Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Edith et Moi, Playing In Our Closets

Welcome, bienvenue, to the last in the series wherein Edith and I pull our own clothes out of our closets, mix them up and show you how staggeringly stunning and clever we are. 

Oh yes, and modest as well.

The blossoms have burst into full bloom on my forsythia, which officially signal printemps chez moi.  And, as promised, next week we will debut our spring/summer selections demonstrating once again how incredibly inventive we are no matter what the season or temperature. 

In today's post, our selections can be worn for the next month or so unless the temperatures soar, which seems unlikely.

Off subject, quelle surprise(!): I would like to recommend that if you have, or can find a friend or acquaintance who can draw and you want to lose a few pounds, do the following: Never ever have your photograph taken again for the rest of your life. Instead, ask your new friend to draw you according to your specifications. In that way you can forget about diets and calorie counting and miraculously become the size you've always dreamed about, wearing whatever you desire --even haute couture. It won't work on official documents of course, like your passport for example, but those are only head shots, not hip shots. 

Moving along. . . Edith is wearing her dark indigo jeans and in both drawings Agnes b cotton t-shirts. With the pants she pulled out a short navy light wool YSL jacket and her Tod's driving moccasins. With her black, "I've had forever and don't remember where it came from" wool skirt she added a huge black silk flower on her shoulder and a wide red suede belt. "The flower takes me from the office to dinner," she explained. 

Ed. Note: Edith does not work in an office, she works in front of an easel, but you get her point.

I'm wearing my usual black Chanel skirt and Donna Karan pants. On top I've teamed a large, pale, pale gray linen shirt with a black and gray pin-striped linen waistcoat I had made in Dubai.

With the trousers I'm wearing a red silk jacket I've had so long I truly don't know where it came from over a silk moire waistcoat I bought in a men's store someplace or other. Once again, I added my coral necklace and Minelli Louis heels that look sort of like Chanel -- sort of.

All drawings by Edith of course.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ronde et Ronde We Go

We seem to have opened a heated debate about weight. Let's continue shall we?

I had a pot pourri planned for today, but this is infinitely more interesting.  As women we're irrevocably invested in this most delicate subject and there is more to say.

We're constantly pushed and pulled this way and that about those numbers on the scale. More and more of us are exercising and trying to eat well. Good for us. My experience in France is that French women do generally eat well. They include the requisite fruits and vegetables in their regimes, they walk, walk, walk and bicycle whenever they can. They drink small amounts of wine and desserts are treats. (I'm speaking from my own experience.) It is beyond my imagination to think of a French woman slipping out of bed in the deep of night to consume a carton of ice cream with a few macarons.

Forgive me for this lapse in precision, which I'm paraphrasing here without credit: Years ago I read somewhere that the question, "What do you think of when someone mentions chocolate cake?" was posed to French and American women, the French said "special occasion, a treat" and the Americans said, "sinful." Interesting mindset, non?

Of course French women take their car to the mall, but they'll ride their velo to the village shops and they weave with terrifying purpose -- sans helmet, skirts flying in the breeze, heels hooked over the pedals -- in and out of traffic in Paris. Thank goodness there are more and more bicycle lanes, but drivers often don't respect the dividing lines.

We all know that when a need presents itself, a marketing and product campaign jumps into or onto the opportunity. This translates into those hot sectors, plus sizes and the anti-aging bandwagon.

Magazines rely on advertisements to survive thus they have no choice but to address subjects they might otherwise like to pretend don't exist. Their tack is always glamor, glamor at every age and every size. 

In the French Elle edition of this week there were, in my opinion, some unkindly unflattering fashion choices for the models. They may look like "fun" in a fashion shoot with the wind machines whipping lush, long tresses in the artificial breeze, the lighting and makeup just so, but what information is this sending out to the real world? Has the benediction been given to bare all, wear jerseys that pull across the body? Once again, mixed messages. Don't we simply want to look the best we can working with our natural resources?

From the top: Tara wearing a great combination of pieces, right down to the glasses; just below French model Johanna Dray (a size 46/48, but 5'11" which makes a huge difference in proportions and possibilities) looking sleek by maintaining that famous unbroken line. It doesn't matter that the jacket hits at a potentially unflattering point, the line is the unbroken rule.

Center: Tara in the peacock chair. Thought this might stir-up the cauldron.

Finally: Tara in an adorable photograph modeling a great dress by Sandro she probably shouldn't be wearing. However, the scale of the necklace is perfect for her size. 

