Book Review: Lessons From Madame Chic

The ten-item wardrobe.

I recently heard of this idea when browsing Ted Talks about minimal living. In this video, Jennifer Scott, the author of Lessons From Madame Chic and other similar books, talks about the French 10-item wardrobe. Ten isn’t really a magic number or anything, but she discusses what she observed in France, and in this chapter, about how the French approach their wardrobe. According to Scott, it is common for the French to have classic, quality pieces that they love, and to wear them over and over again on heavy rotation. This is quite different than what Americans do: try to wear an item no more than once a week! Her TedTalk intrigued me, and so I bought her book, Lessons From Madame Chic, in which she discusses all the lifestyle lessons she learned while studying abroad in France.


The most important lessons I learned from her book

  1. Live with less, live with better.

Going back to the ten-item wardrobe idea, Scott learned to live with less stuff, but better stuff. This means high quality clothes that suit you, that flatter you, and that are timeless pieces you will own for the rest of your life. Don’t buy into passing fashions and trends, as you will waste not only your time and energy but your money as well. Commit to a smaller, curated wardrobe or a capsule wardrobe. Try not to have too many duplicates. Only own things that you actually, regularly wear.

2. Identify your own unique, personal style of living.

In her book, Scott talked about the two French women who had the most inspiration for her in her time studying abroad: Madame Chic, and Madame Bohemienne. As you can probably guess from these names, these two women had different sorts of styles. Madame Chic was sophisticated, polished, with aristocratic roots. Madame Bohemienne was freer, and more casual and lively. Both women had defined their sense of style, yes, but also their way of living. One, reserved and educated and refined. The other, free and vivacious. They both attracted likewise people in their friend groups, conducted their parties and social times in that vein, and lived their lives like that, comfortable and confident in their way of living. It teaches us all that no matter how we might like to live, we should identify it and revel in it!

3. Don’t save your best for that perfect day.

Don’t save your best clothes, wine, china, and glasses for special occasions — make every day a special occasion! Dress for each family dinner, use your best even on a Tuesday night. Find ways to make each and every day special, because life is precious, and should be celebrated!


4. “Clutter is not chic.”

A direct quote from her book! Clutter is so not chic. Don’t have knickknacks and useless clutter strewn around your house. Only own things that are useful, enrich your life, or that you use every day. And in addition, have an exact place to put them all. They should not live on kitchen counters and coffee tables. They should all have a specific home they are returned to when not in use.

5. Enrich your life with arts, not celebrities and TV.

Read, go to independent films, go to art galleries and museums, go to local plays! Enrich your life with the arts! Don’t waste your time worrying over reality TV shows, celebrity drama, even gossip in your own personal circles. If you and your friend enrich your life with more meaningful things, you will have more meaningful interactions and discussions! Just think, you could all sit around and discuss Tchaikovsky, not which Kardashian got plastic surgery that day.

6. Entertain worry-free!

Entertain more! Invite your friends over for dinner parties—and do your best, and don’t get worried and stressed about making the evening perfect! It’s about being together, not being the perfect host.

7. Dress up even for the “everyday” things.

Take the time to go the extra step. Put on that lipstick even when you’re going to the grocery store. You never know who you might meet, what could happen. And you will be more confident and walk taller because of it! It will make shopping feel like a special occasion.

8. Live slow, live more consciously.

Try not to rush, rush, rush, and go, go, go. Take a deep breath. Take time to sit and savor your food. Look at what’s around you. Who you’re sitting with. What you’re eating or drinking. What film you are watching, what wine you are tasting. Life is special, and we should be present for every moment.

These are the lessons I took away from this book. I’m sure there are many, many more that others could conclude from it, but these were the highlights from me! It makes me want to do a closet overhaul and try a more scaled down, higher-quality wardrobe, or a capsule wardrobe. Makes me want to become a wine connoisseur. Did you learn different things from this book? What were they?

I thought this book had valuable lessons that we as Americans (or Canadians, or British…) can learn from another culture. Some of these ideas were simply things I had never thought about doing before. It made me think about my own life a little bit, and if I was living consciously enough! At times her tone can seem a little pretentious, if I may say so, but I think she’s coming from the best place, as she says herself that she was not very chic when she first went to Paris! She has great ideas and she seems like a lovely, relatable person.

I loved this book, and I advise everyone to read it! Link is below (not affiliate)!

Book referenced: Lessons From Madame Chic, by Jennifer L. Scott. All of the ideas above from her book are hers and hers alone!