Published by Simon & Schuster
Publication date: November 6th 2012
Genres: Lifestyle, Non-fiction
Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned while Living in Paris is the offspring of author Jennifer Scott’s successful blog The Daily Connoisseur which is the result of a semester spent in France living with a French family while in college. Scott took her time to heart and shares with readers the French way of life and why it might be worth trying in America.
The book is charming and reads with the intimacy of a blog. Scott covers a wide swath of life and the differences between the French and Americans. Not all of it is news but Scott’s youthful perspective makes it feel fresh. For instance, French women are often applauded for walking more than they ride, spending more time on skin care than they do with make-up, and not snacking. They eat freshly prepared food and grocery shop daily. It is as Scott moves beyond the basics in Madame Chic’s life that she provides more thought provoking information on the differences between the two cultures. Of particular interest is the fact that despite being the fashion mecca of the world most French women have a much pared down wardrobe—with ten seasonal items providing the crux of what they wear daily. This is fascinating to someone in the U.S. where seasonal collections have given way to the fast-paced, low-quality consumerism of stores like H&M. Spending more on fewer, but better, pieces is a novel idea for most of us, but one that intrigues.
Also interesting is the formality of French homes which, apparently, do not share the American penchant for “open living”. This formality extends to manners and rituals—even those as simple as dining without television and while sitting at a table not on the couch. In the same way, it would appear that it is true also of dress and that the French don’t lounge or dress down the way we do. Sweatpants and flip-flops are an anomaly. While I’m as guilty as the next for embracing casual and cozy clothing there is still a feeling of loss for the days when everyone dressed with more finesse. And is it our drape-y comfy clothing that also leads to the slouching and poor posture that Scott noticed was missing in France?
Lessons from Madame Chic begins as a whimsical look at French culture through the eyes of a young woman and yet, as her journey progresses she moves into the more intangible differences in the cultures and why being open to a more traditional and formal lifestyle might be a refreshing way to live. While some of her tips are already familiar the book is still a quick, enjoyable look at ideas for living a more French (and mindful) life.