French Living Fridays

So I've been doing this french living thing for a couple of weeks and I like it a lot. My first guidebook has been The Daily Connoisseur Jennifer Scott's Lessons from Madame Chic.

I always pay a lot of attention to anyone who gets their book into Anthropologie as I think they are the best major retail curator out there.

The book is an easy, breezy read and Scott's style is charming and has the requisite amount of self-deprecation. She summarizes the key points in each chapter so it makes it a nice reference book too.

The key lifestyle points I took away were as follows:

Have an edited wardrobe. I was at the point where every day in the winter I wore jeans and a cashmere sweater. I wore this uniform because these things were at the front of my overstuffed closet. Now that I've pulled out about 20 key pieces for an eight week period, I am much more creative with my outfits. Normally, I'd have put on a sweater and black pants for an author brunch but now I'm doing the shirt/skirt/scarf/tights thing because I can see them.

Use your best things. Because I have fairly young children still, I got out of the habit of using my good things. I have several Hermès scarves but was reluctant to use them in case someone drooled on me. I stopped using china I loved in favour of Corelle plates, lest one get dropped. I used an inexpensive crossbody bag as it was more practical than my lovely handbags when I was wrestling kids through a grocery store parking lot. And the last several winters, I've appeared mainly in giant down coats since they are warm and sturdy. The fact that my children call my heaviest weight one my "sleeping bag coat" might have been a hint that I looked less than fashionable (it's called the mystique: the only mystique it conveys is "Is there a person in there?)

There was good reason for me to be practical for a period of time. But now that my children are 8 and 10, I can drop them off at the valet parking at the school in the winter so I don't need something to keep me impossibly warm on the blacktop. They are capable of carrying a plate into the kitchen without incident. Serena keeps me on drool high alert but I suspect that Hermès scarves are impervious to french bulldog saliva as they share the same glamourous heritage. Thus, I have started to make an effort to bring glamour back to my life.

This woman is an outrageous liar. I don't drool on my own Hermès scarves, let alone hers!

Make small, delicious meals. Because my children are picky eaters (a problem the French don't seem to have), I often make a grownup dinner just for me. And since it's just for me, it's easy to just have cereal some nights. Well, no more. I find that not cooking everything from scratch is helpful as I won't roast a chicken just for me (although I should!), but I can buy half a roasted chicken at the market and then make a nice salad with it. I'm currently searching for easy, healthy meals (I poached this idea for avocado, arugula, and ricotta on sourdough from the always charming India Alexandra since I have had a craving for it since I read her post. I toast the bread and add just a pinch of fleur de sel. Delicious!

Take care of your skin. The french seem to spend their beauty dollars on skin care rather than makeup, hair and nails. They also seem to have a more holistic approach to beauty, incorporating good eating and things like massage into their routine. Jennifer Scott also swears by the Clarisonic tool, which I think is good too. It's the only way to really get your makeup off I think. Speaking of which...

Wear makeup. I'm one of those people who can look pretty decent once I cover up the sunspots and put on some blush. The biggest difference is eyeliner. I have a suspicion that when I turned 40, Renee Zellweger stole my eyes.

Since the greedy cow* has made no offer to give them back, I have had to get creative. I have had some good success using my Bourjois Intuitive liner to tightline my lower lids (Bourjois, the sister company of Chanel, is amazing.) I can do it all quite quickly now and it makes a big difference.

I also winnowed down the lipstick collection to a true red (I like Chanel's Gabrielle over YSL's glossy stain in Rouge Lacque)  and a few neutrals (I like Bobbie Brown's Brownie, Marc Jacobs' Severine and Guerlain's Avarice). I'm also experimenting with wearing fragrance. As an allergy sufferer, I'm always empathetic to people's scent aversions so I limit it to when I'm with a fragrance-positive crowd. My winter go-tos are Poison, which I've worn since the 80s, and Hermès 24 Faubourg, which I picked up at the airport duty free shop in Jamaica. The lady at the Holt's counter gave me a boatload of samples the last time I was there so I'll be trying out some of the Lanvin and By Kilian scents too.

I still have lots of work ahead of me based on her tips such as walking more (harder in the winter in Oakville), entertaining more (I'm lazy), and cultivating an air of mystery (I'm an open book.)

Oh, la vache. I work with such amateurs.

But so far it's been fun.


