straight leg jeans

Want the French Wardrobe Basics but Don’t Know Where to Start?

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For many, French women are the definition of chic and stylish. After all, it seems like the French woman rolls out of bed instantly looking flawless and put-together each morning. We as fashionistas always seem to be asking, “What is her secret?” While there’s no one definitive answer, it’s safe to say that one of the keys to the French wardrobe philosophy is a collection of versatile, high-quality basic items.

No matter what your personal style is, every great wardrobe has to be built upon some core basic items. It may include items like a little black dress, silk shirt, skinny jeans, or other classic styles.

These are the wardrobe essentials that will be worn time and time again and fill in the gaps between all of those fun, trendy pieces we may buy each season. One of the key aspects of mastering French fashion is knowing that a great wardrobe staple should be an investment piece!

So, are you ready to start filling your wardrobe with some French wardrobe staples? In this list, I’ll be giving a run-down of the basic pieces that will take your look to the next level. Many of the items featured are from the French-born brand Sézane. This label is a wardrobe basics goldmine, perfect for finding those fantastic, high-quality basics at a fair price point.

Here are the items that can’t be missed as you build a wardrobe full of versatile pieces that will stand the test of time!

French Wardrobe Basics

french wardrobe basics

Great Denim

It’s no secret that French girls live in denim, all while managing to make it look incredibly chic. There are two main secrets to this: fit and quality (these are two words to keep in mind as we talk about French style!) A great pair of jeans can make you feel like a million dollars and can be styled endlessly. Here are a few denim items you’ll want to have on hand.


Slim jeans (affordable option) – This can be a skinny or a straight leg jean, but slim fit jeans are one of the essentials to French girl style. Whichever style you choose, these jeans should have a streamlined fit and hit right at (or an inch or two above) the ankle. Pair these jeans with everything from ballet flats to heels.


Vintage-looking denim shorts (affordable option) – High-waisted vintage-style shorts are a necessity in the French girl’s closet for spring and summer. Pair with a loose graphic tee for a casual style or with a silky blouse for a more elegant look.


High-waisted wide-leg jeans (affordable option) – High waists and wide-leg pants are incredibly in fashion at the moment, which is good news for high-waisted wide-leg jeans! These jeans have an incredibly slimming and heightening effect that looks good on all body types. Also, they look amazing with a tucked-in white blouse or slim-fit sweater for a classic look.

Tops


White t-shirt (affordable option) – It’s safe to say every wardrobe has at least one plain white t-shirt. However, this is a basic that’s worth spending a little extra on for premium quality. A basic tee can be dressed up or down to create nearly infinite outfits for all occasions. These super-soft organic cotton versions are ideal choices for both comfort and style.


White button-down (affordable option) – This classic wardrobe staple is another endlessly versatile piece to have in your French wardrobe basics. You can wear this casually, more formally, or even as an easy and stylish swimsuit cover-up! While cotton does the job, a silk version is a good investment that will make your outfit instantly look expensive.


Striped top (affordable option) – The three-quarter sleeve striped top, or marinière, is one of those iconic French wardrobe essentials. Inspired by the French Navy, these tops usually feature horizontal white with blue stripes and a boat neckline. Even though this is the classic style, you can also go for black stripes or even a black top with white stripes!


Cardigan (affordable option) – For adding warmth to an outfit, a cozy cardigan makes for a great lightweight extra layer. This piece can be slipped over your outfit or buttoned and worn as a shirt on its own. Just as with all knitwear, you can’t go wrong with cashmere for this piece.


Sweater (affordable option) – When it comes to finding a great sweater, quality is the most important aspect to consider. Cashmere is the go-to material here as well for its comfort value and longevity. Having a few neutral colors on hand will make creating chic fall, winter, and even spring outfits much easier. Also, you may want to go for an oversized sweater for something a little more casual.

Jackets & Coats


Trench coat (affordable option) – No French wardrobe is complete without a camel or beige trench coat. This is a staple that will never go out of style. And while you don’t have to go for anything as expensive as Burberry, it’s worth making an investment on! Thankfully, Sézane has a great classic version for a fraction of the cost.


Motorcycle jacket (affordable option) – A leather jacket is a must-have for that edgy, cool-girl look that French women are so known for. You can go for a motorcycle jacket for this basic or a more sleek and simple leather jacket. But no matter which style you choose, you can’t go wrong with black!


Blazer/ Suit jacket (affordable option) – A tailored blazer or suit jacket is a go-to if you’re looking to dress up a casual outfit. In a neutral color like black, navy, or cream, this piece can go over any top for some added elegance. Consider an oversized one as well for a great masculine contrast to a sophisticated outfit. Also, of all the French basics, this is one where you’ll especially want to pay attention to the fit. An ill-fitting blazer can ruin an otherwise chic look, so visit a tailor if you notice anything off.

Shoes


Ankle boots (affordable option) – When trying to decide what shoes to wear on a colder day, ankle boots are the shoe you can reach for time and time again. A neutral leather pair matches everything and, with proper care, can last for several years.


White sneakers (affordable option) – A pair of white sneakers is one of the key pieces to pulling off a stylish casual look and dressing down more formal outfits. Find a comfortable pair that can be comfortably worn all day.


Loafers (affordable option) – Any neutral flat shoes will do, but loafers offer that expensive quality that will instantly elevate a look. For a more feminine style, you can also try a pair of classic ballet flats or a pair of flat mules.


Combat boots (affordable option) – Especially when paired with your leather jacket, lace-up combat boots will easily give your outfit that edgy and cool look.

Accessories


Silk Scarf (affordable option) – A silk scarf is one of the easiest ways to add a pop of interest and color to an otherwise basic outfit. Loop this around your neck, hair, or even the handle of your bag.


Leather Bag (affordable option) – One simply has to look to French style icons like Jane Birkin to see the importance of a great leather bag. Whether you prefer a smaller version or a full-on tote, a good bag will instantly become your best friend. This is another item where you shouldn’t skimp on quality! The perfect leather bag can stand up to the elements and last a lifetime.


Gold pendant necklace (affordable option) – This signature piece of jewelry will add a luxe finish to your look and can be layered other with necklaces. This signet piece from Sézane is great for adding a bit of personalized flair.


Gold hoop earrings (affordable option) – These can be any size, but a smaller pair is super easy to style and looks great with other jewelry.

Even with only these basic items in hand, you already have the beginnings of a chic French-inspired wardrobe! While you don’t have to splurge on your basics, do consider making a few key investments that make sense for your style.

For example, if you find yourself living in jeans and t-shirts, having high-quality versions of these items is a good idea. After all, these aren’t just trendy pieces – all of these basics are tried-and-true staples that will always be chic.

Interested in more French basics to add to your wardrobe? Check out this post! And if you love all things French fashion then you’ll love my round-up of 30+ posts that are all about French fashion & more!

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french wardrobe basics
Carolyn Arentson
Carolyn is the founder and creator behind My Chic Obsession. When she's not dreaming up new content, you can find her watching a funny tv show with her husband, raising her two boys, or planning her next trip to Paris.