And, Stephanie Zwicky, 5' 6" and a size 52, wearing a Lanvin dress which I cannot believe exists in her size. My guess would be, after all the photo shoot styling I've done, that the dress was slit up the back like a hospital gown, except with less coverage. If I'm wrong, I apologize en avance. Stephanie has a blog dedicated to the big and the beautiful.

Pictures of Tara are by David Oldham, those of Johanna and Stephanie by Kate Barry. (For those of you who are Jane Birkin fans, Barry is her daughter.)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ronde, Rubenesque, Ravishing

Let's set the record straight before we begin today:  
  • This missive is coming to you from France, right? Correct.
  • In France every woman worth her designer duds wears a size 38 (or aspires to, or wishes to once again), correct? Absolutely, unless she's a 36.
  • French women carefully (obsessively?) control every morsel passing through their Rouge Coco lips, any doubts about that? I didn't think so.
  • Do you know why? Let me tell you: They're disciplined and driven. That's why.
Here's something most French women know: Five kilos on their derrière equals minus 10-ish years on their face. But they don't care (!)  

They'd rather keep that derrière sufficiently svelte to comfortably slide into a size 38 than plump out those inevitable fine lines and deep creases. Trust me on this one. I live with these women, I have close friends -- seemingly lucid, absolutely thin by any standards, of sound mind and otherwise completely reasonable -- who are unwilling to make that "sacrifice."

They call it "la face pour les fesses" however most reverse the f-words for the third f- word: fashion.

Did you know that a small equals 36/38, a medium 38/40 and large 40/42? 

But, is every woman in France a 38 or a 40? Ummm, no. For that reason, I thought this post might interest you.

We all know the latest trend in women's magazines is to have the two annual exception issues -- age and weight -- or as the French so beautifully put it for the latter category, les rondes et les pulpeuses. (Pulpeux may be my favorite adjective in the language, it seems voluptuous, curvy, sensuous in the pronouncing.)

This week French Elle produced an issue with a large, red banner exclaiming: "Special RONDES 32 Pages Pour Etre Chic et Fashion. And guess what?  The editors honestly did what they promised. They didn't stop at size 12 or 14 and do the weight waffle. 

To the magazine's great credit the gorgeous young woman on the cover, Tara Lynn from Seattle, is a size 48. Because she is so lovely, and the stylists have shown her in several different looks, I thought you might like to see a few of them. Most are ageless btw. You be the judge.

She was photographed by David Oldham.

Being ronde may not be a piece of cake in a country which practically worships thin, but the market is there and according to studies it continues to grow.

In France 33 percent of the population is considered overweight, and 10 percent obese. In the United States, some 34 percent of the population is obese and 57 percent overweight. For those of you familiar with the BMI (Body Mass Index) normal weight is between 18.50 to 24.9; overweight, 25 to 29.9 and obese, over 30. If you're interested in doing the math for yourself, click on the BMI above.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Week Ahead or La Semaine Prochaine

On The Calendar for Next Week:

Lundi: A Real French Revolution: Ronde, Rubenesque, Ravishing.

Mardi: Interview or Pot Pourri -- the jury of one is still out. 

Mercredi: Edith et moi, playing in our closets.

Jeudi: On-the-Street or In-the-Shops, depending upon the weather.

Vendredi: Dear Cherie.

Samedi: Surprise (!)

Dimanche: Next week's line-up.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Merci Mille Fois Mes Cheres Amis

Maybe I'm a brat, a spoiled only child (except of course for my Evil Twin, Cherie), but that tingly frisson I get when a fellow blogger thinks I merit the most gracious and flattering cadeau that tells me they have passed a bon moment chez moi -- I am thrilled. 

I appreciate the awards, I'm always surprised, and the time it takes in everyone's busy lives to give someone a compliment in our virtual world. . .well, I'm more than grateful. 

My "pass-along" duties will be fulfilled, I promise, but I wanted to get my thank you, thank you, thank you responses out before anyone might think I'm blasé, forgetful or just plain rude.

From the top: My darling, fabulous, stylish friend and guardian of all that is elegant, Lily Lemontree. Merci ma chere. How exciting to be able to put Marilyn on a post(!) We look exactly alike -- she's blonde, I'm blonde. Ahem. . .

