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.
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.