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. . .

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Let's Talk: Sales, Lies & Vicissitudes


 "I’m fat — and do not care what haters say!

         Deep breath, quick turn around the garden on this beautiful day, another deeeeep breath, think quiet thoughts. OK. . .

          I shall approach today's subject by posing a question and then I'll plunge right in and you can be furious with me, agree or possibly not care one way or the other.

          (I know I promised we would be flying off to Paris today, all decked out in navy blue, instead of witnessing me flying off the deep end of annoyance (that's a euphemism btw), but I need to throw this out for discussion.

          Background: As we all know, major brands have been putting women of a certain age and of an age certain in their fashion and cosmetic ads. We also know why they're doing this. We're an important demographic, i.e. considerable disposable income.  Why else would they include famous faces over 50 which, at the same time, begs the question, why do they then Photoship them to the point in some cases where we have no idea who the famous faces might be?

Jessica Lange.
Helen Mirren
          A few of the starring players: Helen Mirren, 69; Joni Mitchell, 71; Charlotte Rampling, 68; Jessica Lange, 64; Catherine Deneuve, 70; Lauren Hutton, 69; Jane Fonda, 77; Joan Didion, 80; Inès de la Fressange, 57; and the baby, Julianne Moore, 54.  Then we have the "let's insult their intelligence" marketing approach wherein Christy Turlingon, Stephanie Seymour and Nicole Kidman, all in their 40s, are thrown into the "older" campaigns.

          Can't you imagine the strategy meetings? "OK, people, we've got the teens, 20s and 30s covered, no problem.   But, what should we do with the 40s? They're not 'young, young' but then again they're definitely not old. They present a tricky challenge. Whatever. Let's just toss them in with  the old gals. No one will notice."
Joni Mitchelle
Joan Didion.
Charlotte Rampling.
          Never mind. That's not my point today.

          My question to you is: Have you noticed, among these women what is the absolute common denominator?


          Let me tell you.

         They are all slim. Some are exceedingly thin. So, where are the famous faces whose bodies have -- with age -- become slightly more "mature" shall we say? No, not "fat" or "obese" just somewhat rounder, more in a normal range of real women.  If we can become accustomed to looking at older faces why can't we also accept slightly more realistic body shapes?

Lauren Hutton.
         It's a question, open for debate. What do you think?

        Please don't tell me that the fashion magazines and even Sports Illustrated have "celebrated" les femmes rondes. In these instances, all the women are young. Are these once-a-year "body issues" (literally and figuratively) pandering, a gimmick, a demographic? Probably.

         However, to my knowledge, major brands have not been interested in women of a certain age who do not adhere to a strict slender aesthetic.

Candice Bergen, back in the day. . .
         I'm posing this question because I was intrigued by what the exceptionally beautiful Candice Bergen, 68, said about herself in her new book, A Fine Romance.

           “Let me just come right out and say it: I am fat.”
           “In the past 15 years . . . I have put on 30 pounds. I live to eat. None of this ‘eat to live’ stuff for me. I am a champion eater. No carb is safe — no fat, either,” she boasts.
          “At a recent dinner party I shared bread and olive oil, followed by chocolate ice cream with my husband. A woman near me looked at me, appalled, and I thought, ‘I don’t care,’ ” she writes.
          “Dieting is out of my purview,” she writes. “I crave cookies . . . all the things that dilate my pupils.”
          “They maintain their weight by routinely vomiting after major meals consisting of a slice of steak or a filet of fish,” she writes. “I am incapable of this.”

With Alan Alda.
Look at that lovely face.    
   Of course she's not "fat" unless perhaps she measures herself by Hollywood and fashion model standards. 
         She does display a delicious sense of humor which by any criteria has no expiration date.      

    Oh, while were on the subject of prejudices, where are the women of color d'un certain age?  There is a lot we could discuss and it's not only physique and Photoshop.

Have we really come a long way baby?

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Last Day In Paris: Packing VII

What to Wear? Last Dinner In Paris
No one needs a poppy splashed black cashmere cardigan, but it is irresistible isn't it? As for the red shoes, why not? If not, you already have your Jimmy Choo's.
     Today is our eighth day in Paris, or as the French would say "une semaine" -- by using French math: one week = eight days we have one more day to play before flying home tomorrow.

