Dear me, let us be elegant or die!


You can’t accuse me of a boring consistency in the books I write about on this blog.  Last week’s book had a gun on the cover and talked about the logistics of killing someone; this week’s tells you why you should dress, eat and indeed live like an elegant Frenchwoman.  (Note to guys reading this:  the rest of February’s books are also going to be pretty female-centric.  Fine with me if you want to read the blogs or the books themselves.  I’m just a-sayin’.)

I can’t quite remember why or how I ran across this book, although I do know that I actually bought it, a rarity for me.  It was enjoyable and, I thought at the time, pretty lightweight, one of many memoirs about Americans going to France and finding out what they’ve been missing.  Jennifer lived with a French family for a year as an exchange student and had the smarts to pay careful attention to them.  Madame Chic, the woman of the house, was quite a character and an inspiration to her young American charge.  (My favorite anecdote:  MC tells Jennifer that her green sweater does nothing for her; it makes her skin look sallow.  Jennifer is shocked at MC’s bluntness but is given the additional good advice that “you must pay very close attention to what enhances your beauty and what detracts from it.  It is a must for every woman.”  Huh!  Maybe she’s right.) 

Just recently I was at the library and doing my usual scoping-out of the new-books shelves.  (Two hyphens in one sentence!)  And there was a new book by Ms. Scott:  At Home with Madame Chic:  Becoming a Connoisseur of Daily Life.  It seemed like an interesting followup to her first one, so I brought it home.  You’ll notice that I’m not giving this one the same publicity as her first:  it jumps around a lot and a fair percentage sounds like padding.  A list of the scented candles you should have around for the morning, afternoon and evening?  Music selections for your commute?  Etc. 

However, because I picked up the book I found out about Jennifer’s wonderful blog, The Daily Connoisseur, and watched a number of her charming videos.  One of her best ideas, something I’d read about before concerning French women, is that of a core wardrobe.  Quit stuffing your closet with tons of stuff that you never wear.  Everything in there has to earn its keep.  (Lest you think that this is a subject not worth wasting ink or bits on, let me tell you that Anne Ortlund has the same idea in her book.  She says that keeping her closet stripped down is part of her religion.  More on that later on this month.)  I’m reassured that all the throwing out I’ve been doing is a good thing.

So I’d encourage you to read this book, then go to
The Daily Connoisseur and sample some videos, and then perhaps read the second book.  She says there’s a third book in the wings.  I’m kind of hoping that’s more of a cookbook, but we’ll see.

Are you a Little Women fan?  If so, you’ll have recognized the title of this post, from the description of Meg and Jo going to a party, dressing in their best with their very limited resources:

“Meg’s high-heeled slippers were very tight and hurt her, though she would not own it, and Jo’s nineteen hairpins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable, but, dear me, let us be elegant or die!”

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