Friday, July 1, 2011

Reader Question

Wendy from Canada wrote and asked me -

"How do you regain your chicness when you have "fallen off the wagon"? For example, last Fall I bought some new clothes, improved my hair and makeup, lost a few pounds and had been doing a lot of interesting reading about the chic lifestyle. I felt really good!

Now I am feeling blah- don't feel chic at all. Just received some recent photos of myself from a family dinner where I look terrible (of course my sister circulated them widely.)

Does this happen to you? How do you get the chic feeling back?

How do the French gals keep feeling chic consistently? Constantly buying new things and treatments is not an option for me.

I think this question is such a great one. I know exactly what you mean about things being blah. I highly doubt French girls buy new things and have treatments to feel better. They don't throw away their money like we (I) do (used to).

In your family photos do you mean you look unchic because you have gained weight and your clothes don't look as good as you imagined? I usually find this is the main thing - I have been slack with my chic eating and kilos sneak on. Well they don't sneak on, but I ignore them for a while. Or sometimes the way I've done my hair is not flattering (usually from doing the least I can get away with - terrible!).

Just as you have listed what you did last year - buying some new clothes, improving hair and makeup, watching what you eat and becoming a bit slimmer in the process and keeping up with your reading, I think you may have answered your own question. You probably won't need to spend any money though - you already have the new clothes, it's just a matter of fitting better into them.

I think for me I get all enthused at a change and after a while it becomes routine, but rather than let it stay as my new 'French-inspired regime' I slip back to old habits. We have to remind ourselves constantly, and re-remember what it was that inspired us - go back to the books or websites you read.

Anne Barone is where my initial excitement for the French life came from and I still get a thrill picking up one of her books. It brings back to me that magical feeling that I had from discovering something new and fun.

Printouts I have kept, magazine articles I have torn out and books I have in my home library all remind me and re-excite me too. Can you remember where it was first that you heard about chic French women, the European way of life, being chic and slim? Try going back there.

And of course, maybe you are just tired out and a bit overwhelmed if you have a lot on your plate. It’s amazing how fast good intentions of chic changes fly out the window when life happens. In that case it’s a matter of dealing with what you have to and making the most of what little energy you have left. Keeping up with the basics of self-care is a good goal during busy times.

Making lists of how I want to be is a great inspirer too. I make lists of the attributes that my most elegant self possesses, my ideal Paris girl wardrobe, how my dream home looks and functions, just to name a few. Reading through them helps me want to be that way and resist temptation or make the extra effort. At the very least I can daydream.

Think of yourself as a project and advise yourself accordingly as if you were a wise, older (probably French) girlfriend. What would you say? It is so easy to give others advice, and it is quite effective to view yourself from without. I always come up with really good ideas for myself (whether I take them on is another matter altogether).

Even at the end of the day it’s not too late to start afresh. If your day has been frazzled and stressful, why not choose an early night over opening a kingsize bar of chocolate and reality tv. How much more nicer (and infinitely more chic) would it be to wash your face and then read in your tidied-up bedroom with soft music playing.

And then, there is always the option of being realistic. It’s quite a relief to think ‘I don’t have to be anyone other than who I am. I can make the most of what I have and be happy with that.’ After all, what is more attractive than a big smile and healthy self-confidence about a person. Sometimes when I’m sure people are looking at me thinking ‘who does she think she is’ (and I am feeling suitably intimidated), how are we to know they are not thinking the exact same thing?

Wendy, I hope these ideas have been helpful. I would also ask my lovely readers if they have any suggestions for Wendy and the rest of us. How do you get that chic feeling back when you are feeling less than motivated?

Image from Paris Daily Photo


  1. Spending money on new clothes is not going to work unless they're a few well-chosen classics which can be worn over years.

    For me to feel chic it takes this: I need to feel comfortable in what I'm wearing regardless of the size on the label. I always wear a bit of make up, never leave the house without at least mascara and lipstick. I always wear perfume. I always wear a bit of jewellery. My shoes need to be clean. I wear a scarf of some sort pretty much every day. Jeans, a simple t-shirt, Converse and a blazer are comfortable, classic and chic. Have a rest, a glass of wine and smile - it works!

    These things are of course only my own opinion, but they work for me. Have a great weekend. Love from London xo

  2. What a great question and answer. I enjoyed reading this. The only thing I can add is to realize that it comes through the sum of small actions every day and it requires regular maintenance. For me, I need to be aware of it daily, or I slip into old habits, so re-reading the books that inspire me, or making a conscious effort to be more chic steers me in the right direction.

  3. I find it most difficult to stay in those French chic habits when I have a terrible hangover. Like today. Getting dressed was a monumental effort. I don't feel chic at all.

  4. Fiona, Your answer is lovely. It shows a forgiving spirit, as well encourages the spirit of rediscovering what stimulates and inspires.

    I find it important to invest in my favorite *daily* things. Beautiful tea, since I drink green/red tea all day long. A fun pair of "house" shoes. Beautiful Japanese incense. Favorite perfume.

    For weight concerns, I avoid processed food at all costs, whether at the grocery store or at a restaurant. That's the biggest danger in times of stress or business, because processed foods are taxing on the body and create a sluggish metabolism. On our first full day in Oklahoma (yesterday), we found home-grown tomatoes and onions and cooked them in their own juices before adding them to rice. Salt, pepper, basil--et voilĂ . It was perfect and so welcome after eating on the road. Often, simple fare is the best fare.

