Monday, May 31, 2010

Transatlantic Parallel

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a day when one gives pause, praise and prayers for the courageous men and women who have fought in all the terrible wars now and then.

My wonderful partner in our weekly Transatlantic Parallel conversation, Jeanne-Aelia Desparmet-Hart, creator of the stunning blog, Through the French Eye of Design, suggested we honor the holiday. Of course I agreed.

As most of you know, she is French, living in the United States; I am American, living in France. Every Monday we share our thoughts on a specific subject. 

Today It's Memorial Day

We have set out to at one and the same time show our esteem for the sacrifices made throughout the world for the beliefs a nation holds dear and on a lighter note, Jeanne-Aelia's brilliant idea, take a look at the military uniforms that give each country its unique vestmental personality.

It is particularly significant, I think, that Jeanne-Aelia and I are citizens of two countries which have always been allies. As independent, democratic nations, our leaders' decisions from time to time throughout history angered and annoyed each other (and their respective citizenry), but never have our differences spilled over into armed conflict.

Let me admit up front, I'm feeling out of my depth, but I will try to show my profound respect for the significance of this anniversary while simultaneously talking about what is more along the lines of my "expertise" -- clothes -- without trivializing the meaning of the day.

A historical note: The first Memorial Day, originally known as "Decoration Day," was founded by the Civil War general, John Logan, Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic. His desire was to find a meaningful way to help heal the divided country after the horrors of that war. He chose May 30th to mark the commemoration for two reasons I never knew before researching for this post: 

1. The date did not mark the anniversary of a Civil War battle.

2. General Logan said, "flowers would likely be in bloom all over the United States."

It was not until 1971 that Memorial Day became an official federal holiday when Congress passed the National Holiday Act resulting in the annual three-day weekend at the end of May.

Now, on to the uniforms that unify the various divisions of the armed forces.  Built for comfort, camouflage and protection one cannot take the significance of the garments worn during war or potential conflict as vestmental statements (though many of their practical assets have been absorbed into mainstream dressing). These garments are made for service whether green spotted with brown and black to fade into the flora, white splashed with black to melt into the snow or tan with brown and beige to disappear into the desert. Those are the fundamentals of form and function in their most highly evolved expression.

Symbolically, a uniform is the outward manifestation of a team, a group of individuals dressed identically to signify which side they are on while at the same time creating an immediately recognizable image to their fellow soldiers emphasizing they are on the same side.

Then there are the glamorous manifestations of military dress uniforms, the style of a country, the national costumes if you will of a nation on parade. Those are the ones which take us away from the wars and give us the comfort and assurance that we are protected and oh so proud.

My tendency at this point is to wander off into my abstract appreciation of the concept of uniform dressing in which I shall indulge only briefly here. I admire the crispness, perfectly tailored, usually extremely flattering cut and design of official uniforms. It is why even in the civilian world we like our "uniforms" -- the blazer, pea coat, trench coat, watch cap, French navy striped t-shirt, insignia details, brass buttons, the neat white shirt, the fabrics which hold their shape and keep their sharp creases, the whites, navies, khakis, grays and tans of the materials, the simple trousers and skirts. . . 

Designers cannot stay away from the influences of the pure lines of uniforms, nor can most of us in some way. Who among us doesn't own a well-cut suit for important meetings, interviews, whatever occasion calls for the vestmental message: "I am serious, intelligent, you can count on me?" We have all devised our "go to" ensemble which makes us feel comfortable, powerful and ready to take on a challenge. I think that is the beauty of a uniform in all its manifestations.

Finally, it is said if you tweek the red pompom of a French sailor's beret it will bring you good luck.

Pictures: World War II women in uniform; General John Logan; Marines in dress uniform, graduation at Annapolis; West Point cadets; French Navy Admiral, Chantal Desbordes, and women at the French military school, Saint-Cyr.

P.S.: Dash over to visit Jeanne-Aelia, her take on our subject is brilliant (!)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Week Ahead or La Semaine Prochaine

On The Calendar For Next Week

Lundi: Transatlantic Parallel with my partner Jeanne-Aelia

Mardi: Cannes: It's a Wrap (!)

Mercredi: Edith & I Go Natural

Jeudi: Out & About -- On-the-Street

Vendredi: Dear Cherie. . .

Samedi: Weekend In The Country

Dimanche: Next Week's Line-Up

I'm now heading over to Edith's house -- see below -- to interrupt the painting of her garden furniture for a more meaningful endeavor: fashion illustration. (She asked me if I wanted to arrive early, take a sauna and then have a swim. I declined. It's freeeeeezing today.)

