Monday, August 31, 2009

TOP 10: NON White Blouses

I like to plan ahead. Well, that's not strictly true. I like to plan ahead for pleasant occasions and postpone unpleasant obligations until they turn into major three-alarm disasters, but that's another story. 

I think in medical terms it's called "avoidance syndrome" or something like that.

But I digress (again).  I thought in the future I would be writing several TOP 10 posts on the world's best white shirts no woman any where on this earth could or should live with out. But I guess not.

Today's subject is the opposite of what I thought was irrevocably true; I always believed every woman no matter what the color of her complexion, hair and eyes simply glowed when her face was framed in a pristine white chemise.

In a mini rebellion from some of you, I have been disabused of that notion. To quell the up-rising, here follows today's TOP 10.

10 Blouses That Are NOT White:

1.) Carolina Herrera.

2.) Ungaro.

3.) Ralph Lauren.

4.) Max Mara.

5.) Marc by Marc Jacobs.

6.) Alberta Ferretti.

7.) Chloe.

8.) Dries Van Noten.

9.) Chloe encore.

10.) Van Noten again.

Is everybody happy? You know that's why I'm here.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Week Ahead or La Semaine Prochain

On The Agenda for Next Week

Lundi:  TOP 10: Blouses that are NOT white ( I don't want you to think I'm not listening to you.)

Mardi:  The Final Chapter: What Do THEY Think of Us?

Mercredi:  More Almost Free Fabulous Fall Fashion -- illustrated by Edith

Jeudi: Surprise (!) Isn't that better than saying "I have no idea at the moment" or "I'll be as surprised as you when I figure it out?"  I could call it "Breaking News" -- not a bad idea actually.

Vendredi: Brigitte on-the-street (probably). If I can't find her, we'll have another Surprise (!).

Weekend Cadeau: Paintings and the site address of one of my dearest French friends.  (If you look very, very closely at your weekend cadeau on August 15, you'll see one of her paintings -- a wedding present to us -- hanging on the mirror of my dressing table.)

A demain.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Last of The Vanities

Welcome to my work station. You are now looking at -- day and night versions -- of where I do the best I can with what natural resources I have left enhanced by hope and a few fetish products I believe make a difference. 

A window above provides natural light and all the bulbs around the large mirror make me feel as if I'm about to go on stage. Before you make any assumptions: The smaller, round mirror on the stand is NOT of the the magnifying type. I just pull it up as close to my face as possible barely allowing enough space for my beauty utensils to fulfill their functions and that's it. If I miss anything, I can't see it. There are a lot of pluses to near-sightedness one doesn't fully appreciate until reaching a certain age. I NEVER want to see my face magnified. Why would anyone want to start her day in a state of depression?

In your two previous weekend cadeaux you saw my non-functioning dressing tables, or at least not functioning as dressing tables. In their past lives they surely did; I hope with beautiful French ladies perfumed, powdered and rouged wearing sumptuous taffeta gowns, velvet capes and glittering bijoux.

This one was designed and commissioned by my reason-for-living-in-France and as he would point out if you were standing next to him: "Note the rounded corner of the wood."

It's modern, functional and a different kind of beautiful. I can splash and spill to my heart's content never causing any irreparable (or at the very least expensive) damage to a precious antique.

While I was clicking away I decided to take a picture of my can't live without face-savers. Then, suddenly I realized I forgot my BioDerma. Of course I had to stop everything, run up-stairs and snap it. Thought maybe you might like to see these little treasures. Yes, I know I've talked about them almost as much as creoles, but still. . . 

Did you notice I set mine out to give you concrete proof I wear them every day? Look closely.

Have a wonderful, wonderful weekend. 

Tomorrow I'll tell you what's coming up next week. Is that exciting or what. . .?

Friday, August 28, 2009

You Couldn't Even Re-Gift This Stuff

We're in a recession, right? We're all searching for ways -- on all fronts -- to economize and make the most out of every endeavor and purchase we plan to make this year. 

You're with me? All true so far? 

Since I'm sitting alone in front of my computer popping unsalted sunflowers seeds into my mouth -- given to me by Edith who says they're good for me and as I previously mentioned she is an obsessive/compulsive health nut -- I'm assuming you're nodding your head in agreement.

