Madame Chic

I read a fun book over the winter break: Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Lessons I Learned While Living in Paris, by Jennifer L. Scott. It’s based on the author’s life-style blog, While there is little that is new in the book (for example, the French emphasize quality over quantity and have a much more refined sense of savoir-vivre), Scott’s anecdotes about her college semester abroad imbue the book with enormous freshness and humor.

jennifer-scottFor instance, she tells the tale about finding her panties hanging from the drying rack in a corridor of the home of Madame Chic, Scott’s pseudonym for her Parisian hostess, just as company was arriving for dinner. She cringed at the thought of her garish panties with slogans such as “No Chance!” and “Drama Queen” that were on display as the guests made their way to the dinner table. Another story about a French thermometer had me laughing out loud – but I’ll let you discover this one for yourself.

Although I think I know Paris about as well as a non-resident can, I learned some new things from Madame Chic. I’d never heard that there’s a secret concert once a month at midnight in one of the Louvre courtyards. How magical would it be to hear that? I’m such an early-to-bed person, but I could see myself making an exception for this event!

capsule wardrobeOne of the most interesting sections of her book was her recommendation that we assume extreme selectivity and embrace a ten-item wardrobe. As she correctly observes, the average French home has a small closet or free-standing armoire in lieu of a North American walk-in closet. Scott isn’t a rigid literalist, however. The core pieces (pants, skirts, dresses, tops, and shoes) may exceed ten items. Scott also recognizes that the core will need to be complemented with additional items like coats and blazers, accessories such as scarves and belts, and special event attire. And certainly she states that the perfect capsule wardrobe for your climate and life circumstances may be radically different from what works for this Southern California mother of two. So don’t be alarmed by the concept. I used to be far better about maintaining a tightly-edited wardrobe, but I notice that it has expanded to fill my large closet over the years that we have lived in this house. Yet more proof that I need to move to Paris!

chic-ladyToday’s word, chic (sheek), has been thoroughly absorbed into English. Most adjectives in French have to agree in gender and number with the nouns that they modify. Chic, however, is invariable. Whether the noun it modifies is masculine or feminine, singular or plural, chic is always the same. How appropriate, for while styles may change, the concepts of good taste and chic stay much the same year after year.

About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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4 Responses to Chic

  1. i look forward to reading this book!

  2. Pingback: Un Chamboulement | One quality, the finest.

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