All Things Fashion DC | Fashion Intelligence: Cheap Chic – The French Wardrobe
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Fashion Intelligence: Cheap Chic – The French Wardrobe

Rachel Zoe

11 Sep Fashion Intelligence: Cheap Chic – The French Wardrobe

by ATFDC Contributor Susan Stipanovich

For years Vogue U.K. had a column in each issue entitled “More Dash Than Cash” which many people were quite fond of, featuring chic items that could be bought without spending an entire paycheck.  It is encouraging to note how few garments some extremely stylish women have.  Legendary fashion columnist Lucia van der Post, then a young writer for the Sunday Times in London, was astonished to discover that the dauntingly chic fashion editor Ernestine Carter only had three suits that she rotated very carefully.  Van der Post noticed that these few items were “amazingly chic, fitted to a T, and were always pristine.”  When one is conserving funds, it is vital to avoid mistakes.  This requires a bit of advanced planning and almost no impulse buying- unless you are absolutely sure that it is a piece that will be worn time and time again.

One often hears of a minimalist wardrobe, often referred to as a “French Wardrobe”, which includes only a few garments that are versatile enough to create many outfits suitable for a variety of occasions. French designer Anne Fontaine, known for her white shirts, shared with Forbes Magazine her thoughts on wardrobe essentials: “besides a beautiful blouse, every woman should have a great pair of jeans, black pants, a perfect skirt, a perfect little black dress and a jacket for each season.”  In the same article, famed designer Catherine Malandrino advised women to think carefully about their buys. “French women are not just picking something because it is in fashion,” Malandrino explains. “She gives more thought to it. How many times can she wear it? Is it versatile enough to go from day, to work, to cocktails? And will she want to wear it again and again?”

Many fear that having only a few pieces will be limiting, however a few base pieces can easily be accessorized to create hundreds of looks.  One great suit in a classic color that fits flawlessly will be perfect for any professional meeting and then take the wearer to dinner and drinks in the evening with a change of shoes and handbag.  Similarly, a dress in a flattering silhouette can be accessorized to be worn to any occasion from an average day at the office to a special event such as a wedding.  Needless to say, it is worth investing in the base pieces that one intends to wear time and time again.  A good coat, handbag, pair of shoes, a classic little black dress, and a quality suit are all items that are worth spending a bit more money on.  You spend almost nothing and purchase fantastic costume jewelry that will transform a well-fitted outfit into an envy-inducing ensemble.

Photo Credit: Mr. Newton for Harpers Bazaar


Susan Stipanovich is a stylist and writer who lives and works in Washington D.C. She researches counter terrorism methods and international security sector reform in Africa and the Middle East by day as a Department of Defense associate and spends her free time curating a fashionable lifestyle through her blog Hepburn Loves Givenchy.