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The Five-Piece French Wardrobe, Explained

Have you heard of the 5-Piece French wardrobe

This is not just any wardrobe. It’s the secret to attaining that effortlessly chic Paris style we all swoon over. Plus, it’s the best way to build a capsule wardrobe that is both fun and functional, and helps you get the most out of every piece you purchase. 

Have you ever woken up in the morning, stared at a huge closet packed with clothes, and thought, “I’ve got nothing to wear?!”

Do you keep buying more stuff each season, and need a way to curb those bank-draining spending habits?

If you find yourself nodding your head, this French wardrobe philosophy might be a match made in heaven for you. 

Organized closet with Eifel tower on shelf

Don’t panic over the whole “five-piece” scenario. It’s not a wardrobe built of just five pieces—that would be crazy. 

 

All will be revealed in this article.

The ins and outs of a five-piece French wardrobe

Minimalist French style is all about investing in fewer pieces that are higher in quality, and will hopefully last you a long time. It’s focused on longevity rather than trends. And this is exactly where this French wardrobe philosophy stems from. 

There isn’t a set number of pieces or a timetable to follow. 

To start, you build a solid collection of basic pieces. Things like plain t-shirts, black tailored pants, and a classic white shirt—simple items that can be mixed and matched with everything in your wardrobe. If you find any gaps, fill these in with new staples. 

Tidy closet with clothes nicely folded

Each season (four times per year), you’re allowed to purchase 5 new investment pieces to help you build your collection. These should be non-basic pieces. You can take as much time as you like choosing these—there’s no rush!

The point of this is to refresh your look with each passing season, but to also focus on investing in pieces you truly love and will wear for years to come. 

Five might not sound like much, but trust us on this one; coupled with your trusty basics, this will give you endless outfit combos that will embody that French I-just-woke-up-like-this look.

The rules:

The 5-piece French wardrobe can be a little tricky to understand at first. So, here are some of the rules you need to know before you get started.

  • Basics don’t count towards your five pieces, and can always be replaced.
  • Makeup doesn’t count.
  • Accessories, socks, and underwear don’t count (unless they’re particularly pricey purchases.)
  • Shoes do count.

And everything else that’s not mentioned above counts. 

How to get started creating your 5-piece French wardrobe

The secret to rolling out of bed and looking like one of those impeccably dressed French women you see on Instagram is focusing on fit. 

The reason these women look so good in simple clothing like jeans and a plain white tee is because of the fit. They wear flattering cuts and silhouettes. Instead of following the trends, they stick to what works for their unique shape. 

Young woman in a white T-shirt and jeans

So the message is, it’s not what you buy, it’s how it fits you.

Remember, you’ll only be purchasing 20 new non-basic items each year, so choose wisely. 

Out with the old

Get started by clearing out your wardrobe. Donate anything that no longer fits you, or that you haven’t worn in the past year. Chances are if you haven’t worn it by now, you never will!

Hold on to any basics that fit you well, and part ways with the rest. Be ruthless through this process. 

If you notice any gaps, make a list of what you need and start shopping. Don’t rush to buy everything at once. Take your time, be considerate, and choose quality items that feel good against your skin. Because when you feel good, you will look good.  

Back to basics

We touched on basic pieces a little earlier, but what exactly is a “basic” item of clothing? 

Generally, it’s a functional piece of clothing that you don’t need to spend a ton of money on.

Basics will generally be plain or block colored, practical, and go with those fancier, statement pieces in your wardrobe. 

French outfit essentials: Items every woman should have in her wardrobe

Here are some of the pieces you should think about stocking up on to make sure your wardrobe game is on fire. 

  • Tops: block colored t-shirts, button-up white shirts, silk camis.
  • Pants: well-fitting straight-leg jeans, tailored pants
  • Skirts: pencil skirt, white linen skirt, block colored mini skirts
  • Dresses: a little black dress
  • Shorts: jean shorts, linen shorts
  • Sweaters: cashmere sweaters, oversized wool sweaters, cozy cardigans
  • Outerwear: a trench coat, a classic blazer, a leather jacket
  • Shoes: ballet pumps, brown/black heeled boots, sandals, court shoes.

