Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Paris: Nuit & Jour

Isn't this cashmere cardigan dee-vine? Imagine popping it on over either your every day navy trousers or the "I really would like to own them too" navy tux pants with the white stripe. I'm having a major swoon moment. 
         My great pal Pseu (Une Femme) told me that once I figured out how to assemble outfits -- technically speaking because most of my career I was doing that for photo shoots -- that that would be all I would want to do, morning 'til night. Unfortunately, she was right.

          "It's like playing paper dolls, remember how much fun that was?" she added.

           It's true, I'm having so much fun and at the same time pulling the pieces together is helping me think through my own wardrobe of which there are waaaay too many pieces. These two recent collections, one in black and this one in navy, makes getting dressed seem so easy.

          I realize I am playing in the big leagues price-wise, particularly for the jewelry, but let's think of these outfits as idea boards. Soon I will bring the prices down a few notches with the same aesthetic philosophy and you'll see how dressing well can be done within limited budgets. More on that another day. . .

         I'm back to the navy basics today. This is how I see the two tableaux working for us night and day:

Day & Night in Paris
A choice of camisoles, a change of belts, shoes and jewelry and you're good to go from day to evening.
         Number one:

  1. The full-on suit. It's your choice day or night whether you want to wear the jacket. It's not necessary if you're not in the mood.
  2. The classic navy Equipment silk shirt.
  3. For day the shirt and pants or shirt, pants and jacket. Add the belt, the moccasins and your every day gold hoop earrings.
  4. For evening: Dash back to your hotel and unbutton your blouse to reveal the camisole beneath, change the belt for the cummerbund, add your kitten heels and your "important" jewelry. 
  5. Don't forget to change your bag from day to night, the navy envelope we've been carrying recently is perfect.
  6. Touch up your make-up. Go.
Paris: Changing Only the Accessories
Changing the mood from day to evening should take less than five minutes.
          Number two:
  1. Again, you could wear the jacket but I don't envision it in this group. 
  2. A classic navy cashmere V-neck paired with the navy trousers. The trousers could be the tux version since I think we've agreed we want both pairs. Am I right?
  3. The simple white Uniqlo t-shirt beneath.
  4. Add scarf, moccasins and your every day gold hoop earrings.
  5. For evening: A quick dash to your hotel to remove the scarf and t-shirt. Add major bib necklace to fill in the V, your navy kitten heels, your navy envelope bag or one of the gorgeous Chanel bags we've been using lately and don't forget your pearl bangle bracelets and your ring.
  6. Freshen up your make-up. Go
         Just add perfume.

Monday, March 30, 2015

No Fail, Every Occasion French Dressing

French Dressing for Every Occasion
The navy blues that will take you anywhere for every occasion in Paris and no doubt any where in the world. 
          Let's say someone asks Cherie* (for example): "If one were obliged to have only one outfit for a one-week trip to Paris what would it be?"

         Cherie would reply: "Obviously that's not the way I travel, I have people who help me tote my extensive wardrobe since I change several times a day, but for those poor souls who are not blessed with my life and my wherewithal I would suggest 'keep it simple' as much as I detest the idea."

         You see, Cherie is back (!). . .

          Even though, as you know, she and I are not on the best of terms nor do we tend to agree on practical, efficient dressing, we do agree that style and elegance are primordial. We differ on our price points in most cases and her lifestyle is infinitely more glamourous than mine -- infinitely. . .

        When I posed the above question to her she reluctantly conceded that I had a point. I told her, (suggested that is, no one imposes an opinion on Cherie), that a perfectly tailored navy jacket and matching slim trousers would take a woman from a day shopping in Paris to a dinner in a three star restaurant. Even she, as much as she hates to see my point of view, concurred.

       Now, let us be perfectly clear. Such a combination could, on the face of it, seem like a uniform -- literally -- but it is not, not when worn a la française. It's all about the tailoring which must be extremely feminine, otherwise forget about it.

