7 Tips : How to Create a Small and Simple French Wardrobe

  • Look and observe lot before buying 

Back home in the States, there are always huge sales going on where you can buy last year’s designers for a fraction of the cost. In France, you only have a couple big sales a year, where you can buy items for more than fifty percent off. The value added tax (VAT) is also twenty percent in France, it’s about eight percent throughout New York State. As a result, nice clothes are easily more expensive in France than in the US.

The higher prices of clothing aren’t always for nothing, France is the country of fashion and artisanal quality. Still, the prices do make you think more about what you really want to consume. Living in France taught me to really enjoy skimming each season’s fashion collection online and more importantly, to reflect about what I want to wear. 

Having a small wardrobe doesn’t mean that you have to have a distaste for fashion. It’s useful to know what colors you like, the cuts, the neck closures, and the fabrics, for example, because your preferences will narrow down your search. Having a small French wardrobe is ultimately feeling comfortable and confident in whatever you wear; to get there it’s not a bad idea to look and dream a bit before you buy. 

  • Don’t limit yourself to the trench 

News flash: the trench is no longer French. Well that’s not true, the trench coat is classic French style and they’re plenty of French people who still wear trench coats but there are a lot who don’t. 

If you like trench coats however, please wear one and have fun. “Le trench” is just not as Parisian chic as we’ve been led on to believe. Similarly, a lot of French people don’t like trench coats because they represent money and high society and the French often detest people with money… but that’s another story rooted in France’s history. 

Everything considered, I think that the whole idea of “le trench” is to have a quality coat or jacket that you can feel comfortable in for years, that your loved ones will recognize you in. Your coats and jackets are  ultimately the guardians of a capsule wardrobe, they are what will cover your favorite pants and sweater. That’s why it’s important to find a coat and/or jacket, be it a trench coat or not, that you will feel protected and positive. 

  • Always have quality knitwear 

France will spoil you with their soft and beautiful cardi-coats, cardigans, and oversized sweaters. When I was a kid I hated knitwear because I thought knits just meant tight cashmere sweaters and cashmere is way too delicate for me. But then I discovered wool and many other different types of wool that I can’t remember the names of. French fashion is filled with oversized sweaters and cardigans that really do look good on every body type. You can add a scarf in the winter or wear just a bra under, in the summer, and try not to sweat all over the place. The trick is to breathe and feel free.

  • Opt for dark pants 

A lot of minimalists claim to have a uniform, they wear the same thing or basically the same thing all the time. Think of Steve Jobs and his black turtlenecks. Similarly, a lot of minimalists suggest that it is best to build a capsule wardrobe with one color palette. Let’s take it one step further, living in, not just France, but in Europe has taught me to only wear the same type of black pants. 

Why black? They don’t have to be black. Dark colored pants like navy blue or dark jeans are slimming, they go with everything, and they’re not distracting I guess. They’re popular in Europe probably because the work force has a generally more casual attire. Dark pants can be easily dressed up or down and they go with everything. Finally, you can hide stains a lot better with dark pants than you can with light pants on. 

  • Don’t Overdue Accessories 

One of the biggest cliches I’ve seen in attempting to replicate French fashion is too much jewelry. French fashion is more simple than that. Even the most bourgeois(e) uppity woman in Paris or Bordeaux would not wear a lot of jewelry together on a daily basis. The most put together French looks are the ones that consist of one or two pieces of timeless and quality jewelry. The best French wardrobes are the ones that aren’t bogged down by accessories like jewelry or bags. Say whatever you want about leather manufacturing but high quality purses require time and care to make and more importantly, they are really expensive. A good bag is meant to last years on its own though so in the end, you only need one. 

  • Simplify your beauty regime 

This one is not necessarily a French thing but a general simple living thing. Less beauty products equals less crap on your face and less bottles sitting around your bathroom.  I struggled with acne as a teen and in my early twenties a lot and after years of trying everything, gentle face cleansers with not a lot of ingredients finally cleared my skin. Similarly, it was tough to quit make-up but now that I have, my skin is a lot more even. Simple and pure beauty regimes have a place in simple living and that make you feel naturally pretty. 

  • Go high-low 

Many people now boycott the fast fashion industry, and rightfully so.  The textile industry or fashion has been reported to be the second most polluting industry in the world. Furthermore, fast fashion brands have been notoriously known in the past to produce textiles in developing countries in atrocious working conditions. Similarly, fast fashion has a reputation for selling clothes that are made of cheap man made fabrics and that are bad for the environment. 

Still, not everyone can afford to buy clothes that are made of organic cotton fabric (bio in France), are fair trade, and that are locally manufactured. Companies that fabricate these types of products are great; I will always try to shop ethical or local fashion brands when I can but it’s not practical to do this all the time. As a result, fast fashion has its purpose. 

A lot of fast fashion brands now have lines that are made with organic fibers or that are made locally. So instead of paying 50 bucks for a t-shirt you can pay five to ten bucks; naturally it’s hard to resist. Fast fashion isn’t then the worst thing in the world if the fabrics are natural, breathable, and more importantly, if you use them. It doesn’t matter where you shop, if you don’t use the stuff that you buy, you are contributing to fast fashion pollution. Shop ethical though pricey brands when you can and simplify the rest buy making simple living more accessible. 

In short, a small and simple French wardrobe makes you feel naturally confident and consists of: 

  • Quality items that you thought a lot about before buying 
  • A coat/jacket or two that you feel distinguished and protected in 
  • A few good roomy sweaters and/or cardigans made from natural materials 
  • Dark pants that you love the fit of and that you can go from day to night in 
  • An accessory or two that is timeless in style and that you can wear everyday 
  • A beauty regime that is gentle and simple 
  • A French style that is accessible and not limited but where every item has its purpose

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