Moving along. . . One cannot but ask the question: What were they sipping, sniffing or shooting when they designed their fall winter collections?

As a long, long time participant in the ready-to-wear side-shows I know designers have to do outrageous things in order to be photographed, buzzed about, and so on. And rarely if ever do their circus creations move from the run way to retail, but somehow this year seems to call for the teeniest touch of restraint. The few get-ups pictured here, and trust me there are lots more where they came from, most women wouldn't wear when taking out the garbage in the middle of a moonless night.

Yes, of course there were hundreds and hundreds of wearable, desirable clothes out there and we'll be talking about them in great, long detail, but in the meantime, a smattering of entertainment to start your weekend and end the summer (sniff, sniff) and to be fair, maybe that's what they had in mind: Light-hearted relief in troubled times.

Whatever you do don't let your children or your grandchildren see the decapitated Kermit headband and the jacket featuring the bodies of the rest of his family murdered by Jean-Charles de Castelbajac.

Featured above: An "oh, no where-do-I-look-first" ensemble from Moschino Cheap & Chic; Comme des Garçons about which I have nothing to say; yes, yes, you're right it IS Pamela Anderson modeling a new-age angel whatever for Vivienne Westwood; two creations from Alexander McQueen, please take a second to examine the pattern on the dress with the head-gear, it's snakes, snakes, snakes (!), the second is pictured primarily to give you your first make-up tip of the season, i.e. if you take your lipstick and go waaaaay outside the lip line it's A LOT cheaper than Botox; and two more dead, but this time be-jeweled creatures (dogs, maybe?) from Veronique Leroy.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I Want One

No, not the Picasso "Paul as Pierrot," that's not what I desire. I want the Pierrot collerette.

Well, I'm not a complete fool, of course I'd like the painting, but let's not even go there. We're in a recession for heaven's sake and we're all searching ways and means to make the most from the least, which naturally brings us to today's topic:  A minor addition resulting in a major transformation: The beautiful, face-framing, ruffled clown collar. Would I even bring up the subject if it weren't a la mode-worthy? You know me better than that.

They're big-time statements this fall AND Anne Fontaine of the famous white blouses (although she is now making lots of black chemises -- I guess I was wrong about the infinite possibilities of the white shirt. . .) made them as detachable accessories. Note picture above from Figaro Madame.

Karl Lagerfeld sprinkled them throughout the Chanel collection plus I also saw them someplace else I can't remember. Just take my word for it.

I don't know about you, but I'm getting one. I'm sure those of you far more clever than I can whip one up in less than an hour. Oh, yes, for those of you who have previously mentioned white near your face is not the illuminating miracle I presumed it to be, make your collerette in any color that strikes your fancy. Karl did one in baby pink, so there you go.

Dernier thought: The black silk ribbons from yesterdays post? You can wear them with your new Pierrot collar. You needn't stop there. Go all the way: Throw on a few strands of longish pearls or earrings. You could transfer above mentioned ribbon to your hair like our idol pictured below. If you dare. . .

Oh my, guess who thought of this first? Imagine that. Quelle surprise.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fabulous Fall Fashion Freebies (Well, Almost. . .)

This week I said to Edith: "I've got a great idea." Actually, I say that to her every week, so she just sort of rolls her eyes and says, "I'm listening."

I explained that by now you have done your cover to cover fall/winter fashion reconnaissance review in your favorite magazines and are probably wondering why "she" (meaning moi) hasn't said a word about the up-coming season in a futile effort to drag out the last days of summer. 

Since I like easing into new situations -- a dabble here, a dabble there -- before plunging in and making an egregious error, I thought perhaps you might like to dabble with me.

Without further ado, here is my GREAT idea: By spending almost no money you can add bits and pieces of "newness," i.e.: "See I know what's hot in the fun-filled world of frivolous fashion at this very second and I'm already on message," and turn what you already own into the latest and the greatest. (I apologize for whatever punctuation or lack thereof makes that sentence difficult to digest, but in my excitement I couldn't stop and worry about commas.)

