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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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Eyelash Care - Tips for Healthy Lashes
June 15, 2021
Eyelash Care - Tips for Healthy Lashes

We spend as much time pampering our “canvas” (i.e., our face) as we do painting it with makeup—it’s one of the main rules of French beauty, after all! That means we never skip moisturizer, and we always have a lip balm nearby.  However, there’s one more feature that deserves some special attention: the lashes!  We love the dramatic effect that mascara can have, but it turns out so much better when we can start out with strong, healthy lashes. When the lashes are well taken care of, they’re not as prone to falling or breaking. The longer they stay intact on the lash line, the thicker and longer they’ll grow.  To learn how to maintain your lashes so they’ll always look swell, keep reading our guide! We’ll give some must-know natural lash care tips and even touch on what you should look for in an eyelash serum and how to grow eyelashes.  Choose a gentle mascara Waterproof mascara is incredibly useful when you know it’s going to rain or if you want to turn heads at the pool. For day-to-day, however, easily washable mascara is much more gentle on your lashes.  This mostly has to do with removal—the more tugging and rubbing you have to do to get the mascara off, the more damage you’ll do to your lashes! Stick to a regular formula most of the time, and save that waterproof mascara for special days when you want to look glam in the water.  Use a primer before mascara A mascara primer is a wonderful product that gives your lashes extra protection and nourishment under mascara. Before mascara, the lash primer coats the lashes with a seal that’s made of a blend of waxes and emollients that nourishes the lashes while also adding a barrier between them and the mascara. As a bonus, it also helps build that initial length and volume, which saves you from having to repeat your coats.   Remove eye makeup every night Sleeping with eye makeup on is the biggest no-no. It’s awful for the health of your eyes, but it can also damage the lashes. When we sleep with mascara on, it dries out and causes clumping and tangling, especially if you tend to sleep with your face in the pillow. As a result, the lashes get weakened, so you’re likely to lose a few more of them than usual once morning comes.   Keep removal gentle  When it’s time to remove your makeup, use a gentle, oil-based makeup remover and a firm, non-shedding cotton pad. Take your time, and instead of rubbing over and over again, let the makeup remover really saturate your mascara before you start wiping it away. This will allow the mascara to break down and disappear completely with minimal stress to your lashes.  Don’t rub your eyes  Another important habit to break when it comes to eyelash care is rubbing your eyes. When we’re sleepy, it’s a common habit to rub our eyes without even noticing. Unfortunately, that added friction contributes to eyelash loss (and it can irritate the eyes). It’s perfectly normal to lose 2-5 lashes a day, but if you rub your eyes, you may lose even more than that! If you rub your eyes because they get itchy or dry, consider applying moisturizing eye drops. Your eyes will be happier, and so will your lashes! Otherwise, if it’s just a bad habit, breaking it will require some mindfulness, as with other bad habits.  Give your lashes a makeup break As much as we love the effect that mascara can have, it’s still worth taking a break from it every few days. There can be a correlation between excessive mascara use and increased eyelash loss, especially if the removal was too aggressive.  That’s why you should take a break from mascara for a day or two a week, ideally. During those days, give your lashes time to rest and rejuvenate, perhaps with the help of eyelash serum.  Use an eyelash serum Eyelash serums are essential if you’d like to truly nurture your lashes. There are two main kinds of eyelash serums out there: ones that nourish and strengthen the lashes and ones that help to grow them.   Nourishing serums You can use nourishing serums as part of your basic eyelash care routine. Much like hair serums, these lash serums are usually made with oils and plant extracts. They help to condition the lashes and to moisturize the skin along the lash line. They’re useful for keeping the lashes healthy and in-tact, and they’re ideal for daily use.  Products for lash growth  If you’re mainly concerned with how to grow your eyelashes, you need to search for a product specifically made to improve eyelash growth. There are a ton of different options out there, both natural and man-made, that are said to help grow the lashes.  There are many eyelash serums out there made with ingredients that have potential for improving hair growth. Some of these ingredients include prostaglandin analogs that directly impact the lash follicle. On the more gentle and natural side of things, certain peptides are said to promote hair growth as well as extracts from plants like clover and mung bean.  Bat your lashes!  When you show your lashes love, they’ll return it tenfold. Proper eyelash care isn’t necessarily hard or complicated—it’s just a matter of taking the occasional makeup break, being diligent about removing your mascara at night, and adding the occasional, helpful touches of eyelash serum and mascara primer. Even adopting just a few of these eyelash care tips will help you bat longer, fuller lashes.

