Tish Jett and I have been blogging pals for some years now… we haven’t met in person but that doesn’t change the way I feel… that she is a great friend and a woman with whom I share many interests. France, beauty and fashion to name the three most obvious ones.
Tish writes the very popular, A Femme d’Un Certain Age and there she shares much about living life in France. She is witty, insightful, honest and above all, Tish has a dry sense of humour that I particularly love.
She has recently published Forever Chic, Frenchwomen’s Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style and Substance. In one word… Fabulous.
The first print run sold out in a flash… now it’s back on the shelves and not to be missed.
I thought that you would enjoy to hear her thoughts, on writing, on beauty and on living in France…
How did you come to be living in France?
For years I had been coming to France to cover the ready-to-wear and couture collections for publications where I was fashion editor. I longed to move here for just two years thinking it would be a wonderful experience for my daughter and also for me personally and professionally. After an interview with an editor at the New York Times in New York I had an introduction with the International Herald Tribune where I was hired to write about fashion and oversee the style sections of the newspaper. I was then hired as the last editor of American Elle before it moved to New York to become the enormous success it is today.
Right about that time I met my now Reason-For- Living-In-France. The two-year plan turned into forever after. At the same time I was the Paris correspondent for the Chicago Tribune.
When did you first come up with the idea for a book? Was it a clear, unwavering intention or has the book evolved as you started writing it?
I’ve had the idea for the book for a long time, maybe almost 10 years. When I mentioned it to friends they thought it was a good idea, then one, in the publishing industry, suggested I start a blog to see if the idea resonated with others. It did, and the blog gave me the opportunity to focus on exactly what and how I wanted to do the book while also forcing me to be disciplined — writing every day. I so loved the blog experience, the kindness, the friendships, the support, and the criticism. It all helps.
Your blog emphasis is centred on ‘women of a certain age’. Is ‘Forever Chic’ focused on the same demographic?
“Forever Chic” is a book for women from about 40 to forever. However I do talk about starting young, 12 for example, with fun products that introduce girls to good beauty habits and also how young women progress in their beauty regimes from their 20s, 30s, 40s, etc.
Do French women really hold the key and have the answers to style and beauty? If so, what differentiates them from their American counterpoints?
Yikes! This is the question that is so difficult to answer. I hate to make broad generalisations, but let me try to answer your question honestly and diplomatically.
Yes, broadly speaking I think French women do hold the key to looking stylish and elegant throughout their lives. That is not to say they look younger than their American sisters, but from my experience they make an effort every day to look the best they can. It’s part of the culture. French women – again in my experience – tend to be relatively slender which means their clothes look well on them, they budget for good haircuts and color and they know themselves well which is to say they know what cuts and colors of clothes best suit them. Style and beauty are important for them.
I discovered in the comments to a recent post I wrote on my blog that some American women found my commenting on sloppy dressing in an American airport was offensive. They felt I was judging character, which I wasn’t. It’s extremely complicated. When I was in the States recently, Chicago and Hilton Head, I saw extremely elegant women.
I think it’s a choice. For French women, the outward expressions of fashion and beauty are important. By the way they are turned out they’re showing a certain Gallic art de vivre and confidence. I for one love watching them. If I can learn something, all the better.
I’m sure you know the famous Chanel quote:
“I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little – if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.”
There is a fascination with the French that is unparalleled. Why do French women intrigue us so much? Is there really such a thing as je ne sais quoi…?
The subject is fascinating isn’t it? Years ago I interviewed the director of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and I asked him a similar question. He told me – I’m paraphrasing – that fashion has always been a natural extension of the French aesthetic of beauty. He mentioned gardens, architecture, objects, paintings and food.
Do I think there is such a thing as je ne sais quoi?
Yes, I suppose there is, but I also think the phrase can be applied to anyone who possesses a certain irresistible charm or sparkle or elegance that we can’t quite explain. I think any woman can possess her own je ne sais quoi.
Your best kept secret when it comes to ageing?
I try never to think about my age. Never do I want to obsess about it. I apply myself to the task of looking the best I can with my creams and serums, my hair, how I dress, and all the rest. Then I just get on with it. Oh, yes, I also participate in the verrrry American habit of taking my vitamins.
I smile, smile, smile – not like a fool mind you, but I do have a lot to be grateful for and happy about so I tend to smile quite a bit. As one of the plastic surgeons I interviewed for the book told me: “Smiles are elevators and frowns are depressors,” in other words smiles are mini facelifts. (Well, you know, sort of. . .)
Being in love and being loved helps too don’t you think?
Three beauty products that you can’t live without?
Here are a few of my favourite things:
Vichy Pureté Thermal 3-in-1 One Step Cleanser (recommended by Joelle Ciocco)
Flavo-C Forte Serum by Auriga (I “graduated” to the strong version, skin evolves. . .)
Avene Gommage Doux (facial exfoliant)
Prescription strength Retin A – maybe that’s my best secret. I’ve been using it for at least 15 years.
The three best beauty treatments according to Tish?
In a perfect world I would check into the Clarins spa in the Hotel Royal Monceau once a month for one of its sea salt gommage massages. You cannot believe how exquisitely pristine clean you feel and from neck to toes your skin is baby soft.
A facial chez Joelle Ciocco lasts about two hours. Part of the procedure is pure heaven, another is a little bit of hell when she manipulates your face by putting her surgical gloved hands inside your mouth to manipulate and theoretically boost whatever our facial muscles are supposed to do to keep us looking fresh and young. It does help.
A visit to Alexandre Legrand who gives me a medical pedicure. He is licensed by the state to use sharp shiny objects on his clients’ feet. The result is feet like a new born – no calluses, corns, nasty nails. . . He then finishes his work with a super fine whirling emery contraption that “polishes” the toenails, they look buffed, and a foot massage with a rich cream purpose made for extra dry skin. He then tries to make me promise to continue to use the cream every day until my next visit.
Thinking about your handbag now… You would never leave home without —— ?
A monogrammed linen handkerchief, cell phone, extra glasses – I never leave the house without wearing my prescription sunglasses, but with the shorter days in the winter I need to change to my regular glasses so I can see to drive;
My Guerlain jewel compact lipstick in a muted rose color, “Garance”; Clarins matte mineral powder compact;
Special, individual leather cases for my driver’s license, credit cards, money, glasses; leather gloves in a bright color; a tiny bottle of my perfume, Aromatics Elixir; Avene chap-stick;
My Kindle; a notebook, pens and pencils; almonds; and sometimes a small bottle of water.
My purse is huge.
The most fun part about writing Forever Chic was?
The most fun part of writing the book was the interviews. I’ve found in my career that’s always the best part. It was especially fun when I was invited to try some of the treatments and lessons (makeup) about which I wrote. I was also very lucky to have a warm, talented, supportive editor who made the process a pleasure.
The most difficult part about writing Forever Chic was?
The difficult part of writing “Forever Chic” was writing it. Thank goodness for deadlines. Writing is so hard, well you probably know this Vicki, unless you’re one of the lucky few that finds the process easy.
When Rizzoli accepted the proposal I was ecstatic, then I realised I had to sit down and actually write a book. I was quite terrified. In fact, I didn’t believe I had written it until I held it in my hand.
Congratulations Tish… and thank you a million… for the chat… and for a wonderful, wonderful read… xv
Forever Chic by Tish Jett is available at Barnes and Noble
or back in stock any minute and on Kindle at Amazon