Assumption:  Every woman in the world owns a black skirt. And if she doesn't she better get one tout-de suite because no woman can live without one. It's the basic foundation of everything in our closets. Whatever shape suits your body is the one you should choose. Forget about designer dictates. You're in this game for yourself -- it's all about you, always. That's what French women know instinctively.

These are the budget friendly touches that will up-date and chic-start your fall wardrobes:

1.) Add rounded Velcro shoulder pads to sweaters and some blouses, like the beige one I invented for example. The black turtleneck sweater -- which you already own -- also becomes "this minute" by the addition of light padding.

2.) Belts, belts, belts. I chose the leopard Azzedine Alaia for the turtleneck/skirt combo because it provides a nice break, almost turns the separates into a LBD and as we've discussed waaaaay too many times leopard remains a staple through winter. (Surely there are some belts out there if one is so inclined.)

Belts cinch in or simply mark the waist on sweaters, jackets, blouses, dresses and coats. 

The double-wrap which twirls twice around the gray flannel jacket is a biggie.

3.) All you need is a wide, soft ribbon as the one on the shocking pink blouse and voila, another up-date a la Chanel.

4.) See the cord around the waist of the beige blouse? A visit to the curtain department of your favorite store should accomplish this dress-up embellishment. Go for bright color and maybe some gold. It was an important accessory from the Chloe pret-a-porter collection.

5.) If you scroll up to last week's Top 10 on white blouses, look at the velvet ribbon in Carolina Herrera's black trousers.

6.) See all the black opaque hose? Get some. Wolfords are expensive, but worth every centime they're simply the best of the best paying for themselves over and over. You'll buy fewer and wear them longer. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What Do THEY Think of US? Part III

You may be reading the last chapter in the "What Do THEY Think of Us?" series although it's possible one more is on the horizon. Two women I've been wanting to interview are taking interminably long vacances.  Viva la France.

Overall this week even the criticisms they site seem almost charming. I think "too much enthusiasm" is infinitely more desirable then measured, controlled restraint.

Let me introduce you to the respondents: Caty, a former Air France stewardess who works on and off in a friend's boutique; Caro, a doctor in pharmacy; Françoise, a real estate agent, devotée of all things Marithé + François Girbaud and one of the first people I met when we moved to France; Catherine, an English teacher at the lycee in the village next to ours and Caroline, a practicing endocrinologist and researcher.

And the answers are:

Caty: I find Americans charming, particularly in first encounters. But I think it's part of their cultural politesse, which is to say I think it's superficial, yet pleasant.

American women seem far more liberated than Frenchwomen, particularly in their relationships with men. But is that such a great idea? I'm not sure. I don't know whose fault it is but from our point of view we Latins like the games of charm and seduction, that little romantic dance between a man and a woman. Before we go too far with a man we believe he must 'deserve us,' we're special.

Caro: 'Tea time' is just plain annoying. It's another mini meal to prepare, I think it's a waste of time. (That must sound terrible, non?)

I hate English pharmacies. They sell everything, nothing is arranged properly and there is never anyone to offer advice, spend a moment talking with you. I've heard American pharmacies are exactly the same.

Françoise: Everything is all or nothing in the United States. When a woman is on a regime she'll go from eating everything in sight to nothing at all. We constantly watch our weight and for the most part few Frenchwomen have the yoyo problem.

If an American starts a new sport at 40 she'll practically kill herself on the first day.

I love the way they dress when actually participating in sports, but frankly can't they keep their sport clothes for sports and change into something else when they go out?  Generally I think casual has turned into n'importe quoi -- a petit effort wouldn't hurt.  And then when they get dressed-up for some big event, it can be too much. Less is more.

Oh yes, vitamins. Americans take them by the fist-full. I have French friends who live in the States and they do exactly the same thing. In fact, so do I. Every time they visit I give them a long alphabetical list from A to zinc. I really do think vitamin E has helped my skin. . .

Catherine:  I've had more experiences and friendships with the British. I find them easy-going, respectful. They are particularly tolerant and accepting of other ideas and ways of life. They come off as cool, but I think they have a fire inside. They're the opposite of Italians.

They're positive and faithful in friendships. The single criticism I have is they don't make much of an effort to speak a complete sentence in French. They figure everyone speaks English so why bother.