How to Use a Makeup Sponge
June 05, 2021
How to Use a Makeup Sponge

Is a makeup sponge part of your beauty toolkit? For us, it’s a must-have! Makeup blenders, in particular, are a fairly recent innovation that has had a big impact.  French girls have totally fallen in love with makeup blender sponges because, when used damp, they give a glowy finish that’s integral for achieving natural-looking makeup in seconds.  Whether you only apply a touch of concealer once in a while or you like a full foundation and contour makeup look, using a makeup sponge correctly will help up your makeup game. In this post, we’ll focus on a more French approach to using a makeup blender, with tips for simplistic makeup that’ll help your skin look naturally radiant.  First, we’ll give you a quick overview of the different types of makeup sponges, and then we’ll provide tips for using them depending on the products you like.  Types of makeup sponges There are two major types of makeup sponges to choose from, so let’s quickly summarize the details you should know about them.  Makeup blender sponges   When we hear the word makeup sponge, the first thing that comes to mind is a round, reusable sponge, much like the original Beauty Blender and the other sponges inspired by it. These sponges are meant to be used damp to apply and blend complexion makeup. You wash them with soap and water after every use. You can use the same sponge again the next time you do your makeup.  These reusable sponges are fantastic for complexion makeup. They blend away streaks and harsh lines, and because they’re damp, they don’t absorb your foundation. The water in the sponge helps add more moisture and glow to the foundation, contributing to a healthier and more natural finish.    Disposable sponges   Before blenders became standard in all of our makeup kits, many women were using disposable sponges to do their makeup. They were usually wedge shapes, but occasionally you could also come across flat sponges. They were never especially popular in French beauty since French women preferred to use their fingers to apply their makeup.  Some brands market their wedge sponges as reusable. In practice, they’re usually flimsier and more likely to harbor bacteria compared to makeup blender sponges, so while you might be able to wash and reuse them, we don’t recommend keeping them around for long.  These days, many makeup artists still use disposable wedges. They can just throw them away instead of having to carefully sanitize a reusable sponge for their next client. They work well in a pinch, although their smaller size and straight edges mean that getting a seamless blend takes a little longer.  How to use a makeup sponge for foundation makeup   This is the French approach to using a makeup blender for natural-looking makeup. It works whether you use a foundation or a product with lighter coverage like tinted moisturizers or BB cream.  Always start with clean and very well-moisturized skin. If you want, you can even use your sponge to apply your skincare steps!  Next, soak your sponge with water until it doubles in size, and then wring out the excess, so it’s damp but not dripping.  Dispense your cream or liquid foundation makeup on the back of your hand. The heat from your skin will help warm it up so it’ll glide more easily.  Dip the sponge into the makeup on your hand.  Start with the area of your face where you would like the most coverage, and gently bounce the sponge over your skin.  Never drag the sponge over your skin since that can leave visible streaks.  Use overlapping bouncing motions to spread your foundation and to give your skin a seamless, poreless blend.  If it looks like you’ve overapplied makeup to any part of your face, use one of the sponge’s clean sides to blot away the excess and to prevent a cakey look.  Applying concealer with a sponge   Many French women use concealer instead of foundation since they can just dab it where they’d like to even out their skin tone a little. Getting a concealer to blend into bare skin isn’t always easy, but with a makeup sponge, it’s a piece of cake! It’s best to apply concealer directly to the area that needs the added coverage, either with a brush, a finger, or the applicator that comes with your concealer. Then, use the clean, pointed end of your damp sponge to blend out the concealer into the rest of the skin so it becomes truly undetectable.   Using a makeup sponge for blush and contour   Powders aren’t especially popular in French beauty because they can leave the skin looking too matte and dry. Instead, cream blushes, bronzers, highlighters, and contour makeup are much more common.  Using a sponge blends out those colorful, precise complexion products in a way that gives them a skin-like finish.  As with concealer, it’s best to first dab the product on the skin, concentrating on the areas where you want it to be more saturated.  For blush, that means the apples of the cheeks, while for contour or bronzer, it usually means below the cheekbone and along the temples.  Using a clean side of the sponge, gently tap over them to blend, and add a bit of a dragging motion if you also want to distribute the product further out.  Finally, if you think your blush or contour is a little too dark or vibrant, you can actually dip the sponge into a bit of your foundation and concealer and then bounce it over the makeup. It’ll help to soften the blush, as though it’s emanating from within your skin.   Soak it up When you use it correctly, a sponge is the ultimate makeup aid. No other tool can blend things quite so seamlessly for natural-looking makeup every time. Use it damp, and that added moisture will help you realize all of your French beauty fantasies! 