A new discovery: That Girl. Since we've just recently met, I've spent some considerable time visiting chez elle and it seems to me there is nothing That Girl can't do. She knows all about beauty AND she can cook. Amazing. Go see for yourself.

Thank you so very, very much for your lovely gift.

If you're looking for Sunshine, and who isn't(?), the joy-filled Champagne and Macarons is a must visit. When you think about it though, anyone who names her blog "Champagne and Macarons" is by definition in a good mood 24/7. Merci for your daily sunshine and the award. 

I will pass along these awards, but have to run out again (with Cherie, unfortunately) to find the ultimate, take-her-breath-away birthday gift for Edith and the clock is tick, tick, ticking.

Merci encore.

Have a beautiful weekend. (If you wish you were in Paris, it's raining.)

Explanations and Remerciements to Follow. . .

Before the deluge -- clouds are rolling in from the left (I don't understand north, south, east, west) -- My-Reason-For-Living-In-France and I are heading out to buy a cherry tree because the two we have are not cross-pollenating properly. 

You gardeners probably understand, pas moi.

When we've found a beauty we'll be back and I shall properly thank all the lovely bloggers who gave me these wonderful awards.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dear Cherie. . .

Another whirlwind week, invitations piling up, shopping, Cherie needs a new bag (or two), appointments to be scheduled for a full body spring cleaning from med-ped to tress trim and decisions to be made about what to do with that vast area between the two points. 

The regime has hit a plateau, as promised by Dr. Dukan in his tome, but it makes Cherie cranky nonetheless. One can reasonably expect, effort in equals kilos off, mais c'est la vie. It couldn't possibly have been that one big vodka last weekend? Non.

Last minute pick-up: Cherie must advise and accompany You-Know-Who (YKW) in search of the perfect gift for Edith's birthday tomorrow. That will be a chore -- trying to spend quality time with YKW that is. Cherie quite likes Edith even though she seems to prefer YKW. Very odd.

Alrighty then, moving along to your riveting questions -- at least one can hope they're interesting. Let's plunge right in.

Q: Mme. D.: Dear Cherie, Hair cuts, color, care and so forth are always such a problem for me. Should I cut, should I color, should I condition and if so how, when, well you know the drill. What do French women do? Are there "in" styles and "out" styles?

A: Dear Mme. D: First off, quite frankly, Cherie does not know the drill. Cherie, like all French women with great style and elegance has found her signature color and cut and sticks with it. As for care, that varies with Cherie's mercurial temperament -- for which she is famous, but let's not go there. 

Cherie does not believe a woman should look for the "ins" and "outs" of hairstyles and color. Leave that game to the girls. A chic femme knows what works best for her and with a tweak here and a snip there, a move up to a slightly lighter tint she will be forever envied by her insecure friends and enemies. What more could a women desire?

Note examples herewith: Ines de la Fressange, Marissa Berenson, Nathalie Baye, Fanny Ardant, Catherine Deneuve and Isabelle Huppert -- with only the slightest adjustments all have stayed with their signature styles for decades.

Do you see the one detail each style has in common? They all move, a great cut always appears natural, touchable.

Q: Mme. J: Chere Cherie, It's that time of year again when we're all thinking about what to wear to "occasions." I find this very difficult. What do you suggest we choose for weddings, graduations and other major summer events? Please don't tell me flowers.

A: Mme. J: Cherie must ask for your indulgence. Among all the dressing dilemmas, she considers weddings in particular to be one of the most challenging. Therefore, she asks that you give her sufficient time to delve into not only her own closet for ideas -- where she always finds answers to everything -- but also to see what's up in a few Paris boutiques. And just for you, Mme. J., Cherie will be back with a complete post (or two) on the subject of "special occasion" dressing. 

Don't fret, Cherie is the last person who will suggest flower prints -- probably.

Q: Mme. E and Mme. D: Help (!) Cherie, We're doing the best we can trying to memorize and implement all the rules and regulations for good manners, politesse and all the rest with which You-Know-Who has been burdening us the past two weeks, but we're of two minds: we're fed up and we want you to tell us if you can't say "Santé" when a toast is given, what are we supposed to say?

A: Mes cheres Madames: Cherie is pleased you have turned to her for clarification. YKW can be exasperating, no one knows that better than Cherie. If you wish to keep it simple one could say: A vous or à nous or -- this one's from YKW's Reason-For-Living-In-France -- à vos amours.

