Friday, December 20, 2013

Forever Chic, a holiday gift...for yourself

I have to say that I am not terribly fond of massive generalizations. There is little that will rile my red-headed ruff more quickly than any phrase containing, "You Americans always..." And yet...and yet...there are some such wide swaths of words that ring true, they just do. Americans are (more often than not)...friendly. French women are (more often than not)...chic. What does that word mean to you? I know what it does to me, most certainly within this context and I'll give you an example to illustrate it. 

When I first moved to Paris from Manhattan twelve years ago, I was struck by the beauty of French women, the way that they put themselves together in a way that didn't necessarily have to do with fashion per se. And yet I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was that made them unique. I was soon introduced to Claudine, a journalist specialized in luxury travel. That first time that I met her, she was wearing simple black pants but with Converse high tops and an artfully deconstructed jacket that, on second glance, I realized was a Yohji Yamamoto. The mix between high and low was dizzying. Not to mention that her hair was beautifully blown-out but she appeared to be wearing no makeup. I couldn't understand much of what she said yet but I watched as she spoke with conviction punctuated with fluid gestures. "How old is she?" I wondered. I had no idea but it didn't matter, really, not in the least. Because she was bien dans sans peau, good in her skin. 

Tish Jett knows all about this concept and understands that being chic is not only about what is happening on the surface but all about the big picture. In her fantastic book, "Forever Chic - Frenchwomen's Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style and Substance" she methodically pops the bubble of the mysterious je ne sais quoi adjective that has always described our Gallic counterparts and while doing so, suggests how French attitudes towards the beauty - of the inside and out kind - can be beneficial for all of us. This wonderful sentence sums up her take well: "Over and over, they prove that what is pleasing to the eye is uplifting to the spirit, and that what is nourishing for the spirit is what makes life worth-living." Wow. Yes, please.

Now here is the thing. Tish, an American journalist and author of the wildly popular blog A Femme d'Un Certain Age, has lived in France for over twenty-five years and has a dizzying resume - she moved here to become the style editor of the International Herald Tribune and was the last editor of American Elle before the magazine was transferred to New York. So she not only has a clearly established point of view based upon extensive experience (I believe that I have already griped about "expat authors" who publish "authoritative" tomes after having trotted through la Belle France for a few months) but she has the Open-the-Doors might to take you right to the very top experts in each field she is discussing (such as Jean-Louis Sebagh for skincare/plastic surgery and Christophe Robin for hair color). Their advice can be surprising and gathered together (something I have never seen before at this level), it is a gold-mine. Plus - and this is something very appealing to me - 90% of the ideas kicked out have nothing to do with "cash flow" as Tish calls it.

With my redhead temper, I hate to be told what to do (just ask Remi) but at the same time, I love to have things clearly broken down for me, to have options. Tish is brilliant at this. Forever Chic is published by Rizzoli and so it is no surprise that the layout is gorgeous and the illustrations that pop up through the river-swift text help the medicine go down. The chapters range from skin and makeup to hair, diet and exercise, wardrobes and accessories to...une mode de vie or way of living, what makes the inner life tick. 

I am 44 and am feeling the physical and mental changes that have arrived already with age. Also in the past year, I have, admittedly, let myself go a bit. Too many days have been spent working in front of the computer sporting yoga pants and that messy Garance Doré bun. When I do make an effort, I feel better about myself. And when I feel better about myself, my confidence lifts and I feel...happier. With her book, Tish is giving us options on how to feel just that, tools for our arsenal if you will. And while the book is geared towards those of us over 40, this advice is certainly applicable to a far younger set (and indeed, Tish mentions how the French start young). 

I was lucky enough to meet Tish and her fabulous daughter Andrea this past summer (they too have a loving and fun Mother-Daughter relationship). I saw first hand that not only does she practice what she preaches but that it works. Like Claudine, she is just...beautiful. I never thought about her age for a moment but rather on what an amazing woman I was spending time with. She is funny, gracious and grounded. Never pretentious or preachy (I threw down "French Women Don't Get Fat" in disgust two chapters in). And generous too. Now I understand why she worked so very hard to make this book happen - and she did - for she wanted to pass on the goods to as many people as possible. Now, for me that is the definition of "forever chic."

While this certainly would make an excellent last minute gift for a girlfriend, Sister or Mom in your life, for my female readers, I think it would be even better...for yourself. Something to read and savor over the holidays in order to run into 2014 with a fresh perspective and a healthy attitude. Pas mal, non?

To buy "Forever Chic":
On Amazon US, it appears to be sold out in print (I told you it was good!) but for a Kindle edition, click here. But on Barnes & Noble there are hardcover editions, click here.
For my French speaking friends, there is availability on Amazon FR here.
For Amazon UK, click here.

