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The French Five

MyFrenchLife™ - French Five There is a theory that astute French women buy only five new, on-trend pieces of clothing each season; the rest of their wardrobe is made up of timeless basics which they replace only as necessary.

This is said to save them all kinds of hours that trend-hungry North American women spend scouring the racks at H&M and Zara, on a futile hunt for that must-have jacket (or sweater, or other ‘it’ item) that will leave them with a feeling of giddy excitement as they pay for it… And when they first wear it… But after which it will languish in a heap in the back of their closet, before eventually being donated to the goodwill in a guilt-ridden wardrobe purge.

French Five theory

The theory of the French five is, of course, nothing more than a sweeping generalisation. Women of all cultures and nationality shop according to their level of interest in fashion, their tolerance for slow-moving crowds in shopping centres and their budget.

Some women love the thrill of the hunt; others would prefer to have a lovely wardrobe compiled for them, without the aggravation of having to actually shop for it. But it is also an interesting experiment in focus and determination.

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I am what can only be called a speculative shopper. I’m forever picking up the allegedly perfect dress for a party I have yet to be invited to, or a new pair of pumps that are comfortable enough for dancing… Which I almost never do outside of my living room.

This is not to say that I let these beautiful things languish in my closet, unworn and forgotten. I have never bought a single thing I didn’t wear immediately, out of excitement. But it has left me with a wardrobe that is, shall we say, less than practical.

What a wardrobe

I own an abundance of tulle and sequinned skirts, but only one truly warm sweater. With winter slowly descending on the city I live in, I decided it was time to issue a fashion challenge to myself.

My approach to the French five is somewhat modified; I have not set out to buy five fabulous but potentially not timeless pieces. Frankly, I have a closet full of those already.

MyFrenchlife™ - french five - wardrobe

Instead, my aim is to add five pieces to my wardrobe that I believe are truly worthy of being worn not for an imagined future soiree or cocktail hour, but for every day of the blissful and glamourous life that I dream of living in Paris. (Or, at the very least, for the visit I am planning to make to the French capital next fall.)

The challenge, borrowed from the lovely and perennially stylish Sabrina Meijer of AfterDRK, suggests that before setting out, every woman should own a battery of twenty basics, from plain t-shirts to sneakers to a classic watch. I own none of the above; the last watch I wore was a Christmas gift when I was in junior high. (I stopped wearing it a year later, because I found that all I did was to check it when I was bored in math class, so time never seemed to pass.)

I expect the real challenge not to be in buying only five fabulous pieces, but in disciplining myself so that I can add these necessary basics to my wardrobe, in spite of the fact that they are not outwardly exciting, and might, in fact, be placed next to sequinned skirts and lace dresses in stores.

The gravitational pull of sequins and lace is very strong; resistance will not be easy. To help myself, I have created two personal memos on my cell phone, which never leaves my side. One outlines my French five; the other is a list of basics that I should own, but do not. For the next six months, these will be my shopping lists.

By next month, I am hoping to have a wardrobe worthy of Paris. In the meantime, I challenge you all to consider what your perfect French five items of clothing might be.

What do you think a basic essential items? What do you look for when you shop? Share with us in the comment box below

Image credits:
1. Baggu by andrewarchy on flickr

2. Image by © Cee Fardoe
3. Closet by Rubbermaid products, via Flickr


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4 Comments




  1. Julie Gourichon
    8 years ago

    I’m french and I’ve never heard of those french five before eading your articles 🙂 I think it’s because I’m not parisian. I only buy what I need when I need it. ^^


  2. Julie Gourichon
    8 years ago

    I’m french and I’ve never heard of those french five before reading your article 🙂 I think it’s because I’m not parisian. I only buy what I need when I need it. ^^


  3. Christine Dunne
    8 years ago

    Great article! I hope you’ll write another one when you’ve purchased your “French Five.”


  4. Emmanuelle Tremolet
    8 years ago

    I’m French. Every year (except since I am in Australia) I buy one or two designer gartments and then I mix them with Zara or H&M or vintage clothes. I am lucky because my mother did it and now I wear her beautiful clothes from designer (Kenzo, Christian Lacroix…). I make a future vintage clothes collection for my daughter.