  5. A good first step would be to re-visit Fiona's "30 Days of Chic" for a little inspiration.

  6. yes, we all have those days don't we fiona. when i'm really down in spirit i force myself outside to do something physical - i need the endorphins. then i try to eat healthy that day and always put on red lipstick and try to be kind to myself. but the endorphins are key for me.


  7. Fiona,

    I feel so encouraged reading this post.
    Your advice is gentle,gracious and very inspiring.

    I do not feel chic if I am over tired or stressed.
    Actually I do not think of myself as chic at all!
    I love reading about it though...hopefully some of your words will rub off on me!

    If I am feeling low I drink water to rehydrate, eat a simple colourful salad with some protein on the side, soak in the tub with scented salts and perhaps put on a facial mask and go to bed early.

    A mental health day at home cocooning can work wonders to restore a weary soul.
    Perfume and lipstick have their merits as they elevate my mood immensely.

    Thank you Fiona
    I love your blog posts.

  8. Fiona, as you have again referenced Anne Barone, I went back to your earlier posts about her books, in which you said only the first three were really worthwhile. In looking on Barone's website, it appears that she has recently come out with a new book. Is that one of the ones you've read but didn't like, or is it brand new? I'm thinking of ordering it.

  9. Mademoiselle Poirot, merci for your input. Of course your recommendations have extra weight since you are in fact French!

    Stephanie, 'small and every day' is definitely the key to anything we want to change or do more of.

    Lila, I hate hangovers too (not that I know anyone who likes them). I feel like a failure for drinking up large the night before plus hangover days cry out for junky food and not much else. Our poor bodies. Still, guaranteed I'll do it again at some stage. It's hard to stop when you're in the mood to relax, but I have been deciding lately to stop after 1 or 2, and then making a hot drink. I also remind myself before I get too carried away how lovely it will be to feel fresh in the morning. I must be getting old if that works, and it does.

    Merci Aesthetic Alterations, I love your list of daily pleasures and burn incense often too. I know what you mean about processed food. After being away somewhere (even eating restaurant food rather than processed food) I crave simple home cooking.

    Deborah, you're so sweet!

    Janet, going for an outside walk really perks me up too. If I do one for an errand or two I feel tres French also. A double bonus.

    Hostess, thank you, you are lovely. Whether I am 'actually' chic or not is beside the point. Just the fact that I enjoy reading about it and putting things in place is what matters. The mind comes before all else. Being a yoga girl you will understand - my teacher says even if something seems quite hard to do, try to do it and think about the pose while you're doing it. Your muscles will be going a small way in the right direction and that is all you need to focus on right now. Over time and with practice it will get easier. I love your ideas. They all work for me too.

    Jill Ann, yes, the first three are fabulous. I have also just ordered the current 'Toujours' and am enjoying that too. The four I would recommend are:

    Chic & Slim
    Chic & Slim Encore
    Chic & Slim Techniques No. 1
    Chic & Slim Toujours

    I can't even pick a favourite as I love them all. Techniques No. 1 doesn't get very good reviews but I've really found it helpful to dip into. It has separate chapters of each chic technique, and often I read just one to focus on.

  10. This is great, Fiona. I think both the question and the answer(s) echo so many of the feelings we all share at one time or another. There have been times when I know I have been losing weight, fit well into my outfit, put on my make-up just so and just feel amazing--until I see a photo of myself. Then it is like a crushing blow because somehow in my head is this "ideal" that I think I have come close to realizing and the photograph just blows the ideal to pieces. I have to learn to be more forgiving of myself, my flaws and not let it destroy that "good" feeling I had before the photo was taken. xxBliss

  11. Bliss, you bring up a great point (how we see ourselves versus how others see us) but also I am reminded that not all of us are photogenic. It's so nice to come across a photo of myself that I like the look of, as so many of them I see and think 'Is that what I REALLY look like?'. Others are blessed with easily having good photos taken, like my sister.

  12. Thank you for this thoughtful post, I really liked it. It seems to me that some women just have the kind of hair or skin or something, that they just look pulled together all the time. Wish it could be bottle and sold.

    I always put on some makeup, that is my favorite part of the day.

  13. Oooo...I love this! I've been feeling pretty unmotivated as well. A few months ago, I was really good about eating healthy and actually enjoying food (I need to read some more Mireille, being more productive, organized, less television, and less time on the computer...but I've since slacked into some of my former poor habits...

    Thanks for the reminder! I want to revisit some of the things I wrote about my ideal self...your Sabine inspired me to create Charlotte. ;)

  14. Thank you for the advise ladies, tomorrow I'll be back on track at work with a nice makeup healthy food and water and a calm mind! Vacation soon, lots of walking in nature and cooking healthy fresh food in our holiday home, two more weeks working. I'll go shopping for some chic clothes in Prague, takes my mind of chocolatebars haha
    keep up the good work ladies, love your blog Fiona,
    greetings Inky

  15. Great post and advice Fiona. Spending money every time you want to feel chic is definitely not what the French do. Two of my oldest friends are French and they are really quite frugal when it comes to spending (or should I say savvy? ). What they do have is a creative mind, so they mix and match pieces I would never have thought of mixing, and they always look fab.
    What they do both spend money on is skincare. Both have said when their skin is luminous, they feel fab irrespective of what they are wearing. And it's true, I sometimes never look past the glow of their skin.

  16. Fiona, I thought Deborah's advice below ("re-visit Fiona's "30 Days of Chic" for a little inspiration") was so good that I took it myself! I pulled up the tag for those posts, copied and pasted them into a word document, deleted the pictures (to save room), and printed. I finished re-reading them last weekend. You have such high-quality posts!


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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