16 Dec 2013

Forever Chic… In Conversation With Tish Jett

Forever Chic - Tish Jett

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. . .)

Eucerin Hyluron Filler – one for day, and a richer version for night.

Avene Gommage Doux (facial exfoliant)

Avene or Vichy thermal water

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  



VA In Your Inbox

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Piaf Vintage French

I’m a regular reader of Tish’s blog and although I’m not une femme d’un certain age, I really appreciate her healthy, positive ideas on beauty, a great antidote to the obsession over the youthful, zero-wrinkle aesthetic. It’s good for women of any age to remember that a smile is one of the most powerful beauty secrets or that beauty and allure come from each unique woman’s intangible aura and her ability to be “bien dans sa peau”. So a big thank you to both you ladies for this interview!

I think the Chanel quote sums up quite nicely the French understanding of beauty and fashion. I often get the impression that doing your best to look (and smell) good in France is almost a sign of respect – respect for yourself and for others. Plus, with the right attitude and minus the pressure to attain impossible standards, it’s always lots of fun!

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen

You always do the best interviews Vicki. I have been looking forward to this one with Tish and it was spot on. I adore Tish’s blog and have been reading it from the very beginning. I think of Tish as a friend as well, even though I haven’t met her either. Tish’s book is fantastic and I can understand why it sold out so fast. I’m just glad I ordered my copy early.

I depend on both of you to keep us gals of a certain age stylish, fashionable, and forever chic. Merci to you both.

Anita Rivera

Good morning Vicki!

I’ve visited Tish in the past and she is indeed a talented writer. I wish her continued success and I agree that French women are just groomed and brought up to consider how they comport themselves both in dress and in language. I LOVE THE FRENCH!

Happy day to you both, Vicki and Tish! Anita

Jacqueline Bucar

I think I have read every book on this subject and thought do I really want to read another one all saying the same thing? My curiosity however got the best of me. And…This book is fantastic! I tried to write to her via her blog but she has no way of emailing her. The book is full of great suggestions and information but is not condescending or obnoxious. Rather she really captures the essence of French chic. So happy I bought it. Last July on a Paris bus, I admired a 10 year old girl standing there with a scarf around her neck, sun glasses perched on her head, cross over bag and gladiator sandals. She looked adorable. The French start early. Compare: Last week at the grocery store here in the states, I looked over to a 30 something woman, wearing her bedroom slippers and pajama bottoms w/ a sweat shirt! quelle difference! Need I say more? I think Tish would understand perfectly!

Francine gardner

Great in depth interview…I still do not get what it is that makes french women stand out (according to Tish and others…) perhaps, since my Design Business is in New York, my clientele being very upscale and sophisticated and I do dress for the part, my audience is very similar to Tish’s take on french women. One thing though, that i feel separates us from our american counter part, is the feeling of one’s sense of style and freedom to experiment. I work for some of the most fashionable women in New york with closets filled with hundreds pairs of shoes, never wearing the same outfit twice and thankfully i do not get intimidated nor thrown in a depression…I value life rather than the beautiful “stuff” we surround ourselves with.


Having met you on several occasions, Francine I can only say that you are totally gorgeous and have a ‘joie de vivre’ that is enviable… You may live and work in NY but your French-ness is very much evident in all that you do… :)


Vicki thank you so much for this wonderful interview with Tish. I read her blog faithfully and admire her so much!
The Arts by Karena


I have learned so much from Tish’s blog and her book! I have experienced her genuine kindness! The most important lesson…do not put ourselves on the back burner for anyone! By taking care of our health and appearance, we can better take care of others. I learned this lesson from experience…then Tish confirmed this is what French women already know!


I truly love being a woman of “a certain age.” I’m continually inspired by your posts to embrace every age and let our own beauty shine. “FOREVER CHIC” is my next book to read and “FOREVER CHIC” are words to live by.


I’m a reader of Tish’s blog and enjoy all of her suggestions for dressing and presenting. Her straight forward discussions and humour keep it light and fun.
This was a great interview Vicki. The behind the scene information about not only the book, but the years that have been the build-up for Tish to arrive at this point.
I have the book on my holiday gift list – I hope Santa is watching.


Very interesting and I always love a book that dispenses beauty and fashion advice…especially from the French point of view! Will have to check it out! Thanks for the great post! xo


Loved the interview and plan soon to get the book. One thing though: a lot of the French do not walk about smiling. That is a purely American habit.

Michelle Dann

Vicki, thank you for the lovely interview. I do so love Tish’s book and her blog, I devoured the book in one day! What a great read! And yes, I am one of those women, and I love every moment of it

miss b

Funnily enough I was recently reading about ‘Forever Chic.’ I’ve already read several of these French style guides but was curious about the mention of style and substance. I’m always drawn to attractive boook covers too! It was interesting to learn more about the author here and I agree with her positive outlook on life and her attitude to ageing. I’m sure it won’t be long before this little book appears on my book shelf.

Sue M.