The British love French cooking. My friends are constantly asking me for recipes.

I think neither the British or the Americans in general care much about clothes.

And finally it seems to me Americans are more intellectual and care more about studies and education.

Caroline:  I work with Americans and find the way the women in my profession dress is so strict and uniform-like that it's almost shocking for me. Those suits -- complete imitations of a man's except for the skirt. Why? I couldn't believe it when a colleague told me she was obliged to wear pantyhose in the summer. What's that all about?

I don't understand why women can't be feminine and professional at the same time. Where's the contradiction?

From my experience career women think about nothing but work, work, work. Recently one came here to collaborate with me and we worked from seven in the morning until 11 at night for two weeks. (I have a life outside work, a husband and three children and I don't like sacrificing time with them when it's not absolutely necessary.) On her last weekend she shopped, shopped, shopped. She didn't ask me for addresses or ideas, just what time the boutiques open. I assume she planned to shop the same way she works.

All in all I find the English less strict on pretty much every level. 

Monday, August 24, 2009

TOP 10: French Challenges

It's been 20-some years since I've lived in France and over time I've come to appreciate and revel in the quality and philosophy of life so precious to those born into the culture. 

Still. . . There are those petite acts of politesse that don't come naturally to me and one in particular makes me uncomfortable. Just for fun I thought I would share these personal quirks with you. I do not rebel against them mind you, nor have they become reflexes, I perform the"rituals" because they are considered correct and I do not wish to offend unnecessarily. 

My TOP 10 Challenges:

1.) Bonjour et Au revoir: You may know that one is supposed to say those words upon entering and exiting a boutique where under normal circumstances I like to keep a low profile. But the greetings don't stop there: You're supposed to say hello and goodbye in the waiting rooms of doctors, lawyers and similar situations which entail entering a room full of strangers all by yourself. (This is the one that makes me uncomfortable. I like to slither in unnoticed.)

2.) Answering machines: I hate leaving messages in English, but in French I get all discombobulated. Sometimes I just say "Bonjour, c'est moi!" and friends figure out who called by my accent.

3.) Verbs: What can I say? I stick to present, past, future and still make mistakes. The other day the husband of a friend of mine told me it was time to move on to the subjunctive. Right.

4.) Lettuce: You probably know this one, but I'll tell you if you have a vicious hostess who doesn't rip up the leaves of her lettuce into reasonably bite-size pieces you are confronted with that wrap and fold technique so familiar to the French in order to never, never, never cut a piece of lettuce as long as you live.  It's tricky and sometimes even the most delicately constructed package can come apart allowing a corner to flip out and splash vinaigrette on your Chanel blouse (whatever. . .).

5.) Tines down: When setting the table and when the meal is finished. When the table is set, the forks are always placed with the tines facing the table. I've been given two explanations for this. One, it's less aggressive (what?). Two, it displays the stamp and name of the orfèvrerie, like Christophe, Puiforcat or family heirloom pieces for example. When the meal is finished the fork and knife are placed on the plate of course, but with the tines down thus signaling "the end."

6.) Fish: When a whole fish is beautifully presented on its purpose-made magnificent serving piece, I always say a little prayer that I will not be the first person offered the platter. Cutting the first piece, dealing with the serving fish knife and fork and figuring out how to cut from the back end by the tail, because I'm not supposed to cut from the front because I'm waaaaaay too polite to do that, is a trauma/drama for me. (You know, relatively speaking.)

7.) Wine: You probably know this one too. A woman never, ever touches the bottle of wine or the carafe, decanter holding same. That's a man's job. Yep. I've found the quickest, easiest way to get my wine glass re-filled is to start the conversation about "isn't it interesting in France only men serve wine" and usually, presto, my empty glass is no longer. 

The carafe d'eau is ambiguous.  Theoretically women can serve water, but not really or we ask permission or we pass out from thirst. My technique is when I want something a table I ask for it. I'll turn to the man nearest me and ask him to pour water for me. I'm more wily with wine.

