# fashion # Lessons from Madame Chic

Feeling Overdressed & Madame Chic in China

I loved watching Old Hollywood movies when I was a kid. The 30s and 40s seemed like more than a different era, but a different world. A world where people dressed up, wore hats and gloves and had a natural air of elegance about them. Times have clearly changed and now fashion has become much more casual. So casual, in fact, that women can sometimes feel overdressed when they are simply dressed nicely.

Reader Janki sent me a question about how to overcome feeling like you are overdressed. My answer is in this week's video. If you are unable to see the video above, click here, look in the sidebar of this blog, or visit my channel: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur

Madame Chic in China

Lessons from Madame Chic debuts in simplified Chinese this week. I just love the cover, so feminine and exotic. I'm looking forward to connecting with my Chinese readers!


I love to hear how Lessons from Madame Chic has inspired you. This testimonial comes from Geramyum, who writes:

Your book has lead me to really analyze so much more than my wardrobe. Just in the last few weeks I've gone over my kitchen and bathrooms as well. I have to say I'm starting to feel freed up. Why do I keep all these towels that I cringe when I look at them? Why do I have three jars of pickles? Why do I keep these socks I haven't worn in five years? WHY!? I can't even come up with an answer except that I feel guilty getting rid of stuff. But the "stuff" is making me crazy. I'm thinking and taking my time with purchases and waiting to make sure of what I want and NEED. I'm being mindful. Mindfulness is not natural state for me, but everyday I try. Please continue on your crusade.

Thank you Geramyum!

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Susan said...

Admittedly, I'm probably quite a bit older than the majority of your followers, but not so old that I can't learn a few new things to improve the quality of my life. I was raised by parents who lived through the Great Depression, and was always taught to "hang on" to things . . . just in case. This was a very practical and necessary mindset for their time and circumstance, but since reading your book, I recognize the negativity and dread that is embedded in that way of thinking. I find as I let go of "the just in case" things in my life, I am making room for "joie de vivre" which is just as practical and necessary for my life circumstance today.
Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your life lessons.

Erin said...

I can relate to this question insofar as, when I began implementing the suggestions on your book, my friends would compliment my look, but also almost accuse me of looking dressy, and insinuating that it was out of place to do so. I was also constantly told, Oh you look nice, are you going somewhere special? I resented the implication with the compliment that I had to have something out of the ordinary going on in order to look the way I was choosing to! And the implication that I owed them an explanation for it. It was actually really hard for me; they have gotten used to my new look now and don't ask anymore. One friend gave me the best compliment- she told me she thought once to herself- That Erin, she looks more pulled together every time I see her. I loved that! It noted and appreciated my efforts without implying they were somehow out of place. I know intellectually that it is just a reaction from a culture unaccustomed to people dressing well daily, but it did still jar me to hear these comments and feel out of place for awhile. I'm glad you addressed this question and answered it how you did. One thing though- while Princess Di is a great model for style, she -was- a princess, so she could get away with looking like that all the time and nobody questioning it. If you can think of an everyday example person with whom to make the same point, it would be helpful. ;) Thanks so much for your guidance, Jennifer!

paris1900 said...

Great video, totally agree and thank you very much for all the inspiration. I love the old movies for the same reason, they were "classy"!

Lauren E.Flocken said...

I understand feeling awkward about being over dressed. I always dressed decent but casual. I wasn't satisfied. I live in Key West so even wearing a shirt and shoes is considered being too dressed up. At first I dressed nicely around the house. Then I started venturing out. I would see friends or go to the supermarket. People stared. Now I am used to it and feel better about myself.

Erin: people who are not princesses but dress nicely:

Victoria Beckham
Rosie Huntington Whitley
Amanda Seyfried
Anne Hathaway
Miranda Kerr

Lauren E.Flocken said...

PS this is the same reason I love to watch I Love Lucy at 7 am with my two year old. I love the clothes! :-)

Luli said...

I also "overdress." I often get the "oh, are you going somewhere nice?" question and then when the answer is "No" their face falls as if I've let someone down, but I would love it if we all took the time to look a bit nicer every day. It makes me feel better when I am dressed up and I find that when I am lazy and run errands in yoga pants, etc. I feel and look sluggish.

Another lovely Monday post, Jennifer, and as always I love your reader's wonderful and thoughtful comments.

Luli said...

*correction: readers' wonderful and thoughtful comments.

Kathryn Bechen said...

