10.25.2010

The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris- #13 Look Presentable Always



Yes the last few beauty and style themed posts have all been leading up to this with the simple message: look presentable always.

Do you remember the story of my sweatpants with the hole in the knee? Madame Chic’s shock and dismay at the sight of them? Many lessons came out of that embarrassing incident (at least something good came out of it!) and the most important one was simple: look presentable always.

I remember once seeing Madame Chic as she was about to pop down the street for a baguette. Before she left she checked her appearance in the mirror and applied lipstick. It was a small gesture, but one that was duly noted.

Every component comes together for the French woman to look her best at any given moment. She is dressed well (easy to do with their 10 item wardrobe) and she is always well groomed.

Looking presentable always is not to be confused with ‘high maintenance’. You are less likely to see a French woman running late because it took her an hour to do her makeup and flat iron her hair. Pas du tout. They have their look down so well- that they put together an outfit quickly (without agonizing over what to wear), have a simple haircut that is easy to style and very minimal makeup (nothing too elaborate… you know- le no makeup look!).

You wouldn’t see a French woman walking the dog in her pajamas or in line at the boulangerie wearing tattered old yoga clothes. She won’t be dressed to the nines either- she will just look… pretty and presentable.

My tips for looking presentable always?

Avoid telling yourself you’re ‘just going to the grocery store’ (or wherever it is you happen to be going) as an excuse to look like a complete frump. You may think you won’t see anyone you know- but trust me, you will. You’ll see your ex-lover and your frenemy. Even if you don’t see someone you know- you should want to look good for yourself.

Don’t tempt yourself to be frumpy- throw out any clothes that are over worn, damaged, or unflattering (remember to only use the best things you have). There is no excuse for holding on to bad clothes- they serve no purpose and even if you live alone, you shouldn’t wear them.

For traveling wear comfortable clothes that are also chic- black leggings and a dolman sleeve top paired with ballet flats and a pashmina, for example, are equally comfortable to a track suit- and so much more presentable… and who knows… you might even be upgraded to first class!

If you must walk the dog in your pajamas
(which, I'm not going to lie, I have been known to do on a few occasions) put an overcoat or long sweater on and perhaps a scarf and no one will ever know (OK I confess, I do this every morning)...

Break out of the mentality of ‘saving things’
. Do you have a new blouse but you haven’t worn it yet because you are saving it for a special occasion? Well if that special occasion comes by all means wear it, but in the meantime wear it to your dentist appointment… after all, you are worth it.

Looking presentable always is simply a matter of respect- of respect for yourself- for people you love and for everyone that comes in contact with you.

Won’t you stay tuned for #12?


If you find yourself in France during the Spring, it's really worth it to take a trip to Giverny to see Monet's home. The gardens are spectacular (see above picture) and the inside of his home is filled with Japanese prints, which the famous artist loved to collect...


My book, Lessons from Madame Chic: The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris will be published by Simon & Schuster and re-released in the fall of 2012.

17 comments:

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

Sublime...and as always tres chic.

the gardeners cottage said...

well starting on oct 1st i began the project 333. you choose 33 items from your entire wardrobe and wear them for 3 months (excluding underwear and workout wear, but includes jewelry.) i can tell you that it has been liberating. and b/c you have to choose so carefully there really isn't any room for bad clothes. i'm finding that i'm always well dressed now and i liberating at the same time. i'm curious about the 10 item wardrobe thing. i must have missed that.

~janet

SewingLibrarian said...

Janet, read number 17 for the 10-item wardrobe.

Rose said...

I recently threw away all my 'scruffy' bed/ house clothes for exactly this reason- that just because I might be in, alone, watching repeats of sex and the city and drinking pots and pots of tea it doesn't mean i shouldn't wear something chic- so I have 3 new sets of 'house' sets of trousers, shirts and cardigans to wear- and I do feel better!

Lisa@Pickles and Cheese said...

