I am a huge fangirl of lifestyle books.  I like to read about capsule wardrobes, and unique organizing systems.  I love to read about how to make your home chic, and how to throw an amazing dinner party. I love to read about beauty routines, and how people pamper themselves.  I may not actively choose to do all these things, but the joy in reading about them…priceless.

I recently read “Living Forever Chic: Frenchwomen’s Timeless Secrets for Everyday Elegance, Gracious Entertaining, and Enduring Allure” by Tish Jett (2018- Rizzoli). I want to be elegant everyday!  I want to enduringly alluring! I don’t want to entertain, but I can skim that…. So you see- I went into this book with certain expectations. I went into page 1 as a lump of clay, and I expected to come out as a beautiful and unique sculpture. And I as sit here writing in my bathrobe and fluffy slippers- I don’t know if I’ve succeeded…

L’art de vivre is loosely translated as the art of living. But can you teach someone the art of living? And more importantly, do people need to be taught how to live?

I get sucked into the philosophy of these books because I am always trying to live my life more minimally and simply. And this book does do that..to a certain extent. The capsule wardrobe is explored- have ten or twenty great pieces and manipulate them to form many different looks and outfits.  Buy quality over quantity.  Alter clothes so they fit perfectly. Stick with a neutral color palette.  Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize. This is truly my goal: I want to own no more than ten articles of clothing per season, and just be able to take five minutes to pick out an outfit, yet look fabulous.

Yet, here’s where they start to lose me: the author advocates always being “dressed”.  She writes in slacks and loafers.  She puts an apron on over her good, expensive clothes when cooking.  I just don’t think this is practical. I write in my bathrobe, or in my gym clothes, or in sweats and a t shirt. When I begin to cook dinner I change into a gross t shirt (I am not the neatest cook in the world). I am a true believer in comfortable, junky clothes. If I’m watching TV at night, I don’t want to be in slacks and a blouse… So does this mean I’m not effortlessly elegant?

And let’s delve into the household aspect for a second.  I do not iron my 8000 thread count sheets and spritz them with lavender water. I know.  You’re wagging your finger at me, asking me how I can exist like this….here’s a secret- I own very nice sheets but they are by no means the equivalent cost of a mortgage payment… I wash my sheets…I put them back on the bed…I sleep fine.  But I guess not elegantly.

I also do not have an armoire filled with table linens and different baskets and things that can be used as a centerpiece on my tablescape.  I have a vase that I fill with flowers. For Thanksgiving I throw a couple of gourds in the middle of the table.  At Easter I put some plastic eggs…You’re beginning to get the idea of how I entertain…Elegant? Not even a bit…

I don’t make my own potpourri. Apparently, there is no way I can master l’art de vivre without drying petals…Here’s the thing: I am all for a simple, sophisticated lifestyle. But once I need to start making my own potpourri, I’ve lost the simple. It starts to veer off into territory I don’t want to explore…

Then there’s the charm part.  I am not Princess Charming.  I am Queen Sarcasm. I don’t know how to “small talk”. I do not know how to start conversations with strangers.  I am great with people that I know- I can talk to them for hours.  But put me at a cocktail party with people I don’t know….I freeze. I revert to “Wow- can you believe how windy it was today?” I can read books about how to talk to people, but that doesn’t mean I can actually do it…Elegance….fail.

So….

Am I more elegant or alluring since I read this book? No.  Probably not.

Did I enjoy parts of this book? Yes.  Very much so.

Did some parts of the book make me want to throw my ipad across the room.  Yes.

And I guess that’s the thing about lifestyle books: we read the parts that are important to us, and we skim over what doesn’t work. No one lifestyle book is going to work for anyone because we are al unique people: we are not one size fit all.  We all have things that work for us, and we shouldn’t change it just because a book, or website or blog says that we should.  The art of living is when you figure out a way of life that fits you, brings out the best in you, makes you feel confident and at ease. It makes you internally elegant and alluring. So write your own art of living book, even if it’s just for you.

44 thoughts on “The Lifestyle

  1. “The art of living.” I remember my husband worked with a French woman and I became friends with her and her husband. I always admired how much style she could pack into the few clothes she brought with her. Part of her style was being so thin and just effortlessly chic. I interviewed her for a cultural project I was doing for grad school at the time. She had some very different politics than me at the time. As time went on, she got divorced, had a child, moved back to Paris, and we keep in touch through facebook. I kept those interview notes and the paper. In her pictures, I see her life has become intensely more frenzied. It is interesting but most curiously, I am still fascinated not so much by her politics and if they have changed but her clothes. What is she wearing? I smile thinking of this.

