How to do the Five-Piece French Wardrobe Challenge

The concept of the five-piece French wardrobe challenge is simple, but in practise, difficult to master (particularly for North Americans, who are used to instant gratification and often have lots of storage space at home.) For six months, you replenish only your wardrobe basics as needed and beyond that, invest in only five other articles of clothing or accessories. The challenge is a great way to save up for a few high priced or luxury items you’ve had your eye on, but more importantly, it allows you to focus on building a wardrobe that is practical, wearable and versatile, while avoiding the pitfalls of impulse buys at fast fashion retailers. But that’s also what makes it so hard – staying away from Zara for six months is a painful exercise, one I have often not been able to complete for the full length of this challenge. But aside from that, it’s pretty simple…


The Rules
1: Basics don’t count and are always allowed
2: Accessories don’t count
3: Shoes do count
4: Socks and underwear don’t count
5: All the rest counts


I’ve done a lot of fashion challenges over the years, with varying degrees of success, but none of them really covers all of the bases. The fact is, I don’t think anyone, even the French, have all the answers when it comes to building the perfect wardrobe. But I know that this challenge is one that a lot of you come back to look at again and again. And I like it because it makes you step back; it forces you to really think critically about your wardrobe – not just about what you’d like to add to it, but about the things you already have and how you can work with them.


The Basics
Black, gray and white loose t-shirt
Black, gray and white tanktop
Little black dress
Little white dress
White blouse
Black blazer
Simple pullover
Black skinny pants
Skinny jeans
Black skirt
Denim shorts
Leather jacket
Trench coat
Wool coat 
Black pumps
Mid-heeled ankle boots
Summer sandals
Black leather bag

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  1. I feel like this challenge is so inherently hard for a style blogger because we feel like we need to constantly be posting new and different looks, and while I’m not one of the bloggers who apologies when something they are wearing is not instantly shoppable, and is content to fill my closet with vintage and thrifted items, the impulse to shop is hard to resist. Especially when I am always looking at other fashion bloggers showing off new things that DO happen to be instantly shoppable. And of course, even more so as of late than before, I am shopping a lot, because the more things in my life that feel out of my control the greater my desire to control becomes and somehow that translates to buying stuff I definitely do not need, nor have the space for.

    • Everything you said basically described me and exactly how I feel. When I did this challenge successfully in 2013, I was blogging professionally, making very sporadic income and my options were basically shop or eat. It made sense then and it worked well because it made me feel like I could still have a few new things while giving purpose to reworking my old ones. That said, in the years since I’ve returned to the reality of life in North America with a desk job and bills and this election, not to mention the high stress Canadian election last year, resisting impulse purchases feels next to impossible. When I feel out of control, I shop, because I can and because it gives me a sense of control for a short time. All that said, when this challenge has all the right pieces in place to work, it does work so beautifully. Possibly less if you’re a blogger, mind you 😉

  2. I love challenges like this and loved doing my “15 piece wardrobe” last winter! The thing I found most surprising is I never ran out of clothes, my outfits always felt fresh + I came up with some really fun pairings…. or I’d grab one of Martin’s slouchy sweaters and pair it with skinnies & fave boots! And did some one say luxury goods?! Always a fab thing!! 😉 Happiest Thursday, Cee!! xo

  3. Cee, this definitely makes sense because you’re building a wardrobe based on QUALITY and not quantity. I would love to do this! I have gotten much better since when I first started blogging. I’ve paired down my closet a lot, but not enough. So I’m still doing that 😀 Great post.

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