Welcome back, Cherie. I guess. . .
       Today I would like to prove my point (our point, Cherie's and mine. . .). The basics: the navy tuxedo trousers you already brought with you on your trip to Paris and the alternative without the tux stripe down the leg; the nipped at the waist blazer; a white t-shirt; a navy and white scarf (you know
you will have a zillion scarf options for these pieces); shoe choices which will define your intentions and the go everywhere gold hoop earrings.

         The tuxedo pants are fun and an "extra" but to stay basic you'll want the plain version. Mind you, I think it would be lovely to have both. In fact, it's always a good idea to buy two pairs of trousers for a jacket when possible because we tend to wear the pants more often and we want all the pieces to be in the same dye lot.

       Look at the adorable white cropped sweater. When you put it over the white t-shirt you have created something completely unexpected and fresh. What do you think?

       I could play with these pieces for weeks, OK many, many days. If you're interested in my doing so, please let me know.

*Cherie is baaaack(!) In fact, when my new blog transfers over to this space she will have her own rubric where you can communicate directly with her with your fashion questions. She remains as prickly as ever, but even I have to admit she does have style.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dimanche: Dinner In Paris

Dimanche: Dinner Chez des Amis
A "sober" approach, as the French say, to an invitation to dinner by French friends chez eux. As for the camisole, you can decide whether you want to unbutton your navy silk Equipment blouse -- or not. Also, note how the blouse with the skirt just built a shirt dress of the utmost elegance.
         Paris being Paris, it is always possible to find a decent, even delicious dinner Sunday evening, but many bistros and restaurants are closed.

          Never mind. You have plans.  You have been invited to a dinner party chez des amis who have a divine apartment in the Seventh Arrondissement that their family has owned for generations.

         Translation: Huge, with its original parquet Versailles (it does squeak and moan beneath the feet); a massive Baccarat chandelier, recently -- that could mean 100 years ago -- wired for electricity; fussily charming moulures; and museum worthy rugs and furnishings. As for the table linens, silver, crystal from St. Louis, and the porcelain. . .well, you get the idea.

        (The kitchen was completely redone and features the ultimate aesthetic experience combined with modern, professional appliances and the latest culinary accessories because, obviously, both of your friends are extraordinary cooks.)

         The only information you have been given is that you will be 10 for dinner, one French couple, one English couple, you and another American couple, and your French hosts. Dinner is at eight. You will therefore arrive about 8:15-ish.

        Your hostess did not utter the word casual. Therefore you must dress. Still, it's a bit of a challenge. Stay with me. . .

         You will not under any circumstances arrive at the door with a massive bouquet although you could have sent flowers from a chic Parisian florist to your friends' apartment yesterday. In that way there would be time for her to arrange a bouquet. Barring that gesture, a very good bottle of wine is acceptable, but the best last minute hostess gift that never offends and always pleases is a box of chocolates from La Maison du Chocolat, Pierre Hermé, Michel Chaudan, or Debauve & Gallais for example.
Dinner With French Friends in Paris
Your choice for the shoes. The ballerinas take the look down a notch and instead of the navy cummerbund you may want to opt for simply "blousing" your blouse at the waist. I like the "finish" the cummerbund gives the ensemble and I don't think anyone really notices it beyond the pulled together look it effects.
         The best thing about arriving with chocolates is that the hostess always (usually) opens them and offers them to her guests with coffee in the salon.

        That's settled, but the biggest challenge remains. What to wear? How does one translate the unspoken directive and subtle clues of your hosts when all they've said is: "Dinner at eight; we're so looking forward to seeing you again."

        This is where I come in. I know exactly what you should wear. I've been in this situation many, many times and you know me well enough now to also know I've done my homework and studied the competition.

         I've got you covered.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Shopping A Parisian Marché aux Puces

Treasures to be had at one of the vendors in a Parisian marché aux puces.
          It's spring, you're in Paris, and without doubt on your to do list is: I must visit one or more of the city's famous flea markets.

