5 Basics Later, You're Practically French

Whether you love or hate the fashion world’s interest in everything Français, you have to admit that French style is somewhat fascinating. Combine that with the trend of reducing your closet and you’ve got one compelling concept: the five-piece French wardrobe. Although the movement gained a lot of traction in 2014, we thought we’d revisit the concept, as it feels especially current in the time of capsule and uniform wardrobes, and we thought you may find this interesting.

The guidelines are fairly simple. First, make sure you have quality basics across all categories of apparel and eliminate clothing from your wardrobe that you don’t wear, love, and love to wear. Buy new basics to fill any gaps, and remember quality over quantity. Second, limit your new purchases to five nonbasic items per season (once in spring/summer and once in fall/winter) that add a bit of personality and make your wardrobe feel current and fresh.

If you’re wondering why it’s called a French wardrobe, from what we could gather, the idea originated from a “French Style” thread on The Fashion Spot that discusses how the French wardrobe philosophy focuses on the concept of curating the direction of your wardrobe.

As for its life-changing promises, the five-piece French wardrobe is said to help you cultivate a wardrobe that feels true to your aesthetic and stands the test of passing fads and seasons. The result is less money spent on items you don’t really need, less frustrating time spent trying to figure out what to wear, and a newfound feeling of deep satisfaction with your wardrobe.

What Is a Capsule Wardrobe?

Think of a capsule wardrobe as a mini wardrobe made up exclusively of pieces that are versatile and your personal favorite. Think of the pieces you always reach for in your closet and would shudder at the thought of ever ditching, and start there. These well-loved items along with several key functional staples make up your foundation. Essentially, the purpose of a capsule wardrobe is to create a collection where everything can be worn together in varying combinations. Your capsule is made from these favorite items you already own, plus a limited number of new items you can add to your closet for the season. The idea is that you can create all the outfits you could need for that season from this capsule wardrobe alone—no other items needed. 

Step 1: Make Sure You Have the Below Quality Basics

Below is a list of basics to help guide your five-piece-French-wardrobe endeavor. We found that we might add or take away some things from this list, and you might too. Consider it a jumping-off point for finding what’s right for your wardrobe. As for what counts as a basic, the blogger behind AfterDrk listed out these helpful guidelines:

A basic is something that…

1. I can wear over and over and over again until it falls apart.
2. Goes with everything I already own.
3. I pretty much can’t live without it.
4. Is the glue that helps me keep the rest of my wardrobe together.
5. Is made of a good material that will last for a very long time.


Who What Wear

Go on to shop every item you’ll need to complete the five-piece French wardrobe.


Suit Blazer

A structured blazer will always pull its weight in your closet, lending polish to just about anything you wear one with.

Trench Coat

Navigate transitional weather seamlessly with a classic beige trench coat in your arsenal.

Seasonal Coat

Whether you dress it down with jeans and a tee or toss it on over a black dress, prioritize a denim jacket in your spring and summer wardrobes.

Leather Jacket

Leather jackets will always be a wise investment. No explanation needed.


French minimalist wardrobe: tops


White Button-Down

There's nothing more classic or versatile than a crisp white shirt.

Silk Blouse

Tuck one into jeans with heels for date night or pair with trousers and flats for the office. You can't go wrong.

Cashmere Sweater

A high-quality cashmere sweater is an investment you'll make now and continue to reap the benefits of for years to come.


Oversize blazers *are* the moment.

Black Dress

The ways to wear one are limitless.



Black Skirt

French women always have a simple miniskirt in their wardrobes, despite whatever skirt trends may come and go.

Trouser Jeans

Jeans with a trouser-like shape (i.e. a high rise and wide leg) are one of the chicest denim shapes out there.

Skinny Jeans

No matter your thoughts on them, skinny jeans aren't going anywhere.

Leather Pants

An elevated option for when your jeans just aren't cutting it.

Black Pants

Opt for a relaxed-fit pair for a modern look.

Loose Jeans

Loose jeans are quickly becoming the new go-to style for French women, and the relaxed silhouette just always looks cool.

Black Shorts



Silk Scarf

Tie it in your hair, wrap it around the handle of your bag, or style it loosely around your neck—the options are endless.


You don't need a million going-out bags when you have one classic clutch like this.

Everyday Ring



Summer Sandals

You'll wear them nonstop in the summer.

Classic Flats

French women were wearing ballet flats long before they became as trendy as they are now. 


A pair of strappy heels is like great leather jacket—choose the right shape for you and they're a wise investment you'll wear for years and years.

Ankle Boots

Key details like a walkable heel and sleek square-toe shape make these perfect.

Step 2: Each Season, Add 5 Trend-Driven Pieces to Your Closet

After you have your closet narrowed down to essential basics, thoughtfully consider which five pieces you want to add to your closet each season. Below is what we would buy for this season.

Cuff Bracelet

The jewelry trend everyone is loving at the moment.

Maxi Skirt

This post was published at an earlier date and has been updated. Next, check out more staples to consider.