We’ve all met that person who, with her refined manners and the confident but comfortable way she carries herself, comes across like a breath of fresh air—however brief the interaction. Maybe it even inspires you to stand a little straighter yourself, be a bit more polite to the next person you meet, or exchange your harried demeanor for a calmer one.
This is what one Parisian host family did for Jennifer L. Scott during her college days, and what she has turned into a ripple effect, inspiring thousands of others through her books and blog.
Scott, an author, homemaker, mother of four, and connoisseur of daily life, writes and produces videos about being chic and how to live an elegant life—which is much more than a certain look. It’s about poise, demeanor, and delight, rather than buying the right things and curating an image of yourself. Her writings and videos on femininity, homemaking, and art appreciation have struck a chord with followers who tell her she has inspired them to be brave and not just follow the crowd.
“My whole philosophy is about making the mundane beautiful,” said Scott. The majority of our life is lived through little moments, doing routine things. There is no reason not to take joy in them.
A Chic Role Model
A trip to the south of France at age 18 was Scott’s first brush with seemingly effortless elegance and a zest for life. A few years later, the Southern California girl spent half a year studying abroad in Paris, where her host family left an unforgettable impression.
Madame and Monsieur Chic (fake names, of course) and their son were always well-dressed, polite, and so comfortable in their own skin that Scott couldn’t help but take notice. They used their best china on any given weekday, took tremendous enjoyment from the small things in life, and had rituals and immaculate customs built on tradition, as Scott would later write about. More than just effortless elegance, Scott also learned from her hosts that “no occasion is too small to live well.”
“It’s just really haunted me in a good way,” Scott said.
With her bursting wardrobe of clothing items she’d given little thought to, snacking habits, and the casual way of life she was used to, Scott didn’t exactly come back from her trip ready to overhaul her lifestyle. But the drama major wrote about the experience, even turned it into a play, and started to blog in the spirit of living well as The Daily Connoisseur. The name comes from a lesser-known Agatha Christie novel (as a child, Scott wanted to be a mystery writer), in which a character is described as a connoisseur of daily life, a perfectly fitting description for the joie de vivre she’d experienced on her first trip to France.
“I think the first major change I made was the 10-item wardrobe. Once I did that, it was kind of a snowball effect,” Scott said. She became a mother and homemaker, and gave more thought about how to create a beautiful home atmosphere, where everyone could delight in the everyday.
“Chic is really a state of being, it is a mindset,” she said. “It’s about being happy with your life as it is, enjoying it as it is, and having that inner peace that so many people seek.”
Ten years after her stay in Paris, Scott, now mother to a 6-month-old girl, wrote “Lessons from Madame Chic,” which she self-published and would turn into a bestseller. Then came “At Home with Madame Chic,” and “Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic,” and most recently a children’s book that makes etiquette fun, “Connoisseur Kids.”
Finding Your True Style
The popularity of Scott’s first book may have come because she captured what she felt is now a rarity in the world today.
“I’m writing about a lifestyle that is really going extinct,” Scott said. Even among the Parisian host families her peers stayed with, the Chic family was unusual for their aristocratic lineage and old-fashioned traditions.
“The world is becoming more casual with everything, with the way we dress, the way we eat, the way we live. So I think people were fascinated with that lifestyle, and it really was a slice of life in time that might never come back,” she said.
Chic is nearly synonymous with personal style, and it was one of the first things Scott noticed as well. The French in film and in person wore edited, not expansive, wardrobes. The women Scott met knew what suited them and wore it like a uniform.
Back home in California, after a memorable wardrobe malfunction, Scott committed to putting her best foot forward and has never looked back. It’s not about dressing to impress, it’s about curating something modest, presentable, and authentic.
Ironically, this is an alluring but difficult thing for many women.
“I can’t tell you how many people—so many people tell me, ‘Jennifer, I feel so strange wearing a dress,'” Scott said. “It’s funny because women have worn dresses for thousands of years, but suddenly now it’s weird if you wear one. They say ‘I want to embrace my more feminine nature, but I feel uncomfortable doing so.’ They’ll tell me ‘I’ve been in leggings the last five years,’ or ‘I only wear jeans and a T-shirt.'”
A sundress is more comfortable than skinny jeans on a hot day, but it’s the dress that makes women so uncomfortable because they’re self-conscious. “Because society’s moved in a place where if you wear a sundress, ‘Well, where are you going? Who are you trying to impress?'” Scott said. She encourages others to not let that nice dress linger in disuse in the back of the closet, and instead use the nicer items for everyday occasions.
Fashion has always been a fascination of society’s, and today is no different. Scott has a video series (“3 Articles on Dress“) about recent and thought-provoking controversy over what we wear.