           So what do you want to do? Last minute shopping; another museum; a combination people watching lunch break; tea and a decadent pastry (or the to die for chocolat chaudchez Angelina ; one last out-of-this-world dinner -- or all of the above. Why not, you're in Paris after all? You can sleep when you get home.

Paris: The Last Night
You will not regret buying the sweater. Trust me.
          It's clear that my original goal of one week, whether seven or eight days, out of carry-on was too ambitious and when you think about it, not that much fun. Furthermore, you've been shopping so you need the extra space, n-est-ce pas?

One More Day In Paris
Since yellow may not be a major investment color for clothes, unlike for the gorgeous tote, it makes sense to go for a little fast fashion when picking up the Uniqlo sweater. You can wear it over your new Equipment blouse -- you'll be wearing that for years -- or jauntily over your shoulders,
          You'll have to pack for your return home tomorrow, but then you can turn right around and come back for another eight day week, except this time your wardrobe will be based on navy blue.

          Take-off will be Tuesday. I realize it doesn't make sense, but we live in la-la land in this space. It's all fantasy, particularly when we tally up the price of the clothes and the jewels we have brought with us or acquired while here, but where's the joie de vivre if we can't pretend?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Packing for One Week In Paris VI

Les Musées à Paris
Easy and comfortable for hours in a museum.
    As the French government wrangles over the proposition for Sunday store openings, let's forget about shopping today. Instead let's go to a museum or two shall we?

         Clearly the Louvre would take more than the time we have in Paris to explore its treasures, but you could choose specific areas you might want to investigate or revisit. The Musée D'Orsay is another challenge when time is limited although you could check to see about current expositions and spend time enjoying them with a quick turn in other rooms.

         My friends have told me that the renovation of the Picasso museum, just recently reopened, is phenomenal. (It's on my agenda.)

        Material girl that I am, I love the Musée des Arts Decoratifs -- the furniture, stylish vignettes, the clothes. . .and the gift shop (!) If you're looking for divine take home cadeaux, look no further. (I'm assuming the boutique is open on Sunday and doesn't fall under the no Dimanche shopping law.)

Dimanche: Les Musées à Paris
Nothing new here except the earrings which are simply another version of the lapis we've worn before. You have a choice of shoes and do wear your gorgeous Chanel as a cross-body bag.
        Today I have dressed you in the black jeans you may or may not have worn on the plane (I'm not wearing jeans because, as I've explained -- even though I don't understand the explanation myself -- I don't wear jeans).  If you prefer, you can wear your black trousers in place of the jeans.

         It's a gorgeous spring day with a slight chill in the air so you might want to top everything off with your raincoat.

         You will note that you threw that leopard scarf into your suitcase and haven't had the opportunity to wear it until today (maybe) and you added the beige Uniqlo t-shirt to your collection. After all, Uniqlo is just a few steps away from Printemps and Galeries Layfayette and I'm sure you've been to either or both.    

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Packing for One Week In Paris V

Et voila, there it is: The original Yves Saint Laurent Le Smoking which has had scores of iterations, but no matter how it has been reformulated it is always the elegant solution for a special soirée.
         This is it. It's Saturday night, the pull out the stops glamorous evening that is even more so because it's in Paris. Let's say you're going to a three-star restaurant or perhaps the Jules Verne atop the Eiffel Tour -- not three stars, but nice food, superb service and the view, the view, the view. . .

          It's all so romantic n'est-ce pas?

DIY: Le Smoking
A few choices: kitten heels or snappy patent ballerina flats; a classic cummerbund or one you've made with your grosgrain ribbon and a Chanel camellia; the silk shirt alone with the the narrower grosgrain ribbon tied at the neck like Le Smoking; or the shirt and camisole together; or the camisole alone. You see, these options just skim the surface of options with any version of the stunningly versatile tuxedo. 
          You have packed everything you need as you will see. You will even be able to construct your very own DIY tuxedo out of your black jacket and trousers. Remember the grosgrain ribbon you packed? It's for your white silk blouse, see above.. The very wide version is to create a cummerbund. I probably should have suggested a wide satin ribbon for the cummerbund. But since for the moment this is a dry run packing and playing trip in Paris, remember to pack the satin ribbon or find a real cummerbund, they are one of the best accessories ever. I have two, one in black (quelle surprise), the other in a deep red.

