How do you package your mother’s Amy Vanderbilt or Emily Post for the modern woman? Try mixing in a little Suze Orman, Louise Hay and Genevieve Antoine Dariaux, trim their insights down into bite-sized bits for the blog reading generation. And then, package them irresistibly as a set of smooth coated, round-cornered tarot-esque cards in a boxed set of three black matte boxes (nested in a larger black matte box) labeled Elegance, Intelligence and Strength.
The boxed book functions as an elongated definition of author Rachael Marcus’ “Chic Chick.” Inscribed on the front of each card, “Le Chic Chick Knows…” everything from the first thing about stocks and architecture to the anatomy of an orchestra. The cards are graphically snappy and feel good in your hand.
There’s the Elegance Deck of 50 lifestyle cards cutting a broad swath through better living from pearls, posture and promptness to pairing wine with poultry. Here, chic requires always looking one’s best (but of course) as well as knowing how far a tablecloth should hang over the side of the table (six inches). And it is this breadth of chic, from the mundanities to etiquette esoterica that makes the decks good fun rather than hammer-over-the-head instruction.
The Intelligence Deck backfills everything you slept through in college that might prove useful in cocktail conversation and beyond. Marcus’ chic includes temperature conversion, Einstein, chess, opera and changing a tire. Why Marcus needs to stoop to translating the numbers on NFL jerseys is beyond comprehension (there could be a separate deck in denim for information one might require if trapped in a sports bar). But the fact that she includes Charles and Ray Eames, Chaucer and the anatomy of a sailboat won me over all over again. Thank god someone besides me thinks that smart is an essential component of chic.
The third deck, (Inner) Strength, separates this boxed book from other manuals of manners, culture and style. Whereas the other two decks expend cards on perfectly shaped brows and the basics of golf, here Marcus ventures further afield, into territory no etiquette maven dared traverse. The topics range from the self-indulgent, “How to Spa” to the rah-rah “After You Dream You Must Do” to the eminently practical: from managing one’s finances to a list-making strategy for getting what you want in life. This final deck is the gift you want to give your sister and your best friend. Yes, they’re in 30-second sound bites, but the things you want to tell her, about setting boundaries, when to call it quits (men to cigarettes), what not to spend money on, are all here.
It is here that Marcus delivers on her promise of a set of “necessary tools to allow you to finally evolve into the person that you have only dreamed you could be.”
I imagine a better world in which every woman knows how to write a proper thank you note and how to hold a wine glass properly, in which it is as chic to play a musical instrument as it is to know about thread count. Marcus includes all of the obvious markers of chic, but then bends the definition to encompass the qualities that make a woman not only chic but wise, healthy, happy and strong.