  1. The air of mystery thing is funny, it's one enormous cultural difference that I have noticed through blogging, Americans and Europeans are very much cut from a different cloth, it's not that we are 'shady' over here, it's just a certain reserve that's built into is, so yes, I think it's seen as being mysterious on your side of the pond but we're really just quite private until we really know a person well. When I lived in America, I was always told that I was so mysterious, I was quite young and it actually upset me because I had no desire to stand out, eventually I realised what it really meant.

    I am a bit 'anti French woman' I have to confess - in the sense of how they are lauded online and the perpetuated myth of their perfection, it is a very hard culture to live in, extremely sexist, they really have a struggle everyday to stay thin, dress 'within the box' and generally kow tow to patriarchy.

    That said, hurrah for small, well curated wardrobes, it's quite ugly to watch people buy more and more clothes every single month, it's just avarice. I love what you're doing, it's great to have those little bursts of enthusiasm to try something new every so often, to keep the same life but to dust it down and blow off the cobwebs.
    A few years ago I took out my 'good china" and gave away my everyday set, I had been terribly guilty of 'keeping things for good' as we say here.

    1. Well I certainly have no interest in kow towing to patriarchy. Been there, done that and have the poor quality t-shirt. I wanted to pick a lifestyle as far away from the more is more excess by which I'm surrounded. And while the land of DLK and philandering heads of state is no panacea, I love the idealized aesthetic.

      I'm much more mysterious in this blog. Years ago I was one of those terrible species known as the mommy blogger. While I've been told that my openness around post partum depression helped many others, being so forthright took a personal toll.

      Now, I try to balance using my life experience to help others with maintaining a sense of privacy. I'm still experimenting! As for you, those Americans were terribly silly to criticize. You come across as warm and lovely and shame on them for demanding you act like a Kardashian.

    2. I lived in Paris for a year and dated a French guy in my early twenties, and it is all a MYTH. Middle class French ladies are bonkers, I think it possibly because they don't eat properly, there is no female solidarity and they despise anyone young/thin or pretty, and that is all that matters to them, in France it is perfectly acceptable to judge everything and everyone solely on appearance. And nothing has changed I went to Hotel Costes last year and as older, less desirable guests we were treated abysmally, we also went to the Plaza Athenee where it couldn't have been more different (but the staff are Italian).
      The men are leches who feed the women's insecurities and even the young guys expect total subjugation, we once had to leave a party because I disapproved of the boyfriend's blatant racism and he was offended that I contradicted him. Needless to say the relationship didn't last long!
      Having said that, I still love St Tropez, but we go to places where the French are in the minority!

    3. Sounds horrible! Certainly the lack of reactions to the Hollande affairs is telling. Most of the criticism seems to be towards his partner who is not reacting to it all with the expected discretion.

  2. I'd say that the shirt/skirt/scarf/tights combo is a big winner and I've always been a fan of a crisp white cotton button-down shirt on a woman especially with those overlong sleeves as you have on above. I can tell that Serena (so tres chic in the Hermes & Jackie O sunnies) hasn't the time or temperament to kow tow to patriarchy.

    1. Serena kow tows to nothing and nobody!

  3. I can relate to a lot of what your saying here. My "uniform" has become a cashmere sweater and black pants. I'll throw on a scarf, on a good day, but don't get overly creative anymore. And I'm bored with the look. You are so right, Anthropologie does have some fun books. I got rid of my stainless flatware last year and took out my silver. The good plates are closer at hand, but I still haven't started using them daily because they can't go in the dishwasher :-). I have always used cloth napkins and try to use my best crystal all the time. Why wait? Bobbie Brown "Brownie" is staple daily lipstick. I'm invisible without eyeliner. My fragrance is Chanel, Bois des Isle, and I just need your Flap bag to complete my look. I agree with a lot of what Tabs says about the a French, but I do try to buy fewer, higher quality items. I've not read this book. Looks like a good one. I do need to walk more and some spa treatments would be excellent. I know I'm an open book and really dislike that about myself. My blog stalls when I find myself exposing so much of myself that I'm uncomfortable. I really feel private, but say more that I care to. Must work on that. Thanks for this inspiring post Jen! Have a lovely week. xo

    1. We have a lot in common. I'll have to try that Chanel fragrance: it sounds delicious from the descriptions I've read. The overshare is at epidemic proportions. I blame Oprah. There should be a twelve step program for it!


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