Creating a Minimalist French wardrobe

by Inês Morais
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“hanging” by Peter Spagnuolo

When it comes to fashion, minimalism gains a whole new range. It’s possible to divide minimalist fashion into several categories, and one of them is French minimalism, which is our topic today. But… what is French minimalism? Well, according to the owner of the Instagram page basicstouch, Aïda, who kindly accepted to help us understand this category of minimalism in fashion, the French minimalist style is effortless, casual, and chic.


As many wrongfully believe, a minimalist wardrobe doesn’t have to be boring – especially a minimalist French wardrobe. Ideally, you get the basic pieces of clothing you need, that is, the ones that work as if the engine of your wardrobe, and then you add statement pieces that will personalize your style. Here, you can let your imagination spread its wings and fly in search of distinctive outfits. What’s different – and amazing – about this type of wardrobe is that you can buy seasonal pieces that bring value to your life. You’re simultaneously reducing waste, eliminating old pieces you don’t wear anymore.


So, if you’re a fan of French fashion and want to build a minimalist French wardrobe, you check out our article and learn all you need to know about this style of wardrobe.

What is a minimalist French Wardrobe?

The definition of a minimalist French wardrobe is not exact. Minimalism allows creativity – each one is free to create distinct outfits –, however, we can say that it consists of pieces of clothing that convey effortlessness while being casual and chic.

French Wardrobe Philosophy

A French wardrobe is made of classic, better quality, and simpler pieces of clothing. Like every minimalist at heart, French women don’t pay attention to trends. This lack of interest for fads comes from the 1970s when French women rejected American consumerism in favor of focusing on the essentials.

In addition to rejection trends that fade as quickly as they come, the French fashion enthusiast will even go further: they’re not looking for perfection. French women balance beauty and messiness that’s their trademark in fashion. If the make-up is impeccable, the hair might be messier; if the hair is perfectly done, make-up is dispensable.

The French wardrobe philosophy of French women is to look cared for but not perfect, and always far from trendy looks. It’s a quite healthy perspective to live by, especially in the fashion realm. By not trying to achieve perfectness through clothes, accessories, and make-up, these women have only to gain: they save money, the environment, and themselves from destructive practices.


French women, thus, build a trend-free wardrobe full of reliable basics that fit them well to which they add hand-picked statement pieces to create their unique outfits. It’s simple and effortless but makes French women feel empowered and beautiful. The purchase of statement pieces is occasional: it’s usually as the season changes (from spring/summer to autumn/winter).


Aïda adds that thrifting has been, for years, part of the French culture – long before sustainability reached headlines – so minimalist French wardrobes are very likely to consist partially of vintage clothing pieces.

How to build a minimalist French Wardrobe

minimalist french wardrobe
“empty closet” by Reed Oslund 

As we’ve said in the first section, if you want to build a minimal French wardrobe, you have to focus on the basic concepts: effortless, chic, and causal. In fact, let’s add one more concept essential to French women: comfort. Being comfortable is key in the French minimalist style – even in heels.

Start by basics. The beauty of basics is that they allow you to be creative with your outfits. Rather than buying clothes that only match with one other piece, you can mix and match basic pieces and make several different outfits with few pieces of clothing.

Aïda says that since this type of wardrobe is much about basics, there’s margin to invent more on items like blazers, trench coats, and long coats. These, according to her, are absolutely essential. It’s not uncommon for these to be oversized, even, as it’s characteristic of the French style. Oversized outwear brings proportion – it’s how you balance a pair of skinny pants or a tight dress.

Regarding shirts, basic tees do the job. Tops with patterns can also be, however, included in your wardrobe, namely stripes, the typical French top (also known as La Marinière Top).

For your feet, go as comfortable as possible. French minimalists wear a lot of snickers. Aïda advises getting shoes like snickers and Chelsea for fall and winter and sandals for spring and summer.

It’s not all that relevant to think about the number of items you should have. There’s no specific or limited number of clothing pieces you have to have. We cannot stress enough that minimalism is flexible. It’s important, as a minimalist, to have the number of pieces of you need, but these pieces must be of good quality. The goal is to buy less but better. Before purchasing clothes, Aïda always asks herself firstly she needs that piece of clothing and how many outfit options are there with that item.

Although there isn’t a rigid limit number of pieces of clothing to own, Aïda believes that the best is to be able to “see all your clothes from your wardrobe and do a clear out every season or at least every year”.

It’s relevant to mention is that with the French minimalist style, as Aïda says, you should organize your clothing shopping so that you have the right neutral so you can be creative with your outfits.
Also relevant is watching out for color choices. Neutrals are really important in clothes matching. Avoid vibrant colors because they’re very hard to match and don’t benefit your chic look.

It might not be easy finding the right clothes for a minimalist French wardrobe. Most brands go with the flow and promote the yearly or seasonal trends, forgetting to set up a basics section. There are, however, a few brands never forget those of us who enjoy basics and neutrals, making them the best minimalist clothing brands for women. Aïda shares that she loves the aesthetics of Arket, COS, and also appreciates fast fashion like H&M, Zara, and Mango, but her favorite brands are all her vintage findings. She finds more value in, or in her dad’s wardrobe than in-store shopping.

Minimalist Wardrobe Checklist

Aïda stresses that although there’s a French style, we’re so different from each other and we look so different from each other that we deserve our own voice. That being said, take this list as a suggestion. Minimalism allows you to build your style. Be yourself and choose the pieces of clothing you enjoy the most.

Shirts

  • Basic tee or with a simple pattern like strips (the typical French top)
  • Classic white or blue Oxford shirt;
  • Light silk shirt.

Pants

  • Neutral, tailored trousers;
  • Straight high-waist jeans.

Dresses

  • Little black dress.

Accessories

  • Designers’ bags are a good statement when your outfits are simple;
  • Silk scarf.

Shoes

Comfort is key in a minimalist French wardrobe so be wise when choosing your footwear – make sure that you feel comfortable in the footwear you buy.

  • Sneakers and Chelsea boots for fall and winter;
  • Sneakers and sandals for spring and summer.

Outerwear

Your outerwear should always be neutral-colored. Aïda’s outerwear’s colors of choice are black, grey, navy, and beige, but you’re free to choose from a wide variety of neutral colors.

  • Basic black or with a houndstooth print blazer;
  • Beige trench coat;
  • Camel long coat.

Notes

This minimalist wardrobe checklist, designed mainly by Aïda, is a suggestion based on a mix of her wardrobe and the general opinion on what a French woman’s wardrobe looks like.

Let your creative side free and build your wardrobe according to your style. Do remember, however, that neutral basics are vital if you want to build your wardrobe. Only then can you start to build your unique outfits.

Final notes

Aïda shares it’s important that you have fun with styling and that you shouldn’t take this too seriously. It takes time to find your style, even if we’re talking about a simple outfit consisting of a white tee and straight leg jeans.

The options are endless, you can go so many ways when it comes to fashion and finding what makes you feel good, confident, and empowered. Inspiration is everywhere – look for different styles on platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram, on the streets, on magazines – get inspired everywhere.

Don’t forget about comfort – ever! The French minimal style is all about comfort and simplicity, which can be easily linked to the state of mind of a minimalist.

A big thank you to Aïda, from the Instagram page basicstouch, for helping by sharing with us her insight on French minimalism and minimalist French wardrobes! For French minimalist outfit ideas, go ahead and check out her page.

If you have any questions, leave a comment down below!

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