The Five Piece French Wardrobe

image via Designer Vintage

(A note: I’m not sure why they called this the “five piece” wardrobe because there are actually 33 pieces; maybe “five category” wardrobe would’ve made more sense?)

After more than 30 days of wearing the same pieces on repeat, I fell in love with the concept of a well-edited, pared down wardrobe. It helped me realize how much I don’t need in my closet: sure, it’s lovely to have options, but I think we can also get really overwhelmed by all the clutter.

Last year, Who What Wear broke down the steps of building the “perfect” wardrobe of hard-working quality basics for effortlessly chic style:

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.

Everyone’s list will look different, based on personal style, job, climate (I’ll probably never need a wool coat in Florida, chic as they may be) and lifestyle, but the premise is universal: if you shop with all these categories in mind, and focus on quality pieces in mostly neutral colors, you will always have something to wear.

As a florist, my every day basics include skinny and/or boyfriend jeans, denim shirts, t-shirts, shirt dresses, and flats; but when I stocked my closet exclusively with these things, and a business networking event or dinner party with friends popped up on my calendar, I would commence to panic with that age-old crisis: “I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR!” Then I would run out and buy something last minute that I didn’t really love and would only wear once, and over time, my closet became a mish-mash of too much stuff that didn’t work together, and lather, rinse, repeat. The cycle would’ve continued forever if I hadn’t purged all the excess, approached my style with some intention, and laid down a new set of shopping rules.

Not sure where to start?

Take an inventory of your wardrobe. Consider all those rare-but-inevitable occasions that leave you frustrated and weeping on a pile of clothes on your closet floor. Make a ‘5 Piece French Wardrobe’ category list like this one. Then make a shopping list to fill any gaps, making sure you have versatile pieces that you can dress up or down for any event: a little black dress, the perfect pair of black ankle trousers, classic pumps, a tailored blazer, etc.

When you’re thinking about making a purchase, ask yourself these questions:

1. Can I wear this over and over and over again?
2. Will it go with everything I already own?
3. Can I live without it?
4. Is this a piece that’s currently missing from my wardrobe checklist?
5. Is it well-constructed with a good material that will last for years and years?

Treat yourself to a few [inexpensive] on-trend pieces each season to keep things fresh, but focus on investing in quality basics and you can’t go wrong; remember, ‘fewer, better things‘.

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 stand 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.

And who doesn’t want that?

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  1. 8.15.16


  2. 8.10.16

    Love this post! The 5-Piece French Wardrobe was the baseline for me when I first began my capsule wardrobe last spring. I actually used that exact model too!

  3. 8.9.16

    Perfect! And a great reminder as we start to think about fall/winter not to go overboard.

    • 8.10.16

      Yes! I thought the exact same thing. It’s helping me make a list of the things I need next season so I can shop with some intention. :)

  4. 8.9.16

    I’ve been wanting to try something like this! Thanks for sharing.

  5. 8.9.16
    Anonymous said:

    I love this post. I too am in the process of thinning the closets and sticking to basics. I do love a glitter stiletto with a fancy dress, but the five piece French wardrobe makes so much sense. Keep up the daily posts, I love them!

    • 8.10.16

      That’s what I love about this, it gives you an allowance for a few fun pieces each season (like your glitter stiletto!) so you have a great foundation plus some great accessories! :)

  6. 8.9.16
    Abigail said:

    Thank you for sharing, this was very informative and I really enjoyed it.

  7. 8.9.16

    Love this post! It the always daunting wardrobe challenge seem so manageable. Thanks for sharing!

  8. 8.9.16
    jenmcox said:

    Reblogged this on Crafted and commented:
    Now, that’s an idea. On the road to decluttering (to make room for yarn!) and could use all the help I can get. I think it’ll also be nice to be able to donate much of things hanging in my closet that are in great condition because I never wear them.

  9. 8.9.16

    yes, yes, & yes! I need to re-read this once a week for the next little while.