To discover Tish's excellent blog: voila

And to read an interesting interview with Tish by the ever faboo Vicki Archer: ta-dah

How is everyone doing? Are you holding up? Enjoy your weekend and don't forget to breathe...only five more days until Christmas...

PS. Thank you all so very much for all of your amazing comments on my previous post. Both my Mom and I were very touched!


Judith Ross said...

Hi Heather, Thanks for this recommendation, I'll definitely check it out! And thank you too for the reminder to breathe. Older son and his girlfriend arrive on Sunday and things have been a lot busier on the work front than they have for sometime (go figure, after leaving me hanging for two months, they finally got their act together this week, just in time for the holidays!) Anyway, I am grateful for the work but will have to re-learn how to fit it around family time. So, yes, breathing is good!

Laoch of Chicago said...

I always suspected that there was some art behind those who seem to just exude savoir-fair and panache.

Gustia said...

I totally need that book but I'd like a French woman's body too. From what I've observed, clothes seem to hang better on French women because, generally speaking, they are smaller framed than most North American women and that seems to make a big difference.... I'm hosting Christmas dinner this year with 5 of my favourite people and two big dogs.

sara tardiff said...

This is the exact kind of book I have been in search for. You are so lucky to get a chance to encounter both her and her daughter! What a treat that must have been.

the worldling

Natalie said...

Hi Heather, your book review is excellent, thank you.
I ordered the book a few weeks ago in hope for an enjoyable holiday read, but apparently it is sold out on too till March (!!!)
Can't wait as I'm a big fan of Tish's writing and personality too.
But I'm wondering if she has also touched the secret how despite all the chic and all je ne sait quoi of French women, two beautiful American ladies has stolen hearts of two wonderful Frenchmen so accustomed to proverbial chic. There must be some je ne sais quoi Americain, n'est pas?

Happy Holidays to you dear Heather.

I Dream Of said...

Hi Heather - I've been wanting a copy of this - wanted the hard copy for the illustrations - but was bummed to see it was sold out on Amazon. Nice to know that B&N has it! I thought it would be a great companion for my week in Paris. I totally get what you're saying about feeling the changes that are inevitable in ones 40s, and the challenges of working from home - I used to play dress up every day for my Nordstrom job, now I spend much of my time in yoga clothes and UGGs. I'm trying to find the right balance between comfort and chic, and feeling good from the inside out. Beauty is in the soul and you have it in spades, my dear.

Merry Christmas to you, Remi and the doggies. Hope the next 5 days - and the rest of 2013 and beyond are magical for you. XOXO

La Contessa said...

All the other FRENCH BLOGS have been suggesting it too but I haven't really listened………..I GOT IT NOW!You got through to me …….YOU RED HEAD FOREVER CHIC AMERICAN GAL STUCK IN FRANCE!I GOT IT!
MERRY MERRY……….and lots of HUGS to those BOYS in your life with four paws!

D A Wolf said...

Yes, yes, yes to everything you said. I am actually still reading Forever Chic, in part because my schedule is absolutely crazy (which you know), but also because I am savoring it.

When is the last time any of us could say that we are purposely reading a book as slowly as possible, because we want to linger over it for both substance and style? That's also what Tish - and her book - embody perfectly.

The marriage of substance and style, which she mentions upfront and which many of us who have been fortunate enough to spend time in France come to understand is part of what a French woman learns early on in life.

So I am hoping that Tish will forgive me my labored pace through her glorious pages, but it is both circumstantial and intentional.

D. A.

Judith Ross said...

I was able to order the book from Amazon here in the U.S. so I guess they have restocked! I'm looking forward to reading it as a break from translating business jargon and acronyms.

silkannthreades said...

Forever Chic is certainly needed here, says she who has slopped about in her pjs all day! Loved your review and the links; particularly enjoyed Tish's comment( in her interview with Vicki) that a smile is like a mini facelift.

Mumbai said...

Too many blogs write about it. Not you too. Indeed nice told but not your topic. I really considered carefully to reply without make a gaffe . Sorry, Heather.

Heather Robinson said...

Isn't that always the way?? Well, hang in there copine, I know that you will make it all work and you know that I am not going to frown on your having work! So breathe and type at the same time! :) And tell yourself that you will have some quiet time in January. I think that you will like the book as I did--so much practical advice.

Heather Robinson said...

Oh my gosh, that almost made me do a spit take with my coffee! Oh just a tiiiiny bit...;)

Heather Robinson said...

Two big dogs? Really? My goodness, they better behave themselves. Whoever is bringing them into your fine shack better have a strict talking to with them!

And yes, French women really do have a genetic advantage, I have to say! All of those straight cut pants are proof! I certainly am a big-boned gal and have to buy mine when I go home to the US...

