After my trip to Paris in 2018, I wanted to bring some of the French culture and ‘je ne sais quoi’ I saw there, into my life in the United States. So, I did what anyone would at that point – a Google search on French life – and came across the ‘Madame Chic’ collection of books by Jennifer L. Scott.
The collection chronicles Ms. Scott’s time as an American foreign exchange student in Paris in 2001 and the differences she saw between life with her host family, whom she calls Famille Chic (to keep their privacy), and her life back home in southern California. Throughout the stories, the author weaves in observations she makes while watching each family member, particularly what she sees from Madam Chic, the matriarch. To this day, much of what Ms. Scott learned back then is still present in her life.
The books describe an experience from over twenty years ago, so attitudes may be more relaxed in some respects, while totally different in others, now. There are cliché and tongue-in-cheek moments, but overall, the books offer good information and tips to incorporate more of a French approach to life, wherever you live.
There is so much information, but in the interest of time, I’m highlighting only those tips that spoke to me the most.
If you’ve read the series, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let me know in the comments.
Book 1 – Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris
This book focuses on diet and exercise, style, and living well.
Meals are a priority. They’re events meant to be enjoyed at a table, over a period of time. This hits home for me as I can’t tell you how many times I’ve eaten while driving or standing at the kitchen sink. And if I do sit at my table, I’m usually eating off of a paper plate. My one redeeming mealtime act – actually two – is that I do use silverware and a nice glass with my paper plate.
Tip: Make meals a priority. Eat well-balanced meals, at your table, using the ‘good’ dishes, silverware, and glasses, even if it’s just for yourself. Sometimes I still have trouble using nice things for an ordinary dinner, but I promise that using them elevates your experience so that even eating leftovers is special.
The Ten-Item Wardrobe
The ten-item wardrobe, or capsule wardrobe as it is sometimes called, is a small collection of seven to ten pieces of core clothing items that work together to give wearers everything they need on a daily basis (wikipedia.com). The idea of the capsule wardrobe is to eliminate waste as most people only wear twenty percent of their clothing eighty percent of the time (Baumgartner, 2012).
do not include outerwear (coats, jackets, blazers), occasion ware (cocktail dresses, evening gowns, special day dresses) or accessories (scarves, gloves, hats, wraps), shoes or undershirts (tee shirts, tank tops or chemises you wear as layers or underneath a sweater or blazer)”
These items are considered extras. (Scott, 2011).
You should have a capsule wardrobe for each season, or for what makes sense where you live. For example, someone living in Strasbourg will likely have a different wardrobe than someone living in Nice.
The book lists examples for all four seasons, but here is the Fall/Winter wardrobe:
- Three blouses
- Three sweaters
- One pair of dark denim jeans
- One pair of black jeans or black slacks
- Two dresses
If the thought of having only ten pieces of clothing gives you anxiety, then start with fifteen pieces. The goal is to get you wearing what you have eighty percent of the time.
Tip: Not ready to clean out your entire closet? Start small. Pick ten core pieces and use just those ten items for a week. If that goes well, try a second week with the same pieces, only this time donate five pieces of clothing that you didn’t wear the previous week. For week three, wear the same ten pieces and donate another five you didn’t wear. Before you know it, your closet will be cleared of everything but your capsule wardrobe.
Book 2 – At Home with Madame Chic: Becoming a Connoisseur of Daily Life
This book discusses your home and the importance of having daily routines
‘Still moments’ are small bits of time for you. You may only have two minutes or you may have fifteen but small breaks help you to unplug and recharge. Examples of things you can do include deep breathing, meditating, enjoying a cup of tea, reading a chapter in a book or writing a letter (yes, an actual letter) to a friend. The important thing is to do something distraction-free to clear your mind.
How do you wake up in the morning? Do you jump out of bed ready to face the day, or do you dread it? Did you know that how you wake up sets the tone for the rest of your day? I didn’t.
I was the person that hit the snooze button on the alarm clock three times, then finally woke up, grabbed my phone, and mindlessly scrolled through Facebook for thirty minutes. Then, because I wasn’t paying attention to the time, realized I was now running late. It never occurred to me that what I was doing didn’t foster a mindset that would lead to a successful day.
The book recommends waking up slowly and offers examples such as changing your alarm tone to something softer, stretching, or meditating before you even get out of bed. Getting up early enough to accomplish what you need to in the morning (get ready for work, get kids up for school, etc.), without becoming frazzled.
Tip: If you don’t know where to start a morning routine, do something small like change your alarm tone to Tibetan chimes or put your phone outside of your bedroom so you’re not tempted to wake up and scroll. Listen to soothing music while preparing for your day. Do whatever makes you happy and ready to greet your day.
Book 3 – Lessons in Everyday Elegance: Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic
This book discusses how to present the best ‘you’ to the world through style, grace, and elegance.
‘You Have an Audience Too’
No one is insignificant. No one is an accident. We are all valuable and we all have something to contribute to the world.” (Scott 2015)
Whether you realize it or not, you have an audience. There are people looking at you, up to you, or maybe even aspiring to be like you. Do you want them to see what ‘you’ do? Having poise can help.
Merriam-webster.com defines poise as: “a particular way of carrying oneself” But what does that look like?
Do you have good posture, or do you slouch? Do you dress appropriately, or are you sloppy? Do you speak clearly, or mumble? Are you calm in stressful situations or do you easily lose your temper? If you have good posture, dress appropriately, speak clearly, and remain calm, you are likely to have poise. These are just a few examples, the book lists many more.
How you present yourself to the world, paints a picture. You get to decide what that picture looks like.
Tip: Don’t try to change everything in your life all at once – you’re destined to fail with that approach. Instead, pick one or two small areas in your life that you feel need to change in order to have poise. For example, your posture. Practice working on it until you no longer slouch. Once you’ve mastered that, pick another area.
This book series is written through a Parisian lens; however, it is not meant to give you the impression that all of the information is uniquely French. A lot of what the author shares is practiced by people in many other countries and cultures.
Whilst some of these suggestions may be tending towards the French cliché, I found them to be very helpful and practical.
I hope I’ve inspired you with some tips that you can use right now. If you want to learn more, I encourage you to read this collection or follow Jennifer Scott on her YouTube channel The Daily Connoisseur where she offers content on the art of living well based on what she learned from Madame Chic all those years ago.
Have you ever read ‘The Madame Chic Book Series’ or something similar? Please share your thoughts below in the comments.
- Baumgartner, D. J. (2012). In D. J. Baumgartner, You Are What You Wear (p. 272). Boston: Da Capo Lifelong Books.
- Scott, J. L. (2011). In Lessons from Madame Chic; 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris (p. 283). New York: Simon & Schuster.
- Scott, J. L. (2014). In At Home with Madame Chic (p. 285). New York: Simon & Schuster.
- Scott, J. L. (2015). In Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic (p. 271). New York: Simon & Schuster.
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Merci Mille Fois