Book Review: Lessons From Madame Chic, 20 Stylish Lessons Learnt Living In Paris
There is that ‘thing’ about all things French that captivate some people, and while I’ve spend so much time in France growing up, and I now have a home there, that fascination has never really existed for me, except in the form of the city of Paris. (And besides anyone who has ever lived in any part of France, or is French will tell you that Paris and the rest of France are worlds apart from each other, well, except maybe some of the coastal resorts like Cannes are Parisian in part, but the countryside? Are you crazy?) However, maybe because I speak the language reasonably well, and everyday things in French life, be they going to the cash machine or going to get groceries are normal for me (the latter, here in Los Angeles still has me baffled at times!)
Paris has never seemed inaccessible to me, so when I read the last Paris themed style guide I laid my hands on, Parisian Chic by Ines de la Fressange, it read like an everyday handbook to me. This is why when her agents offered to send me a copy of Los Angeles based blogger Jennifer Scott‘s recent book; Lessons From Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living In Paris it seemed like the perfect time of me to read it. Not only was I going to learn about Parisian Chic from a Southern Californian perspective (the culture I’m currently immersed in), but when Jennifer lived in Paris, the time she is basing this book on, she was a study abroad student just like me!
A lot of the first half of the book is dedicated to eating and exercise, general diet things. I get a lot of questions as regards to how I manage to not be as big as a house with the amount of food I seem to manage to consume on a daily basis and the amount of sugar and butter dependant baking I get up to, and to sum it up, the way I manage to stay a UK size 8 is by having a very Parisian attitude to food. Those women manage to indulge and don’t really go to the ‘gym’ (as I have a gym in my building here in Los Angeles I decided I’d actually go every day, I lasted two weeks) just the way I do, and manage to stay very Parisian chic and skinny; it is all about lifestyle and habits you can do every day like walking up stairs or instead of taking public transport for short distances, and eating good meals so you don’t snack as much; Jennifer explains it all really well in the book.
There were some sections on personal style that really stood for me in the book, too. The bit on first impressions really made me laugh, about making sure you put your best face on to the world whenever you step out of my home. She compared Parisian women to women in Los Angeles; I was as equally as shocked as any Parisian would be on arriving in the city to realise American women wear work out clothes and lycra as everyday clothing, out in public and not just in the gym! I also like how she picked up style tips by just sitting outside a cafe and watching Parisian women go about her day; it brought back memories for me of designer handbag spotting out the window of a cafe a few streets away from Le Louvre and Le Jardin des Tuileries a few days after Paris Fashion Week on a gallery day trip to the city a few years ago.
Honestly, while I did enjoy this book and I did take a few things away from it, I don’t think I would have realised this if I had not spent any extending period of time living in California, but this is a book about adopting Parisian style written by an American, for Americans. Or indeed written by a Californian for Californians. Things in the book like telling you to take care in your appearance as to hat you wear as every casual day clothing would never occur to people back home in England; I’ve become used to it, but I was shocked when I first arrived in Los Angeles to discover women wore work out clothes, leggings and lycra shorts as casual every day wear, and not just to, at or from the gym (which in LA they drive to by the way, no matter how close to home it is. Logic check please?!) A European woman just would not even dream of leaving the house like that, even just to walk the dog.
What is the best personal style book you have read recently? As well as this one (but only for my American readers) I would recommend Emily Schuman’s Cupcakes & Cashmere (for everyone!)