What Exactly Is The 5 Piece French Wardrobe And How To Get Started

French Wardrobe

Have you ever heard of the 5 piece French wardrobe and wondered what exactly it means. No, it doesn’t actually mean only having 5 pieces of clothing.

Honestly, who could ever do that? Certainly not the French where fashion reigns supreme. It’s actually somewhat of a misleading name because it’s not what you would think.

The 5 piece French wardrobe is not a new concept and one that gained a lot of popularity back in the early 2000s. However, I think it’s still a great way to look at how to invest in your closet.

The 5 piece French wardrobe was supposedly first discussed back in 2005 on early fashion threads. Someone on the thread discussed how French women only buy 4-5 quality pieces each season.

French women already have a strong foundation in their wardrobe with basics so it’s easy to add in 4-5 new pieces each season. The key though is to buy timeless pieces that you can wear every season.

The whole concept is supposed to help cultivate a closet full of pieces you truly love. Pieces that will stand the test of time and always outdo any trend. The result is less money spent on items you only wear once or don’t love and less frustration when getting dressed every day.

I can tell you from my personal experience of cleaning out my closet and working on adding back in items I truly love, this has helped me tremendously. I still have a long way to go but I am so much happier with my closet now and I do love getting dressed every day because I am wearing pieces I love and that make me feel confident.

Standing in front of restaurant in white button down with black jeans , grey purse, and black and tan heels

What Is A 5 Piece French Wardrobe

The 5 piece French wardrobe is the French version of what some of us might consider a capsule wardrobe. However, what makes the 5 piece wardrobe different is that you can focus on buying 5 new items each season.

With a capsule wardrobe, you are only allowed a limited number of items to wear. This is also a great concept but I actually do prefer the 5 piece French wardrobe instead.

There are two seasons in fashion technically Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter so that would mean a total of 10 new on-trend pieces for the year.

These 10 pieces do not include basics because your closet should be built around a good amount of basics already. These are 10 items that make your wardrobe fun, maybe a piece you’ve been eyeing for a while, or maybe a splurge or statement item. This could include a designer handbag, a great pair of boots, or an investment coat.

The whole philosophy is meant to keep your closet full of items you love and appreciate quality over quantity.

How To Start With A 5 Piece French Wardrobe

  • The first thing to do is to clean out your closet.
  • Identify all your basics that you have in your closet, make sure you have a good foundation.
  • Make a list of 5 items you want to invest in for the season which are not considered basics.

Clean Out Your Closet

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The best way to do this is first to clean out your closet like I did this Summer. Get rid of anything you don’t love, don’t wear, and most of all don’t love to wear. Also, get rid of anything that doesn’t fit right or doesn’t suit your personal style.

What’s Considered A Basic

After you’ve cleaned out your closet then take note of your inventory and see what basics are missing. Would you like to know what’s considered a basic? Well, that’s different for everyone but here are a few things to consider when determining what makes up a basic.

  • Basics are pieces you can wear over and over again.
  • Basics are usually solid colors and can be considered plain looking.
  • Basics should maximize comfort yet make you feel polished and put together.
  • Basics go with everything you already own in your closet.
  • Basics are made with great quality and will last for years.

The most important thing to remember when choosing the basics is you don’t necessarily need to spend a ton of money on them. Just make sure they are of good quality.

Some of my favorite basics are: Cuyana tees(the best I have found), Everlane white button-down(I sized up) both are under $75 and have an amazing quality that will last.

When thinking about basics I always like to think about the item serving a practical purpose in my wardrobe and making sure it’s an item I can wear with anything from jeans to nice pants.

Picking Your 5 Piece French Wardrobe Items

The idea of choosing only 5 items might scare you a bit but if you’re thinking again about quality over quantity then this idea makes sense. Think of timeless items you will wear years from now but ones that update and refresh your wardrobe for the season.

I always go back to what Cecile said about wearing items 5 years from now. Thinking this way has really helped my process over the last several months when deciding what to add or take away from my closet.

Here’s an example of some items I would consider for my 5 pieces for each season. These are all pieces that are more on the investment side but pieces I will have for years yet feel updated for the season.

Fall/Winter 5 Piece Items

Spring/Summer 5 Piece Items

Again, the 5 piece French wardrobe is a way to cultivate your wardrobe and love the pieces in your closet. Start with a foundation of good basics and add 5 pieces for each season.

What do you guys think about the 5 piece French wardrobe? Is this a concept you could see yourself doing? I’d love to hear more!

Here’s a checklist that Who What Wear put together years ago but it’s a great list to reference if you need it!

Graphic of 5 Piece French Wardrobe Checklist


  1. Boyfriend and skinny jeans? No knee high boots? All tees and tanks to be white, black and gray?

    I have a classic wardrobe that would never “mandate” the above.

    1. Hi Catherine, I certainly don’t think of the 5 Piece Wardrobe as a mandate but more of a suggestion. Obviously, it’s up to each individual what they want to wear. I think it’s more about investing in quality pieces which are classic and timeless and it sounds like you have a classic wardrobe, so that’s great!

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