The Truth About These 11 French Fashion Clichés
May 27, 2021
The Truth About These 11 French Fashion Clichés

Have you ever wondered if all those French fashion clichés are actually true? Do French women roam Paris's streets in their Breton striped tops, trench coats, silk scarves, berets, and Chanel handbags? Or is this just one of those Paris stereotypes? If you research the term "French-style clothing," you'll often be met with a list of must-have items that the writer swears all French women have in their five-piece French wardrobe.  So, how do you know what French women actually wear, and what's a French fashion cliché?  French women are renowned worldwide for their effortless, chic, and timeless style. And if you want to perfect French chic, you have to know the difference between a French fashion favorite and a cliché.  Here are 11 items we're reviewing to give you the lowdown on what to add to your wardrobe and what you can cross off from your list. The beret The beret is the number one French fashion cliché out there! When you think of what French people wear, you might automatically envision them with a navy or red beret atop of their head.  Sorry to burst this bubble, but the truth is, most French women do not stroll around wearing a beret! You might see a beret on a trend-focused, stylish woman (if berets happen to be in that season) or on the head of an old man playing Pétanque. Apart from that, this is an age-old French stereotype that simply isn't that common anymore. The Breton striped top (marinière) A Breton striped top is a classic white top with horizontal navy stripes, known as the marinière in France. Coco Channel popularized the Breton top when she introduced the design in her nautical collection back in 1917. While it's true that most women will own at least one striped top, they're not as popular as you might think. In fact, tourists tend to wear Breton tops while visiting France more than local French women do! Neutral tees and graphic tees are far more popular today than stripes.  If you're set on rocking a striped top, pair it with a block-colored blazer, a pair of straight-leg jeans, and some white sneakers for a smart-casual daytime look. Ballerina flats The French fashion cliché of ballerina flats was initially started by Brigitte Bardot in the '60s. Most French women will own at least one pair of ballerina flats in a neutral color that works with most other things in their wardrobe. However, they don't wear them all the time! French women also love wearing white sneakers, loafers, slingbacks, and low block heels. It's all about comfort and style.  The silk scarf The silk scarf is such a versatile item and can add a pop of color or pattern to any look. You'll see images of French women wearing them around their necks, tied on their bags, and also in their hair. But is this a fashion staple for French women or just a cliché? French women do wear silk scarves, and a lot of them will own at least one. But they tend to be reserved for special occasions and not worn for a day-to-day look.  Bold red lipstick & voluminous lashes Do you imagine the streets of Paris filled with women with flawless skin, perfectly tousled hair, and rocking a bold red lip?  Some women will wear red lipstick as an everyday look, especially fashion-savvy women. But others will keep their daytime look a little more toned down and opt for a subtler pink lipstick instead. They'll save a bold red lip for special occasions like a girl's night out, a date, or a party. But every woman will own a classic red lipstick in their makeup collection. Day or night, French women will always give their lashes a coat of mascara for more length and volume. Good makeup is key to achieving that timeless, French chic look. The vintage cardigan Do you imagine Parisian women wearing cute vintage cardigans in an array of colors?  While some women do like the look, many prefer to keep their look more classic. This means sticking to neutral colors and tones and more timeless cardigan shapes.  One thing to note with vintage cardigans is they can quickly make you look dowdy if not worn the right way. To avoid this, opt for a finer-knit cardigan for a modern, chic look perfect for fall and winter.  The Birkin basket bag Yes, French women do love a basket bag, but they don't use it the way you might think they do! You'll spot basket bags all around the streets of Paris, but they're usually popular for carrying groceries, running errands, shopping, or packing a picnic during the summer.  Americans have been seen wearing smaller basket styles as handbags, which you'll rarely find French women doing.  The trench coat The trench coat truly is a French woman's fashion staple. Most women will own a good quality classic style in a neutral color.  Why? Because the trench coat is the perfect piece of outerwear for that unpredictable French weather!  Plus, it's a great lightweight transition to take you from late summer into fall when it's too warm for a pepper winter coat. Traditional French clothing is all about being practical and chic at the same time. Look for a trench coat in a neutral color like beige, light grey, or navy. And invest in a coat that is made well and will last you for many years—this is what French fashion is built on.  The floral wrap dress Floral wrap dresses have become increasingly popular over the past few years and are often associated with French women. But are they a true fashion staple or a cliché? During the spring/summer season, you will find many French women wearing wrap dresses. They're flattering for all figures, comfortable to wear, and can work well for holidays and weekends. However, this is a very feminine look, and French women are notorious for mixing and matching feminine and masculine silhouettes. You might want to add a blazer or a pair of sneakers to keep this look fresh and modern.  The white button-down shirt You'll always find the white button-down shirt making its way onto French fashion must-have lists!  But you won't find many French women wearing white shirts around the city. It tends to be kept for work and in business settings rather than day-to-day social life.  Although it might be a French fashion cliché, it's an incredibly versatile piece that can be dressed up or down and will never go out of style. The Chanel bag One of the biggest Paris stereotypes is that all French women own a black Chanel handbag which they never leave the house without.  While this might be all French women's dream handbag, not everyone can afford such a luxurious brand. If it's within your budget, it's a great, timeless piece to invest in that will make any outfit chic.  But there are so many great high street versions of the classic black leather handbag that will suit all budgets. Invest in a piece that is well made and looks expensive, but don't worry about the label.     And that's the truth about French fashion clichés! The number one rule with French style is to keep things classic, timeless, and effortless. Stick to this, and you'll perfect that French girl style in no time.