Lessons from Madame Chic: style notes

I had heard of the idea of a capsule-wardrobe before my mother-in-law told me about Lessons From Madame Chic. But it wasn’t until I read Jennifer Scott’s book that the idea of a ten-item wardrobe began to take hold in my mind. Even now, I am not yet down to ten items, but I have spent much less money on clothing in the past year, keeping her tips in mind. 

I wrote about my attempts to shrink my wardrobe here, and it continues to be one of my most popular posts to date! As I said in that post, the result of limiting your wardrobe means getting rid of things you don’t love. Therefore, a smaller wardrobe feels more luxurious than one that is extensive and not half as loved. We humans tend to do better with fewer choices. Did you know that has been proven?

Back to Madame Chic. I am naturally drawn to books about French lifestyle, but this one was different in that it is written by Ms. Scott, an American who lived with a Parisian family as part of a foreign exchange program. I liked that it was written from a perspective of change. Rather than, “this is how we do it”, it came across more as, “this is what I observed and how I changed my mindset”. It was the change that I enjoyed most, I think, as well as Jennifer’s conversational and easy style of writing. 

By the way, if you have not checked out her blog, I recommend you stop what you are doing (well, after you finish reading this, of course) and take a look.

In her book, Ms. Scott has three parts. The first part is devoted to Diet and Exercise, Part Two is Style and Beauty, and Part Three is How to Live Well. I honestly liked every section equally, but Part Two has made the biggest impact in my life.

Here are a few things I learned about style from Ms. Scott’s book:

1) Clothing alterations are key to loving your wardrobe. I have known this for a long time. Stacy and Clinton are big on it, as well as just about every one else who knows anything about looking stylish. So why is it so difficult for me to take that leap into having my clothes tailored? If pants are too long, I do not buy them. Do I even own pants, you ask? I do. But most of them are skinny jeans that I tuck into boots. Problem solved. Except that I own maybe one or two pairs of pants that I don’t have to conceal with boots. I need to expand my options. I don’t want to live my entire life in fear of pants that are too long. So, I am working on this. I am working on making friends with a tailor in my town.

(Side note: this girl is my hero when it comes to forcing clothing into submission. She is so inspiring!)

2) Know what colors look good on you, and stick to that color palette. Even if the ugly color is on sale. Ms. Scott shares a funny story about her host mom (Madame Chic) bluntly informing her that the sweater she is wearing does not look good on her. And, as Ms. Scott says, American girls don’t ever tell each other when something looks bad on them. To be honest, I don’t think I would take it too well if one of my friends told me something looked bad on me (unless it is still in the dressing room). But, I like honesty, and I kind of wish it was completely okay for girls to be more honest with each other about what looks good on them. If it is all toward the end of finding what makes us look our best, why is being honest toward our girl friends so uncomfortable?

My favorite colors to wear are emerald green, deep purples, bright red, navy blue, dark orange, black and white. I look bad in brown and most shades of yellow. I have a brown wrap dress in my closet right now that I have never worn. I bought it because it was BCBG, and on sale. 

3) Stick to the silhouettes that look best on you. Ms. Scott doesn’t actually say that, but it is what I took away from her chats on developing your own personal style. 

Can I just say right now….personal style is not superficial. What I love so much about fashion is that it is a life-long (and ever-changing) process of learning how you wish to present yourself to others. You absolutely cannot avoid being seen by others in a certain light. So, you might as well control it as much as you are able, and enjoy doing it. Developing personal taste separate from what the media tells you you are supposed to like, is challenging and rewarding.

Anyway, back to our topic at hand. This kind of goes back to what I have said before about freeing myself from trends. I like trends. But I don’t have to have them in order to feel good about my style. It is much more rewarding to discover what flatters you most, and to always be on the lookout for what you know will work on your body. That is a sure way to feel good about the way you look, no matter what your shape. It is also a sure way of teaching yourself to say “no” in the dressing room if it is not a perfect fit! And as Stacy and Clinton also say, you are never the problem. It’s the clothes. I like to think of honesty in dressing ourselves as a way to be grateful for what God has given each of us. God did not create everyone tall and skinny for a reason.

Have you read Lessons From Madame Chic? Do you enjoy books about French culture? What are your thoughts on a limited wardrobe? How has your style changed as you have gotten older? Are you honest about what looks good on you (and your friends…)? I would love to know!
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