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

5:56 PM 17 Comments

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.


The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris- #14 Define Your True Style

3:36 PM 20 Comments

If you are anything like me your closet has at one time or another showcased a rather schizophrenic wardrobe. Bohemian, preppy, urban and god knows what other looks have all been in there in the ultimate attempt to find my true style. The question is- when does the searching stop?

French women really seem to know their style and stick with it. Madame Chic had her signature look down- she was very conservative and liked cashmere sweaters, A-line skirts and flats. She was completely comfortable and at ease in her look.

Madame Bohemienne’s style was entirely hers as well. She loved (can you guess?) bohemian-style, flowy skirts and three quarter sleeve tops. She rarely strayed from her look. Both of these women knew who they were and were completely comfortable with it. I can’t imagine either one of them standing in front of their wardrobe- frazzled because they couldn’t decide what to wear.

It has taken me a while to find and define my style- what I’m comfortable in. I would define my style as ‘French Minimalism’. I like classic looks for daytime like skinny jeans, polo shirts, striped bateau tops, wayfarers, a-line skirts, cashmere sweaters, cropped blazers, ballet flats. I like my clothes to be simple and very well made- and I don’t wear very many accessories (hence the minimalism). Think A.P.C., Lacoste and J. Crew.

Eveningwear is a different story- I like to glam it up a bit. Black skinny pants, blazers, silk tops, dresses and heels. Think Diane von Furstenberg, Nanette Lepore, BCBG. I feel comfortable in these clothes and confident navigating the world in them.

Now that I have (finally) investigated and found my true style I save so much money and time. I basically ignore the trends and stick with what I know and like. Clothes shopping is a joy. I just see what my favorite brands put out each season and purchase a few key elements to enhance and supplement my wardrobe.

Finding my true style didn’t happen quickly. But I must admit living in Paris and observing French women in their chic, minimalistic clothing certainly planted the seed.

I would love to know… how do you define your true style?

Won’t you stay tuned for #13?

The Seine is pictured above... isn't it beautiful?

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.


The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris- #15 Le No Makeup Look

10:45 AM 17 Comments

Le no makeup look is one of my favorite beauty tricks I learned while living in Paris. (If you couldn’t already tell… I write about it all the time!)

As you know one of my favorite activities in Paris was to sit for hours at a café with a cappuccino and people-watch. And while French men were very fun to observe (for other reasons)- I equally enjoyed watching the women- who, for the most part, all looked polished, yet natural. Were they wearing makeup or weren’t they? It was hard to tell but their cheeks had a natural glow, their eyes slightly defined and lips a pretty, earthy shade. I came to the conclusion that what I was observing was le no makeup look and its many variations.

I love the idea of this look and so wholeheartedly embrace it because before I discovered le no makeup look, makeup application was a bit intimidating to me. I either wore a lot of it (for going out at night) or I didn’t wear any at all- there was no in between . I never really knew how to translate makeup for day while still being tasteful.

What is so genius about the look is that it subtlety enhances your beauty- just enough to give you confidence and a certain polish. It says ‘I am a natural beauty, have great taste and am too busy with important things (like philosophizing and romancing!) to worry about applying an entire face of meticulous makeup”...

I started to experiment with my daytime look while living in Paris by emulating the fresh faced women I observed every day and I continue to cultivate and refine the look to this very day.

The following are my three favorite variations of Le No Makeup Look:

Au Natural- This look is extremely subtle. It includes a light foundation to even out the skin (either powder or tinted moisturizer), blush, mascara and a neutral lip color. It is just enough to give you a pretty, professional polish but also looks completely natural. This takes no time to apply and is a great look for everyday- for when you just want to feel pulled together.

Defined Eye- This variation boasts a defined eye and neutral lip. It uses the same process as Au Natural but employs my favorite makeup product- eyeliner. This look is very gamine- very Parisian and suggests that the wearer is chicer than the average person. She simply got out of bed, tied her hair back, slicked on some eyeliner and went about her day! (Whether that is true or not. In my case it takes a bit longer to get ready but you do get the idea).

Defined Lip-
This variation showcases a defined lip (red maybe?) and neutral eye. It would include powder, blush a bold color lipstick (berries, mauves or reds) and a neutral eye (no eyeliner- just mascara). This look is more romantic and clearly draws attention to the mouth- perfect for when you are feeling passionate, whimsical or adventurous. It also suggests that you have better things to do than carefully apply makeup everyday, but that you are feminine enough to not forget your lipstick!

Voilà my top three Le No Makeup Look variations. Even now with the baby I manage to do one of these variations a day. What with the dark circles currently under my eyes and less than radiant skin it helps to keep me feeling beautiful and is quite fun to channel my inner French girl. Charming!

Won’t you stay tuned for #14?

The above picture was taken of me in the gardens outside the Chateau de Versailles.

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.


The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris- #16- The 10 Item Wardrobe

3:31 PM 18 Comments

I’ll never forget the moment I saw my bedroom for the first time chez Famille Chic. Madame Chic led me to my room and I eagerly took it all in. There was a single bed with a charming velvet coverlet, stately floor to ceiling windows that looked out over a picturesque courtyard, a perfectly adequate desk for me to study French on and a very tiny freestanding wardrobe in which to store my clothes.


A tiny freestanding wardrobe?

It had all been going so well until that moment. I remember panicking slightly as I regarded my two largely overstuffed suitcases. Where was the closet? I opened the wardrobe doors- there were only a handful of hangers inside. Now I really panicked. Was this where I was suppose to keep all of my clothes for the next six months?

Well I was in denial at the time, but the answer to that question was undoubtedly Oui.

I quickly learned that that tiny space is about all the average French person needs as they generally have a wardrobe of around 10 items. Famille Chic definitely did- Monsieur Chic, Madame Chic and their son all had really nice clothes- they just happened to wear the same things in rotation- over and over again (a concept that is very foreign to us in America- most of us have enough clothes to never repeat the same outfit twice in an entire year).

For example, Madame Chic’s 10 item wardrobe roughly consisted of two wool skirts, one cotton skirt, 2 cashmere sweaters, 3 or 4 lightweight blouses, 2 coats (one for winter, one for spring) and a couple of pairs of Ferragamo-esque flats. (Madame Chic never wore trousers remember).

Monsieur Chic’s wardrobe roughly consisted of 2 grey suits, 1 navy suit, 2 or 3 sweaters, about 4 collared shirts and a couple of ties. The same went for their son (although he rarely wore suits- mainly collard shirts and sweaters. Their son was the only one in the family to occasionally wear jeans).

Now I’m not trying to claim that I myself have a 10 item wardrobe (far from it- I probably have a 40 item wardrobe) but I am a lot better than I used to be. I edit a lot more these days, am much more discerning and try to only bring in well thought-out, high quality pieces into my space. And if I buy something new- I usually get rid of something old…

I do dream of a day when I can get my look together enough to have a 10 item wardrobe. Think of all of the money and aggravation that would be saved! Not to mention never having to ask myself “What on earth am I going to wear today?”

Maybe one day…

Won’t you stay tuned for #15?

The above picture is of the desk and window in my Paris bedroom. I did not have the foresight at the time to take a photo of the tiny wardrobe. Perhaps I was still in shock!

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.