I love this post and series! I am so guilty of "saving clothes". I buy things and then save them for just the right occasion and I need to start wearing them now! This is the push I need...I upgraded my pajamas...now I have to get rid of my dog walking sweats and upgrade them too!

Pearl said...

Oh, yes: I do said with grocery store... and I never meet anyone I know, but I do see anywhere between 30-50 people who see me with bedhead, schlumpy sweats, stretched sweaters...Ugh. Or I go with a little more attention and am surprised when strangers initiate a pleasant chat. And I heartily endorse the travel comment: I get better service, nicer service, and quicker service when I travel in in a neat ensemble. I am appalled when I see women travel in shorty shorts, saggy sweats, flip-flops, and stretched tshirts. Ouch!

Gina said...

Very good post. Naturally, this leads one to think about the durability of clothing. I wonder if modern, mass produced clothing can withstand repeated wearing.

I know that most Europeans opt for more expensive, higher quality clothing, but I wonder if this is "do-able" in the US. I question the quality of even more expensive brands that are sold widely throughout the US.

Of course, taking good care of your clothing (gentle washing, hanging to dry, etc.) does help extend the life of a garment.

Fiona said...

Another wonderfully inspiring post. Thank you J.

Whenever I go away on a trip I always take the time to plan my outfits, even laying it out on the bed complete with accessories. It's a good chance to practice the capsule wardrobe.

Stephanie said...

Great post. I recently got rid of all tacky clothing in my posession, even the bumming around the house clothes and upgraded them with leggings and tunics and such like you suggest. It's a huge improvement!

Pug1 said...

Time to go through the closet! I'm totally onboard with less is best! I also agree with quality clothing, however I too, (like Gina) question the quality of some of the more expensive American brands....thoughts? CHEERS! Michele

jamesxvi said...

As a man who enjoys reading your 'Top Twenty...' posts, I especially appreciated the description of Monsieur's 10 item wardrobe. I'm inspired now to clean out the closets at Garvinweasel this weekend and take big pile of clothes to Goodwill on Monday. I am especially tempted to throw out my 'business casual' office wardrobe and accept whatever eccentric labels come my way with the return of the suit. I will however likely continue stuffing my pajamas into my le Chameau muck boots to walk the dogs out to the pond every morning.

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Hostess- Thank you :)

Janet- what a great idea and so similar to the 10 item wardrobe. Actually project 333 would be a great way to ease your way into a 10 item wardrobe... I will be sure to check back to your blog and read about your findings...

Thank you Sewing Librarian...

Rose- nice house clothes are really a must because that is the area where one can really let oneself go- Calvin Klein does great sets I practically collect them!

Lisa- thank you! And I'm glad you've been inspired!

Pearl- so true. When I travel I love to people watch. I'm amazed at the things people wear. It really is shocking! On the flip side, I am suddenly pleased when I see a well dressed person. Coming back from Barbados this past Christmas I saw a woman at the airport wearing a simple white t-shirt, nicely tailed jeans, sky high Christian Louboutin tan suede pumps,a nice gold watch and her hair back in a ponytail. And while the shoes may not have been that practical (I'm assuming she changed into ballet flats once on the plane) she looked incredibly chic.

Gina- really good point. It does depend on the brand (some are more durable than others) and it also depends on the care of the garment. I really love The Laundress line of products- like their wool and cashmere shampoo- because I find they treat my clothes gently and I save money by not having to take them to the dry cleaner. As for wear and tear. I think the French are constantly updating their 10 item wardrobe. The misconception is that they have 10 items and wear only those for a year or two. They actually replace items a lot. For example, if Madame Chic had a cashmere sweater that was starting to look run down, she would search for a new one, perhaps in the sales. For someone who knows their look, it is quite easy to find a replacement item. It doesn't need to be the exact same thing just 'along the same lines' as what they are replacing.