8.) Salt and pepper:  This one I'm not sure about. When in the States at least when someone asks for salt, we pass the salt and pepper together, in France when someone asks for salt, they want salt. Period. I've read in etiquette books that that's the way it's done. I still pass both because I've seen lots of errors in etiquette books on French manners written mostly by non-French "experts." (I'll get to that in a moment.*)

9.) Sorbet: It's eaten with a fork. My friend Jean (American) says she finds it "amusing" and for years has been eating sorbet with a fork in the privacy of her own home without a French person in sight. When I asked my reason-for-living-in-France "what about the sorbet that melts on the bottom of the dish?" He said: "Eat fast or leave it." We eat sorbet with spoons when we're alone.

10.) The LBD: Truly, it is essential to find that perfect Little Black Dress. The world revolves around it. I have a confession to make: I still haven't found mine. (I have a long black evening gown, but looking like a fool at a dinner party is not one of my top priorities.) 

Imagine what you could do for the rest of your life with the one Coco Chanel is wearing.

I can't decide whether I'm miserable about my lack of success or whether I'm just not a LBD femme. I haven't stopped looking and if I win the lottery I know a tiny couture maison to which some of the best dressed women in Paris turn for their LBDs and other wardrobe wonders.

*I don't care what you've heard, been told or read -- you MUST trust me: One never says "bon appétit" at table before a meal. A waiter might say it to you in a restaurant, but at a dinner party it's déclassé. Many French people say it, but Nadine (de Rothschild) would counsel against it.  As my other best friend (and also a baronne like Nadine -- except by birth and not by marriage) says: "How would someone from another country know this? They hear it all the time. Of course we never think twice about it when it's said by an etranger."

You know this, but I shall repeat it because I see it and I want you to know the best of the best. Whatever sauce left on the plate after the meal is finished, stays on the plate. No matter how tempting, one must not clean up with a piece of bread.

Once again you are witness to another detour, aside, digression, but if I don't plow ahead with something that jumps into my mind unbidden it could be lost forever and that would be tragic. 

Saturday, August 22, 2009

More Vanity

Dressing table number two, tricked out as a bar. A bar with no alcohol, which is pathetic, but it does make for a nice decanter display area.

My reason for living in France tells me that if any of those decanters had liquid in them it would more than double the weight of their containers and the poor little vanity would crumble under the burden. In fact, he has suggested for the safety of the crystal and the piece of furniture that I remove several of my treasures, "right this minute, before disaster strikes." 

We're still in negotiation.

I dread the thought of having to "arrange" -- now there's a euphemism if ever there was one -- my real dressing table, i.e. the one I actually use every day, for the final post in this riveting series.

If my best laid plans don't work out I'll take a picture of the chateau in our village for next weekend. 

Friday, August 21, 2009

It's All About Moi. . .

To my surprise -- ok, stupor -- and delight, Deja Pseu author of the delightful blog, Une Femme d'Une Certain Age nominated, or I guess the word is "tagged" me for The Premium Meme Award for blogs with personality. Here's the catch: I now have to tell you seven traits of my personality evidenced therein.

This is slippery slope territory, one has to be bold, yet modest -- no easy feat. ( I should put dashes and parentheses as part of my personality along with exclamation points and question marks, but they don't seem to gel as a character trait and require too many explanations and dashes; oh, yes and dot, dot, dots. . .)

Alrighty then, here we go (the spell check told me to say "Almighty then"):

1.) Sense of humor and a sense of irony: I find if there is not a funny side to a situation, there's usually an ironic angle lurking somewhere in the vicinity.

2.) Imagination: I'm constantly getting lost in my daydreams, fantasies and ideas for this and that including this blog. Amazingly I've even been accused of not paying attention when people talk to me because I'm "someplace else." I would retort -- in my head of course, because I hate being rude --  "if you were saying something scintillating you can be sure I'd be in red alert listening mode."

3.) Curious: This trait probably comes out in all the unscientific surveys I conduct. I love discovering everything I can about people: what they think about all sorts of subjects; what they're passionate about; what they do; who and what they love (my mother always told me one can love people and animals, but not things; I know, but you know what I mean); what they eat and, of course, most important of all, what they wear. 

Call me superficial if you will, but life deals out enough profound situations without searching them out by choice.

4.) Hopeful: Most situations turn out for the best. At least I hope they do. 

