Tish Jett’s Forever Chic: Frenchwomen’s Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style and Substance is a terrific read and a resource you will return to again and again. And if you’re looking for the perfect gift for a female friend who is a lover of style, France, or both, this book is just the ticket.
Targeting her message at women “of a certain age,” Tish goes beyond formulaic tips and tricks. She delivers a lifestyle and beauty bible — a matter of impeccable taste — chock full of wisdom gleaned from a career in fashion journalism and more than 25 years living in France.
A longtime writer and editor whose impressive credentials include Women’s Wear Daily, W, the Chicago Tribune, and American Elle in Paris (to name only a few), Tish covers a range of subjects. She addresses skin and hair care, diet and exercise, makeup and fragrance, wardrobe wizardry, manners, conversation and more, as each nugget of well-researched advice features a healthy spoonful of the writer’s own irrepressible charm.
Interspersed are recommendations from experts, personal anecdotes, and thoughts on everything from the phenomenal French pharmacy system (where magic seems to happen) to the occasional hit of historical context that some of us find fascinating.
Take, for example, this tip from the chapter on Le Macquillage (makeup):
Every woman needs two lipsticks, the experts agree. They should be in the rose family — there is a rose, bunches of roses actually, out there for everyone — a lighter shade for day, a deeper, richer tone for evening…
In the 18th century, the color of the woman’s lips indicated her social position. Among les dames de la cour, pomegranate was the predominant color; among the bourgeoisie, it was a clear red; violet was reserved for women with dubious reputations…
In the same chapter, Tish reminds us that exceptions are always welcome; after all, the French are fans of individualism, and some of us are made to “break the rules.”
On Diet Discipline and the French Figure
In an entertaining chapter on Le Régime (the diet), Tish serves up a selection of secrets to the Frenchwoman’s fine figure, and the habits that are de rigueur in maintaining it. She tells us that French women “eat with pleasure at every meal” and furthermore, we should “have chocolate without remorse.”
But she scolds us, juste un peu:
SIT DOWN WHEN YOU EAT. I have never seen a Frenchwoman eat standing up in her kitchen – or anywhere else for that matter. Yes, you know this, but it eclipses mindfulness, and mindfulness is our new way to live…
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. A Frenchwoman stops at or before the point of feeling full…
On a personal note, in all my séjours in France, I have always found these rules to be rigorously followed; eating well and mindfully is a way of life that yields rewards, as Frenchwomen know.
Real, Practical, Manageable
One of the most reassuring aspects of Forever Chic is the implicit understanding of the realities that “women of a certain age” face, including our multiplicity of roles, even if (in Tish’s words) “the last time we saw forty, it was on a speedometer.” If you are a regular reader of Tish’s blog (as am I), you know that this author’s life is happily full, occasionally hectic, and in general, very busy — just like ours.
A healthy and beautiful life must therefore be real, practical, and manageable. In that light, Tish’s detailed tips reflect the fact that specifics help us make the best choices, most of us must watch our budgets, and we all live with a variety of constraints. (Frenchwomen are nothing if not grounded.) Upping our game involves more than the right products or the latest fashion fads, and is certainly affordable.
As an example, consider this:
A major reason French women of a certain age often appear younger than their years is the way they move. They have terrific posture — standing and sitting — and unless the Frenchwoman is strolling with a man or gossiping with her best friend, she tends to lope rather than walk down the street… One has the impression she is on her way to an adventure… Need I add that her posture and purposeful strides make her clothes look smart and stylish?
Life Lessons A-Plenty
How critical is self-confidence?
Very. It’s a topic that arises so often for women, in discussions of first impressions and likewise, when it comes to what makes a woman sexy. But what if we don’t have a budget for the finer things? What if life is tossing troubles our way? How do we generate or maintain self-confidence then?
In another life lesson that we should take to heart:
Radiant self-confidence is a big part of Frenchwomen’s success. But perhaps what many of us don’t realize is that pragmatism is also a crucial factor… Their pragmatic nature makes them resilient on the one hand and flexible on the other. Growing older is not without obstacles, but Frenchwomen expect obstacles. Happily ever after does not exist in the real world, but beauty, substance, joy, culture, and the ability to accommodate and accept these realities can make for a rich, fulfilling life.
Pragmatism. Reality. These can and do coexist with beauty and joy, a fact that American pop culture frequently ignores, and French culture embodies.
We’ve seen extraordinary examples of this resilience in recent weeks and months.
Qualities and Quality
Perhaps it takes maturity to fully savor our most precious moments. This too is one of the lessons that Forever Chic shares, as Tish elaborates on the importance of cultivating beauty from within, the advantages of attention to appearance (without becoming a slave to it), the power of proper manners, and the pleasure to be had in the art of conversation.
Let’s also remember that French women appreciate good food (and moderate amounts of wine), they engage in exercise (even if walking to do their errands), and they value their friendships and family. If this book is a primer in mastering the ageless appeal of French women, then the true secret ingredients are revealed as the author instructs us to live with love and purpose, and in no uncertain terms, she notes that “charm, grace, poise and wit” bear no expiration dates.
In the end, it’s not about anti-aging. No matter what we do, time marches on. It’s all about taking care of ourselves, improving our minds as well as our spirits (and our style of course)…
This book, like the woman who penned it, is the real deal — smart, sophisticated, and savvy; warm, witty, and wise.
How many ways can I rave about this book? (Countless.)
How many pages could I point to and gush “Oh, you must read this little bit?” (Each and every one.)
How many times have I picked up this book and opened anywhere just for pleasure?
More than I can say.
Even as an object, Forever Chic exudes quality. Its pages are perfection in texture and weight; its font and formatting reflect meticulous attention to detail; and whimsical illustrations add a hint of merriment.
The beauty and lifestyle secrets in Forever Chic are, as billed, timeless. In the talented hands of Tish Jett, they deliver a delicious mélange of two cultures: clarity of objectives, delight in discovery, and a “can-do” attitude that are quintessentially American; authority without pretension, charm that is never disingenuous, and self-deprecating humor that are very much French.
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