Thursday, April 30, 2009

Up In Arms

I have a friend in New York who, every time we speak on the telephone goes into a rant about Michelle Obama baring her arms. She goes on and on about protocol, what's appropriate and what is utterly inappropriate.  (I'm often tempted to go on and on about a subject I find utterly boring, but I fear it would be a friendship breaker.)

Here follows a petit exposé on the subject. No matter where one stands on this earth-shaking, world changing, potential mores modifying subject you have to admit these are some pretty fabulous looking appendages.

Oh, btw the French describe the three ladies' styles as: Jackie, elegant; Carla, sober (that's after she became France's First Lady obviously) and Michelle, audacious.

Without further comment, you be the judge.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Devil Is In The Details

What a difference a bow makes.  (The first one up there from the Mochino spring/summer collection was just to get your attention.)

Even the least frou-frou among us can see the merits of a soft, floppy scarf tied as a bow. If one is so inclined masses of baubles can be layered on top with the wings of the bow set free above.

It's another one of those hide-and-trick the eye maneuvers we all so dearly love: "Look at my radiant visage. Neck(?) Chin(?) I don't know what you're talking about." Voila it's a miracle.

Bows you might consider and bows you wouldn't be caught dead in, from the top: Mochino as I said; Coco Chanel as you've probably never seen her before in a carelessly bowed something-or-other at the neck of her white shirt ; two softies from Christian Lacroix; a great idea from Sonia Rykiel, a man's bow-tie with the complicated bits firmly in place; a fun, funny prim hat right out of the '50s from Luella and a rigid, will never come undone headband from Givenchy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ethnic Eté Embellishments

A little bit ethnic, a little bit back to nature; a tad bit happy hands at home vibe -- you know, the usual summer accessory drill. And if one happens to be a little bit clever you can surely rustle up the ingredients to make your own of-the-moment, not to mention one-of-a-kind necklace. 

Except for the lovely, delicate golden feathers by Aurelie Bidermann if you're doing your own thing I suggest big and bold. If you're putting time and effort into hunting, gathering and assembling shells, beads, coral, turquoise, fruits and nuts, whatever you might as well go all the way. 

There's not much point in creating ditsy decoration no one will notice. Failing the arts and crafts route here pictured are a few pay-as-you-go options. 

On the models are creations from Anna Sui in a blissful blue and Sonia Rykiel in what looks like a piece of sculpture, the bright bib of beads that might have been made by a child at camp (but wasn't)  is by Malene Birger and the other two are by Aurore Charlot.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Brooch-ing The Subject

It seems that every famously well-dressed woman the world over is known for one or two distinctively personal accessories. Often one is pearls of varying sizes, shapes and quantity of strands and the other is usually a brooch or a collection of brooches. 

The beauty of brooches is they're never out of style and they're never really "in" style, they are so quintessentially, irreproachably individual to the woman who wears them that they become part of her personality.

They do wax and wane in popularity and as we all know Michelle Obama loves her pins and wears one or more almost every time we see her.

And here is the best brooch bonus: Where do they direct attention(?) that's it, right up and onto your beautiful face. They are magic eye-directors, drawing one's gaze to wherever we wish to direct or redirect our viewers attention. 

From the top:
  1. The famous panther pin from Cartier made for the Duchess of Windsor. The cat sits upon a 152.35 carat Kashmir cabochon sapphire (she also had another one scaling a cabochon emerald).
  2. Michelle Obama in a brooch from Mochino.
  3. Jacqueline Kennedy in ruby and diamond strawberries from Schlumberger given to her by her husband for their first Christmas in the White House.
  4. This is unquestionably what one means when referring to a "major" piece of jewelry. It's the 75 carat Hooker Emerald Brooch that is on display at the Smithsonian Institution. (The emerald is surrounded by 109 round, brilliant cut diamonds.)
  5. A jelly belly frog from Trifari
  6. A beautiful bow from Solar Jewelry.
  7. Michelle Obama's Victorian paste brooch worn at the neck of her Isabel Toledo inauguration dress. (See January 23rd post for details.)
  8. An ensemble of carnelian pieces -- including a brooch -- made for Empress Josephine Bonaparte.
  9. A gorgeous, intricate piece from the famous house of Verdura.
  10. From Chanel a tiny bouquet of enamel camellias.
  11. Just for fun a great, big plastic kiss from Anna Lou of London.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Stroke, Twirl -- You're Done

