When searching for a better approach to style and seasonal shopping, I came across a new kind of dressing: the 5-Piece French Wardrobe. At first, I thought: wait, is this one of those capsule wardrobes that make 72 outfits out of just 5 pieces? Do you have to get rid of everything in your closet except for 5 items? It sounded incredibly unappealing to me at first, but I continued to learn about it just to be sure.
It turns out the “5-Piece French Wardrobe” is actually somewhat of a misleading name!
The 5-Piece French Wardrobe is simply a better way of creating a capsule wardrobe – and no, your wardrobe isn’t limited to just five pieces!
The concept stems from the idea of a “capsule wardrobe,” a way to organize your closet based on the essentials, which became popular in the 1960s and 70s. Women who created capsule wardrobes rejected the notion of American consumerism and over-consumption in favor of slimming down one’s closet to focus on the essentials. They avoided trends and kept only the basic garments that were worn often and fit incredibly well.
The problem with the capsule wardrobe is that even though it serves its purpose to reduce waste, eliminate the superfluous, and stick to the basics, there’s just no fun in it!
Since the French do nearly everything better when it comes to fashion and style, enter the 5-Piece French Wardrobe. The French version of the capsule wardrobe began to gain popularity among style connoisseurs because it allows women to have more than just what they need.
About the 5-Piece French Wardrobe
It isn’t known who first promoted the idea of a “Five Piece French Wardrobe” but I found it mentioned on Fashion Spot threads as early as 2005, where one member explains that French women only buy 4-5 quality pieces each season.
Women in France establish a strong foundational wardrobe of basics first so they can easily incorporate the 5 statement pieces they purchase into their outfits.
The key is to choose 5 pieces you really love so you do not get tired of them after that season. Think of them as timeless investment pieces you’ll truly cherish forever.
The aforementioned Fashion Spot thread references another thread on the French style which cites the book A Guide to Elegance, by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux, a French fashion guru who spent most of her life living in Paris before retiring in the south of France, as inspiration.
Whoever coined the term, the Five Piece French Wardrobe philosophy certainly took off by 2010, when fashion blogger Sabrina Meijer of AfterDRK wrote about her goal to stick to purchasing five splurge pieces each season, and later shared which 5 items were on her wishlist. Meijer even goes as far as calling it a “French wardrobe secret.”
Since then, many more fashion bloggers have written about their experiments with the French approach to style.
How to Get Started with the 5-Piece French Wardrobe
Here is how to try out the 5-Piece French Wardrobe system for your own closet.
5 refers to the number of new items you can purchase each season, excluding basics. These could be anything really – a splurge item or a statement piece – and allow you to have a little fun with curating your wardrobe!
To get started with 5-Piece French Wardrobe system, you need to purge anything you no longer wear or that doesn’t fit right, identify your core wardrobe basics, and lastly, choose the 5 new items you wish to purchase for your wardrobe that season.
Technically, fashion has two seasons: spring/summer and fall/winter. If the idea of only making 10 new purchases a year scares you, then you can break the year down into 4 seasons your first time around!
Out with the Old
Adopting the 5-Piece French Wardrobe is a great time to cleanse your closet of your old clothes that don’t fit right or are too trendy.
It took me a really long time to learn that it’s not about what you buy, it’s about how it fits. Purchasing the latest designer dress in a size too big can ruin the entire look.
Ever wonder why those French Instagram influencers look so good in a plain white t-shirt and jeans? It’s because they know what fits them and flatters their bodies.
Why are wrap dresses so popular in France? Because they’re almost universally flattering to all body types!
Keep the basics that fit you well, and say goodbye to the ones that don’t.
What are the 5-Piece French Wardrobe Basics?
Now that you’ve done a wardrobe cleanse, it’s time to take inventory of your basics and see what’s missing.
What exactly constitutes a “basic”? Well, this question will be answered differently for everyone, but here are some general guidelines:
- A basic could be considered “plain.”
- Basics are typically solid-colored.
- Basics aren’t tied to one designer – they are usually anonymous-looking.
- Basics are necessary to your wardrobe.
- Basics serve a practical purpose.
- Basics go great with an attention-commanding item.
Somewhat importantly, basics are also things you don’t need to spend a ton of money on! Personally, I love my Gap Favorite Tees and my Levi’s jean shorts – neither of which come close to designer pricing.
My spring/summer basics include pieces like t-shirts, shorts, skirts, cropped pants, tank tops, camisoles, and wrap dresses.
My fall/winter basics include items such as jeans, pants, long-sleeve shirts, button-up shirts, fitted sweaters, cardigans, jackets, and heavy coats.
The way I know whether something is considered a “basic” or not is by determining whether it serves a practical purpose first and foremost. For example, I’d categorize oversized sweaters as a statement piece as they aren’t intentionally practical. They are meant to achieve a certain look more than a fitted sweater, which does a better job of actually keeping you warm.
I’ve put together a list of wardrobe basics to make this process easier for you!
Choosing your 5 Pieces
If you’re as obsessed with fashion as I am, you may have a tough time narrowing down your seasonal purchases to just five. Try to think about what you will wear 10 years from now. Don’t worry too much about the price. It’s ok to invest in an item you know will last! Trends are ok as long as you truly love the item, but try to go for timeless pieces.
Here’s an idea of five statement pieces I would select for spring/summer and autumn/winter!
Fall/Winter 5-Piece French Wardrobe
- Theory Plaid Blazer
- Acne Wool Wrap Coat
- Sophie Hulme Swing large leather bucket bag
- APC Checkered Trousers
- APC Directrice Wool Sweater
Spring/Summer 5-Piece French Wardrobe
- Burberry Trench Coat
- A.P.C. Half-Moon Leather Bag
- Re/Done High Waist Stovepipe Jeans
- Dragon Diffusion Cannage Woven Leather Tote
- Marni Trunk Medium Shoulder Bag
It’s actually kind of fun to curate your own signature pieces for the season! As you can see, I have a penchant for luxury handbags… The 5-Piece French Wardrobe forces me to choose well, and choose wisely!
What has your experience been with the 5-Piece French Wardrobe?
THIS IS FABULOUS. Has to be one of my favorite capsule wardrobe type posts yet. Thank you! Off to peruse the rest of the site.xx
Thanks so much, Sarah!
Love this concept x1000 but I have a question I’ve never seen addressed about the French Capsules. If you are getting 5 new pieces each season, especially if you are investing in high quality pieces you’ll want to keep wearing for years as you suggest, it won’t be too long before your wardrobe gets huge! I know this capsule style isn’t about restricting to a certain number, but how to deal with the growth after a few years? Eventually, are you just replacing what wears out from your basics?
I’ve heard they keep the 5 pieces till one gets old, then they rebuy what they need and throw away the old one…
I think the French approach to a minimalist wardrobe looks amazing! I am a big fan of having less items in the closet. Took me a while to get there, but I would never want to go back to the former mess. Love the look of your site as well by the way!
I’m soft summer and like navy.Please help me to dress right.
Hi Victoria, I hope you still monitor Pinterest comments as this is an old post – who is the woman on the left? I assume she is a celebrity but she looks so much like my mother that I would love to know! Thanks 🙂 xo Sarah
Hi Sarah! Are you talking about this pin? If so, that is Jeanne Damas and her sister Louise Damas! 🙂 If not, send me the link and I’ll tell you!
This is a great Blog. I am a guy but I am sure I can learn a lot about the French lifestyle from this blog.