I just finished reading ‘Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris’ by Jennifer L. Scott and wanted to give you my thoughts about the book, in case you are interested in picking it up to read yourself. First off I will say I am fascinated with all things European but especially French. As my friends and family know I have dreamed of going to Paris for as long as I can remember.
My first introduction to French society was through the children’s’ ‘Madeline’ books as a young girl. From that first introduction to French culture I knew there was something special and so my life obsession with the French started. When I heard about this book ‘Lessons from Madame Chic’ I knew I wanted to read it. I have had this book on my “to read” list for a little over a year but as I always have hundreds of books on that list I only got to it last week. Finally! It was worth the wait for sure!
I will not proclaim that I am any sort of fashionista but I really love to look stylish and yet simple. Ms. Scott seems to have those same style preferences. In this book she shares tips that she learned from “Madame Chic” while living in Paris as a foreign exchange student in college. She describes her culture shock during her initial transition to French culture and the abolishment of her own cultural style ideas. One example of this is when “Madame Chic” caught her wearing her worn out sweatpants with a hole in the knee.
In the story Madame sees her and expresses shock, letting Jennifer know about the hole. After Jennifer responds by telling Madame that she knew the hole was there Madame is even more shocked and asks her why she hasn’t disposed of the pants. Why would a person keep rags to wear for clothes is the question on her mind? In the American culture this is not something that would be considered shocking in most households but in France it really was.
While living with the “Chic” family the author observed that they always took their look seriously, even while at home with family. One of the cultural fashion observations Jennifer made was that the family would be dressed for the day by breakfast. They did not come to breakfast in their pajamas as Jennifer had been accustomed to doing. She cited one incident where she had just left the apartment for the day and quickly returned to find Mr. Chic had loosened his tie. She followed by detailing his apology and embarrassment at having been caught this way.
Adding formality into the fashion of one’s day wasn’t the only fashion tip that Jennifer gleaned living in Paris. She cites a number of other fashion tips. She discusses the French priority of taking proper care of one’s skin and body. I love how the European culture incorporates exercise into their daily life. It is funny to me how many people I know here that will wait several minutes for a car to pull out of the front spaces at the grocery store and then go to the gym and work out later that day. For some reason I find this absurdly funny. In the U.S. it seems the average person is scared to exercise unless it is at a scheduled time.
During her stay in Paris Jennifer was occasionally invited to accompany Madame to the market. During these excursions Jennifer saw how Madame was able to get so much exercise without ever setting foot in a gym. When asked if she ever tired of all her daily trips to the many speciality shops, Madame let Jennifer know that she mustn’t be lazy. Jennifer recalls she had never considered herself lazy before but after more analysis she realized that at times she really was. This was one of the many life lessons she learned from Madame Chic, to incorporate as much exercise into her life activities as she could.
One of the topics that Jennifer discusses is the bad habit of saving your best items for a special occasion. I will raise my hand and say I am definitely a member of this club. I have a horrible habit of trying to make items last by never using them. I save my most expensive wear for a special occasion that never happens.
In a recent article where I was reviewing the book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ I detail my obsession with an expensive wool coat and its eventual disposal despite saving it for a good occasion. Jennifer advocates for the French way of utilizing our best things, even when at home. We should always look nice, even if it is just for ourselves or our families. If you are scared of messing up your good clothing during cooking or cleaning throw an apron over your outfit as Jennifer suggests.
These are only a few of the fashion tips that Jennifer shares. I don’t want to go into anymore and give the book away. I think if you choose to purchase this book you will thoroughly enjoy it. I know I did! The book has inspired me to wear something other than sweatpants during the day and make a bigger priority out of my personal appearance (and even the appearance of my home). I have been scrubbing, organizing, and attempting to create a daily personal/home appearance that I am proud of. I have started asking myself if I would be embarrassed to answer the door in my current state or have an unannounced friend drop by. If so than I am probably not “there yet” with my look.
I think the woman Jennifer describes is very similar to the Proverbs 31 woman ideal that most of us Christians are familiar with. A woman that prioritizes her appearance and home. A woman that goes out finding the best clothing and exotic foods she can afford for her family. She takes pride in her daily work and doesn’t find it mundane. She is the coordinator of the family life and finds importance in the small things and makes her husband proud.
I think we all, especially me, can all takes lessons on life from others. I definitely feel like I learned some valuable lessons on attaining a simple elegance from Jennifer’s book and have already started on her sequel ‘At Home with Madame Chic: Becoming a Connoisseur of Daily Life’. I hope you choose to add both books to your reading list. I don’t think you will be disappointed.
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