But chic is not just about the exterior, there is plenty of inner work, which she calls the lost art of cultivating poise. Scott said that once you find your style, stick to it. You may weather some strange comments at first, as with any lifestyle change, but ultimately why would the people in your life not want you to try to better yourself and seek happiness? Don’t give in to group-think.
Scott herself has had plenty of experience in this because being on social media, everyone feels it is their right to tell her what she should do or say. She remembers not too long ago when she was nursing, she bought one dress in five patterns as part of her capsule wardrobe and got criticism for wearing the same thing.
“I speak from my heart and let the people who don’t like it fall by the wayside,” Scott said.
The Magic of Homemaking
As Scott writes in her third book, poise is a combination of five components: confidence, composure, compassion, presentation, and being present. It is a process and a way of life, a journey and not a destination, Scott said. This means everyone who aims for poise will find it difficult at times, and that’s only natural. Poise might be easy during moments of peace in a beautiful setting, but often life isn’t that way. Scott said that since she has young children, she’s far from never being frazzled. Her quiet moments are early in the morning and at night, when she might carve out some time to write in solitude.
In a recent video, she talked about losing her dignity as a parent when her toddler started running across the living room, happily spilling a canister of pepper all over the carpet as she shouted and made a mad dash to stop him.
“It’s always challenging, especially when you have young children, to implement elegant living, but you just adapt,” Scott said with a laugh. But having inner peace is about being adaptable.
For example, Scott uses tablecloths and sets the table nicely every single day. “The thing is, my children, they’re young. I have everything from a 20-month-old to a 9-year-old,” Scott said. And very young children will inevitably get messy.
“Every day there’s food smashed into the table, water spilled, milk spilled, everything spilled. But we just continue to use the tablecloth every day because I really believe that the atmosphere is important and it sets their affections, as it were, as Charlotte Mason says,” she said, referring to the homeschooling philosophy she uses with her children.
Scott believes everyone should have a philosophy for their home, and she believes in making the home a place in its own right, not just where we are when we’re between places.
“I want my home to be a very peaceful place,” said Scott, who grew up with family dinners and classical music playing in the home. “We can achieve that through the music we play, I want there to be lots of books so people can always pick up a book whenever they want to, with lots of food, something baking, something cooking every day. Just a beautiful place. I want my children to love home life, so that when they grow up, they’ll always look forward to visiting me again, and always have memories about the scents and the smells and everything they see here.”
Our homes become a formative piece of our lives that we carry into the world. In many ways, the manners we practice at home, and how we dress and carry ourselves even when there is no company, are indicative of how we’ll interact with the world at large, Scott said.
It was home life that had her recalling her lessons from Paris and analyzing what she could replicate. She distills this wisdom in very practical form in her books and videos: Be frugal, but buy the best within your budget, and use it in your daily life. Enjoy what you have, and treat the mundane aspects of life as meaningful (doing the dishes is a valuable contribution to creating a beautiful home), because they really are the little things that add up to create the whole.
It’s perhaps no wonder then that her homemaking content is among her most popular. Wanting to get in-depth, Scott delved into creating e-courses on living well, living debt-free, and efficiency.
As C.S. Lewis wrote, Scott quotes, “The homemaker has the ultimate career.”
Elevating the everyday into an art isn’t the only way we can all be connoisseurs; Scott also encourages people to discover art.
Scott loves classical music, impressionist art, live theater, old movies, and detective stories, and she reminds us art is not just for the expert. She’s created a monthly Chic Assignment, partially to introduce the community to a new composer or poet or artist, and partially to hold herself accountable to this as well. Being chic is also about enriching your mind.
“It’s about art appreciation,” Scott said. Sometimes she’ll pronounce a name not quite right—and she’ll hear about it, too, in the comments—and she’ll play the piano even though she is far from expert, but she will enjoy it all the same. “It’s to encourage people, you don’t need to be Rachmaninoff to play the piano, you can be clumsy and make mistakes and still enjoy it.”
Scott’s love of art was really fostered when she got to experience it in person and in all its grandeur in Paris, so she encourages others to experience art. Go to the ballet, take in live theater, watch an opera. She’s correct, of course; if art encapsulates some of the best of life, why deprive yourself of it?
If Scott’s lifestyle really does sound old-fashioned, or on its way out, that doesn’t deter her at all. Scott isn’t trying to impose her vision on others, but to stay true to herself and offer them encouragement to stay the course should they need it. Over a decade after her blog’s inception, people are still finding her work and looking for tips on how to become more chic and poised and to live a beautiful life.
“I would just like to project beauty into the world,” Scott said.