Congrats on your Chinese version of your book, Jennifer!

Greenjane72 said...

Beautiful cover for the Chinese edition!

My comment on your video is that I've noticed if I dress up a bit more I have better posture, I smile at strangers more and call out good morning etc, I chat longer to people I know that I bump into when I'm out, I don't stress if I see work colleagues or clients when I'm just dashing about getting things done, I'm more inclined to do other things nicely eg have a coffee in a cafe with my baby before doing the food shopping instead of grabbing a takeaway coffee, I even think I take my time doing things like choosing dinner ingredients in the shop or ask the shop assistant for wine recommendations etc. I've been rather amazed to realise all this actually. I've never been someone who goes out in exercise gear (although everyone else does in Perth, Australia, where I live) but I certainly used to dash out in grubby old things not feeling my best and more focused on the things I needed to get done than how I looked and felt. Taking time with my appearance (clothes, hair, light make up, neutral manicure) has made me much more socially confident. I interact with my surroundings so much more which makes a minor 'chore' like the walk to school and the shops a mindful pleasure.

I think it's also very important that you're not just dressing up for the sake of it or overdoing it (heels for the school run etc) unless that is your natural style and you feel 100% confident dressed like that. This has been something I've learnt too as I (slowly!!) work out my own style. Some things like low cut tops or spindly high heels make me uncomfortable so I'd look awkward wearing those things. But plain silk tops, scarves, skinny jeans and wedge boots feel very comfortable to me so I feel confident in them even if everyone else at the school gate is in sneakers and Lycra.

Why are my comments always so long....? Sorry :)

Dee J said...

Hi Jennifer~ congrats on your Chinese edition!

A while ago I commented on your blog about visiting friends in Abruzzo - off the tourist path in Italy. In the grocery store all the women were dressed nicely, typically in collared shirts, sweaters (it was March), slacks and heels. I was dressed similarly minus the heels. It was such a good feeling simply walking around that ordinary grocery store! It was a working-class area, but that didn't matter- I say that to agree with you that your "look presentable always" is attainable for just about everyone :)

Take care ~D

Lauren E.Flocken said...

Thought of another example: Rachida Dati

Luli said...

Lauren, I had to google Rachida Dati. Wow. She is very elegant and so chic.

Anonymous said...

My TV watching as a kid was somewhat restricted, but I had a cache of old movies that a family member had taped off the TCM channel for me. Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Love in the Afternoon, How to Steal a Million -- Audrey Hepburn was my idol. My wardrobe may not hold a candle to hers, but I still feel her influence.

Great video -- thanks!!

Anonymous said...

Have you ever seen the French film Queen to Play? It's about a cleaning lady who becomes a chess champion. I remember being struck at how chic she looked for her cleaning jobs--jean skirt, cute top, sandals. And this happened when we lived in Paris in a rented apartment. A fantastic lady came to clean every week, and she always looked fabulous. She wore an apron as you do. I love this mindset. Need to adopt!
All the best,

Maddy said...

Jennifer, many congrats on the success of your book!

In my neck of the woods (midwestern city), I'm sorry to say that my fellow moms wearing nice yoga clothing would be an improvement!

When dropping my child off to a birthday party recently, the mom was greeting guests while wearing a pair of baggy, paint-spattered shorts and her husband's "Joe's Crab Shack" tee shirt. At first, I thought maybe the kids were doing a craft project that involved paint, but it turned out she was just wearing a "comfortable" outfit for the b-day party!

Jennifer (and commenters), I appreciate your thoughts on the subject of dressing presentably and making an effort.

It's bad out there, people! :)

Lollyg said...

I am a bit older than the typical reader here as well ...but I think it is even more important for those of us at middle age to be nicely dressed and groomed, than for those who have firm skin on their side!

I recently had one day surgery, and was instructed to "dress comfortably". I gave some thought to this, and dressed in black cotton/lycra cropped pants (this was eye surgery!), with a loose french striped tee, a sweater over the shoulders, and ballet flats.

I felt less anxious, and more in control of my situation. I do not regret my choice, and would have felt so low had I worn the wrinkled tee, sweatpants, and flipflops I saw all around me in the waiting room. My clothes were very inexpensive, as I shop consignment....and actual shoes kept my feet clean in the hospital environment!

Thank you Jennifer, and I love the book.

Lauren E.Flocken said...