Personally, Cherie prefers being toasted with a sultry deep stare into her eyes and a whispered: à toi, ma chere Cherie. That seems normal and correct under any circumstances, even at someone else's wedding. 

Motto: It's always all about Cherie.

Q: Mme. B: Have you any beauty advice or tips for us this week Cherie?

A: Dear Mme. B, How many times does Cherie have to tell you her raison d'etre is to perpetuate beauty and style in the world, no matter how small her corner of the monde may be?  Sorry, if Cherie seems testy it's because of the regime plateau. But to answer your question: obviously Cherie has tips and tricks. If she didn't, she wouldn't be Cherie.

Cherie will now divulge an unrelated two-fer: Elnet and Freshcomplexion by Cover Girl.

First the Elnet, the only thing that makes this cheap hairspray chic is that everybody uses it. The hottest hair people in Paris and backstage at all the collections. One can barely breathe during the ready-to-wear shows. You choose the holding power: swingy or solid.

Second, Cherie has a friend, French of course, who always requests Cover Girl cosmetics when Cherie travels to New York for personal appearances. One of her favorite products is Cover Girl's concealer. Never mind the glamour quotient, it's great. No, it isn't as sexy looking on the outside as YSL's Touche Eclat and instead of a brush it has a teeny foam rubber applicator, but it definitely works and leaves lots more change leftover to buy other glam goodies.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Country Casual

Cobble, cobble, cobble. . .

Original Idea: Hit les rues with my trusty any-idiot-can-take-a-picture camera to see if les femmes françaises d'un certain age have started donning their spring duds. 

As always, my unflinching eye for beauty, composition and fine focus has been incorporated into my photo art. . .

Idea Gone Awry: Yesterday the streets were bare in the petite ville next to ours.  Today it's raining.

Solution:  "On-the-street" shots morphed into "in-the-shops" shots.

Unfortunately, it being spring and all according to the calendar, the boutiques were encumbered with floor to ceiling boxes filled with yet unpacked treats and treasures for the new season. Thus the backgrounds for my art was less inspiring than I would have liked.  No doubt you will agree, but please don't feel any obligation to tell me. Merci par avance.

I'll make all of this up to you next week. Promise.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Did You Know? More on Magnificent Manners

Yes, normally today Edith and I are rummaging in our closets in an effort to contrive staggeringly stunning ensembles for your delectation, but for logistical reasons (you don't really care about the details) the weekly schedule has been modified.

Instead, we (you and I, not Edith) will be examining the fine, sometimes complicated, but ever important manners and mores that no matter what one is wearing signal to the French who you are and from whence you arrived. Believe me, it's a minefield. So incendiary are some of these glaring words and gestures that I have decided not to mention them. (You'll have to contact me undercover on a need-to-know basis because I don't want to rock the bateau.)

Once again, some I knew, some I learned and some no one in the world could know unless one first makes the faux pas followed by a correction. Attending a Swiss boarding school normally gives the necessary polish and politesse required. For those who have passed the enrollment age, please allow me to assist. 

If you want to give your children and grandchildren a jambe up you could whisk them off to Academie Nadine de Rothschild, Internatioinal Way of Life where she will teach them much more than which fork to use. 

She's the perfect professor. She went from the lowest echelons of French society, passing by her starlet stage to le bon mariage and thus becoming La Baronne Nadine de Rothschild. She oozes charm and good humor and never pretends or negates her rise in good fortune and what she learned on the trudge up the mountain. Now she shares the wealth of her experiences through books and her "finishing school."

She also counsels her adherents later in life to help them climb that other important social ladder: career advancement. Business etiquette is itself a rapidly growing career path. (See how Nadine is working the table above.)

Entre temps, let me respond to a few questions which may or may not have occurred to you and about which you may or may not give a whit:

1.) Soup: It is consumed from the point of the spoon, not from the side as we were taught. I know I don't need to say this, but of course I will, no slurping, sucking or blowing on the liquid and if you can't get every last drop with the spoon -- leave it. Do not tip the bowl. (Ed note: French soup spoons are enormous.)

2.) Toasts: In our review last week we discussed never saying, "bon appetit" this week a reminder to never say "Santé" as a toast.

3.) The worst, most condescending insult one can say about another is that he or she is "ordinaire." Ouch. Really.

4.) A variety of key words exist, that once dropped into a conversation immediately classify the speaker, this is the ultimate snobbism of the French. These words I shall not divulge herewith. The paramount rule for good manners is not to offend or embarrass, for that reason I shall abstain. (For a fascinating discourse on snobbism you must click over to La Duchesse at Passage des Perles.)

