Dress Like A Parisian: Luxury Basics

So you want to stock your closet with clothes fit for the French?

Although the concept is pretty foreign to most American consumers, the French live by their “luxury basics.” That is, the French buy higher quality, more expensive products for their day-to-day wear and spend very little on their splurge or spontaneous buys.

Does this sound kind of backwards to you?

Well it is sort of contradictory to our American ideas that something common should be cheap while something trendy should be worth more. Achieving that chic Parisian look is definitey easier with great luxury cosmetics brands such as Burberry and Nars.

But fashion for the French is much more like real estate: consider your every day pieces an investment. You want to get the most value per use, and a $500 jacket that lasts 1000 wears delivers twice as much value as a $50 jacket that rips or bores you after just 50.

The French fashion mantra emphasizes minimalism and lasting, classic pieces:

Buy less quantity
Buy better quality
Buy versatility

Rethinking the “Tee”

In your mind you think, “those $10 shirts from Old Navy/ Forever21/ H&M sound great – I can get five of them for the price of a tshirt at a more expensive retailer.”

Do you really need five? How many times can you wear these items before they need to be replaced – or worse – take up closet space while unworn?

The pieces you wear every day should be of such a high quality that you want to wear them every day. The fabrics should be luxurious and the fit should be “just so.” Shop from the vibe clothing company to find cute and trendy clothing pieces.

If your budget doesn’t allow for the quality garments at j.crew or Madewell, try my new favorite clothing line: Everlane. Tshirts for $15, silk for $55 – $80, Italian cashmere for $120.

Everlane’s no-label business model means that they can sell quality fabrics without designer mark-ups, but you can count on the quality of the products – even the T-shirts.

Go For Neutrals

So let’s return to the argument about getting the most value from clothes you can wear 1000 times instead of 50. Obviously a higher quality garment will last longer, but it will also get more wears simply by being more versatile.

When you’re looking for that “investment” piece, you want to find it in a neutral shade. Here are the colors that French ladies will consider “neutral” (that means, they go with pretty much everything):

  • Black
  • Brown
  • White
  • Cream
  • Gray
  • Navy Blue

That last one is maybe new to you, but the French wear navy blue like any other neutral color. It is a staple of the French wardrobe ever since Yves Saint Laurent paired it famously with the former-favorite, black:

“Who knew that black and navy were made for each other? No one – until Yves Saint Laurent gave us permission to boldly go where no one had gone before…” -Ines de la Fressange, Parisian Chic

This doesn’t mean, of course, that you can’t wear other bright colors you love or seasonal “trendy” colors. It just means that until you have infinite closet space, those are the pieces you spend the least amount of money on.

As your tastes or seasons change, those bright colors will transition in and out of your closet while the rest of your wardrobe remains the same.

Your Best Fabric Friends

Leather, Silk, Linnen, Cashmere, 100% Cotton

These are your luxury fabrics. The fabrics not only feel good, but they last long and their looks are classic.

A silk blouse, a cashmere sweater, and a good leather jacket will never go out of style.

In A Parisian’s Closet

So what does this mean for you? Maybe you’ve got a whole new shopping list, or maybe you’re just a few pieces down. In either case, here’s a little “laundry list” to reference. These are some of the classic luxury basics you’ll find a chic Parisian’s closet:

  • 1 Navy Blue Cashmere Sweater
  • 1 Black or Navy Tee
  • 1 White or Cream Tee
  • 1 Boyfriend Blazer
  • 1 Silk Blouse
  • 1 Pair Luxury Jeans
  • 1 Pair Trousers
  • 1 Leather Jacket
  • 2 Leather Belts (brown, black)
  • 1 Trench Coat
  • A Pair of Leather Ballet Flats
  • A Pair of Classic Heels
  • A Pair of Leather Boots
  • A Leather Handbag

What’s your take on the Parisian philosophy of luxury basics? Do you have a favorite piece of clothing you’ve had on heavy rotation for years now? Let me know about it in the comments!