I don't know how it works. All I know is it works. Gemey Maybelline -- yet another company owned by the omni-market present, L'Oreal -- reaaaaally lengthens (and separates, very important as we all know) even the skimpiest eyelashes.

First you apply the white side, which for all I know is glue, wait a few seconds while you re-screw that brush back into the holder, un-screw the other side and apply the color on top of your white eyelashes. It's magic.

I use this as my every day mascara and for major occasions I go back to the much, much, much pricier Yves Saint Laurent Effet Faux Cils, translation: False Eyelashes Effect. The problem with the YSL is that it quickly becomes thick and gloppy on the brush. I admit this may be my fault because I perhaps keep it longer than the recommended shelf-life, but still I expect more from YSL and it doesn't separate quite as well as I would like. But right out of the box it is amazing.

I'm a little late with my cadeau this weekend, but of course I didn't forget.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Weighing In

Exciting news: The French win.

They are the least corpulent of all their European neighbors. Quelle surprise(!)

A verrrry serious study released this week from the Laboratory of Quantitative Sociology within the highly respected l'Insee (The National Institute of Statistics and Economics) and published in a bulletin from the l'Institut National d'Etude Démographiques (Ined)
 has once again reassured French women they can wear whatever they wish because everything looks fantastic on their lovely lithe bodies.

The median IMC "Indice de Mass Corporelle" or as we would say BMI (Body Mass Index) in Europe is 24.5 for women and 25.5 for men. Underweight is considered to be below 18.5 and normal weight ranges from 18.5 to 25; overweight ranges between 25 and 30 IMC and obese over 30.

For French women the median IMC is 23.2, French men slip into the normal at 24.6.

The British are the big losers, weighing in at a median IMC for women of 26.2 and men at 26.

OK, now that we've all trudged through the numbers, we get to the interesting discovery from this highly serious report. It notes: "For French women the sous-poids, i.e. underweight norm is highly valued."  Some 50 percent said for them an underweight IMC was what they considered "normal."

In France the ideal IMC is considered to be 19.5 -- how they arrived at this is not clear. The researchers must have asked women who considered underweight normal and women who considered normal weight normal and divided by two. (Math has never been my strong suit which is why I chose this profession.)

Conclusion of the report -- slightly paraphrased, but not misrepresented: In sum, French women consider their ideal weight less than their neighbors which is perhaps a sign of strong pressure from their country to be slim. Oh really, who would have thought?

These findings were dissected in a media frenzy for two days. In on-the-street quickie interviews with women of all ages every-single-one, and I might add none seemed to be even slightly overweight -- although admittedly they were wearing coats -- said she was about to, or had started a mini-regime to get ready for summer body bearing. "I'm eating a little less," one admitted. Another said she needed to lose between four and five kilos (a kilo equals 2.2 pounds, in this respect my math is irreproachable) before she dared don her bikini.

Earlier in the week "Elle" did its issue on "Sexy, Ronde et Fashion" featuring three young women who claim to love la mode and their rondeur (roundness). Included in the article was the web address of 32-year-old Stéphanie Zwicky, pictured above, who wears a size 50/52 and photographs herself in various outfits to prove big is beautiful. It's in French, but I thought you might like to take a peek:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Quelle Scandale

The latest Chanel biopic "Coco Avant Chanel" with Audrey Tautou opened this week to rave reviews. The critics said they loved it passionnément. Excellent.