5.) One says: "Je vous embrasse" and never, "On se fait la bise."

6.) It is the duty, no the obligation, of every dinner party guest to devote equal time engaging the invitee on his (or her) left and right in lively conversation, not to do so is considered unforgivably rude. Too bad for you, speaking from a man's point of view, if you have Ines de la Fressange on your right and the host's deaf great-grandmother on your left. C'est la vie.

7.) When leaving the dining room, push your chair back toward the table.

8.) Never abbreviate on an envelope, always write: Madame, Monsieur or Mademoiselle.

9.) At the very least it is considered inelegant to refuse part of the repas. In France you will either be served or serve yourself, therefore you are in control of your portions. If you despise wild boar (as I do) take a small piece, try to eat a tiny bite and quickly drink some wine. Now you are the perfect guest.

10.) You have probably heard scores of times the rule about never cutting lettuce. It must be folded into a little package. I've certainly mentioned this before, but one detail I neglected is that the job of a good hostess is to make certain her lettuce leaves have been ripped into manageable bits. Also, if the process does require folding you can assist your fork with a small morsel of bread. Yes, it can be tres tricky.

11.) Do not answer the telephone with a bored "oui" implicit in that word is a question mark demanding "what do you want?" Always respond to the ring with a bright, sunny "allo!" -- if you're in a bad mood, let the call go into the answering machine. 

12.) This fascinates me: When one is asked to "please pass the salt," it is not to be handed to the person, but placed next to her. Hand-to-hand salt transfers are associated with some ancient superstition. Who knew? Who could know?

13.) On formal wedding invitations, the grandparents' names precede those of the parents on the invitation to the ceremony. Rather charming I think.

14.) If you do not wish to have more wine, never put your hand over the glass. A simple, "non merci" will suffice.

Et voila -- until and unless -- I can think of or find more obscure essential etiquette rules.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

News, Views, The Latest, The Greatest, etc.

Yes, that's right, it's time for a Pot Pourri (!!!!!

I'm so excited I don't know where to begin. I've got it, let's start with bleu. Not your everyday, navy or baby, but electric.

Shocking Bleu

Let's say you're not a pink person -- as you may recall at this same place last week we discussed rosy, rosy hues as it colors for spring and summer. As luck would have it, alternatives abound. The trend also embraces a new blue hue that has "classic" written all over it. Remember when it appears models have forgotten their skirts or trousers, the petite oversight translates into a tunic for us. 

All the blues from Lacoste without an alligator in sight.

The Return of the American Indian

As far as I'm concerned turquoise mixed with any other gem, and coral any way it's served up are perennially perfect. You can see above Kenneth Jay Lane decided he likes sophisticated feathers interpreted in rhinestone earrings and a turquoise encrusted pendant. Pourquoi pas?  

But of course this wouldn't be a trend if it didn't veer off into artsy-craftsy territory. Basically there's something out there for everyone. If you already own something similar, pull it out now.

The delicate feather in yellow gold with the tip "dipped" in pink gold is by Landstrom's Black Hills, the manchette is by Harpo and the I-really-want-them earrings are by Saiki.

Imagination Required

OK, you've got your Gummy Bears. Now concentrate please: Pretend they are packaged like pills in air-sealed plackets -- clear plastic on one side, aluminum foil on the other -- (are you with me?), now imagine the Gummy Bears are encased in this packaging. You can see them peeking out from the transparent bump beds where they're resting.

Your question might quite logically be: "And what might be the purpose of this product?"

Excellent question: They are recommended for use when a child has a "bo-bo" -- a little spill, a tiny bruise, a bad day -- you pop out a Gummy Bear while you pop out a Xanax or similar remedy for yourself.

Isn't that clever? Nothing like teaching children early on there's a pill for everything even if it comes in the form of one of those disgusting stick-in-your-teeth bonbons. (I'm waiting for the backlash. I know lots of adults who love them.)

Your Secret Garden

If you're an avid gardner and detest interruptions as you muck about, I think I may have found the perfect outer wear for you.

A flower print jumpsuit from the spring/summer Agnes b. ready-to-wear collection.

I see it as floral camouflage. Accessorize with green gloves. When you hear rustling in the bushes don't move. Just see if anyone -- other than a dog -- can find you. 
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