I enjoyed your interview with Tish and appreciate how this community of women share their secrets. I’m going to buy and spend some “me” time taking it all in over the holiday. Thank you too for all your wonderful posts, I look forward to reading them daily. Joyeux Noel ~

Sue M.

Funny…I went to Amazon.com and it’s become very popular as it’s temporarily sold out. Good for Tish, bad for me. I’ll wait though…instead of for Christmas I’ll stat my new year with a good read. :-)

Marsha @ Splenderosa

Vicki, this is so very special. I loved reading Tish’s book, have given it to ALL of my girlfriends to enjoy as well. Your interview captured Tish beautifully. Thank you so much for this and Merry Christmas to you and the family. xx’s


I recently bought Jett’s book from Amazon and several of her suggestions paid off for me instantly, so I’m a fan.

That said, as an ardent admirer of the city and the people of Paris, I’d like to add some thoughts on the subject of elegance. Let’s remember that during the French Revolution, there was nothing chic or elegant about the women who led the march on Versailles to demand (a) bread to feed their starving families and (b) a government that would respond to the needs of the people. Let’s remember that, despite many setbacks and hideous errors, those women helped to achieve massive changes in (a) the concept of human rights and (b) the way the nation’s wealth was distributed.

When I look at the city of Paris, with her gorgeous PUBLIC spaces, her beautiful buildings, arcades, boulevards, and bridges, I think of those revolutionary women, whose bold courage laid the foundation for the transformation of that city.

If many American women are slobs – and indeed, many of us are – perhaps it’s because our own revolution never achieved what the French Revolution achieved for Paris – a profound sense of public, shared pride; a respect for the common welfare; a successive series of governments that never dare to entirely lose sight of the power of the common woman – the one who sat knitting at at the foot of the guillotine or the petroleuse of the Paris Commune.

The public spaces of Paris are a feast for the eyes and the spirit. A city that surrounds its people with beauty, rather than strip malls and billboards, tells us that beauty and elegance matter; that this beauty and elegance is a legacy ordinary women – who were neither beautiful nor elegant – won for their children; and that they deserve to experience it and to express it in every aspect of their lives. No wonder the women of Paris have a quality that most Americaines still lack. They earned it.


I do think that beauty lifts us up and allows us to be the best version of ourselves… and of course, love… :)

Heather in Arles

Oh, this made me just deleriously happy. Two of my favorite women writers…that I am fortunate enough to have met and admire as they are exactly what they “preach” :) Vicki, I do hope that you meet la belle Tish as you two together could talk for hours! Thank you both for the inspiration…

Deidre Groundwater

When we were in Paris last month, I asked of a young French lass who ate all the pastries in the numerous patisseries. She replied she certainly didn’t and neither did her friends as “French women have an image to uphold and are competitive”. Oh the pressure!


I think when and if French women do eat pastries… it is in moderation and they counter act for it the next day… That’s there secret… none or a little!

sharon santoni

A lovely interview Vicki; great questions and perfect answers – but what else would we expect from you and Tish?! We definitely need to fix up that blogging lunch date in Paris, very soon!



I wonder if anyone else went out and bought that Guerlain lipstick? I did. A rosy nude (or a nude-y rose, I guess!) was on my list and I hadn’t found anything just right until I tried Garance after reading this interview.

Tish is the best.


I am grateful for the introduction. This discussion has given much to think about. Thank you for a wonderful interview.

Sarah, Cloud of Secrets

What fun to read this interview, and my encounter with it is weirdly well-timed! I was browsing Amazon yesterday and clicked through to some reviews of the new “French Women Don’t Get…” book. Those reviews were lukewarm, but a few readers suggested this excellent book by Tish Jett instead. I’m still in my 30s, but I’m definitely wishlisting _Forever Chic_ for the future!

Lisa Porter

I so enjoyed your conversation with Tish!
She is just delightful and so are you!
Tish and I came to know each other
through Fab Over 50.
I had just turned that corner
and was thrilled to find her wise and witty
blog, A Femme D Un Certain Age!
Being a Texan, I’m passionate about living
a great big meaningful life with style,
grace, and good manners…always with a twist
in order to keep “things” fresh and interesting.
Perhaps this is the je ne sais quoi that you speak of.
I’m tickled that she shares my love of Aromatics Elixir!
Thank you Vicki for another delightful, beautiful,
and inspiring post!
I look forward to having Forever Chic
on my bedside table soon!


Hello Vicki,
I just discover Tish book and I think she perfectly understood the essence of the French Chic… And I would say that it’s not that easy…As a French woman I often read posts or magazines about that subject that make me smile because they are so “cliché”… like French women wear berets, they smoke, drink and are dangerous seductress…Well thanks to you and Tish to give an more realistic opinion.


I hope so Cecile…
We do love hearing your perspective though… it is always so interesting to know exactly what a real French girl would do or say… :)


Hey, Vicki, Wow! What a read!! Thank you so much for this interview with Tish Jett – I just loved it!


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