capsule wardrobe ethical fashion

An ethical French style capsule wardrobe

November 27, 2017

clockwise from upper-left:  1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8 // 9 // 10 // 11

I’ve always loved the concept of the 5-Piece French Wardrobe, but I’ve been more fascinated by French style than ever lately–largely due to my recent trip to Paris.  It’s inherently a thoughtful, sustainable approach to dressing, because it incorporates a lot of classic, neutral pieces that age well, but French women also seem to be at the forefront of a lot of trends.  Brands like Rouje, Maje, and Sézane are huge there (and all provide the dreamiest inspiration), but information on their manufacturing practices isn’t readily available, so I thought it’d be fun to make a capsule inspired by French style, sourcing items from more transparently ethical sources.

And I’ve tried to stay away from super high end designers, so that this is a more realistic everyday capsule round-up.  Shopping vintage and secondhand is always a great idea, and will likely score you some great deals.  I picked a lot of neutral pieces for this graphic, but I’ve scouted a number of links to check out for each category below.

CHORE JACKET // Pictured:  Corridor NYC, made in NYC // A chore jacket is something that seems really huge in Paris, and is a favorite of Sézane designer Morgane Sézalory.  I love this natural canvas version pictured above (they also have it in pretty rose), but my favorites are more traditional vintage-y indigo versions.  Check out Atelier La Rue Found and Les Chiffoniers on Etsy.  Urban Renewal has a cool oversized one.  Ilana KohnCaron Callahan, Tradlands, and Loup also often have gorgeous made-in-USA chore jackets.

BLAZER // Pictured:  Rachel Comey, made in USA // A lot of the blazers of the moment seem to be big and plaid, and I don’t hate it.  Check out my previous blazer round-up for more ethical ideas!  I also just discovered the Swedish brand House of Dagmar via this instagram, which focuses on sustainability, and has some really pretty blazers.

TRENCH COAT // Pictured:  Everlane, made responsibly // This sophisticated mainstay of French style isn’t going anywhere, and proves especially practical in drizzly weather.  Everlane’s version has a modern cut at a great price point, and their cropped swing trench is just as chic.  This trench from Loup is super elegant, made in USA.  I also love Hackwith Design Co.‘s trench in gorgeous rich shades and Elizabeth Suzann‘s ultra-swingy version (with Clyde pockets!), both made in USA.

LEATHER JACKET // Pictured:  Deadwood, made from deadstock leather // The leather moto jacket remains a favorite among the French, and it’s easy to understand why.  It’s easy to dress up or down, and lends a little edge to more feminine outfits.  Etsy is a great place to scout vintage leather.  Reformation also occasionally has up-cylced leather jackets (and their collab with Veda is so good).  If real leather is not your thing, here’s a responsible faux leather jacket from Brevity, made by women in San Francisco.

FAUX FUR JACKET // Pictured:  Nili Lotan, made in USA // This super fun winter staple, donned by icons Sabina Socol and Jeanne Damas, is tricky to find from an ethical source, perhaps because it’s on the trendier end of the spectrum–embraced by fast fashion, but not necessarily considered an investment piece by responsible makers.  La Seine et Moi is a cool French brand that offers luxury faux fur pieces that are made in Paris and environmentally friendly, but it’ll cost you a pretty penny (as will Nili Lotan).  Aline Fashion on Etsy also has some pretty jackets made in France, and Lookhunter has some made in Ukraine.  I would recommend trying eBay, Poshmark, and Tradesy for secondhand faux fur jackets at more affordable prices, from brands like Zara, Mango, and H&M.

CARDIGAN // Pictured:  Cuyana, made responsibly // An easy layering piece, and one that tends to be worn either long and duster-style or close to the body and tucked in, à la Sézane.  I love Everlane and Zady for responsibly made cardigans, and Amour Vert has some really pretty sustainable options.  Nathalie Dumeix also has some gorgeous luxe-looking cardigans, made in Paris.

PULLOVER SWEATER // Pictured:  Everlane, made responsibly // This piece can come in any style, but I thought a little black mock neck was extra chic.  Everlane is the best place for cashmere (IMO), so just start any sweater search there.  I also love Betina Lou‘s rib knits, made in Canada.  If you’re going for a metallic Rouje-like sheen, check out H&M Conscious, which often has trendier takes.

SWEATSHIRT // Pictured:  Everlane, made responsibly // A gray French Terry sweatshirt is wonderfully tomboyish and effortless, and you won’t find a better price than that Everlane one.

SILK TOP // Pictured:  Everlane, made responsibly // French women tend to dress up more than we do, and a lot of that manifests in more luxury fabric choices.  The 2-pocket design of this top feels modern and cool, while still being dressy.  Everlane has a lot of silk styles, and Grana is also a good place to check out for responsibly made silk tops.  Amour Vert has a lot of sustainable silk styles in feminine prints.

STRIPED TEE // Pictured:  Everlane, made responsibly // There are so many responsible places to find a striped tee, but I included this one in the round-up because I own and love it, and the bateau neckline feels extra French.  Betina Lou, made in Canada, and Loup, made in USA, have some really cut striped tees.

CAMISOLE // Pictured:  Grana, made responsibly // Delicate and sexy, and great for layering.  Check out Everlane and Cuyana for more responsibly options.  Maison Cléo is a great French option for slinky camis, handmade to order in France.

TEE // Pictured:  Tradlands, made in USA // I love this boxy plain white tee, but also recommend Everlane, made responsibly, and Calder Blake, made in USA, for tees.