Make your shopping list for this season.

The great thing about the 5-piece French wardrobe is that each season you get to make a wish list of things you want to add to your collection.

What have you had your eye on for a while?

What are you noticeably missing right now that would take your wardrobe to the next level?

Set yourself a reasonable budget each season for your 5 pieces. It’s okay to spend more on these items than you usually would, because the focus is on quality pieces that last longer. So don’t scrimp, but don’t blow more than you can afford.

 Black sweater and silk skirt with polka dots on a white linen sheet

And that’s how to create a 5-piece French wardrobe!

The only other rule is to have fun creating your capsule collection. It won’t be long before you have a beautifully sustainable and ethical wardrobe that makes getting dressed each morning a joy.

Why not use these principles and apply them to your other purchases too? 

For example, focus on investing in good makeup: a quality mascara, a classic red lipstick, and the perfect shade and texture of foundation for your skin. 

Follow these steps, and you’ll be Paris-ready in no time.

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Learn French Phrases: French Makeup Terms
July 08, 2021
Learn French Phrases: French Makeup Terms

When you love French beauty, knowing the French words for certain makeup products can be quite helpful. They can come in handy if you’re planning to do some shopping in Paris, but it’s also useful for knowing what’s behind the names of your favorite French makeup products.  Read our guide for some must-know French makeup vocabulary. You’ll learn what’s behind the names of some of Vivienne Sabó’s most iconic products, as well as the meanings of some products from other French makeup brands.  From terms for different parts of the face to the names of products and tools, we cover it all!   Parts of the face in French Le visage: the face. It sounds so elegant in French, so it’s no surprise that so many brands all over the world have incorporated the word into their naming schemes!  La peau: the skin.  La yeux: the eyes.  Cils: eyelashes.  Les sourcils: the eyebrows. You might notice a similarity between the French words for brows and for eyelashes! The French term sourcils comes from the Latin supercilium which translates to “above the eyelash.” Les joues: the cheeks.  Les lèvres: the lips.  French makeup terms   Le maquillage: makeup. Fond de teint: foundation. Fond means base or foundation, while teint means tint, so literally, it’s a tinted base. It’s especially fitting because French women prefer a light tint over a full-coverage look.  Base de teint: primer.  La poudre: powder.  Poudre de soleil: bronzer. The literal translation is “sun powder,” which is beautifully appropriate since bronzer is meant to give the skin the illusion that it’s been sunkissed.  Fard: This term is a synonym for makeup, but it’s usually used to refer to specific products.  Le fard à paupière: eyeshadow. It translates as “makeup for the eyelids.”  Blush: blush. Contrary to popular belief, French women don’t use the word rouge to refer to blush. Instead, French makeup aficionados use the English term.   Le fard à joues: blush. This is another commonly used term, although it’s less popular than simply saying “blush.” It literally translates as “makeup for the cheeks.” Anticerne: concealer.  Correcteur: corrector, a synonym for concealer.  Le crayon: pencil.  Crayon à lèvres: lip liner.   Eyeliner: eyeliner. This is another one of those words that have been directly lifted from English to French.  Eyeliner liquide: liquid eyeliner.  Crayon yeux: eyeliner pencil. This is the term to use if you’re talking specifically about a kohl-style pencil, although it can also apply to retractable eyeliners.  Feutre fin: felt tip, also known as our must-have eyeliner. This eyeliner won't let you down, and the design itself is ideal for drawing on a precise wing in seconds.  Palette yeux: eyeshadow palette.  Mascara: mascara.    Mascara volumateur: volumizing mascara. We like our mascara to add some volume and amp up the drama, so this term is especially helpful.  Mascara allongeant: lengthening mascara.  Mascara waterproof: waterproof mascara. While the French word for waterproof is étanche, when it comes to makeup, the English term is used.    Éclat: radiance or shine. The word is flexible, referring both to the delicate glow of the moon as well as to the brilliant radiance of a precious gem, which is why it’s so useful in makeup.  Highlighter/illuminateur: highlighter. Most French makeup lovers use the English term for this glowy makeup product, but occasionally, the French word illuminateur is used instead.  Le rouge à lèvres: lipstick. Most French women own a signature red lipstick, so it’s no surprise that a more literal translation would mean, “red for the lips.” However, in practice, the phrase applies to all lipsticks no matter the shade!  Gloss à lèvres: Lip gloss.  Other French beauty terms    Faux-cils: False eyelashes.  Coffret: Box or kit. This is the term used for makeup sold in sets or bundles, as well.  Éponge de maquillage: makeup sponge.    Les pinceaux de maquillage: makeup brushes.  Recourbe-cils: eyelash curler.  Le vernis à ongles: nail polish.  Trousse de maquillage: makeup bag.  Démaquillant: makeup remover. Sans cruauté: cruelty-free. This one is especially important for us since all Vivienne Sabó products are cruelty-free and never tested on animals.   Nos amours, you’re ready for Paris!  Armed with the most important French makeup terms, you’ll be able to shop at the small beauty boutiques and the large makeup stores with ease. Keep practicing as you do your makeup every morning, and you’ll become a French language and beauty pro in no-time. 