          Nothing compares to the experience. You will probably find some souvenir to take home and you just might discover a petit bijou and that could literally mean a piece of jewelry, but more likely a tiny painting, a pretty glass or a wooden box. On one visit I found -- and immediately scooped up -- a collection of 19th century fashion illustrations.

          When reading articles about les marchés aux puces, we are told that we can find anything from antique treasures of every dimension, as in an armoire to a picture frame, to bric-a-brac which basically translates as "junk" but that's half the fun, separating the wheat from the chaff if you will.

          Let us never forget that major scientific studies have proven that it's experiences that enrich our lives. Consider a visit to a Parisian flea market as an unforgettable experience.

          Some advice, which you may very well know, but let's just review the basics:

  1. Dress casually.  I've heard, and experts say it's true, that if one dresses the way you would for a shopping trip on the avenue Montaigne or rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré, prices are automatically raised. After all, the assumption is, you can afford to pay more.
     2.  Pick-pockets like flea markets. Never take your passport or any other important papers with you.

     3. Many dealers take Visa and some MasterCard. You can mostly forget about American Express.

     4. Everyone likes cash, but it is recommended not to use ATM machines near les puces, get your cash from a reputable exchange office or a machine near your hotel.

    5. Keep your bag across your body and try to remember to keep your hand on it.

    6. In general be cautious about where you carry money.

    7. Leave your good jewelry in the vault at your hotel.

The Marché aux Puces in Paris
The Gucci bag has no apparent logos and looks discreet. Who wants flashy designer advertising under any circumstances?
    The puces are open Saturday and Sunday.

     The big three include:
  • Porte de Clignancourt (St.-Ouen) in the 18th arrondissement
  • Porte de Montreuil in the 20th arrondissement
  • Porte de Vanves in the 14th arrondissement
      Do tell if you have been to any of these and found something marvelous.

     And if you haven't yet had the opportunity and you're planning a trip, do schedule a few hours for this quintessentially Parisian experience.       

Friday, March 27, 2015

Dressing For A Day In Paris

In Paris: From Lunch to Dinner
It's possible this ensemble is my absolute all time favorite. Isn't the skirt absolutely perfect? The cashmere shawl will keep you warm when walking back to your hotel after dinner.
       You're back in Paris (!) --  having unpacked your black wardrobe from your visit last week -- and now you have returned with your navy blue wardrobe and all the components that make it fun and interesting.

Playing In Paris
If you don't like wearing high-tops, you can always wear the moccasins you wore on the plane.
          You have the basics on which we'll build the rest from Wednesday's post (please scroll down).

Paris in the Spring: Lunch on An Outdoor Cafe

          Today I thought we would have an easy, stroll around Paris sort of day: Lunching on a terrace and watching the world -- and the fashions -- parade by; tea or a glass of wine later in the day after investigating little side streets and scoping out what you might want to do in the days ahead or meeting girlfriends for lunch with your fab-u-lous navy blue skirt (which you will be wearing forever) and then later meeting the man in your life for a bistro dinner without having to change between lunch and dinner.

        I haven't decided what we'll do tomorrow in Paris, but I do know the weather is beautiful, though a little chilly, but that's what our raincoat, scarves and shawls are for n'est-ce pas?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dejeuner Entre Copines à Paris*

    A little secret: Remember yesterday I mentioned that I was "flying into Paris" to have lunch with three blogger friends?

         Guess what? You were there.

         Yes, you were. I'll explain.

         The four of us: Vicki Archer, Sharon Santoni, Carla Coulson and I sat outside on a terrace. There were heaters to keep us warm, but the sun was brilliant and the city sparkled in that exquisite only in Paris spring sort of way.  To say we had a marvelous time would be an understatement. We talked for hours and as we reluctantly parted we were already making plans for our next meeting.

         We talked about everything from our families, children and dogs to our projects, hopes for the future and yes, our blogs. As you know, Sharon, Vicki and Carla are enormously talented and creative women who every day give us the gift of la joie de vivre on their blogs. (Isn't it interesting that "joy" is feminine in French?)

