Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The French 5-Piece Wardrobe Meets A Common Capsule Wardrobe: navy, grey, electric blue, bright purple

There's a lot of talk in books and on the internet about the "French 5-Piece Wardrobe", which is a misnomer if there ever was one!  The wardrobe isn't really five pieces; the concept is that you have a core of basic, neutral garments, and you then add FIVE pieces per season. I'm sure some people define a season as every 3 months, but it would certainly also make sense to just do this every 6 months.  Whatever makes you happy, right?

But when I read descriptions about the "core" of neutral garments, I kept thinking that it sounded a lot like The Common Wardrobe...  And that this philosophy might be an option for helping us build our wardrobes of basics, while at the same time introducing accent colors, long-term investment items, or trendy things that we just can't resist, while still having the guideline of a fixed number of items.  This is how I saw it:

First up, A Common Wardrobe - this time in navy and grey.  According to generally published "rules" about this wardrobe plan, you don't have to count any replacement basics in your "French 5". 
The Common Wardrobe 12-piece neutral wardrobe basic wardrobe core wardrobe in navy and grey
Grey v-neck – Uniqlo, grey turtleneckUniqlo, navy cardigan – Uniqlo, navy v-neck - Uniqlo
white broadcloth shirt – Uniqlo, denim shirt – Uniqlo, grey tee – Uniqlo, navy tee – Uniqlo
dark jeans – Uniqlo, grey jeans - Uniqlo, navy skirt - Uniqlo, faded jeans - Uniqlo


This is a true "Whatever's Clean" wardrobe too - I don't think it's physically possible to combine these garments in an unacceptable manner, unless you wear the skirt on your head, or something else totally bizarre...  These 12 outfits aren't exhaustive; I think there are something around 50 possibilities here.

12 possible outfits from the 12-piece Common Wardrobe classic wardrobe core neutral wardrobe

Let's say that this year, you want bright colors in blue and purple.  Maybe this is your long-term color scheme, and these are long-term additions to your wardrobe (the scarf certainly will be!).  Or maybe you're just dabbling in a color or two to see if you adore them. While I think embellished sweatshirts are going to fade away rather quickly, a silk blouse, a lambswool cardigan, and an Hermes scarf can stick around for quite a while.  And you might not usually be tempted by satin loafers, but they're (a) on sale, and (b) equipped with a rubber sole.  Talk about juxtapositions!

Note that this Hermes scarf is slightly smaller than the usual - 28 inches square rather than 36.
5-Piece French Wardrobe in bright turquoise blue and bright violet French wardrobe French shopping French style
Blue silk blouse – Equipment, purple lambswool cardigan – Uniqlo, sweatshirt – Etre Cecile
Hermes 28 inch scarf Ballet Aquatic, satin loafers – Frette by Harry’s of London


New combinations abound now -  this dozen scratches the surface:
12 outfits from the bright turquoise and bright purple 5-Piece French Wardrobe with the navy and grey Common Wardrobe


I think the idea of a season limit to number of items might be a great idea - since I just bought 2 dresses, a sweatshirt and a cardigan while on vacation, that would limit me to one more amazing item for Autumn/Winter 14/15.  That's the kind of discipline I can use!

This is a concept that I'd really like to revisit in some other color combinations.  I still have quite a few requested combinations that I haven't addressed yet - what do you think?

love,
Janice


The 5-Piece French Capsule Wardrobe with a navy, grey, electric blue, and bright purple color palette
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22 comments:

  1. I think it's a great idea. But then again, your common wardrobe has always been my absolute favorite (being from Europe, and all ��), so any variation on the theme is fine with me. By the way, I have always preferred the smaller scarves tied with in a square knot when wearing a button down shirt. Much less bulk.

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  2. Agree its a great idea. For those of us like me who have accumulated a lot of clothes, and are now trying to turn this into something coherent, it could be translated to: identify a basic set of around 12 neutral garments for the coming season; add some exiting favourite accent pieces; then consider 5 new purchases that would freshen up the capsule.
    I tend to buy things towards the end of a season, and then keep them for the following year (takes me that long to work out what I want, sometimes they are reduced, it means I don't have to rush about buying stuff at the start of a season). However the 5-piece principle would still work, and the limit would mean I would really have to make them count!
    Alice

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  3. Yes, great idea Janice. I already have the casual grey and navy core and would love to see you do this with accent colors of soft teal and soft blue.

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  4. This is really what I do right now and I love it. I have worked hard on my neutral base wardrobe and it makes such a difference as you so often say. I am not into embellished sweatshirts, but I love everything else you displayed here.