Heather Robinson said...

It really was. I didn't want the afternoon to end! They are both just so funny and smart. And I hope you like the book Sara! I think its great.

robin said...

Ah, I disagree with Mumbai! LIFE is your topic! Life in France is your topic, the tiny things that make life beautiful is your topic. This sounds like a wonderful book! I agree that French women seem way put together, but I also like the comment above that mention the Frenchmen, Remi included, that have chosen very beautiful soulful American women as their mates! (YOU). Christmastime is a good time to say "thank you" for your year-round gifts to us of visual feasts and reminders of mindfulness! The holiday time is busy here, and nice, but is missing a certain redhead who has that je ne sais quoi - wait, I know what: funny-ness, warmth, beauty, LOVE!!

Heather Robinson said...

Natalie!!! Oh, it is so lovely to see a comment from you here! I hope that you are well and have had a good end of 2013. :)
And you are so sweet. I love your question and bet that Tish would too. Well, we American ladies have our charms for sure...
Happy Holidays to you as well and here is to an excellent 2014!

Heather Robinson said...

As do you, lovely lovely Jeanne. Meeting you was such a treat this year!
I think that you will like the illustrations...they are very "you"! And yes, this will be a good take-along for Paris. You can read and compare those chic ladies as they parade in front of you.
While it is hard to imagine you in UGGs (it really is), it is good to know that I am not alone. I have been making a tiny effort since reading this and it really makes me feel better.
We both have had...interesting years...yes, here is to much happiness for the holidays and for 2014!!!

Heather Robinson said...

Will deliver them!!! And you haven't bought this yet? You will love it. Now, true, you don't need some of this advice as you have it going on already - and I don't think that you will quite buy the "building a wardrobe on neutrals concept" (as I do). But the rest is just really fun.
Lots of Love to you!

Heather Robinson said...

Oh you are right, I am wrong! I read through it so fast--as I wrote to Tish, I couldn't help myself! I am afraid that the whole "discipline" concept is one that I still need to work on. :( But I know that I will go back and reread it and refer to it as well.
Bisous à toi!

Heather Robinson said...

Isn't that fabulous? And so true! I have been tryyying to not hang out in yoga pants all day now. Oof. It is good!

Heather Robinson said...

No need to apologize Mumbai. You were polite and clear in your response. But I don't agree with you, I have to say. If so many of us have written about this book it is because Tish is a dearly loved and respected figure in the blogging community. We weren't asked to write about it or sent copies by Rizzoli, we all just want to--because the book is great. It really is. And honestly, if I thought that a book would be appreciated by my readers on the subject of say, auto mechanics or quantuum physics, then I would suggest that too. While I use my life in France as a basis for the blog, I don't ever want to feel trapped by being "on topic"--so I don't have one! :) Makes life eaiser.
Have a great day,

Tish Jett said...

Darling Heather,

What a wonderful, wonderful review. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Andrea and I had so much fun with you in Arles. We must figure out a way to meet in Paris or in your corner of the world in 2014. Let's make that a resolution.
I hope you, Remi, Ben and Kipling have a lovely, joy-filled Christmas and that the new year will make all your dreams come true. Love, Tishxox

Heather Robinson said...

I love you so much Sister. This brought a wee tear to my eye--it did! Missing you all so much this year. And so I will hear your reminder of gratitude and focus on that. And I agree with you--Life is a good topic indeed Sister. That is why you write such great songs about it. :)

Heather Robinson said...

Oh I am so glad that you enjoyed it Tish. I really enjoyed writing about the book! And wow did you put a lot into it. I know that I will go back to it again and again.

And yes! I would love to make that resolution...either here or there! Love to you and Andrea both and here is to a fantastic 2014 ahead!

Jackie and Joel Smith said...

I've got to say this is the first I've heard of the book. . .that might be counter to Mumbai's comments, but some of us really do read a variety of blogs which provide a snippet of a glimpse into an area or lifestyle, so yours is the one that keeps me abreast of things like this book. I'll have to get a copy. . .if it can tranform this just-turned-60-blue-jean-clad travel blogger into a 'chic' 60 blue-jean-clad-travel blogger then it will be money well spent! I may have to start reading Tish's blog as well! Merry Christmas to you Heather, Remi, Ben and Kipling!
Jackie xo

Loree said...

This is probably a book I need to read. Like you, I love to feel comfortable and lounge around in fleece pants and old sweaters with my hair in a mess (I won't even dare to call it a bun or anything like that) but I secretly admire women who make an effort and always look so very chic. I still have a lot to learn.

helen tilston said...

