How Cultivating The 5 Piece French Wardrobe Will Make You A Sustainable Shopper

by: Rosie Dalton | 1 year ago | Features


Image: Charlotte Gainsbourg all the inspiration we need to get cracking on this Five Piece French Wardrobe. Image source.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about this elusive ‘5 Piece French Wardrobe’, but what does it actually refer to? Well, fashion has long been enamoured by the French sense of je ne sais quoi and the philosophy behind this whole wardrobe challenge seems to be about trying to tap into that innate sensibility. Unlike Americans or Australians, most French women don’t actually buy massive quantities of cheap clothing each season, yet somehow they always seem to look so effortlessly well put together and appropriately on-trend. This has to do with two things: first of all, the French know that it is always best to invest in quality, therefore their clothes actually look better and, by the laws of cost per wear theory, also last longer too. Secondly, French women understand that all it takes are a few well-placed outfit updates to bring your look into the now without being a walking trend disciple. It could be the perfect cut of trouser for that season, or the latest style of accessory, but all it takes is a little attention to detail and you can build a wardrobe that will not only last the distance, but actually look really awesome in the process.

Another major reason that I find myself personally so drawn to this concept, though, has got to do with the fact that it’s an approach that fits in nicely with the idea of a more sustainable closet — and I am ever on the quest for one of those. So, what exactly is involved then and how can we all get a ‘5 Piece French Wardrobe’ in our lives? Well, we set about finding out just that and below we break it down for you — so that you, too, can get in touch with your inner Brigitte Bardot and cultivate the perfect Parisian wardrobe.

1) Clear the decks
As Dutch fashion blogger Sabrina Meijer of afterDrk says, the most important first step in creating your 5 Piece French wardrobe is to “clear the decks”. In other words, get rid of anything and everything that you no longer wear on a regular basis. Ideally, you should donate these unwanted treasures to your local op shop — because recycling is the essence of responsible consumption. And, even better, it’s all in the name of making room for more beautiful treasures to come. Overall though, the idea here is to keep things pared back. Because let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than having a closet that screams of excess — apart from anything else, these wardrobes tend to be terrible for the world. The 5 Piece French Wardrobe is all about curating an edited selection of versatile pieces that you can rotate and repurpose as if you were Francoise Hardy. So be ruthless now; the hard work will be worth the reward.

2) Collect the basics
Invest in quality here because, as we all know, a $10 t-shirt is actually going to cost you a lot more than its $50 counterpart will in the long run. By that same token though, don’t just assume an item is quality simply because it is expensive — feel the fibres, check the care label and seek out the most natural fabrications that you can. They’ll breathe better and tend to go the distance. If you’re unsure about what ‘basics’ to invest in, think about those versatile items that you could wear time and again. The colour palette is classic rather than right now and the silhouettes are forever, too. These are those items like the perfect white shirt, black tee and skinny jeans. But, above all, make sure that it suits your own personal style. And if still in doubt, Sabrina Meijer’s helpful guidelines in this regard are as follows:

A basic is something that:
1. I can wear this 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

3) Make a wish list
This is a fun one, especially this close to Christmas. Think about what you have already and then how you could really transform these versatile basics for the upcoming season. Trawl fashion magazines for inspiration, or see what’s been happening on the runways and over on Instagram. Then do some research and create a shortlist of the items you like most, but that also fit in with your budget. Bonus points if you manage to shop ethical here, because your wardrobe has already reduced in size and you are well and truly on your way to a more green lifestyle overall. Choose ethical denim or lingerie over their harmful counterparts and soon you’ll find yourself with a beautiful, quality wardrobe that you can also brag about.

4) Choose your seasonal 5
Beyond the basics, you are only allowed to buy 5 new items per season — that’s ten new items per year, including shoes, handbags and the like. These items can be trend-driven, designed to give your wardrobe a seasonal update, or they can simply be those special pieces that you have been saving up for since before you can remember. Personally, I am a big fan of upcycling — because vintage shopping is ethical shopping too. And although this isn’t technically part of the whole ‘5 Piece French Wardrobe’ thing, I happen to think that investing in a great vintage find is an even better way to ‘greenify’ you wardrobe. Certainly, seek out items that you feel you need in order to feel current — like the latest silhouette or colour palette, for example — but perhaps also consider investing in something not-so-seasonal, but fabulous none the less. Maybe there’s that special item you have been wanting forever, which you could hunt down on sites like Vestiaire Collective and save up for as one of your seasonal 5? Or an amazing jacket from The Mercantile that might as well be current season, it’s that perfect. Either way, vintage really just adds to the fun in my opinion.

5) Care for your clothes
Reading the care label and actually paying attention to what it says is going to be crucial to maintaining your fabulous new French wardrobe. If you know you are not the kind of person who is likely to hand wash, or you think dry cleaning bills might be stretching the budget just that little bit too far, then consider steering clear of these items altogether. Instead, find more durable pieces that can be washed in a gentle or regular cycle instead. Not following the care instructions properly is a sure fire way to undo all the disciplined work that got you here in the first place. Oh, and wear your clothes for chrissakes. Because there is nothing worse than investing in nice things and then never wearing them, because you are too afraid of spillages or other everyday accidents. Your clothes were designed to be worn; failing to do so only defeats our whole cost per wear mantra. So invest only in things you are going to wear and then wear them to death.

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