Thursday, April 16, 2015

Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott

Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I learned While Living in Paris, Book by Jennifer L. Scott
Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott 
I received Lessons from Madame Chic as a birthday gift from a very dear friend and from the moment I opened this book to the first page, I devoured it. Whether you're a Francophile or not, there are some valuable lessons and reminders in this thoroughly enjoyable book, particularly with regards to many things that I think we all tend to let fall by the wayside as we get older, busier and more digitally connected. Things like personal grooming habits, keeping an air of mystery even with our loved ones and daily civilized meals at the table are easy to let slip when we have hectic schedules. This book is a timely reminder of the importance of doing better for ourselves for no other reason than that we deserve it.


Though Lessons from Madame Chic is a non-fiction how-to book, there is a story in there of a young American girl who travels to Paris for a study abroad program and meets a cast of characters who influence her more than she imagined. When Jennifer left California for Paris, she had a wealth of experiences awaiting her as well as her host family, which she refers to as Famille Chic, an aristocratic, wealthy Parisian family whose matriarch in particular would shape the way the author viewed her entire life going forward. Other people in Paris also influenced the author including a professor and a more Boho Parisian woman she refers to as Madame Bohemienne.

Madame Chic and her family live what I think many would consider a very formal life. They opt for classical music instead of television, they eat 3 square meals a day at a table (not on the couch) with dinner being a multi-course affair every single evening. The whole family dresses well always - no running tights & Nike's for a trip to the supermarket or sloppy sweats at home - they are chic from dusk till dawn. What's more impressive is that the women profiled in the book both work, yet still find time to do literally everything from looking amazing to cleaning their homes themselves all while ensuring a homemade from scratch 3-course dinner on the table every evening. They don't hop in their souped up SUV's to collect the groceries at Whole Foods, opting instead for a walk to several independent shops daily and they don't pawn the ironing and laundry off on a housekeeper. This is not to say that the author condemns the use of a housekeeper or cleaner because she doesn't, but many people feel that they can't keep up and this book aims to point out that it may be possible with a few changes to our approach. With a bit of patience, planning and incredible organization, it seems that we really can do it all if we put our minds to it. Scott's observation of Famille Chic is very thorough and paints a portrait of a modern-day family living a life reminiscent of characters in a classic novel or an episode of Downton Abbey minus the downstairs staff.

I read a few reviews of Lessons from Madame Chic on Goodreads after finishing the book and I have to admit I disagreed with most of what I saw. People were slamming this way of life, discounting it as something that's impossible or too perfect. It seems that many people have viewed this book as a bossy dressing down of typical Western culture outside of France that gives directives of what we should all be doing better. I disagree entirely. I found Lessons from Madame Chic to be a clear-cut observation of a Parisian heroine who may be a tad more traditional that we'd all be comfortable with, but is in fact having it all while making it look effortless all the while. Isn't that what we all want? The job, the family, the perfect look and the Martha Stewart-like dinner on the table every evening?

Rather than being a book about should, I found Lessons from Madame Chic to simply provide realistic ways of how we could improve on our current lot, not just for a special occasion, but daily in a way that makes our lives, no matter how mundane, a bit more enjoyable and worth more on a moment-by-moment basis. There is definitely a feel of doing better for yourself in every suggestion by the author, even if it's only wearing your best clothes instead of saving them for a special day (that may never come). 

While reading Lessons From Madame Chic, I made some of my own changes… Admittedly, many of them were things I thought about doing for a long time, but the book gave me the kick in the pants I needed to actually go through with it. Among other things, I donated about 50% of my wardrobe to charity, including many pieces I hadn't worn in several years. I threw out every piece of clothing & accessories that was damaged or looking old and tired. I was holding onto things that looked terrible because people gave them to me because they were expensive. Though I'm not adopting the 10 item wardrobe suggested in the book, I'm definitely taking a much more quality over quantity approach to what I wear every day. 

I'd definitely recommend reading Lessons from Madame Chic for anyone who is looking for ways to balance the day-to-day, loves style, longs for a more Parisian lifestyle or wishes to be that girl with the joie de vivre that everyone is talking about. It's also worth noting that in addition to being a New York Times best selling author, Jennifer L. Scott also writes regular updates on her blog The Daily Connoisseur.
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2 comments

  1. I completely agree. I read some comments and reviews on Jennifer's book which called her "snobby." Nothing could be further from the truth; I know from reading her blogs and watching her videos. She is encouraging, and challenges her readers to stretch and grow in the same ways she did as a result of her experience in Paris. She has inspired me to make small changes that can have a big impact, like getting dressed decently in the morning, only once, and being ready for the day, no matter what, or who, comes my way! I can't wait to read her third book when it comes out. :)

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    Replies
    1. That's great Michelle! I've just ordered the second book and I'm really excited to read it soon. Have a great weekend! :-)

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