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  2. Amen sister!
    Perhaps that’s the beauty of cherry picking from you reading. What your soul craves is meaningful to you, the rest entertaining, educational, but not all that important.
    I love every single thing about this! Because that’s real life!
    Keep being you! Keep being real!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I knew a girl in highschool who had German parents. Immigrated from Germany before the kids were born…the typical, house-wife and go to work husband German couple. Extremely efficient in all things household. She cooked and cleaned and everything was always in order, clean, organized, on time. He was the same at work (own business), and with the man-jobs (the car, the house, the maintenance were his).

    They did not live frivolously. They were frugal, practical, efficient. First, pay off house, then invest in vacations. That kind of thing. Camping, not hotel first when taking the kids on vacation. Later, a cottage built with cash, not credit. It made an impact on me.

    I am not like this. I melt down when the clutter threatens to suffocate me. So I read books, blog posts, etc on how to be minimalist, efficient, organized. I want to be inspired, and invigorated by all the ideas so I can unplug myself and go DO it.

    I succeed sometimes. But never to all of it. But I still enjoy the reading. And I know there are others who live that life, but it is not me. Probably never will be.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I really enjoy reading the books. There’s an inner need to be efficient and organized. And sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail. This book annoyed me because it was a little too much for me. I guess because I find reading and photography to be fun and how I want to spend my free time. And I’m also not into home decorating. I’m function over form all the way…

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  4. It’s just like reading Martha Stewarts magazine. Something catches my eye on the cover, but then as you begin to read about her monthly event calendar and browse through her pages of DIY crafts for the perfect fall table or her extensive, but so simple to achieve Thanksgiving menu, my idealistic thoughts all take a nose-dive. Do I really want to be Martha…no, I think that I’ll pass thanks.

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    1. That’s just it. There are little snippets that are wonderful and great as things I’d like to achieve. But the whole picture doesn’t work for me. It’s pretty to look at, but on th3 whole….not so me….

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  5. That was a great review, and exactly how I think about those books. I enjoy reading them for inspiration but also think parts of them are impractical. I had the same problem with the Madam Chic series, as I could not imagine wearing an apron over an A-line skirt and sweater and pearls, to clean house or cook! For one thing I hate A-Line skirts and don’t think they look good on anyone, my cooking skills are poor and I dust as little as possible. And while I like my house to look neat and uncluttered, part of being able to relax in your own home, is casual clothes. I remember in the Madam Chic book, the author coming home early one day from school and the French dad had his shirt untucked and his feet up on the coffee table drinking a beer, so I wondered then if it was just an effort they put on for her because they had an American exchange student staying with them. (Still the five course meals on fine china every night were appealing, esp as someone else had cooked them!) Does anyone really live like that all the time, or does it just sell books, with the promise that everyone can have this kind of lifestyle. Still I enjoy them…..I just received her first book, Forever Chic from the inter-library loan, but have not started it yet, because a whole stack of bestsellers came in at the same time Jodi Picoult’s latest A Spark of Light was marvelous, and am almost done Kate Morton’s The ClockMaker’s Daughter also a great read. I find that kind of lifestyle book, a light entertaining read for those nights when I don’t want to stay up late with some novel I can’t put down! Anyway, it was great reading your review. Your blogs are always thought-provoking.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! I just finished “the lost for words bookshop” which is light but entertaining. I will continue to read these books because they are fun and give one side if my brain a rest…but I have to read it with a grain of salt…and reality check. The cooking in jewelry always kills me….first off….I’ve almost burned myself because the metal gets hot….I was stirring soup with a necklace on…ouch….

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Definitely, my favorite part is this – The art of living is when you figure out a way of life that fits you, brings out the best in you, makes you feel confident and at ease. It makes you internally elegant and alluring.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. My sister subscribes to the “core wardrobe” idea —- have X amount of pieces that mix and match. She keeps a list of what she needs and needs to replace. She’s not attached to THINGS like I am, therefore it’s easier for her to live minimally. I think living this way is ok, but I’m such an eclectic person that mixing outfits with the same clothes goes against my “vibe.” I mean, what if it’s the blue skirt/white button-down day but I’m not in the mood? And my decorating style is maximalist — and super eclectic. On Pinterest, I have boards on boho living and Gothic Victorian glam living. I feel like I’m a multiple personality sometimes LOL!

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  8. “The art of living is when you figure out a way of life that fits you, brings out the best in you, makes you feel confident and at ease.” Yep. I never could get into the “style” concept. I gotta be me. Happy Friday.

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  9. I do like to read French lifestyle and French parenting style books. I’m about obsessed with France for some reason. I would love to live with just a few key clothes in my wardrobe that I could juzch up (how do you spell that??). My wardrobe does consist of casual cool I think, and I will don an apron every once in a while!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I don’t mind aprons….it’s the thought of cooking in nice clothes that gets me….I’ve ruined t shirts with splatter, much less good stuff…and for the record…how can we not be obsessed with the country filled with bread and pastry? France is amazing!
      ,

      Liked by 1 person

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