10 Classic French Wardrobe Basics

French Wardrobe Basics

Looking like a French woman is easier than you think. Add these 10 attainable classic French wardrobe basics to your closet and in no time you will be dressing and looking like a French woman. You don’t have to live in Paris to achieve this look, anyone can master dressing like the French with these timeless pieces.


The French wardrobe philosophy is simple, high-quality basic items that are versatile, timeless, and classic. The French aren’t big on fashion trends. They prefer to focus more on investing in items that will last for years to come and not something that will go out of style after one season.

Thinking about a French wardrobe philosophy has helped me in my decision-making when it comes to my wardrobe. After I cleaned out my closet a while back and donated 80-90% of my wardrobe I’ve had to rebuild basically my entire wardrobe.

I am investing in the classic pieces, ones I know I will have for years to come and that I can easily mix and match. No more walking into a store and buying just because it looks cute on the hanger or it’s on sale. Having this thought process of higher-quality basic pieces has completely changed the way I’ve been shopping.


  • Button-Down Shirt
  • Breton Striped Shirt (a.k.a. marinière)
  • Blazer
  • Trench Coat
  • Little Black Dress
  • Jeans
  • Ballet Flats
  • White Sneakers
  • Scarf
  • Black Handbag

1. Button-Down Shirt

Woman sitting on a bridge wearing a white button down with denim and gold sandals.

One of the most basic French tops you can own is a white button-down which is incredibly versatile and a staple in any French woman’s closet. This top is perfect either casual with ballet flats and jeans or you can switch out to heels and a blazer for the evening.

The top can range in any material like cotton, silk, oversized, and even a white and blue stripe which I happen to love. You can even get one with a bow that ties in front to dress it up a little.

2. Breton Striped Shirt (a.k.a.) marinère

Wearing Sèzane stripe top, black blazer, and jeans

A stripe top or marinière is quintessentially French style. Nothing is more French than a striped shirt from Saint James. You will see them everywhere and French people of all ages wearing one.

Inspired by the French Navy it wasn’t long before it became a fashion must-have picked up by creatives and intellectuals (think Coco Chanel, Pablo Picasso) and has since become a staple in the French wardrobe.

Other favorites include the Colette and Noan Marinière both by Sézane.

3. Blazer

Lady wearing navy blazer with gold buttons and dark denim and boots standing against a grey wall.

Nothing is more chic or polished than a great-looking blazer which is also incredibly versatile. A blazer is easy to throw a tee underneath, and pair it with a great pair of tailored pants and flats for a daytime look. At night, keep the same blazer on and change out the pants for jeans, a silk camisole, and heels and you have a perfect nighttime look.

Make sure it fits properly though and if necessary as with any piece of clothing, take it to a tailor if you need a little help with the fit. Some of my favorite blazers come from Sézane, Everlane, and J.Crew.

4. Trench Coat

woman wearing trench coat with brown boots, brown leather bag, and striped sweater, part of french basics.

Open any French woman’s closet and you will find the iconic trench coat which is the ultimate classic French wardrobe basic. For good reason also as it can instantly give that Parisian chic to any outfit. My personal favorite trench is the Scott Trench from Sézane.

You can wear a trench coat with jeans, work pants, and even dresses. The trench is so classy in either camel or black and you can buy a short or long version depending on what you want. The ultimate trench is a Burberry of course but places like J.CREW and places like MANGO have great less expensive versions.

5. Little Black Dress

Black Sezane Dress With Celine Purse

One of those pieces of clothing to wear when you don’t necessarily know what to wear for your special occasion is a black dress. French women wear them for a chic night out, dinner with friends, or even to a party.

You can never go wrong with a black dress. You can wear it with flats, sandals, or heels and your favorite handbag. Also, make sure it’s not too revealing because French women never reveal anything for that air of mystique.

My favorite place to find an LBD is Sézane or Cuyana, they are beautifully made, well-designed, and forever timeless. Even something like a silk slip dress is simple yet elegant paired with the right accessories.

6. Jeans

Woman walking in the tuileries in paris with flare jeans and a black turtleneck.

French women tend to go for straight-leg jeans over skinny and prefer a higher-waisted rise to help elongate the legs. Look for straight or flare legs in dark blue or light and wear them with boots and sneakers in the Fall and wedges and sandals in the Summer.

7. Ballet Flats

wearing chanel flats with navy coat and black pants

The ballet flat is about as timeless as you can get when it comes to a shoe. They are practical for walking those Parisian streets, never go out of style, and can be worn during any season.

French women, tend to choose a classic Chanel flat or Repetto. However, you can also find more affordable options at Everlane, Sézane, or J.Crew. Ballet flats are some of my favorite shoes to wear with jeans and pants. I love the classic look of a white button-down, flats, and jeans with a leather handbag.

8. White Sneakers

wearing dress and jacket walking in montmatre

Another favorite shoe to walk the streets of Paris would be a great white sneaker. Sneakers don’t have the reputation they once had in Paris and nowadays you will find them everywhere. They make sense with all of those miles being walked on a daily basis.

The most popular brands are Veja, Adidas Stan Smith, and the Jack sneaker by Sézane. I wore this sneaker on a recent trip to Paris and walked around 25,000 steps a day. Not once did I receive a blister or any sort of rub from this sneaker. I would recommend this over and over to anyone looking for a great walking sneaker.

9. Silk Scarf

Lady standing with white blazer and black denim in silk scarf wearing french wardrobe basics.

A great way to add some chic to any outfit is with a silk scarf which has been a French woman’s staple accessory for years. They will wear them with a trench coat and jeans in the Spring and a wool blazer in the cooler months.

There are multiple ways to wear a scarf like the French and several different kinds of scarves. The most popular scarf is a brightly colored Hermès which is an investment piece. You can always check places like The Real Real or other second-hand sites for gently used Hermès.

You can find more affordable options at places like J. Crew and Nordstrom.

10. Black Handbag

Lady wearing blazer and black denim carrying a black leather handbag in front of a green door in Paris.

One accessory you will find all over Paris is a black leather handbag. A nice leather handbag is one of those items you want to invest in because you will carry this bag for years. Plus, it’s beautiful and instantly brings an outfit together.

Not everyone is carrying a designer bag despite what you might think but the ones I see the most are Chanel, YSL, or Celine. However, I did also notice a fair amount of bags from Sézane, Polène, and A.P.C. as well. Longchamp is also incredibly popular among Parisian women.

These are 10 classic French wardrobe basics you can attain anywhere you live to have a more curated wardrobe. You will have these pieces for years to come and look timeless, chic, and classic.

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  1. I spent all of spring revamping my wardrobe and I have almost every item on your list except the blazer and the trench coat. Hopefully in the fall and it will be complete.
    P.S. I love your site!!

    1. Hi Ivy-
      Doesn’t it feel so great to rework your wardrobe! Thank you so much and so happy I can help! Thanks so much for reading and following. Have a wonderful day!

  2. Thank you!
    Very helpful advice – I love the idea of focusing on really great basics and finding the perfect pieces in the above categories.

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