Luli, i know she is wesring Dior but the looks are so simple and can be accomplished with practically any budget. She is chic and so lovely it is hard not to stare! Of course she is French so maybe it is natural lol

Lauren E.Flocken said...

Really out of all the women i listed, although each looks nice, no one does chic like Rachida Dati.

Greenjane72 said...

What about Julie Delpy? I think she has a lovely calm self-assured presence. So looking forward to seeing 'Before Midnight' which starts here in July.

Lollyg I love the sound if your well thought out surgery outfit :) Hope you've recovered well.

Lauren E.Flocken said...

Yes, Julie Delpy! Which reminds me; Ivanka Trump always looks lovely and understated.

RomiAndJaredAreMarried said...

I love the new book book cover for China! Do they send you a copy of every printing? Also--your hair looks amazing!

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

Jennifer, I first came across Madame Chic before the Simon & Schuster version, however, I took a while to get to your website. I enjoy your writing and your videos so much, and what you say really resonates with me.

I like what you had to say about not caring what other people think of your clothing. I do dress to please myself and if someone thinks I’m dressed up -- why would I take that as anything less than a compliment? When did looking good become suspect? I think that, sometimes, people who tell me I’m dressed up, are actually defending their own choice to dress down, and that’s nothing to do with me.

One day, a fellow employee asked me, “What are you dressed up to celebrate?” I thought about it a moment, then honestly answered, “Me.”

Christie Priem said...

I enjoy your blog and website very much. Thanks for your hard work! It inspires me to put a little effort into beautifying myself and my environment! I saw an advertisement the other day that said, "Dress like you mean it," and think we should live all areas of our lives with purpose. You are a great inspiration in that area.

I would love to see more detail on how you shop for your wardrobe and how you plan and assemble your capsules. I have been experimenting with capsule wardrobes (though my style is different from yours) and am fascinated by anyone else's experience with wardrobe limiting!

Unknown said...

Princess Letitia of Spain and queen Rania from Jordan are ones of the most beautiful and elegant women of our times. Both of them are "working" mothers. They do a lot for their own countries but also for children around the world. Of course they are privileged becouse of their marriage to royal family, but they are not only pretty faces. They work hard to make the most of their position. This is a class for me.

Gabriel said...

wow! Thanks so much for answering my question!! I nearly squealed when I heard you say my name (and you said it right too!!)
I live in Austin and everyone is in exercise gear or these maxi skirts and long oversized tees. I'd swear the official shoe of the city is flip flops. I'm from SF originally and find myself at a loss between fitting in and looking good.

I just made the first step and donated all the clothes that aren't part of my new capsule wardrobe. I am just going to embrace my new put together look and channel what you've said.

I love your blog and thanks for helping me escape the mommy-frump-syndrome. Your comments and those listed below are so helpful. Time to move beyond 7th grade and just dress for me!

ScooterShell said...

Jennifer, I agree that dressing up needs to be added back into our casual culture. But for some people it might be too big a step to go from yoga pants to silk dresses. However, as we start considering our style, we start to become more comfortable with ourselves and people start to get used to our new style. So, for some, it might be easier to move from yoga pants to casual pants with a beautiful cut. Then perhaps next season they might feel comfortable in a casual skirt. Then the next season they might feel comfortable in a well-cut dress. I guess what I'm saying is that sometimes change takes a while, and while we aim for beautiful style, we also need to be comfortable within ourselves. As you say in your book, we need to be comfortable in our own skin because that comes through in our body language. You can be wearing a stunningly stylish outfit, but if you feel uncomfortable it won't look as good.

A said...

So... More than a year later I have come across this post and thought it was wonderful. And then a few days after I read it, there was still something that was flitting in and out of my brain...

There was a comment about how a Princess could get away with dressing nice without comment or looks... And I have to politely disagree. I am old enough to have grown up with the real life "Cinderella Story" of Charles and Diana (it's what the news called it at the time...) and sadly I also recall how unkind the press was about Diana's choice of clothing. (This dress made her fat, another was the wrong color, that one should have had a better slip, and so on...) Even a Princess was not able to escape the scrutiny of other people.

All that being said, just because someone is a Princess, there is no reason why that should inhibit (anyone, everyone) society from respecting themselves as if they too were Royal. And yes, the care you take with your body and what you cover it does send a message to others how you value yourself. Not in the expense of clothing, but rather, the care and time you apply to yourself.

Wonderful words... Even so long after they are written the message still rings true. Thanks Jennifer!