Hello Heather

You describe Tish's book so very well. I have had my copy for a while and find myself picking up and leafing through and re-reading again and again. Many of her beauty tips are inexpensive or we already have the ingredient in our home.
Are you ready for Christmas? I have not had a chance to read my favourite blogs in a while, hope to catch up over the holidays. Our art show is February and lots of activity and commitments.
My best to you Remi, Ben and Kipling
PS. My art partners and I are coming to Provence in September 2014. Let's meet?

Silke Bauer said...

"...what is pleasing to the eye is uplifting to the spirit, and that what is nourishing for the spirit is what makes life worth-living"

Faut que j'aprenne cette phrase par coeur! C'est formidable! Et j'aime le "redhead-temper"... (;

simpleimages2 said...

Hi Heather,
That inner calm and poise that seems so light: forever chic.
Should I get the book for Mrs. Abstract?
Wonderful review (to add to your many other generous qualities).

Best wishes for Christmas and 2014 to you and Remi.

Heather Robinson said...

Jackie, you are 60??? You look great. :) Well, your happiness and interest in the world shows too! And actually Tish talks about in her book about the importance of being interested and connected as a vital part of staying young. I certainly see that in my Mom--she actually seems younger than I do in that respect most of the time!

I would hiiiigly recommend taking a look at Tish's blog. It is wonderful--she is funny, grounded and tells it like she sees it! And the book is great--I don't know about you, but a lot of these tips did me good--they all make sense, there is no fancy-pants aspect--good for a blue jean clad traveller!

Heather Robinson said...

Oh my gosh, I think that most of us do. But what I like best about the book is not necessarily about "if I follow these tips I will look better" it is "if I follow these tips I will feel better"--I need that! So instead of being in yoga pants, I am in skinny stretch jeans--just as comfortable but at least I feel "dressed", do you know what I mean?

Heather Robinson said...

Are you kidding???? Absolutely!!!! I would LOVE to meet you Helen. Oh and I am just so thrilled for you too. Provence in September is my favorite, it really is. The light is amazing--you will be over the moon for it. Feel free to email me at robinsonheather (at) if I can help in the planning if needed!!

And yes, I have her book on my desk and keep referring to it as well. As someone who is on a nearly inexistant beauty budget, I so appreciate that nearly all of it is not about the money too.
Happy Holidays Helen!

Heather Robinson said...

hehehehe Hélas, ooups...c'est vraie! Et cette phrase...c'est l'essence du livre et j'adore!

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you so much, Edgar. I wish the same for you and Mrs. Abstract. I know that this must be a very important time of year for you both. The bells of St Trophime rang long this morning--so beautiful.

As for the book, you would know better than I if she would appreciate it or not. It is not about "how to stay young" but as you so perfectly understood, about how to lightly be a slightly more pulled together version of yourself so as to better express all of the good inner stuff.

I am sure that you have some lovely gifts up your sleeve already!

Catherine Robinson said...

I will definitely be purchasing Forever Chic, Heather...Tish is an amazing woman and the review you have written here is excellent!
Wishing you a merry christmas and health and happiness for the new year xx

Jackie and Joel Smith said...

Yep, 60! I am concluding the celebratory year: six months leading up to that big round number and the first six months after entering a new decade. Sounds like it is time for Tish's book and blog. Merry Christmas!!

I Dream Of said...

"Interesting" is the right word, I think! Best of times/worst of times for sure. Our day in Arles certainly will be filed under "best!" Merry, merry Christmas and Happy New Year! XO
PS: I'm wearing the UGGs right now - still in my PJs, too! I may be able to be convinced to dress in my holiday best later, but for now I'm pretty happy and cozy!

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you so much, Catherine. I think of YOU as forever chic but I still bet that you would enjoy the book!

Heather Robinson said...

Oooh, I would love to see you decked out in your holiday best! Something tells me you have something pretty amazing... :) And yep, I took time to choose the word "interesting"!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too bella!!!
Need to get you back to Provence....

Heather Robinson said...

That is fantastic Jackie. It sounds like you have a great attitude--I think that makes all the difference!
Merry Christmas to you too!

Silke Bauer said...

I wish you also a very merry Christmas, and all the best for the New Year 2014 for you and your band of four!

mademoisella coquine. said...

What a lovely holiday post. Merry Christmas to you, Remi and the pups. Enjoy! What are you guys doing for NYE?

Thank you for the music. I listened to it while preparing dinner tonight. : )

And you know I loved the redhead-temper bit. Je t'adore. xo.

Heather Robinson said...

Merci beaucoup Silke! Joyeux fêtes à vous aussi!

Heather Robinson said...

Je t'adore aussi! Just as you are. :)
We are off to the rental cabanon soon and for NYE. After all those years in NYC I like a quiet beginning of the new year and there is no place better! Cooking, naps, fire in the fireplace, repeat!
Wishing you a festive one though Miss, mix up those cocktails and enjoy!!!