Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Book Review: Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic

I highly recommend Jennifer L. Scott's latest book Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic: Lessons in Everyday Elegance. This third installment in the Madame Chic series focuses on poise, that admirable "certain something" an individual may possess. Such a comprehensive take on the topic, I don't believe that she left anything out! From how to walk in heels to how to eat difficult foods, this book is overflowing with tips. Her anecdotes are well chosen and make me feel like I can relate and furthermore, actually cultivate poise for myself in my real life. Living in a chic manner means practicing poise. In reading this book, I had the following thoughts...

First of all, while reading, I'm exclaiming "study abroad changes lives!" in my mind. Like Jennifer, I'm not the same person I was prior to spending some time in a foreign country. After studying in Pescara, Italy, my days are now infused with an Italian sweetness. This particular experience has the power to transform you. If you have not read any of the Madame Chic series (do!), you should know that Jennifer's host mother during her semester abroad in Paris is Madame Chic. This woman serves as the author's example on how to live well. Now, Jennifer is not only an example herself to her fans, but she wholeheartedly promotes her important message. The author wants her reader to then be an example for his or her "viewers," the people who see and hear you. The author urges that anyone can achieve poise as well as the life you have always dreamed of. In changing your life, you also "change the world" (269). She closes the book with this incredible thought.

I have long hoped to become a charming person. After reading this book, I realize that being poised is what I meant. I desire to be an amazing hostess whenever I entertain. In everyday life, I wish to speak well, maintain calmness during a frustrating conversation, keep eye contact, and simply be adored. I also want to look the part, both in my personal appearance and in my home. Jennifer stresses that this trait is always a work-in-progress. As an INFJ, I prefer things finished, but I need to consider all this more a journey than a destination. Thankfully, I am not a beginner in terms of cultivating poise, but I can still learn a lot from this fantastic book. If you want any of those things too, then I suggest you pick up a copy of this handbook because she covers them.

Another excellent point Jennifer makes is to practice poise even when no one is watching, including at home alone, because this is when you are your most authentic self. Making something a habit means it's natural to you. (Check out the self-discipline series on her blog The Daily Connoisseur.) Then, this routine easily sets you up for public behavior. I live alone and work close to where I live, so I spend a major amount of time without anyone around, making this point of what you do in private matters more crucial. My posture while dining is awful. Tired from my productive day, I hunch over my meal, elbows or forearms leaning on the table edge. This is certainly an area where I can employ some self-discipline. Jennifer writes, "By sitting up straight, you will elevate the elegance of your meal" (119). I should try to improve my posture in order to lead a more chic life.

Like Jennifer, Paris left a major impression on me. The city is truly all about beauty, from the little things like breads to the big things like bridges. Now that I've visited, I feel like I have a delicious secret: I've seen the beauty that is Paris. In this guide, Jennifer says the first thing to concentrate on is appearance. To make an effort. She pushes her readers to put their best foot forward. This is a very Italian idea, fare la bella figura, literally means "to make a beautiful figure." Even though I have heard her consistent refrain of "look presentable always" before, do I think she should have left it out? Definitely not. It's important and she explains it effectively. This is crucial for those who have just discovered this blogger/author. Also, I think Jennifer's devoted fans will still find plenty of new takeaways in this book. Anyway, she urges the reader to put some thought into her own style via the ten-item wardrobe. A poised person is "appropriately dressed for every occasion" (51). I enjoyed the included ways to tie a scarf, complete with directions. I wear a scarf almost every day during the fall, winter and spring, but wear it the same way. From clothes to cups, Jennifer insists that an individual uses her best everyday. If she does, then her comfort zone will be grow bigger soon ...which makes perfect sense! Throughout the book, she even addresses that negative voice in your head, how to get you to move past the objection, from dressing yourself to entertaining others. Making things and experiences beautiful is worth it.

The author does provide a specific challenge: to invite someone over for tea. I grew up drinking iced sweetened Lipton black tea at the family dinner table. In my own apartment home, I have the decaffeinated variety of these tea bags stored in an apothecary jar inside my kitchen cabinet. Other than those two things, I've never been really into tea. This subject does pique my interest though... I think I might actually do it. Since reading the book, I have prepared for such an event in several ways. First, I pinned a couple of tea party ideas on Pinterest (here and here) and googled how to serve the beverage. Today, I purchased a box of Twinings Irish Breakfast tea bags to start. (On a budget and while saving money, I tend to purchase pantry items a little at a time.) Having installed a tea kettle on my shopping wish list on my phone, I bet I could pick up a shiny red one from HomeGoods or Target... I only have white cups and saucers, but since my mother is an antique dealer, I could possibly do the mismatched thing. For years, I've owned a plain tiered tray from Ikea that's still in the box. Once assembled, I picture this tray holding a few delicacies. I love my grocery store's simple chicken salad which I could put on slices of baguette with the crusts cut off. Or perhaps I could serve "panini" (or maybe just good ungrilled bread) with roasted red pepper, mozzarella, prosciutto and basil or arugula? My new recipes include cranberry scones and coffee cake, which would work well for afternoon tea. To possibly accompany the scones, I added Bonne Maman preserves to My Cartwheel (app at Target). Trying something new while eating through tiers of savory and sweet food sounds pretty good to me! Thanks for the idea, Jennifer!

Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic is a lovely book and reading it was a simple pleasure of mine. Jennifer is passionate about this subject and that certainly comes through in this inspiring book. If you haven't already, definitely read it. I also hope it is as life-changing for you as I predict it will be for me. #madamechic

*Edit: Grazie, Jennifer for mentioning this post on facebook and for your kind words.


  1. You do the best reviews Michelle! I have read and love Polish Your Poise already however your enthusiastic words make me appreciate Jennifer's book even more. I love your entertaining plans too. Well done on a very informative review.

    1. Thank you! :) They are a bit of work for me, but I am happy to write about a favorite topic. I am passionate about reading. I'm working on my review of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, so that will be next. I am also already putting together a winter reading list. I have four titles, but want to list two more. If you have any suggestions, I would love to know!

      I mentioned that my mom is an antique dealer, and she generously gave me two beautiful antique tea cups and saucers today. The bone china pieces have flowers. She said I could have another one in her booth at an antique mall (if it doesn't sell) when she visits it at the end of the month. I could actually invite someone over for tea...