This post has been updated. Click here to read about this season's zero-waste wardrobe.
There's nothing I can say about the "minimalist" "French girl wardrobe" that hasn't already been said, except this: it's a total myth. As a child, I changed clothes three times a day, and in school, I wouldn't be caught dead in the same outfit twice. Eventually, I grew up and realized I didn't need five leopard-print dresses or any lamé bodysuits, for that matter. Getting rid of things is addicting, and we moved here with seven bags, no boxes. That meant whittling my wardrobe down to the very best, the seasonless, the most functional. Many French homes, I learned, were stuffed floor-to-ceiling with books, gadgets, and trendy disposable clothing. Out went my conception of streamlined Parisian closets populated exclusively by beautifully made classics. I bumped my head and woke up in Oz, where all the Munchkins carry Kooples tote bags, Zara rules Winkie Country, and Deadly Poppies are off-gassing synthetic fabrics.
Now, I wear basically the same outfit every day- dress/cardigan/heels, or shirt/jeans/shoes- year-round and nobody notices. I took these photos with my phone, so they're not winning any beauty contests; since then, I've sold my blazer and t-shirt, replacing them with an infinitely more useful beige cardigan. Frankly, I think it's too much- I haven't worn some things all year. I went through a Kate Middleton phase, hints of which tend to surface in my wardrobe. Currently, I'm searching for a flattering linen t-shirt, and I'd love to get rid of a few dresses, but since my lifestyle dictates wearing one five days a week, a skirt-heavy wardrobe is surprisingly functional.
My clothes are mostly wool, linen, or silk; fully lined to aid comfort; and, with very few exceptions, secondhand. I bought the sunglasses on my first trip to Paris, and shopping for my diamond-free wedding ring was a once-in-a-lifetime experience I wouldn't deny anyone. Other than that, it's all used, with nary a receipt or shopping tag in the garbage.
This formula isn't for everybody- if your lifestyle entails picking up kids and driving them to soccer three times a week, your closet will look very different from mine. According to Genevieve Antoine Dariaux, author of the book Elegance, the basic minimum wardrobe for a Parisian consists of:
For the winter
Spring and summer
|1 coat in a bright color||1 lightweight wool dress or suit|
|1 matching skirt||2 blouses|
|1 sweater in a complementary color||2 skirts|
|1 black skirt||1 pair of slacks|
|1 black sweater||1 pair of shorts|
|1 pair wool slacks||1 pair of jeans|
|1 silk sweater with a pretty neckline||2 cotton knit tops|
|1 pair of black high-heeled pumps||1 natural colored straw bag|
|1 pair of flat, comfortable shoes||2 pairs of sandals|
|1 pair leather boots||1 pair espadrilles|
|1 black leather handbag|
|1 pearl necklace|
All of these garments can be worn two years at least, except shoes, which should be in impeccably fresh condition. Don't go crazy with black- in Paris, black is the color most associated with shop girls, the kind you see smoking cigarettes outside Le Bon Marché. Beige, navy, or stripes are more authentic. Bisous!