That’s the number of clothing and footwear items I purged from my closet today. FIFTY. NINE. That’s horrific, even nauseating to me. I swear I just did this at exactly this time last year. Purge the things you are no longer wearing (or haven’t ever worn, gasp!) and use only what are good, timeless pieces. Lotta’ good that did me.
I stumbled upon a great blog by Paula Montes explaining the elusive “5 piece French Wardrobe.” For those unfamiliar, it is a concept that a woman has a basic wardrobe (we’ll talk about that in just a second), and to it she adds no more than five, high-quality, classically stylish pieces per fashion season. There are two fashion seasons: Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. So, no more than ten items are purchased in any given year. Husbands and live-in boyfriends everywhere are rejoicing.
The Basic Wardrobe
I have been attempting this for years without realizing what I was trying to accomplish. It’s the basic wardrobe, and every woman needs to follow it. I don’t care if you’re 18 or 88; this is a lifestyle fashion choice. Here we go:
Loose tshirts in black, grey and white
Tank tops/chemises in black, grey and white
White blouse – I prefer high-quality white cotton with French cuffs; a silk blouse will also do.
Black or white cardigan
Black blazer or other short coat – I am petite and prefer my Nehru-collared linen jacket over a blazer.
Black dress – thee little black dress, ladies.
Dark wash, straight leg jeans of very high quality.
Black ankle pants -those that are reminiscent of the cigarette pants of the 60s are a classic cut.
Black pencil skirt
Winter coat (preferably wool)
Classic trench coat (if applicable to your lifestyle and location)
Black leather jacket (crop/bomber/moto)
Black pumps – suede or leather
Black ankle boots
Gold or Silver watch
Black leather bag
OPTIONAL – A complete black suit, if applicable to your lifestyle
Notice that this list contains 22 pieces, if you’ve chosen to follow all the items. I have 21, you may have less. The basic wardrobe is what you build from. It’s the foundation, the walls, the drywall and the roof. Now, it’s time to pick the paint and décor!
Here are the rules for adding 5 Pieces per Fashion Season:
1. Basics don’t count and are always allowed (replace these pieces whenever necessary)
2. Accessories don’t count, unless they are very high-priced
3. Shoes do count (unless you’re replacing a basic shoe when necessary)
4. Socks and underwear don’t count
5. Quality and craftsmanship ALWAYS over quantity
It’s difficult to choose what stays and what goes. It’s more difficult to look at some of those clothing choices and realize they were flops driven by impulse. I have a dress that I purchased for a heinously good deal — it’s still in my closet, tags still on it, never been worn. 18 months it’s been in there. I’m giving it until June; if I’ve not worn it, it’s getting sold. I may shed a tear. She’s Italian… and so pretty… and shiny…
I removed fifty-nine pieces from my wardrobe, and there are still more pieces that have to go. As I’ve been saying around the house, “it’s time to thin the herd again.”
The most exciting part of having such a basic wardrobe–– with the few extra pieces I’ve cultivated over the years that qualify as “classic fashion”–– is having to use my own creativity and fashion sense to create my personal style.
One of my favorite blogs speaking to exactly that is Mirielle Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat. She, as am I, is a staunch advocate for aging gracefully without cosmetic surgery and for living life simply and without pretense. That’s difficult to do in America, especially when we’re bombarded with so many ads pushing us to buy buy buy now now now more more more. All that stuff sure seems to fill some holes in our lives, don’t they? (Ouch!)
I look at my closet now and I feel better: better about myself that I’m giving away some really fantastic pieces of clothing to women who truly need them; better that I’m not hoarding clothing and shoes like some Beverly Hills socialite (who the Hell do I think I am, anyway?!); but mostly better that this is a simpler, more efficient way to live.
Print a copy of the Basic Wardrobe and the rules for cultivating the 5 Piece French Wardrobe, go over to your closet, and start pulling out those pieces on the lists. See what’s left: are there classic pieces worth keeping? are there things in there that cause you to question your sanity at the time of purchase? are there––gasp–– pieces from your college days still hanging on?
Donate or toss whatever doesn’t fit you, fit who you are, the lifestlye you lead, the career you have (or wish to have), or the person you want to be. It takes some time to build a true wardrobe. Give it a good 18-24 months once you’ve got your basic pieces. Write a wish list for each fashion season and STICK TO IT! Mostly, have fun!
It’s time to thin the herd, baby. Get to it!