However, there is now a major polemic swirling around the posters for the film designed to be slotted onto the sides of buses throughout France. This part you will not believe. The controversy in which the RATP -- the public transportation people -- refuses to put Audrey/Coco on display is because she is holding -- are you ready (?): a cigarette(!) 

We're in France for heaven's sake.

Some law apparently prohibits the public display of smoking in advertising wherein one might deduce the practice is condoned, glamorous, encouraged. 

Need I mention we're in Gauloise country? Admittedly this ad for the famed cigarettes definitely makes smoking seem seductive and proclaims, lest anyone have a doubt: "The cigarette for real smokers." But that was then, this is now.

In the case of the film's publicity the cigarette is a symbol, c'est tout. It was another of Chanel's public manifestations exulting her liberation, free spirit, devil-may-care, break the rules brilliance along with trousers, navel officers' T-shirts, masses of costume jewelry and bobbed hair. She was modern in every way and set women free from their corseted, cosseted lives. 

Roselyne Bachelot, minister of health, youth and sports, bravely declared she thought the controversy was ridiculous, but the powers that be over at the transportation terminals said it was a legal obligation on their part and it was basically none of the minister's business. 

(If you wish to read more about the film please see March 31, post.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gotta Have It

I don't know about you, but I want one. They're calling them band jackets, except for the one on the bottom by Chris Benz, which has the moniker "sergeant's jacket". (The gold and cream is from him as well.)

When Chanel and Balenciaga are doing them -- first and second pictures -- you know they have the benediction of the highest order.

Since there is no such thing as high school or university marching bands in France it's a tad tricky to try to unearth a supplier or a vintage treasure. The only uniformed bands here are military related and I wouldn't know how to go about getting what they're wearing, but France being France I must say they certainly do fit well.

You have the advantage of being able to score the real deal from some high school near you -- assuming you like their colors, if not hit the Net and find a school you can support. . . 

You must also search out an establishment that offers the possibility of cropped or hip-covering jackets to accommodate your figure priorities. The next step is take this fab-fashion-find to a tailor and have it fitted properly. You know, like a French woman would do under the same circumstances.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Long, Lean Lines of Summer

For those of us who are horizontally challenged, things are looking up, up, up. Or more precisely trends are up and down as in vertical stripes, which as we all know are supposed to make one appear, by some miracle of  trompe- l'oeil, taller and thinner

Whatever works I always say. Whether you're going for longer or leaner -- or both -- designers have graciously provided several possibilities for spring and summer. The beige stripes above are from Bottega Veneta, the bleached-out blue from Etro.

If you don't wish to fork over the funds for these high-ticket items because you're economizing for some major fashion statement item or a refrigerator for example, there's always the striped pajama bottom route for summer. 

Seriously, if you shop carefully, i.e. people on the street don't whip around and say "omg she's escaped from the ward,"  and cover the waist area properly you can pull this off.  Think French, be brave. Besides, Dolce & Gabbana did actual full-on pajama ensembles for the season. I find them a little weird, but who's asking.

Compromise: But in my opinion seersucker is never a compromise. It combines vertical stripes, tradition, elegance and an all-American-house-in-the-Hamptons freshness that is ever and always perfect for steamy summer days and nights. (The cuffed -- very important detail on the chicness scale -- trousers, and nipped at the waist jacket are from J.Crew. I suggest you jump on these before Michelle Obama spies them otherwise they'll be sold out before you can type the "J." into your computer.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Games People Play

This is the intersection where toys become status symbols and playing games takes on a few new rules.

Never let it be said that one cannot raise the competitive stakes on all fronts. From the shocking pink yo-yo from Hermes to the pétanque set from Louis Vuitton with the two versions of traveling backgammon sets inbetween, one in its own slim case, the other a roll-up leather number you can slip into your Birkin bag, grown up leisure activities have never been so intimidating. I mean amusing.

Isn't it fun to think there's not one single area in life where when cannot be competitive?

(If you want to know more about the game and the rules for playing perhaps the most popular sport in France, pétanque, just type it into Wikipedia and you can read about it for about a half- an-hour.)
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