A final note, I just ate my first cherry of the season and made a wish. Don't forget to eat your fruits and veggies.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Weekend In The Country

Your cadeau for the weekend: two pictures of Edith's house in the country, where we do all of our collaborations, and a shot of sunflowers in a Paris flower shop snapped while I waited and stalked my prey for Thursday's Out and About feature. (Later, in the summer, I'll show you endless fields of sunflowers near our house.)

May your last weekend in the month of May be beautiful and joyous in every way you wish. 

A demain for the weekly line-up.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Dear Cherie. . .

Another busy week for Cherie, the Cannes film festival drew to a spectacular close -- thank heavens, it was exhausting. Lots of attendant parties, air kissing -- Cherie finds it irksome 
when someone actually touches her cheek with their lips. It disturbs the perfection of her professional makeup application. But what can a girl do ? She can't be rude to a major international mogul or film star. Cherie is not a name dropper.

You-Know-Who has been whinny and annoying -- a two week plateau on her regime. Cherie has suggested several times a little exercise wouldn't hurt and no where in Dr. Dukan's book does he suggest "you are allowed one big vodkacocktail per week." She gets testy when someone tries to help. She calls it criticism. Cherie calls it a waste of her precious time.

Speaking of time management, Cherie manages to work five days one-on-one with her personal trainer plus massages and regular endotherapy sessions for theteeny bit of cellulite which Cherie believes can be rolled off with pressure, followed by liters of water consumption. As Cherie has mentioned on several occasions she feels those cellulite creams -- no matter how much caffeine is in packed into the ingredients -- are a waste of time and money. Your thighs and bottom look rosy and taut for about as long as it takes to get dressed. It's better to go the camouflage route with a fake tan -- applied by a professional -unlessone is blessed with dark skin.                                                                                                                 

Enough about moi, even though Cherie could go on and on and you would never be bored -- jealous perhaps, but never a hint of ennui.

Let's attack your questions, one in particular is juicy -- unfortunately literally and figuratively.

Q: Mme. M: Dear Cherie, Please tell me that you've seen Marc Jacobs posing greasy and naked for his new men's fragrance, Bang. Please tell me you have a keen take on this homme d'un certain age in the midst of a spectacular midlife crisis. Please. I could use a laugh!

A: My dear Mme. M,  To Cherie's great regret she has indeed seen this blatant display of narcissistic exhibitionism. Terrifying. Cherie can't decide whether he should be basted or busted.

Q: Mme. D: Dear Cherie, I don't understand why you keep saying You-Know-Who is not having success on her regime. It seems to me you are being extremely unfair. When I look at her in Edith's drawings I can see how much progress she has made. Since I know you are never jealous and always honest, perhaps you would like to apologize or explain.

A: Dear Mme. D, Since you have given Cherie two options, she'll choose "explain." Edith is her great friend -- Cherie has met her, but there was no chemistry and she makes her appear paper thin. If Cherie is not mistaken she thinks it' s called, "artistic license." If one could give Edith a ticket and a fine for the license she is taking with her license she would have a jail sentence.

You will see YKW never bares her arms. Enough said.

Q: Mme. F: Dear, dear Cherie, We all know you were invited to every party, film and event worth attending during the Canne film festival. Since you are so discreet and never let anyone take your picture, would you at least show us a few of the dresses you wore.

A: My dear Mme. F, Of course Cherie hit all the hot spots, but did her best to avoid the paparazzi which on the downside leaves us with no photographic proof of Cherie's presence. You will simply have to take her word for it. Cherie was there. Some days included three or four changes of ensembles. Above are a few of the gowns worn for a couple of the special soirees. From the top: Emporio Armani, Alexander McQueen (without the cape), Oscar de la Renta, Roberto Cavalli (sans the stupid scarf) and Donna Karan.

Q: Mme. R, Chere Cherie, Is it true? Did Karl Lagerfeld really give his "beauty" secrets to French Elle and if so do you plan to use any of them? Should we?

A: Dear Mme. R, Oh yes, it's true and Cherie has already made up her shopping list. First on the agenda is what he calls one of his fetich products which he claims will rid us of puffy eyes, Depuffing Eye Gel  from Benefit. He also likes: Klorane's dry shampoo (more on this subject in a later encounter, Cherie has some thoughts), Propoline Lip-Aid from Apivita and Pleasure of Japanese Bath from Shu Uemura. In Cherie's opinion, when Karl speaks we should all listen.

When asked "what is your favorite spa?" He replied: "I detest spas and people in bathrobes."

Et voila, until next week, mes cheres. (Please excuse words that run together and any other strange typos. Something went berserk with the layout today.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Town(!!!) & Country: Out and About

The challenge this week was not with my subjects, but rather with the raindrops. 

You can see these pictures were taken on several different days. Instead of being a serious photo-journalist (ahem) and setting out when the sun was bright and beckoning, this weekend I lolled, read and bent over occasionally to pull up an errant weed.

