Several years ago, I started following Jennifer L. Scott on her blog, The Daily Connoisseur. At the time, she was a young mom living in Santa Monica, California with her husband and two little girls. Her blog was about her experiences living in Paris with a French family which included cultural events, book reviews, makeup and creating a beautiful home. She also wrote about something called the “10 item wardrobe!” Even though we had nothing in common (I am probably twenty years her senior) and I know nothing about fashion and am constantly trying to get more organized, I found her blog and it’s contents just delightful. I started following many of the suggestions. When her first book Lessons from Madame Chic came out, I ordered it immediately and read the book in less than three days. She has since had two other books published, At Home with Madame Chic and Polish your Poise.
Jennifer lived with two French families as an exchange student. Originally from California, she quickly became aware of the differences between her laid back lifestyle and the way the French lead their everyday lives. She found this new lifestyle elegant, organized, cultured and much simpler. In her writings, she shares twenty “stylish secrets” she learned.
Here are a few that really impacted me:
The Ten Item Wardrobe
While in Paris, I observed the beauty of the ten item wardrobe. I noticed that French people whom I saw on a regular basis (mainly my professors, shopkeepers, and friends such as Famille Bohemienne and, of course, Famille Chic) wore the same clothes in heavy rotation unapologetically and with great panache.
Her first suggestion was to clear out the clutter and get rid of anything you don’t love, that isn’t in the best condition, and doesn’t fit. It took me two days to clean my closet and I filled eight garbage size bags of clothing, shoes, and purses that were smashed in my closet. There were so many things that didn’t fit, were stained, were the wrong color, or were purchased on a whim and were just wrong! The ten item wardrobe does not include T-shirts, sweaters, outerwear or evening wear (like I have that)! I cannot even put into words how freeing this has been. Every morning I wake up and have clothing that I truly love and is my style and color. I no longer spend an hour combing through clothes trying to find “something to wear”! Are my clothes a size 2 and designer brands? Absolutely not, but they are perfect for me!
Always Use The Best You Have
Famille Chic used their best for every meal. Every evening the table was set with their good china and crystal tumblers. They didn’t have a separate set of wine glasses for special occasion dinners-it was crystal or nothing. Setting the table with their best elevated what would have otherwise been a mundane quotidian experience. It made every day special and luxurious.
Am I using crystal and china…usually not. However I loved the idea of using the “best you can afford” when it comes to choosing items for your home or your wardrobe. In a recent blog post I wrote for Imperfect Women called Ways To Bring More Joy Into Your Life, the most popular suggestion was to “treat yourself like a guest” and the French seem to do this on a daily basis.
Cultivate Your Mind
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. Living in Paris I found myself for the first time in my life, separated from all my favorite television shows, addictive gossip magazines, and other mind-numbing forms of entertainment. I found myself instead passing my time in museums, reading books, and discussing life with my fellow expats. It was exhilarating.
I really liked this chapter because I agree we need to “cultivate our minds”. Here are some suggestions: read books, read a variety of newspapers (I read them online), watch films, follow the arts, watch less television, improve your vocabulary, and stop watching the news.
I really enjoyed this book and had so many other takeaways. I also found some great suggestions and advice for simplifying my home in At home with Madame Chic.
On thing I learned while on “the road to reinvention” is that if you want to really become the woman you were meant to be, then your environment, your wardrobe, the people you associate with, and the way you treat yourself, all have to change to fit the new you.
Check out more of Holly’s posts where she shares her journey on her Road to Reinvention.
Holly Zucker is a wife, mother of a grown son, business owner and on the “Road to Reinvention”. After feeling like she had “lost herself” she has spent the last few years bringing back joy, pleasure, passion, fun, and community into her life. Her mission is to help other women “reinvent themselves” and start living their dreams and desires. We’ve done so much for everyone else, it’s our turn now!