The English language is full of French words. Randomly flip through a dictionary and you'll find them on almost every page. To a lesser degree, the same is true in French, i.e. weekend, garage, television, (le) top 10 and scores of words from the fashion world like "top coat" for a gloss that goes over lipstick and most recently, "vintage" which brings us to today's subject.
As I've said several times previously and will continue to repeat, it's that special approach to most aspects of their lives that make French women so intriguing. Vintage shopping is no exception.
Of course they have their favorite addresses, but their latest approach to finding lightly worn treasures is to have, for lack of a better explanation, old-fashioned Tupperware-style parties except the Tupperware is replaced with everyone's used or never worn old clothes. (BTW Tupperware is very big over here. Just thought I would throw that in.)
Friends and friends of friends clean out their closets, arrange everything by category and head out for a soiree that may include nibbles and wine
or a light dinner followed by in-house shopping or in many cases exchanging of wares. How much fun is that?
As with everything there are some "buyer beware" tips to consider when embarking on serious vintage aquisitions or even when participating in the more convivial entre amis approach.
- Be careful of clothes from the '70s, sometimes the fabrics can be nasty synthetics.
- If you love something, but it's such an unforgettable color that it can only be worn a couple of times, think cheap chic. You'll get tired of it and everyone else will be tired of seeing you in it so don't break the bank on it.
- If you're crazy about something -- a little knit knee-skimming dress from the '60s; a lacy, silk slip from the '50s, a hunk of fur -- but it doesn't work in its original incarnation, rethink how you could wear it. For example, the dress becomes a tunic; the slip becomes a camisole peeping out of a V-neck sweater; the fur cleaned and perhaps re-glazed becomes a collar on a jacket or coat.
- Think seamstress or tailor. If you don't have one do your best to find one, she/he will be the best friend you will ever have for moments like this and whenever you want to make something not quite right, absolutely perfect.
- If a fab-u-lous puce sheath has everything going for it except its revolting color, maybe, just maybe you can turn it into the perfect little black dress you've been looking for for years.
- When it comes to dying clothes talk to an expert it's not a do-it-yourself job. I asked a woman who owns a "couture" dry cleaning service if she could dye a long, silk-crepe vanilla colored Chanel skirt I bought years ago at a factory sale black, she said "non" because the fabric would shrivel-up or something like that. (My solution now, since I never wear the thing, is to pair it with a long -- as in covers my derriere -- black sweater and lots of pearls to draw attention, up, up, up.)