graphic of french wardrobe basics

French Wardrobe Essentials

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been inspired by French women and the way they effortlessly put together their wardrobes. They always seem to look so chic and timeless wearing basic pieces. but they have a certain way of wearing them which I admire and so does the rest of the world. However, you don’t have to be a French girl to have French style as long as you have the French wardrobe essentials you can be well on your way. 

What is French Girl Style

French women definitely give off that “Je ne sais quoi.” One of the main ways they do this is by investing in high-quality and versatile items. French women don’t have massive closets as we do here in the states so their space is limited. They invest in basics that are simple, stylish, and classic. Their mantra is simplicity and versatility plus they wear little makeup and very dainty jewelry.

graphic of french wardrobe basics

Less Is More When It Comes To French Style

When I cleaned out my closet and donated 80-90% of my wardrobe, I knew I wanted to rebuild my closet based on the French fashion philosophy of less is more. Everyone has great basics in their closet but what makes the French different is they invest in high-quality basics which will last for years.

Today, I am sharing French wardrobe essentials plus how you can get the look and have that “Je ne sais quoi” as well. These are items you can reach for over and over and they will always remain classic.

I try and give two different price options if available for the item. Some things I prefer to spend a little more money on if I know it’s going to last me and maybe the quality is better.

However, I understand that’s not always an option, and sometimes the less expensive item is the best one to go with.

French Wardrobe Essentials

I’ve broken down by category which items are French Wardrobe Essentials to add to your closet. At the end of the post, I also included several different variations of looks wearing these specific French wardrobe-essentials.

TOPS

WHITE BUTTON-DOWN (less expensive option)- One of the mainstays in the French wardrobe is a great-looking white button-down. This top is so versatile and classic and goes with anything. You can wear it with your favorite denim for a more casual look, over a dress tied at the waist for a picnic look, and with any color of pants for a more polished look. My favorite is denim, flats, and a great-looking tote. I also think it’s appropriate to have lots of white tops but in different materials like cotton, silk, and linen for Summer. I don’t think you can ever have too many white tops in my opinion.

CASHMERE SWEATER (less expensive option)- The ultimate luxury item is a beautiful Cashmere sweater and French women have one or two in their closet. A beautifully made sweater will last for years and you can wear dressed up or down with jeans, pants, and even a skirt.

CARDIGAN (less expensive option)- I am a huge fan of a great cardigan and always have been. They are extremely easy to wear with the silk camisole, can be extra cozy when oversized, and are easily paired with a tee and jeans. Plus, you can wear them over a dress, and basically all year depending on the material. Cashmere would be my absolute favorite but a great cotton one works just as well.

WHITE TEE (less expensive option)- This is an item everyone has in their closet but one that sometimes can be tricky to find the right quality. Over the years I have started spending more on white tees because I was tired of wearing ones that were too thin and see-thru. Through trial and error, I have found some great ones that I am willing to spend more on because of the quality. This is also another great option that’s high quality but a little more.

STRIPE SHIRT (less expensive option)- This brand is the most famous in France for its marinière MINQUIERS MODERNE which embodies a French state of mind. 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.

SHOP THE LOOK

JACKETS

TRENCH COAT Essential staple in every French woman’s closet is a camel trench coat. I love throwing on my trench coat with jeans, work pants, and even dresses. The trench is so classy 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 Banana Republic have great less expensive versions.

BLAZER (less expensive option)- Probably one of my favorite pieces of clothing is a great blazer. Black or Grey in the Fall/Winter and Navy or White in the Spring. A blazer is incredibly easy to throw a tee underneath, pair 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. There’s nothing more chic or French than a blazer. 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.

LEATHER JACKET French women love their all-black outfits and this leather jacket is the perfect way to add some edge to any outfit. You can not only wear it with jeans and a top but also dresses and skirts.

SHOP THE LOOK

SHOES

BALLET FLATS (less expensive option)- A must-have in every French woman’s closet is a great pair of Ballet Flats. Of course, the quintessential pair is CHANEL, but since these aren’t always the most affordable option any great pair will do. A loafer also works well also.

KITTEN HEELS When French women dress up they tend to do so very discreetly yet look sophisticated. A black pump or kitten heel is an easy way to dress up a dress, pants, or even jeans. You could either do a kitten heel as a mule or a pump.

WHITE SNEAKERS (less expensive option) Pick a pair you can casually walk in all day. The French don’t wear ones with big logs, stick to basic classic ones. They can instantly elevate a casual outfit and are a favorite in the Summer with dresses.

SHOP THE LOOK

ACCESSORIES

LEATHER HANDBAG Go for quality over quantity when it comes to handbags. An investment one will last for years and through each season. It could be a leather tote, satchel, crossbody, whatever your preference, just make sure to buy one made of good material and leather.

JEWELRY French women wear very dainty jewelry and never anything too bright or big. You won’t see any of them wearing chunky earrings. They like to stick with a very basic gold necklace, simple hoops, and maybe a bracelet.

SCARF What could be more French than a scarf? Worn around the neck or tied around your bag this is the classic French accessory. A beautiful silk one is a way to go.

It doesn’t take a lot to build your French wardrobe as most of these you might already have in your closet. These are all basics you can build into your wardrobe and have for years if you invest in them. You don’t have to do it all at once but consider investing in one or two, it really does make all the difference in the world.

graphic of different french basic essentials worn together

These are all also very classic pieces that are incredibly versatile and ones that can be rotated in and out each season. Refer back to this as needed as your build your French wardrobe. I

I’d love to hear what you think about the French wardrobe essentials and if this is something you would do yourself?

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