5.) Uncomplicated: In English this might translate as "stupid," but as you can well imagine I prefer the French translation of one who likes to keep life simple, easy and open to new experiences and encounters.

6.) Monkey brain: It was once explained to me that the aforementioned condition results in beginning a thought on one subject and jumping all over the place with other ideas as they are triggered by the one/ones you haven't even had time to express. I prefer to refer to this condition as asides, detours, qualifiers and digressions. And I know it drives some people nuts. For that I am deeply sorry.

7.) Enthusiastic: I've been living in France for two decades and every time I go into Paris I get excited. I love dinner parties; getting dressed-up; hearing the enthusiasm in my husband's voice when he says hello to me every morning; my dogs' tails wagging in pleasure when they see me; a telephone call from my daughter; and writing this blog.

It is now my turn to "tag" blogs with great personalities, some I would have named have already been hit. Since I don't know the rules of the exercise maybe I'm not allowed to do a double tag (?) Two of my favorites with more to come: And That Reminds Me and 

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Devil Is (Always) In The Details

Details in ready-to-wear -- and taken to their glorious extreme in haute couture -- are the real estate equivalent of location, location, location.

They transform the ubiquitous into the unique, or at the very least the unusual.

They come in two forms: Add-ons and Built-ins. 

Translation: Accessories, the individual, creative, easy way to make a garment your own, versus the discreet or blatant embellishments that are part of the piece of clothing itself, i.e. tucking, embroidery, buttons, piping, and so on.

We're not here to discuss accouterments -- we'll be delving into them on many occasions in the future -- today's topic is "built-ins."  Those are the details that make something special before we start playing around with it. Normally, those are the touches that scream "I'm expensive, look at how special I am" whereas less costly items can look cheap when the details are over-the-top or badly executed. 

It's that famous high-low mix (or hi-lo, if you will). It's tricky. As a general rule, when going low, keep it simple, i.e. white t-shirt, classic shirt, etc. If you're going high, look for details that set your purchase apart from the crowd without falling for a fad. 

Fads should be bought in small doses and when possible kept in the cheap chic category unless they have potential shelf life. By that I mean you can put it on a shelf and pull it out five or 10 years from now -- or one of your descendants can. . .

Recently I got lucky on the cheap detail front. I found a 100 percent Merino wool boyfriend sweater; you know, the long, classic V-neck cardigan that's never out of style. But note the difference, drawn by Edith, the double row of buttons marching down the front. Cela change tout.  It comes in navy, gray and black -- all in the fall/winter color palette (and as you know, black is always in mine) -- it cost 40 Euros.

The other purchase was the silly tunic-y t-shirt with tiny tucks at the neck and fullish 3/4 push-up sleeves. It will probably last a couple of seasons and if we finally get away from all these maternity tops everyone is wearing I can always tuck it in. I wore it with an ancient pair of white linen trousers with black pin-stripes bought at H&M in New York. (Note cuffs on pants, it makes them look more expensive than they were.)

Above mentioned t-shirt was nine Euros. It comes in white, black, coral and a brick red. 

Ok, ok, it's true: I bought one in black too. How could I not? It goes with the same pants and I have the reverse version in black with white pin-stripes, also from the same long-ago shopping trip at H&M. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

If Only I Had Known. . . Part II

The other half of the best (well, way up there on the list anyway) outfit I've ever owned is the jacket that turns the pants from last Wednesday's post into a perfect, pulled-together, go-anywhere suit.

My favorite journalism professor always said every time you refer back to a story you have to apply the "desert island principle" which is to say I have to assume that many of you are not aware of last week's paean to my navy blue silk suit.  En bref (briefly), as the French would say: It turned into one of those wardrobe miracles that arrive in one's life unannounced and every time we don't know what to wear, there it is. You don't know it when you buy it, no matter how much you loved it, but once you own it you can't stop wearing it. Actually, that's theoretically what we're all hoping to find every time we hand over a credit card for particularly pricey pieces. (This was particularly pricey, but it's paid for itself a hundred times over while other big ticket items hang next to it unworn.)

