Lessons from Madame Chic is a book about the many life lessons Jennifer Scott learned while living in Paris as an exchange student.
The topics in this book cover just about everything that is a part of our daily lives as women, except parenting.
It’s super quick and easy to read with summaries at the end of each chapter. I read this book in a day, so it’s not a big time investment, and in my opinion, it’s well worth the read.
I was tempted to write a week of posts on the topics covered in this book. I have that many opinions on them; however, I was fairly certain no one would care to read a week’s worth of my opinions, so I’ll cram as many as I sensibly can into this single post.
As some of you may know, food is a big deal in Paris. Parisians eat very well and they don’t often skip meals according to Jennifer Scott, so how do they stay so thin?
By practicing the best for you and your family on a daily basis, you train your mind and palate to have a healthy attitude toward food and mealtime, and you send the message that you and your family are special enough to receive all the joy that food brings to the table. (p. 21)
In France, everyone eats breakfast, lunch (usually out of the home in a cafe), and dinner (eaten together as a family). They take great pleasure in their food and joy in the preparation. They have a high regard for quality foods and they don’t deny themselves the pleasure of enjoying a meal.
They also always eat seated at a table, with a napkin their lap. There is apparently no eating on the run in France, neither is their snacking. Hunger is a good thing, a sign that you have a healthy appetite and had a fulfilling and productive day.
They also stay thin, because Parisians walk everywhere. No elevators in Paris, sorry to disappoint. In their culture, it’s not good to be lazy.
While in Paris, I observed the beauty of the ten-item wardrobe. I noticed that the French people whom I saw on a regular basis…wore the same clothes in heavy rotation – unapologetically and with great panache. (p. 43)
Here’s the deal with the French wardrobe. They have few pieces, a core wardrobe of clothes they love, and they wear these clothes out. Shopping is not a sport for them.
Although the author creates a core of outfits that include silk dresses and cashmere sweaters, I could create a core from Old Navy if I had to. It’s not so much about money or labels as it is about simplicity and ease of dressing. If you have a few pieces that fit you well and flatter your shape, then you never have to spend time trying on ten outfits and discarding them in a heap on your bed.
This is a completely different way of thinking for Americans. We tend to buy, buy, buy and we enjoy doing it.
I like the idea of having an interchangeable core wardrobe that changes with each season.
Excess seems to be an epidemic, and I don’t say that in a condemning way. Not at all. It’s a way of life for most of us, but I suspect there may be a better way. Perhaps the French are on to something.
Back in the days when Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn were the most famous movie stars, everyone used to dress up – during the day, for evening, for travel, for sleeping, and even for a quick jaunt to the corner store. What happened to our society? Now it is rare to see someone nicely dressed during the day. It is more common to see men in saggy trousers with ripped hems or women in workout clothes and flip-flops. muffin tops, bra straps, and barely covered bottoms are all on display every day. At the risk of sounding like I am ninety-five years old, What has the world come to? (p. 103-104)
When does casual become unkempt?
Is our lack of respect for ourselves and others mirrored in our constant disheveled appearance?
I’ve been seriously thinking about the answer to those questions.
Personal hygiene and self-respect are good things.
I am often surrounded by people wearing pajamas, or pajama like clothes, in the daytime who have not recently bathed. That’s not me passing judgement. That is me stating what I observe in the people around me.
I haven’t walked a mile in their shoes and I don’t know all of their situations. All I am saying is that this is a wide-spread problem, at least in my area.
I’m not even certain this is simply a socioeconomic problem.
I think it goes much deeper for so many people and that’s really sad to me. When people are at peace inside, I believe that is reflected on the outside.
It’s so much more than the clothes.
Intelligence is highly revered in France. People want to hear what you have to say – and what you have to say will preferably be relevant, interesting, and witty. (p. 235)
In France there is an emphasis on philosophy and the arts. You may have a long conversation with someone at a dinner party and walk away not knowing much about them, but you will know their thoughts on theater, current events, books, and art.
In France, it’s rude to ask someone what they do for a living.
I think that’s one of the first questions Americans ask.
I could go on and on, but I will stop myself. I’ve already gone way over my self-assigned word limit.
If you decide to read this book, please, let’s engage in conversation about the thoughts and ideas Jennifer Scott presents. I would love to know what you think.