When I surf around on Pinterest for any amount of time (or any style-oriented websites for that matter), it’s hard not to notice how often various images and concepts of a “French Wardrobe” or “5 Pieces Every Parisian Girl Owns” type pins/articles keep populating my screen. Perhaps this is due to the nature of style-focused content, but it’s interesting to me how much this concept seems to resonate with a large audience.
Almost always included in these sets would be:
- a Breton striped shirt
- a trench coat
- an LBD
- skinny jeans and/or pants
- a black leather jacket
- black stiletto heels
- a white blouse and/or tee shirts
- a blazer
- everything black, white, navy, grey
Which are mostly the same classic items that make up those “[fill in number here] Items Every Woman Should Own” lists by popular style gurus. Here’s the thing, though: while building a wardrobe foundation of basics is essential to creating wardrobe cohesion (and makes getting dressed in the morning easier), we shouldn’t feel the need to hew to a list that may or may not reflect our style or make sense for our lifestyle. Even (especially?) French women aren’t a monolith when it comes to style. Some are classic, some more bohemian, some stick to neutrals, some wear color (and lots of it), some wear more structured shapes and some prefer softer silhouettes…etcetera. Some wouldn’t be caught dead in a striped shirt. 😉
So even if we leave “French” out of the equation, what is it about these pieces and ensembles that so many find appealing? First, I think there’s the glamour and association with some of the most often cited style icons. Brigitte Bardot and the mariniére, Chanel and the LBD, Ingrid Bergman and a trench coat, Audrey Hepburn in the slim black pants, Katherine Hepburn in a white shirt and menswear blazer. The garments themselves are regarded as “iconic” even if shapes and silhouettes shift from decade to decade, and there’s appeal in that timelessness which forms a sort of common style language. Then there’s the ideal and siren’s call of simplicity, of those few perfect pieces that are always appropriate and eliminate that “nothing to wear” scramble.
With any style formula interpreted too literally, one loses one’s own voice and individuality. There’s nothing wrong with including “iconic” pieces in your own wardrobe as long as they express your style, but trying to limit a wardrobe to only those pieces can result in a cloned and soulless look. Again, I keep circling back to the idea of wardrobe cohesion, of building that basic foundation first of pieces that all play well together, and then adding the elements that liven up and enrich your basics and express your unique viewpoint. For most of us, it’s going to make the most sense to bring some element of season-spanning timelessness to those core pieces. While very few garments are truly “timeless” (over time, updating or alterations need to be done to keep from looking dated) building a wardrobe is not usually a one-season proposition, and your basics should carry your wardrobe for years rather than months.
Ultimately, I think the value lies in looking at these wardrobes or lists as a starting point, rather than a comprehensive wardrobe to aspire to.
What clothing items are “iconic” to you? Do you incorporate them into your core wardrobe?
MORE BLACK JACKETS:
Affiliate links in this post may generate commissions for unefemme.net. See complete disclosure policy here.