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  5. I think this is very interesting. We've just moved and I've onky unpacked the most common pieces I wear for work and casual...my goal is not avoid unpacking any pieces I'm not craving. Right now, I think my biggest crave to add into my core neutrals are salmon and teal. But I have strong cravings for pumpkin. I don't own orange in any shade, but now I want to try it!

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  6. Love the idea! A vote here for these accents w/ navy and grey neutrals:
    Dark teal and burgundy/wine (fall/winter)
    Greenish aqua and cobalt (spring/summer)

    Another idea I'd love to see you explore is taking a neutrals wardrobe and adding pieces in one accent but in a range of shades.

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    1. "Another idea I'd love to see you explore is taking a neutrals wardrobe and adding pieces in one accent but in a range of shades." YES - I'd love to see this as well!

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  7. Love this concept. Will be putting this into practice for my winter wardrobe.

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  8. It's a very accessible way to change for the season without a huge new investment. I love the idea of a few key pieces being able to brighten a whole wardrobe of basics.

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  9. It's a great idea. Now if only I can make myself step away from color and pattern long enough to get some neutral basics. That is so hard for me.

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  10. Seems like adding 5 new items each season might cause a very full closet in a few years? Five in five out might be a way to avoid this, but if the 5 items are high quality pieces then that isn't a good idea...

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    1. My approach to the 5-Piece French Wardrobe included the possibility of test-driving new colors, or trying out a more current style, so I think that some of the more trendy items might not stick around more than a year or two; I would imagine that you would only carry forward maybe 3 or 4 things from each season. But since many women own well over 100 pieces of clothing, we've got a long way to go before the closet is completely full. But it's something to bear in mind - excess is what we're trying to avoid.

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  11. works for me; love it!

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  12. I have been reading your blog for years and want to thank you for the inspiration, Janice. I love the unusual colour combinations - and the scarves, of course! I also like the fact that you often present pretty shoes that don''t have insanely high heels.

    Otherwise, I actually do the opposite of what you are advising: I have dresses in every colour I like, a variety of scarves, a black and a light grey cardigan, a pair of ballet flats, heels and boots in black plus a black shoulder bag and clutch. It's way too dark here in the Nordic countries for the biggest part of the year, I need the rainbow of colours to survive! I still manage to travel light, though, thanks to a couple of fast drying silk slips that allow me to pack just two or three dresses and scarves for the variation.

    I think that the "whatever is clean" wardrobe and the limited amount of colours work very well for travels in warm countries (and for the two summer months we have - if we're lucky...). Since there's plenty of light, the variety in colours is not as important, but you need more clothes because they get dirty faster. The last 20 years my summer wardrobe has basically been the same: tops and bottoms in beige, white, light blue and navy, with some variation in the colour of the summer bag and ballet flats. Black is banned during the summer!

    As I live in a tiny apartment with very little closet space, I have to compensate the amount of dresses by having only a minimum of other garments and accessories. Your blog has inspired me to bolder colour combinations and that way helped me to find alternative "neutral" accessories that work with everything in my wardrobe. Thank you for making my life even more colourful!

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    1. I love your choices! My only real interest in writing The Vivienne Files is for everybody to be happy with their wardrobe. (in fact, my book might be titled The Happy Wardrobe!). It sounds like your solution is perfect for you and for your environment - that's the best possible outcome. Thanks for sharing with us your personal approach - it sounds beautiful.

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  13. I love the idea of a 5 item limit per season. I know that I lost sight of what was a normal number of pieces to have. I'm still not sure! I realized a few days ago that I had only bought 3 things since June 1. What a relief.

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  14. I really love this variation of the Common Wardrobe! I'm excited to see what you do with it. I've been looking to add a navy skirt and I need to refresh my grey and navy tees. Otherwise, this is my wardrobe. I'm playing with the idea of adding hunter green this year; a goal of five new items seems just right. Thank you for the inspiration!

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  15. Not to be a buzzkill, but doesn't your new Hermes scarf count as your fifth piece Or are Hermes scarves unlimited such that you are lucky enough to find/afford them? ;)

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    1. Ooooh, BUZZKILL! Actually, Hermes scarves exist outside of time and space for me, in their own transcendent realm. (can you believe I actually said that?) But I'm selling THREE scarves (see The Vivienne Files Books, CD's and Scarves), so I could theoretically say that I'm running a scarf deficit!

      You're right. Of course you're right. I must think....

      big hug,
      Janice

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    2. LOVE your sentence on the transcendent realm.

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  16. Nooo...! I couldn't possibly stick to just 5 items a season! I love the colour combos you come up with but I need variety!

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  17. Can't wait to see what else you come up with! Love this idea! I'm still working on getting down to a common wardrobe. I just can't decide on my two neutrals. I have so much black that I feel like that has to be one of my colors. I'm working on it! :)

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