Last week I separated the pants from the jacket to show the zillions -- ahem -- ways they can be worn separately. As promised, with Edith's drawings, here are many, many ways (you see, I can restrain myself from non-stop exaggeration even though my-reason-for-living-in-France says I'm an "excessive") the jacket can be worn on its own.

See what the jacket can do:

1.) With my gorgeous -- I'll say it again, gorgeous -- Chanel vanilla silk crepe evening skirt. (Before you get worked up: The skirt cost considerably less than the navy suit because I bought it in the good old days when I was invited to the private Chanel sales in a warehouse someplace or other where one stands in line in the rain with thousands -- no exaggeration -- of vicious women waiting to ripe clothes out of the hands of other vicious women. At one of those sales I found a stunning navy turtleneck when I stepped on it and almost broke my leg.)

2.) A simple red dress or a brightly color shirt with a matching top to keep the chic line flowing.

3.) With a grey turtleneck sweater and gray flannel pants, equally pretty with grey flannel pencil skirt and opaque tights.

4.) White linen pants and, and what is that I see there? Yes it is our marinaière (forgot to ask Edith to add the creoles. . .)

5.) It works beautifully with navy pin-striped pants. I have a pair in linen and a pair in flannel which are the trousers for a navy pin-stripe suit.

6.) Any white blouses, T-shirts, Marcels, etc., etc.

7.) A navy blue skirt, but be careful it doesn't end up looking like a uniform. Try gabardine or flannel. 

8.) Ditto for navy pants. It also saves wear-and-tear on those precious matching silk trousers because they will surely fall apart before the jacket. Navy satin would be lovely for evening.

9.) Great with jeans.

10.) Big, grey crepe evening pants, masses of gray pearls, only pretty lingerie under the jacket.

11.) Big, ivory satin pants. Same as above with masses of pearls or if you can find it, a matching ivory satin tee or camisole (I found mine at the wonderful Chinese boutique I told you about last week).

12.) Fuchsia, lime, yellow, shocking pink, on and on linen pants.

13.) A Hermes scarf as a "bustier" or halter top and then choose the bottom accompaniment accordingly. 

14.) Pastel shirts (not t-shirts, no, no, no) and striped shirts in crisp poplin, collar turned up of course.

15.) All sorts of pretty camisoles and bustiers if you dare and you don't brim over -- you know the drill.

A bonus once you've identified this wonder of wonders as the best thing you've ever bought: You can start building around it and making it more and more valuable. Non-stop fun. . .

As I mentioned previously, but you know how it goes with me: If I refer to something twice I see no reason not to repeat it 10 times; if you discover quickly that you've bought a rare-in-a-lifetime outfit, rush back and buy a second bottom. I was too late and too dumb to act on that advice. And as you know my raison d'etre is to save you from my errors.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What Do THEY Think of US? Part II

In this, the second in what may perhaps evolve into a three part series of off-the-cuff surveys with Frenchwomen on what they think of us, their responses go from the sublime to the slanderous.

I think a bit of context is order this time: I interviewed women from the ages of just-turned-40 to 91. It makes the responses more interesting than ever because their points-of-view cross three generations, including of course those who experienced World War II.  

Not everyone has been to the States, all have friends or acquaintances from and traveled through Great Britain. Many times impressions come from films, newspapers, magazines and books. No matter what informed their opinions they do not hesitate to expound upon them.

(Remember we're all clustered under the "Anglo-Saxon" umbrella for convenience.)

Here we go. . .

Benedicte: In my experience the English and Americans are hypocritical in business. They say one thing if it's to their advantage and if the situation changes so does their attitude. I don't see much loyalty toward their colleagues.

I do admire the way American women don't hesitate about getting divorced when they're not happy. Nobody does divorce better than Americans.

Mimi (never been to the U.S.):  Anglo-Saxons are most definitely not Latins. They have a rigor and a discipline we don't have.

I think America produces les belles femme, often un peu pulpeuse, which I think is very appealing.

For me there is a strange dichotomy, a sort of ambiguity with American women. It's essential for them to be married, yet they pride themselves on their individuality and independence and then fight all the harder for it inside their marriages. Strange.They're not comfortable unmarried and society I think further makes them feel that way.

I don't really believe in feminism, but I admire the way Anglo-Saxon women have fought so fiercely for their rights.