         It is this very strange cyber world that has brought us all together -- the four of us and you.  We talked about how much we appreciate your taking the time to not only read what we write, but also to comment, to participate, to extend the conversation. This is yet another aspect of that extraordinary mostly woman-to-woman exchange that enriches our lives and we're very grateful.

         As I drove home from Paris late in the afternoon all I could think was how buoyantly happy I was after those few hours with women who are kind, generous, supportive and encouraging. We spent  our time together talking about what we plan to do in the days, months and years ahead, how we need to have "projects" however one may describe the concept. Some of ours are broadly similar, others completely surprising. I'm sure you have similar hopes, which is what projects are after all, for now and later.

         What was so extraordinary was a "you go girl" ambience that permeated everyone's enthusiasm for what each of us hopes to do. Ideas were exchanged, excited encouragement reigned and each of us was genuinely pleased for what the others have accomplished and wish to accomplish.

         There is a great deal of talk in the media these days about women reinventing themselves. Somehow I think our reinvention is our natural evolution. As we learn more about ourselves and discover our passions we may veer in different directions. What do you think?

No one had dessert, but our coffees were accompanied with little cookies. When we were lost in conversation, two bold sparrows joined us at table and began nibbling on the cookies. Very Paris. Very sweet.
         One thing I do know. This blog and everything that has grown out of it has saved my life in more ways than you will ever know and for that I will be eternally grateful.    

         Have you reinvented yourself? Do you follow your passions?    
* Lunch with Girlfriends in Paris.
** Just a momentary break from travel packing to share a conversation.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Flying Off to Paris

On the Plane: Off to Paris
All the basics in navy blue for the plane: The choice between jeans or navy tuxedo trousers, an extra sweater and into the tote another scarf and your fuchsia Chanel bag which never goes into checked in luggage. See you in Paris tomorrow!
     Metaphorically speaking that is exactly what I am about to do. I'm having lunch in Paris with three blogger friends all of whom, like moi-meme, live in France but not one of us is French.

         Meanwhile, as promised, you will be donning your navy blue duds and heading off to the airport to catch the next flight into Charles DeGaulle.

          Back to us, already in Paris: Our rendez-vous is at a charming restaurant in the gorgeous Place des Vosges. It will be so much fun. I'm willing to bet we will all order dessert. (I'll let you know.)

          One of the women and I have become close friends over the years and in a conversation with her on Sunday about typography for my new-and-improved blog, which will one day appear in this space, I said to her: "So, how much weight do you think I could lose between now and Wednesday?"

          "Probably five-and-a-half kilos," she said. "However, if you eat absolutely nothing starting right now, maybe seven."

          All joking aside, I really did say that to her and the absurd thought did enter, hover and revisit my mind. How pathetic is that?

Catherine Deneuve.
         I think I need a role model. Theoretically she could be Catherine Deneuve who has allowed herself to gain a few pounds, a decision that has not interfered with her acting career. She has had quite a bit of work done, as the plastic surgeons say, and maybe some of us are disappointed by the decisions great beauties make in that regard. I'm not weighing in on the subject. I can see how incredibly difficult it must be for an aging beauty in a business that worships pulchritude.

         Most of the women of a certain age who are representing the products we're supposed to buy,   have had tweaks (or more) and we know it even if some of them continue to lie about their interventions. Jane Fonda for example doesn't look like Jane Fonda. I always wonder: Who is that woman?
Candice Bergen.
         On second thought, I think I'll opt for Candice Bergen as a role model primarily because she looks happy. It appears she loves life and it shows. Furthermore she still looks like Candice Bergen.

        Dashing out the door, with exactly the same numbers on the scale as there were on Sunday, but so very excited about having lunch with these three remarkably talented, intelligent, stylish women.  I wonder what they'll be wearing. . .

         As you can see, my instincts are totally and absolutely superficial. . .
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