ROMANTIC WHITE BLOUSE // Pictured:  Cuyana, made responsibly // A romantic white blouse, whether lacy, drapey, ruffled, statement-sleeved, or high-neck is something I saw on a lot of French women, presumably taking them from work to dinner.  DOÊN has the prettiest responsibly made bohemian tops, and Reformation often has some glamorous eco-friendly options.  On a budget, Zara Join Life and H&M Conscious have sustainable options from time to time.  Maison Cléo also has beautiful statement blouses, handmade to order in France.

PAJAMA BLOUSE // Pictured:  Maison Du Soir, made in USA // I had some difficulty finding this piece from an ethical source until it occurred to me that an actual pajama top would work.  Sleepy Jones is another great place to check for luxe, made-in-USA sleepwear you’d want to show off in the day.

FLOATY DRESS // Pictured:  Auguste the Label, eco-friendly // French girls wear a lot of Rouje and Realisation Par dresses with super feminine prints that just skim the body.  Check out Christy Dawn (the Lennon and the Rosie are my favorites) for made-in-USA beauties.  H&M Conscious occasionally will have a pretty floral dress made from recycled materials.

BLACK JEANS // Pictured:  Everlane, made responsibly // When I was researching what to pack for Paris, a lot of blogs told me that black jeans were a must.  I’m on the hunt for some great ones now, but these have a cute cropped ankle.  I also love DSTLD for responsible denim.

BLUE JEANS // Pictured:  Levi’s WaterLess, made from USA denim with water-saving efforts // A vintage-y fit is all the rage right now.  Check Etsy for vintage Levi’s and Wranglers.

WHITE JEANS // Pictured:  Everlane, made responsibly // White jeans are not to be forgotten!  Even in cold weather, I saw a lot of these in Paris.  And this bone shade is so good.

WIDE LEG PANTS // Pictured:  Jesse Kamm, made in USA // Also check out Everlane for affordable, responsibly made wide leg pants, and Loup and Esby Apparel for pretty made-in-USA styles.  A sleeker, high-waisted flare pant is also really popular among French “it” girls, and Nathalie Dumeix has some great made-in-Paris flares.

TROUSERS // Pictured:  Everlane, made responsibly // A pant with pockets you can really sink your hands into has the coolest vibe.  Persephone Vintage also has a lot of cool options.

LEATHER SKIRT // Pictured:  Cuyana, made responsibly // If you want a mini, check out Reformation or Urban Renewal for an up-cycled skirt.  Sustainable brand House of Dagmar has some cool leather pencil skirts.

GOLD PENDANT // Pictured:  Wolf Circus, made in Vancouver // A small gold circular pendant seems to be “it” necklace for French girls, and I love it.  It’s so charming!  I love this one with a nude etching by Wolf Circus, as well as their rose coin pendant.  This plain one from Cloverpost is made in the USA.  Check out Etsy for vintage options!

SCARF // Pictured:  Amour Vert, made in Italy // French people love scarves, man.  Cuyana has some dreamy luxe scarves, responsibly made.

STRAW BAG // Pictured:  French Baskets, handwoven in Morocco // I was surprised this trend outlasted spring and summer, but it’s still going strong in Paris!  This French Baskets Etsy shop is the best place I’ve found for price and variety of pretty straw bags.  Jane Birkin-style baskets handmade in Portugal are also available at Little Doe and Bonjour Coco.

HEELS // Pictured:  Everlane, made responsibly // Some French women do wonders in stilettos, but thank god a low block heel is still cool.  And instead of ballet flats, many women are opting for a bit of height these days.  Repetto Paris has a beautiful classic low pump, made in France.

BOOTIES // Pictured:  M.Gemi, made in Italy // These are my dream booties, so I don’t really want to link to any others, but these from Everlane are also gorgeous (and more affordable), made responsibly.  Coclico also has beautiful, eco-friendly booties.

ESPADRILLES // Pictured:  Castañer, made in Spain // French girls manage to look so low-key when pairing espadrilles with a pretty dress or jeans.  French brand Bobbies has open-toe styles, made in Portugal.

WHITE SNEAKERS // Pictured:  Veja, eco-friendly // In Paris, I saw a lot of Stan Smiths, especially the velcro kind, so here’s an eco-friendly option that’s pretty close.  If you like a more comfy, athletic-looking sneaker, check out eco-friendly AllBirds.

HEELED SANDALS // Pictured:  Marais USA, made in LA // Heels are a big deal for the French.

LOAFERS // Pictured:  Sézane, made in Italy // Nisolo and Everlane also have great responsibly made loafers.

With these items, the chic, classic outfit possibilities seem pretty endless, and I’ll be taking note when I put together my next everyday capsule wardrobes.  For colder months, I would swap in a warm classic coat and add some sheer black tights (French girls were wearing them everywhere, even with sneakers).  For warmer months, I’d swap in some elegant sandals.

Other For fantastic Parisian style inspiration, I follow Sabina Socol, Jeanne Damas, Anne-Laure Mais, Aude Sarkamari, Eleanore Toulin, and Inès Mélia on Instagram.

Any tips for great sources for any of these French staples?  Do you have any other French fashion icons?

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  • Reply Shelbi November 28, 2017 at 1:25 PM

    Yeah the French seem to know what’s up. That floaty dress is seriously adorable. I think it kind of reminds of a dress from the 30s or 40s. I’m not exactly sure which era, but very beautiful. 😉

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