The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris- #12 Life As a Formal Affair
It’s not for everyone… and certainly not everyone in Paris was like this… but Famille Chic’s life really was a formal affair- and I loved it.
Do you ever feel as though our society has become too casual? I recently attended a baby shower in Santa Monica where six people were wearing jeans. Six people! So wrong...
Living in France I was pleasantly surprised to find Famille Chic was the furthest from casual a family could be.
They lived in a grand 16th arrondissement apartment filled with curious antiques (my favorites were the formidable portraits of their ancestors hanging in gold gilded frames that greeted you as you walked in the door). The whole family dressed beautifully from the moment they got ready for the day until bedtime. They enjoyed a three course (minimum) sit down dinner every single night- Madame Chic would wheel in the food on a service tray (so old fashioned, but so cool). They rarely watched television. After dinner they listened to classical music on their record player while Monsieur Chic smoked his pipe. They entertained guests in their salon at least once a week. I could go on…
Actually, I will. Do you know that every evening for the entire six months I lived with them, when at the dinner table, they insisted on serving me first as I was the female guest of honor? Then Madame Chic was served, then her husband and then their son. At first, I felt overwhelmed by the attention and pomp and circumstance of it all. But once I got over the initial surprise, realized that they weren’t putting on airs for me and that was their ‘normal’, I really embraced their customs.
Some people might equate formal with stuffy but that wasn’t the case at all with Famille Chic. They unapologetically lived the old fashioned way- with style and panache.
The following are some ways to add a little formality into your life when you feel things have gotten a bit too casual:
Play classical music in the background as you go about your day. It has a way of making whatever you do feel so much more important.
Get dressed up for dinner.
Write a letter instead of sending an email- think how surprised the recipient would be!
Learn a fancy new word every day and incorporate it into a conversation. (This is great for when you feel that language has gotten too casual and you are horrified to realize you say ‘like’ way too much). For example, "The fog layer is giving Santa Monica a positively crepuscular feel today!”
Subscribe to a newspaper rather than reading your news online. It feels so much more formal to enjoy coffee and a biscuit while reading The Financial Times (plus you learn quite a lot too).
When entertaining, go all out (whatever that means for you). I recently had a playdate for some friends and our babies- a raspberry tart from Trader Joe’s (although I didn’t tell them that’s where it was from) looked beautiful on a fancy cake stand. Tea was out of proper cups and saucers- not mugs. Now this may not sound like much of an effort- but for a new mom who is sleep deprived- trust me, it is!
And as always, it is better to be overdressed than underdressed (remember the baby shower I went to?) so when in doubt, go all out.
I would love to know… how is your life a formal affair?
Won’t you stay tuned for #11?
The above picture is a close up of a typical building in Paris- I just love the architecture, the attention to detail and grand windows!
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.