Fiona- so true! Traveling is a great chance to practice a 10 item wardrobe. I vow the next time I go to Europe to pack a 10 item wardrobe and report on my findings :)

Stephanie- Doesn't replacing old, worn items feel good? For me it feels like a cleanse. After I had my baby I took great delight in putting all of my old maternity clothes in a bag and donating them. I couldn't wait to get rid of them! (They were actually pretty wornout by the time I had my baby)...

Michele- it is a great concern. I get a lot of my clothes from J. Crew and find that their construction is very good. They have great cashmere, for example. Whereas the clothes I have purchased from the Gap or Banana Republic haven't lasted as long and are not generally as well made. Of course there are exceptions to all of this and I do have some great blazers from Banana that are of great quality too- you really have to look. My absolute favorite brand is A.P.C. It's a French clothing label that is the epitome of French minimalism (www.apc.fr) Their clothes are very well made. I usually buy online with them but they just opened a boutique in West Hollywood a few years ago which I now go to. If any one else would like to suggest their favorite brands for high quality wearability, I'd love to hear about them!

JamesXVI- I love hearing a man's perspective on all of this as it may seem that I cater to women on this blog but really write this for both men and women. Stylish men are really hard to find these days. M. Lane, Easy and Elegant Life, Michael Rivers and you really set an amazing example. And if I was lucky enough to have a pond to walk my dog too- I would probably wear my pajamas tucked into wellies too! The ducks wouldn't mind after all :)

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Terribly sorry for the few spelling errors in my comments- I am writing this feverishly while the baby takes her nap!

Pearl- I meant tailored jeans not 'tailed' jeans

James- to not too :)

Beth Hazelton said...

Wonderful! C'est tres chic! It has always amazed me the way people go out in public. It takes no longer to out on something nice than it does to put on something scrubby. Merci, merci, merci!

Kasia Dietz said...

I completely agree with this! You really do never know who you are going to run into, but it's also a question of feeling well about yourself. Being raised with a European mom who never looked unkempt helps.

I'm happy to admit I've never owned a pair of sweatpants. Though I LOVE my yoga pants...and I'm a big fan of the tank top and jeans look, with a scarf of course! Is that 'chic' enough?

Kasia @ www.loveinthecityoflights.com

Trish said...

Outside of work (pre-school teacher)and church, I live in jeans. I usually try to wear a nice polo shirt or tutleneck with them.

On a funny note-I recently went through and cleaned out my barn clothes (I have a farm). Out went the sweats w/holes-I can at least wear decent sweats/overalls while I'm working with the animals!

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Beth- it is so true! It doesn't take any more effort to look presentable than not. So many times people say that their scruffy clothes are 'comfortable'. Presentable clothes can be just as comfortable! and Merci to you. Love reading your comments! x

Kasia- Love your name! Yes I do think that is chic enough. I think whatever you put thought into, feel comfortable in and is truly who you are is chic. I am not a fan of the jean, flip flop and tank top look (a crime I have been guilty of most of my life living in Southern California) but I have learned several variations on the same look that works for me. I like to wear ballet flats in stead of flip flops now. Or if I do wear flip flops they are nice- usually Italian made with nice leathers or embellished. Jeans must be a great fit and as for tops- as long as the tank top doesn't show bra straps (and if it must show the bra strap- said bra strap must be in tip top condition- nothing worse than seeing a tattered bra strap on display), but mostly I like to wear chic t shirts. Bateau strips happen to be a personal favorite.

Trish- I love that you have a barn and that you dress up even for the animals! Now that is dedication! I used to walk my dog in the most hideous clothes. Really saggy sweatpants, old flip flops and a t shirt that I didn't mind sweating in. Then I realized, I was still walking my dog in a busy city, with lots of people around. I thought 'what am I doing dressing like such a slob in public? Just because I am exercising?' Now I just wear my regular clothes when I walk the dog (and now the baby comes along too :)

 
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