Living Forever Chic
Tish Jett’s newest book, “Living Forever Chic, Frenchwomen’s Timeless Secrets for Everyday Elegance, Gracious Entertaining and Enduring Allure” is finally here! This was a labor of love for Tish, and that comes through in every chapter.
In Living Forever Chic, Tish looks at the French idea of L’Art de Vivre (the Art of Living) as it applies to entertaining, homemaking, cooking, as well as beauty and style. She conducted dozens of interviews from a range of experts for this book, and shares a wealth of their knowledge.
But if you are afraid this will be a collection of intimidating French imperatives, pas du tout! Simplicity is at the heart of l’art de vivre. In every chapter, Tish includes a few actionable tips that are quick and easy to incorporate, such as how to remove common stains using ingredients on hand in most kitchens, or how to select and serve cheeses. I’ve bookmarked several that I’ll be trying soon!
I’ve known Tish for several years now. She is one of the most naturally charming and gracious people I’ve ever met and I count her among my dearest friends. Being able to spend time with her in person is always a delight and a highlight of my trips to Paris. Her warm and personable style comes through in every paragraph of this book. I was delighted when she agreed to do an interview, and answered my questions so thoughtfully.
L’Art de Vivre
Susan: You’ve lived in France and have been immersed in the culture for decades. During your research for the book, was there anything you learned about French culture (or lifestyle) that surprised you?
Tish Jett: In pondering your question I realized it would be more accurate to say that what I discovered in the many interviews in the book is confirmation of what I have been observing and experiencing after living in France for more than 30 years.
Let me explain. What I see, and what almost everyone with whom I spoke emphasized, was how history, culture, politesse, elegance, a reverence for intellect, and a deep appreciation for looking at our experiences through a philosophical lens seem to be the formula for a life well lived.
I have come to understand and deeply appreciate how the past enriches the present, how good manners, good books, good food, and good wine make life infinitely more pleasant.
Perhaps one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that joy is sustainable, while happiness is a momentary (though undeniably agreeable) sensation and that we can bring joy into our lives every day in small sustainable ways from a simple, delicious meal shared at table with family on a Tuesday night to putting on lipstick and facing the world.
Among my friends and acquaintances I see how they accept with seeming equanimity the most difficult moments in their lives. Two of my very best friends say they find respite in small, purposeful gestures and routines that prove to them that they can control details that give them comfort and, yes, a certain joy.
One, now very much alone, takes her three dogs into the forest and watches them frolic. She tells me when she returns home she is refreshed and hopeful. The other has lived through terrible illnesses herself and with her husband. Her joy inducing strategy is arranging bouquets throughout her house and throwing small dinner parties. She admits it takes effort to entertain, but finds the benefits are worth it.
S: Have you incorporated any changes to your daily routines as a result of researching and writing this book?
TJ: To my great surprise I actually did.
I say that because I thought after the interviews in my first book combined with those in this one, and before that from my every day observations and experiences, that I had “gotten the message” and incorporated the best of the best into my life, but I seem to be a slow learner.
This is what I’ve done recently:
- Started to entertain again, slowly, but with resolve.
- Seriously emptied my closets. I realized how unhappy it was making me to look into the abyss seeing all the clothes I haven’t worn for years and never will. It was liberating once I got over my initial “had a good time in you” emotion.
- Completely purged, partially restocked, and perfectly rearranged the linen closet. I actually open the doors just to look at my beautiful handiwork.
- Started writing real, though short, put a stamp on it, take it to the post office, notes. (I have beautiful engraved notecards and stationery that have been languishing unused for years.)
- Remind myself to sit up straight.
S: It seems that much of l’art de vivre is about slowing down, appreciating, and paying attention to the everyday details of life. For those of us still caught up in a fast-paced and multi-tasking life, do you have any tips or “baby steps” to help us begin to shift gears?
TJ: You’re absolutely right.
L’art de vivre is part of the French DNA, but like the rest of us many struggle with the pressure and stress of the quotidian.
One of my favorite French expressions is the ironic, “Why make it simple when you can make it complicated?”
The message is clear: “Keep it simple.” In fact, “simple” was a recurring theme throughout my interviews.
I was told: Learn how to quickly make a few simple meals; pare down beauty routines; say “no” when someone wants to steal precious time; and don’t ever under-estimate the time-saving power of good organization from closets to the larder.
Then there is Sunday lunch. It’s the moment when everyone slows down, consumes a lovely meal with family and friends and truly takes the time to relax, enjoy good food, and talk. Out in the country where we live, Sunday lunches are often followed by long walks in the forest. The French love fresh air.
I think the reason why the French are struggling with laws about opening stores on Sundays is that it is not a day to shop, but rather because an important time to recharge, relax, and reunite with the important people in their lives.
S: Tell me about your ideal day in Paris…where do you go, what do you do?
TJ: My ideal day in Paris is meeting a girlfriend or girlfriends for a long lunch at some great people watching restaurant or bistro. (You know, like we do Susan.)
I love the idea of talking about the latest news, be it fashion or politics, and observing what stylish Frenchwomen at the other tables are wearing. It’s all about the shared experience of Paris – I never get over my excitement about being in Paris – and reconnecting with a friend.
In answering this seemingly simple question I realize that in the past I would have answered very differently. I would have talked about going to the designer collections, shopping, dressing up for big parties. . . but now my favorite Paris moments are lunches with friends. If we go to an exhibition together, all the better.
Mille mercis, Tish, for the wonderful interview! If you’re interested in everyday elegance and L’Art de Vivre, then Living Forever Chic should be on your fall reading list.
You can read Tish’s blog HERE.