English women have a reserve we don't have, which I respect. They seem to revere tradition, which I think is important. As you know our relationship as a country is historically complex with Great Britain, but my personal encounters have been nothing but pleasant.

Josephine (91-years-old, visited the U.S. once and has had many English friends): None of them is sufficiently well-dressed. They simply don't have that French elegance we so admire. They're not soignée truthfully.

I'm an extremely open person so I always go toward others which has made for excellent contacts wherever I am.

Juliette (83-years-old, worked for decades in the U.S. and is now back in France): I find young American women far less polite than the young men.

As much as I loved living and working in the States I must say I never got over being shocked about America's obsession with money and how they measure and judge one's character by how much money they have or have recently acquired. It's dreadful.

Aurore (40, married to an American; they live in France):  Let me say up-front: I love Americans and in particular all of my husband's family. They are frank, say what they think and don't care or live their lives worrying about what other people think.

They're kind and generous. Sometimes one feels 'out of sight, out of mind' because many don't seem to be very good at staying in touch, but the minute we're all back together again it's as if we saw each other the day before. 

When we visit my husband's cousins they have such exuberance it's contagious. I think it's great the way families do sports together during the week or the entire family goes to watch a child's baseball game. 

The women pretty much wear whatever falls into their hands as long as they're comfortable. I was raised differently and although I have a sort of admiration for that attitude, it's not me at all. Maybe they're more comfortable in their skin than we are.

On the other hand, I think women in New York, for example, have that too perfect look as if they've spent hours on their hair, make-up, clothes. It seems artificial, a brittle facade.

In couples, even married couples, I feel and see a certain prudence, a reserve that we rarely see here.  One must be very careful with what might be construed as seductive innuendo, which we think of as fun and games -- no one is ever offended. I notice rarely after a certain age do couples hold hands walking down the street; touch one another in a gentle, affectionate way like a stroke on the cheek or a hand on the shoulder. And perhaps what surprised me the most was when I see couples sitting very properly at opposite ends of a sofa. 

Marie (has an English daughter-in-law whom she loves): It's simple, I adore the English and the Americans. If it weren't for them where would France be today? The courage, conviction and loyalty they showed toward us. How can anyone ever forget?

I love the individualism and esprit of independence that runs through their veins.

If I were to have one negative comment it would be: I detest the culture of money over all else -- the mentality of Wall Street and The City. It's tragic.

Drame du Jour

Just found the cutest Jack Russell outside our gate who was almost hit by a truck so I'm off to the vet to have his electronic thingie read so we can find his owners.

All of which to say, once again I'll be posting a little late today.

BUT, today's feature is --ta-da: "What Do THEY Think About Us?"

I'll be back as fast as I can.

Monday, August 17, 2009

TOP 10: Les Chemises Blanches

That's precisely the way I feel about white blouses, shirts, t-shirts. . .  You get the picture.

Don't tell me you're thinking: She's been there and done that? Surely not.

In this singular item of design perfection we have a fashion/non-fashion/never-out-of-fashion/ageless can't live without, can't get enough masterpiece. 

We're back on subject and I can assure you we'll be revisiting this territory again and probably
again and again.

No woman can ever, repeat, ever own too many white blouses. Note Carolina Herrera at the close of her collection wearing what has practically become her signature: A simple, beautifully tailored white shirt. She often pairs it with grand ball skirts and never fails to look sleekly elegant in contrast to the sea of trying-to-hard frou-frou frocks flitting about in front of the cameras. 

If you closely examine Audrey Hepburn's shirt, you'll see she has wrapped it around her lithe body, putting her personal stamp on the classic. No need to waste time with buttons -- wrap and go. (The picture is from "Audrey Style" by Pamela Clarke Keogh, but I regret to say I do not know who took the marvelous photo.)

Et voila: A few of my favorites:

The TOP 10 Chemises Blanches:

From the top:  Michael Kors, Antonio Marras, Stella McCartney, Giles, Chloe, Yves Saint Laurent (twice), Chanel and the final two from Brioni. 

Ed Note: Consider this post as a Look Book. White blouses and shirts are everywhere at every price point. Seek and you shall find.
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