A few weeks ago, Amanda jetted off to Paris while I stayed home and seethed with envy. While she sent pictures of shoes, macarons, and rococo architecture, I injected a bit of French culture into my everyday life.
Jennifer L. Scott’s Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris had been on my “to read” list for nearly a year, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to add it to my reading pile. I follow Mrs. Scott on Twitter and Instagram and think of her as a great example of modern, chic living.
The author lives in Santa Monica, California – one of my favorite places on earth, admittedly – and is married to the (British) son of Jane Winkworth, the woman behind London Sole and French Sole shoes. They have two darling daughters and a little dog, too. My seething envy was not assuaged, but rather intensified. Luckily, as I read the book, envy turned to inspiration that I could make others seethe, too. Or inspired. Whichever.
Lessons from Madame Chic is expertly organized. If Mrs. Scott’s closet looks anything like her book, I might have to hire her. The book is divide into three sections (Diet and Exercise, Style and Beauty, and How to Live Well), with each section divided into chapters. Each chapter is divided into topics and has a “Le Recap” section at the end. The organization does not seem forced or choppy, but rather tidy and compartmentalized.
Let’s look deeper into the three sections, bien?
Diet and Exercise
This section was the shortest, but still incredibly useful. I recently read an article, perhaps in Vanity Fair or Town and Country, where an American woman and a French woman switched eating habits. The French woman was appalled, and the American was grossly inconvenienced – a perfect introduction to this section.
In France, eating is an art form and an event. Meals are homemade, wholesome, rich, and beautiful. Meals are something to look forward to, and Mrs. Scott describes the typical experience. Breakfast was fruit, fromage blanc, and a bit of leftover tart. This meal would have an ideal balance of grains, nutrients, and proteins – key to a healthy meal. Similarly, dinner might be roast chicken, roast vegetables, and new potatoes. Again – balanced! Mrs. Scott never mentioned ordering pizza, picking over Chinese takeaway, or microwaving a Stouffer’s lasagna. Mon dieu! Jamais!
Exercise is less of an art, more of a lifestyle. It is naturally ingrained into their lives and culture. Each day, Madame Chic would walk down the stairs from her home to the street, walk to each shop on her errands, walk home carrying her goodies, and walk back up the stairs. She would clean her home without the help of a Swiffer before preparing an expert meal without taking shortcuts. French women do not join gyms, but rather stay active in their day-to-day life.
Style and Beauty
Madame Chic, the title inspiration and host of Mrs. Scott’s year in France, was always chic. Toujours. Even at dawn, she was wrapped in a gorgeous dressing gown. This was one of the most useful and inspirational chapters in the book, and I would hate to spoil the fun. Let me share my favorite ideas from the section:
- Wear pretty pajamas. Madame Chic was always wrapped in a dressing gown, but her pajamas were undoubtedly beautiful. Our sleepwear can be stylish and comfortable! Once I started wearing only my prettiest pajamas, my nightly routine became tenfold more enjoyable.
- Wear pretty underwear. I’ve mentioned before that I always wear pretty underthings, because it is one of the greatest luxuries of womanhood. Scott tells a story of her underwear drying in the hallway while company was over, with sayings like “Party Girls!” and “Up All Night!” – you know the kind. Toss those, and buy something pretty.
- Wear pretty things. I had a cream silk blouse that hung in my closet for two years, never worn, until I read this book. I realized it was too gorgeous to stay cooped up, all because I was afraid of a dry cleaning bill. It is quickly becoming my favorite piece for Spring, and has inspired me to wear some of my other favorite pieces.
- Develop a ten item wardrobe. This is one of the best parts of the book, so I won’t spoil it, but you’re going to do a massive closet haul after you finish reading this book. Prepare yourself now.
The author discusses that effortless French beauty routine at great length. Who can deny that French women are beautiful, yet effortless? Develop a facial cleansing routine, master the “Le No Makeup Look,” and find a hairstyle that works. Scott’s experiences are simple yet wonderfully helpful to finding the beautiful Frenchwoman inside you.
How to Live Well
If you’re reading this blog, you might have a good idea on how to live well. But how do you live really well? How do you surround yourself with a wonderful, cultural, enjoyable, fabulous life?
In Paris, this was easy. Go to the Louvre at midnight and hear a classical symphony! See the greatest works of art known to man! Surround yourself with culture! Of course, these things aren’t as easy in our non-Parisian life. Or is it?
Since reading the book, I have injected daily doses of extra culture to make my life more lived. I listen to classic music while I get dressed in the morning and read a new biography or travel book before bed. I’ve scheduled visits to museums and events in my area, and plan on doing the same when I travel. There is something fulfilling about learning, exploring, experiencing, tasting, trying, and finding the world around us.
Overall… I really enjoyed this book. It was easy to thumb through a chapter or two before bed and wake up with renewed knowledge and inspiration. The basics for a refined, chic lifestyle are laid out so conveniently to the reader that it is hard not to make these small changes for a better life. You’ll hear me talk a lot about Jennifer L. Scott over the next few weeks because she inspired me so much! And I know she will inspired you, too.