How to Know if Your Beauty Products Have Gone Bad
June 23, 2021
How to Know if Your Beauty Products Have Gone Bad

We’ve all opened a moisturizer or applied a lip gloss and had that feeling that something doesn’t look quite right. The color has changed, the consistency is off, or you actually find your skin being irritated after you apply it. But you can’t bear to throw it away!  The jar is still half-full, or it’s your favorite lipstick, and even though your intuition is telling you something’s off, you dismiss that thought.  Surely it’s better to keep using this product until it’s finished instead of wasting it?  So, do makeup products actually have an expiry date? How do you know if your beauty products have gone bad? Do unopened makeup products expire? How can you check the expiry dates of your products? And is there any harm in using an expired product? All great questions, and we’ll be answering them all in this article! Here’s everything you need to know about makeup expiry dates.  How long do beauty products last? There is no definitive blanket answer, but here’s a general guide for how long different types of beauty products last. Makeup that you use around your eyes Mascaras and liquid liners have the shortest shelf life and will generally last between three and six months before they need replacing. It’s really important you adhere to this to avoid any nasty eye infections. Pencil eyeliners have a longer shelf life and can last up to a year. Sharpening your liners regularly will shave off any bacteria that has built up and help you avoid eye infections.  Liquid foundation Water-based foundations can last up to a year while oil-based foundations have a slightly longer shelf-life lasting up to 18 months. Moisturizers Depending on how fresh the ingredients are, moisturizers can last between six months to a year after being opened.  Eye creams, face masks & serums These will all last between six months and a year. Lip products A solid lipstick texture will last between one and two years, while liquid lipstick and lip gloss will generally last between six months to a year. A lip liner can last up to a year and should be regularly sharpened the same way as an eyeliner. Cream-based makeup Cream concealers and blushes can usually last between six months to a year. Powder products Bronzers, powder blushes, powder foundations, and setting powder can all last up to two years.  Nail polish Nail polish will last indefinitely if it’s unopened. But once opened, it will usually have a shelf life of two years. Around this time (or sooner) certain ingredients will begin to evaporate which will cause it to thicken.  Makeup brushes Brushes can last a long time as long as they’re properly looked after. That means washing them every month to remove bacteria and build up.  How to check the expiry date of cosmetics The best way to figure out if a beauty product is expired is to use your common sense.  Ask yourself the following questions: Does it look right? Does it smell right? Has the texture changed? And check the expiration date—every tube or jar will have this clearly written on it.  What you’re looking for is the “period after opening” number. This will be written as “6M” or “12M” on the product somewhere. This essentially tells you how long you can use this product safely after you open it.  