The rest of the time I gazed in wonder and admiration at our new potager and watched as Fernand planted five new rose bushes. Pure bliss. 

Yesterday I drove into Paris especially to snap some shots. Everyone was lovely, I must have my patter down perfectly now -- that and the chic card of course.

Only one sweet lady refused. She said to me: "No, you simply can't. You have no idea how old I am. I'm not pretty. Look at all the pretty girls on the street. You are absolutely adorable, but I would ruin everything for you."

Let me tell you, she was stunning and I told her so, but she would have none of it even when I explained I purposely never take pictures of very young women. Too bad for us.

(The blond lab sun bathing in front of his master's beauty salon got up and walked inside when I tried for a second, close-up shot. Guess that's sort of a "merci, mais non.")

As for trends: ballerinas continue and sandals are beginning to come out. Some are the strappy, strappy gladiator types, others are classics, lots are silver. The beautiful blonde all the way at the top (holding my card btw) is wearing suede sandals and gray nail polish on her toes.

The trendy woman in the gray dress toting a large Chanel bag (I somehow managed not to get in the picture) has shocking pink on her toes and the jolie femme in the black sun dress, sunglasses and silver sandals has crimson on hers.

And that's the news dans les rues this week.

The first group of photos are in Paris, the second in the village you know so well. I've been trying for ages to catch someone on a bicycle. This charming woman is my first. I hope there will be more. As she pointed out she wasn't supposed to be on the sidewalk, but it made it much easier for me to trot along side and only have to worry about being run down by pedestrians and not cars.

Edith & I Walk The Red Carpet At Cannes

In our virtual bubble of imagination Edith and I can go, do, buy and wear anything our petits coeurs desire. So why wouldn't we get all dressed up and go to Cannes?

Yes we Cannes. We can do absolutely anything. You see, money, fame, connections, (perfect bodies), obnoxious behavior and outrageous excess is no substitute for make-believe.

Let me tell you our story: We were picked up in a stretch, served champagne, taken to our private jet where the champagne continued to flow though now accompanied by caviar, lobster and basically whatever our petits coeurs desired. Another stretch was waiting for us on arrival -- we never even carried our handbags -- at which point we were whisked off to out two-bedroom suite at the Hotel Carlton overlooking the Mediterranean (we insisted, nicely though) for a rest before we had our massages, facials, pedicures and manicures. 

Later in the day the hair and makeup crew arrived and shortly thereafter we slipped into the dresses you see here. One last look in the mirrors and off we went to the films and festivities at the 63rd annual Festival de Cannes.

We chose our gowns from the fall/winter collections of, from the top: the glorious, intricately worked gold number from Aquascutum; the 40s film glamour of Carlos Miele and below, a simple, elegant design from Pucci and on moi a hip flattering beauty from Akris.

As always, all drawings by Edith.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Yes Oui Cannes. . . Part II

More gorgeous women of a certain age at the 63rd annual Festival de Cannes. Some barely at the tipping point of 40ish and the others whateverish. A few from last week who have changed their clothes -- can you imagine anyone wearing the same dress twice?

Though the pictures speak volumes, why should I resist an opportunity to add a few words?

We have in the mix today, Emmanuelle Beart with those dreadful lips of hers (well she owns them, but they're not really hers). I interviewed her years ago for the "London Daily Telegraph" Sunday magazine -- pre-lips -- and she was angelically lovely. Also on review is Ornella Muti looking even less like Ornella Muti than last year; Isabelle Huppert who Edith says now appears younger than her daugher; Meg Ryan, what can one say (?) and Nathalie Baye, who resisted for a long time, but finally succumbed. You be the judge for the others.

Valerie Plame with Naomi Watts who portrays the former CIA agent in the film "Fair Game" is every bit as beautiful and glamourous as any movie star. (The film, directed by Sean Penn, was inspired by the sordid affair of her "outing" which you may recall.)

Do enjoy your stroll down the red carpet. I fear our beloved Helen Mirren headed home with her handsome husband. Let's hope she reappears before the Festival finale.

And from the top. . .
  • Naomi Watts and Valerie Plame
  • Kristin Scott Thomas
  • Dominique Blanc
  • Tim Burton and Isabelle Huppert
  • Glenn Close
  • Lawrence Bender, Meg Ryan, Lucy Walker
  • Emmanuelle Beart
  • Ornella Muti
  • Mick Jagger and L'Wren Scott
  • Guinara Karimova with Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele, the Co-president of Chopard
  • Emmanuelle Devos
  • Nathalie Baye
  • Juliette Binoche with her Prix d'Interpretation for the film, "Copie Conforme"
*Remember, tomorrow Edith and I will be walking the walk. . .
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