The Allure of Black & White
You bought a new pair of shoes and an envelope bag. You really don't need either one. You could continue to wear your black kitten heels and carry your beautiful blue Chanel bag. The bow here is a hair clip to hold your hair away from your face to take full advantage of your gorgeous visage and those chandelier earrings.
          As you can see from a few additions to the outfits, you (we/I) have done some shopping while in Paris. Well, of course we have, but as I said I've simply added little extras for the fun of it. Your DIY tuxedo is in the bag. If you opt for the skirt you have probably literally scores of possibilities. This one is simple and in the same esprit as Le Smoking. I could play with that skirt for weeks, but I wouldn't want you to be bored.

Paris: Dressing Up for A Night in Paris
Wouldn't this be fun?
          As you mentioned there is the "what do we do about our legs" conundrum as in bare, bare with a faux tan, nude tights, black tights. . .I do think it's your call. If you go with bare legs make sure you moisturize with a lotion that has a little, just a little, shimmer in it.

An amazing lotion for an all-over body shimmer.
          If you want choices -- and who doesn't (?) -- do try Prtty Peaushun.  It comes in a few light to dark nuances, but also in natural for all skin colors. The natural gives the glow without the color, or the commitment.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Packing for One Week In Paris IV

Ines de la Fressange -- shirt out, sleeves unbuttoned and pushed up with the sweater. . . details, details, details.
       It has been brought to my attention that some of you are fed up with seeing and hearing about Ines de la Fressange as the quintessential French style icon.

Shopping In Paris
Unbutton the blouse so that the camisole peaks out, try to have lunch with a man.
         I've taken this apparent Ines fatigue into consideration and tried to find another French woman who would, could remotely fill her Roger Vivier clad feet, and I can't. She is, like it or not, the epitome of confident, ageless, exuberant, very, very French style. By moments she can be casually classic, so classic in fact that on the face of it -- dissecting the ingredients -- her look seems to be an  "oh well, so what. . .just a blazer, white blouse, jeans or tapered pants, ballerinas, maybe a scarf. . . and then what?" But the thing is, it's always nonchalantly perfect.

         At other times she is pure elegance, but again in the simplest way. Bottom line:
It shouldn't be difficult to reconstruct her style because the elements are basic. It's about the cut, the careless way she seems to throw on her clothes and then, of course, there is her long, lean frame that makes nothing look like something. Even without that body I maintain we can steal some of her tricks and we'll all look smarter.

        My point you're wondering? It's this. . .all the clothes I've chosen for our sojourn in Paris are, when worn with her off-balance, carefree attitude become very, very French indeed. Collars turned up; sleeves pushed up; shirt cuffs turned up over the sleeve of a jacket or a sweater; a boyfriend sweater belted over a white shirt; a shirt left untucked under a sweater or beneath a jacket;  the top of a blazer closed up tight, maybe with a scarf, it changes everything; a well cut white silk blouse opened to reveal a camisole, both tucked into a pair of simple trousers or jeans; impeccable tailoring; a pant cropped to reveal a slim ankle; unfussy hair; minimal makeup; and a smile, always a smile.

Shopping on The Right Bank
Ah-ha. . . You couldn't resist. You bought those black and white Roger Vivier ballerinas. Who could blame you?
         If you take the clothes that we've worn on the plane and the ones we've packed, the idea is that they can reflect a sublimely French aesthetic. The word in French for the attitude that produces this stylish laid-back, relaxed look is, décontracté. That's our goal.

Shopping on The Left Bank
Another shoe purchase in Paris, Bensimon sneakers. While strolling around Saint Germain, do pop into the French concept boutique, Gab & Jo, absolutely everything is made in France and just a few steps away the Assouline book store. You will swoon when you see the books. I bought a Proust questionnaire book (there are several) for a friend which the charming saleswoman wrapped in shiny white paper, a red ribbon and a hot wax seal -- unspeakably elegant.
         As promised, today we're going shopping -- on both sides of the Seine. Please think of the clothes in these templates tweaked to make them French. Remember as always, it's always all about the details and in this case the details are there to steal.

        "Imitation is the highest form of flattery," Coco Chanel.
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