Usually, it will be fairly obvious if a product has gone off. For example, mascara will clog. Pencils will dry out. Creams and moisturizers will change in consistency or color and may even change in smell.  What to do with expired beauty products: If in doubt, throw it out!  Do unopened makeup products expire, or is this just an urban myth? Most products on the market have a shelf life of over 30 months when left unopened. But this really depends on the product in question. As mentioned already, some products have active, unstable ingredients in them that go off quicker than other ingredients. So you’d be wise to still practice caution before going ahead and using any product that has been hanging around in your beauty drawer for a while.  How to extend the shelf life of your beauty products Did you know that the way you store your beauty products can actually extend their shelf life? Yes! So, are you storing and looking after them the right way? Here’s what NOT to do: Keep your makeup products somewhere humid (i.e. on a shelf in the bathroom) Keep them somewhere warm or in direct sunlight (on a windowsill) Dip dirty fingers, brushes, and sponges into your makeup pots Share your makeup with anyone else This will encourage bacteria and mold to thrive, and wreak havoc with formulas. Here’s what you should be doing to extend the life of your makeup: Keep your products somewhere cool, dark, and dry (not in the fridge though!) Clean your makeup tools regularly Use a tool to scoop out product instead of your fingers Wipe your lipstick after each use to remove bacteria Close lids and tops securely after using them Go for smaller product sizes if you find you’re not getting through them How to keep your beauty products organized As discussed, the period after opening symbol (PAO) is a great indication of how long a product will last before going bad. But sometimes, this will be located on a box and not on the actual product. On top of this, it’s difficult to remember when you bought and opened all your products! To stay on top of things, add a small sticker to each product with a date on it for when you probably need to throw it out and replace it.  Can I still use expired beauty products? What happens if you use expired makeup? You might think there’s no harm in using an expired product, but you’d be wrong. But the worst-case scenario is you can break out in spots, have an allergic reaction, or give yourself an infection.  A 2013 study found 70% of women used some type of expired product in their makeup routine—mostly eye makeup (mascara, eyeliner, eye shadow). The researchers sampled the eye makeup for contamination, and found that 67% of the products were contaminated!  Yikes. It’s really not worth the risk ladies. Set aside a budget for investing in makeup as and when you need it and release the guilt of throwing away a half-used product.  Need a handy reminder when it’s time to replace your makeup? Let’s be honest, life is hectic. In a perfect world, we’d all add expiry dates to our makeup products, and we’d always remember to replace them. But most of us have so much going on that best practices like this get forgotten. That’s why we’ve created a handy subscribe and save makeup subscription option for all our products. You’ll save money on our makeup, and we’ll deliver a replacement product automatically at the time increments you choose!    

