such a normal part of the society we live in. Shopping was what I did to have fun with my friends. Buying new things was how I rewarded myself for a solid report card. As an 18 year old, the allure of shiny new items is supposed to be irresistible, yet I would give it all up again in a heartbeat. The knowledge that I’m doing something for the greater good makes it all worthwhile.

So would I take $50? Logic said I shouldn’t sell for so little — I’d be losing too much. But more was at stake here. Purging my closet of clothes I no longer wore meant giving a nod to minimalism and not giving in to consumer culture. It represented my commitment to being a more mindful and well-educated citizen of the world, and it represented my willingness to acknowledge issues bigger than myself.

Placing my hands on the keyboard, I typed my answer. “Yes, that is fine. Go ahead and purchase whenever you’re ready, and I’ll ship the package tomorrow.”