French Girl Beauty Guide
June 11, 2021
French Girl Beauty Guide

There’s a reason why Paris is the world’s capital of fashion. French women have mastered the art of looking cool and chic at all times!    The secret behind French girl beauty is sheer cleverness. It’s not about special French beauty products (although they can help) or spending hours in front of the mirror. Instead, it’s about practicing restraint and focusing your energy on the things that matter most.  The French beauty routine can be split into three components. First, there’s the skincare routine, then hairstyling, and last, but certainly not least, makeup. That classy French vibe comes from how these three components merge into a singular, effortless look.  Let’s discover how that’s done, shall we?  Skin on point  Our skin is the most precious canvas, so the French skincare routine is often more consistent than makeup, even though it’s not necessarily too involved or complex.  Consistent skincare routine   Consistency is more important than the specific products you use! By doing your beauty routine every morning and night, you can keep your skin firm and healthy for the years to come.  For most French girls, the secret to ensuring consistency is not to have an overly long routine. We use our staple French beauty products, and we don’t mind cutting the occasional corner. If you struggle to stick to your skincare routine, we have an entire post dedicated to life-changing French skincare tips.  Gentle cleanse   One crucial element in the French skincare routine is cleansing the skin as gently as possible. Removing makeup every night is imperative, of course, but in the morning, a splash of water is often enough.  For actual makeup removal, micellar water has become the go-to French beauty product for most women. It’s quick and easy to use, but it’s also very gentle on the skin. Many French women also love the old-school approach of using an ultra-moisturizing cleansing milk.  Hydration hydration hydration   After cleansing, the next step is to load the skin up with moisture. We avoid intense multi-step routines, but many French girls still layer a hydrating serum under their face cream for added moisture.  When the skin is well-hydrated, it’s stronger, softer, and most importantly, it achieves that delicious glow. That’s why French girls will readily skip foundation, but moisturizer is always a must!  French hair, don’t care From Brigitte Bardot in the ‘70s to Cindy Bruna and Jeanne Damas today, French women are known for keeping their hair tousled and natural. Here’s how you, too, can achieve such hair! Never over-wash   Much like the face, your hair doesn’t benefit from over washing. To avoid drying out the hair, we try to wash our hair as little as possible. Once or twice a week is plenty for dry scalps, while those with oily hair should shampoo every other day at most.  The shampoo itself also matters! French women stick to gentle, sulfate-free shampoos, as those are less likely to strip the hair of its natural, beneficial oils. Finally, we also use a little bit of conditioner on the hair’s end to add some moisture and ensure manageability.  All about texture    That French tousled hair look is a classic day-to-day choice that always seems effortlessly chic. The secret to achieving the look is to find ways to texturize the hair. French women generally eschew the hair straightener, but even the blow dryer and curling iron are optional!  Instead, we let our hair air dry so that it can achieve a natural wave or curl. Then, we amp it up with a texturizing salt spray or dry shampoo to make the hair look even more piecey and tousled.  Go-to hairstyles    For day-to-day, natural-looking tousled hair rules, but French girls also know how to turn up the glam for date nights and special events. Instead of trying an elaborate updo or spending a fortune at the salon, try to master a few simple but impressive-looking hairstyles.  A high ponytail is especially chic these days, but a messy bun is a classic when paired with some soft-glam makeup. For the full low-down, check out our guide for how to achieve the essential French girl hairstyles.   Easy French girl makeup French makeup takes a clever approach. It’s all about maximum impact through minimal effort, which is why French women take no time to get ready in the morning, yet they always look stunning.   Have a signature makeup kit When it comes to makeup, repetition breeds perfection and speed. That’s why French girls like to stick to a small but carefully curated makeup kit with just a few essentials. The must-have French girl makeup products are usually the following:  Volumizing mascara Concealer with a natural finish A brow grooming product  Easy-to-use eyeliner  Red lipstick, of course!  The red lip    It’s not a myth but a fact: French women swear by red lipstick. Red lips are timelessly seductive, and they offer a low-effort trick to looking incredibly glamorous. For some French girls, it’s literally the only makeup product they’ll use!  Nowadays, many French women choose non-feathering matte lipsticks like our Matte Constance lipstick since they don’t require lip liner and they don’t fade throughout the day.  If you still prefer old-school bullet lipsticks, it’s important to first perfect the lip line with the help of a matching liner, like our Classic Red Le Grand Volume pencil.  Keep the eyes soft   When the lips are the focus, it’s best to keep the eyes soft. The next most important French girl makeup product is mascara, which is all you’ll need if you’ve already settled on a red lip.  In general, French girls prefer volumizing mascaras that make the lashes look lush — but if your lashes are already voluminous and prone to clumping, you might like a lengthening and lash-separating mascara instead.   On days when you do decide to put a bit more effort into your eye makeup, it’s better to keep the lips natural with just a dab of nude gloss.  All of our secrets revealed There’s a lot of thought behind the French girl beauty routine, but mercifully, it doesn’t require much effort. French skincare is at the center, while we keep our hair tousled and our French makeup minimal yet punchy. There you have it, mes amours!