I am off to Chicago to see my daughter… Back Next week… Until then, here’s a little eye Candy left over from the Diner en Blanc….
Last Saturday night Em’s dance class had their annual recital. The studio is a tiny spot near Les Invalides in the 7th arrondisement, so the teacher rents out an auditorium at the very conservative, very Catholic Le Bon Conseil community center.
“Where the hell are we?” Mr French grumbled as we walked in the door.
For us, the place is another world. A majority of the women had pin straight hair in a rigid headband and a lot of them were wearing cardigans. The men were in dress shoes and striped dress shirts. Posters against gay marriage where every where.
But the auditorium was, in fact, a real theater with red velvet curtains and cushioned seating. And the program for the evening looked fun. New York City was the theme, with a great selection of music that included Alicia Keys and the cast of Glee.
I didn’t mind at all as a bunch of angels floated out onto the stage and got the house rocking to “Oh, Happy Day”. Please Click here to see what I’m writing about!
Just to get the Mom part out of the way, Em was fantastic. She had been selected to dance center stage as her group danced to “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”. She hadn’t warned me that she was being featured so it kind of took my breath away.
And then came some adults, great dancers dancing to a song that had me rolling in the aisles. In fact, CLICK HERE to witness a bunch of talented, well meaning folk putting their energy toward an entirely foreign movement. With the added benefit of my hyena-like laughter, which was not directed to the dancers at all. They were fantastic. But those words? In that place? With the crowd that surrounded us and the tutu clad angels in the wings. It made my Saturday night. Now give me my money back….
Can you keep a secret? I can’t! I’m horrible at keeping secrets, which in someways has made being a Mom who blogs torturous. Having teens who get into all kinds of adventures has made for interesting stories I can’t share under threat of disownership by one, or both of my daughters. And rightfully so.
So you can imagine how difficult it has been for me to keep my mouth shut since last November when Em got kicked in the face during dance class. She has no idea how she reacted, she barely remembers the kick, but the person who kicked her (completely on accident and with profuse apologies) remembers and was deeply impressed with Em’s witty response.
She was so impressed that she kind of started stalking my daughter, finding out who she was through the dance teacher and making a point of getting to know her during class. In January, with the dance teacher present, so it was not at all as creepy as this is starting to sound, she introduced herself. She explained that she was both an actress and a director and that she had recently written the script for a short tv series. Its about a woman, her job and her family. She was convinced Em would be perfect in the role of her eldest daughter.
Em came home from class, her feet still dancing and blurted out her news with so much enthusiasm it took four tries before I understood what she was trying to say. I mean, the idea that she’d be working on the set of a tv show was not exactly hanging around the ol’ frontal lobe. “What?” I guessed, “you’re studying TB in dance class? You’re dancing about cereal?”
A month later she was invited to a casting call, and I spent the next several days preparing her for disappointment. We had no idea how many other girls they’d be auditioning. Em always responded with an “I know” but I wasn’t entirely sure that she did. The big day came and I joined her in a small chaotic office not far from the Sorbonne. There were stacks of files everywhere, low ceilings and dim lighting. We were escorted into a small room to wait with the two other kids and their Moms. There was the boy who’d be playing the middle brother, the 7 year old with the role of little sister and my daughter, the eldest. Scripts were handed out and they started doing a read through, which is when I realized that she was in. This wasn’t a casting call, it was a rehearsal.
Filming was supposed to begin in April, then May, and while I was dying to write about it and share the adventure with you all, Em swore me to secrecy until she was actually on the set. Which was today!
From 15h until 21h Em was in an apartment of the rue des Rennes pretending to be another woman’s daughter. Last week, they had met to decide on costumes. Em was astounded by the great details they went to, which included asking her to wear chipped black nail polish and requesting some much younger photos of each kid to decorate their “home”. Dropping her off this afternoon I got a funny feeling seeing a photo of my baby (and her sister, see above)) framed in someone else’s home, but I was thoroughly flattered by how young the Mom looked, and astounded to learn that she really was old enough to be Em’s Mom.
The set doctor (minors have to see an assigned doctor before filming) insisted I be on set, because she believes teens are fragile and she knows that show business is a nasty business, which is why I was there.
I’d love to tell you more details about the filming and the show itself, but I don’t know what is confidential and what is not and I stayed in a separate room, well out of the way to let Em do her thing, which was nearly as torturous as keeping secrets! But I can tell you its a pilot for a six minute comedy, a format that is very popular in France and I promise to share it all with you as soon as goes live!
So sorry, I’ve neglected Friday@Flore this month, but working in the ‘burbs has made it rather impossible to spend my afternoons sipping champagne. I’m working on a solution!
In the meantime, I’m on a flight bound for Venice, where I’ll be exploring the city and wearing The Dress with Mr French. I am very excited! And a little nervous. Keeping my fingers crossed I don’t break a heel, or fall into a canal. Both of which are possible as my heels are ridiculously high and fate-temptingly thin.
Shopping for the dress was a dream come true, but I hadn’t realized that it would require new shoes. In fact, there were lots of little details to take care of that I didn’t consider until I started packing…. like finding the backless bra I’ll need, choosing the “right” stockings (I thought nude, the sales girl rightfully pointed me towards transparent black), picking the right wrap (I was going to wear white, Mr French suggested the perfect grey), pulling out the tummy-tucking, ass-lifting under garments, putting aside a bit of make-up, selecting the fragrance, packing the evening bag and booking an on-site hairstylist. Oh, and running out of the office, between meetings, to get waxed just hours before leaving.
Yesterday, in the sardine-can-commute via metro, the man who was sharing the central pole, squished up against me had pink eye. He rubbed his eye, and touched the pole several times. I was horrified as I started manically repeating the mantra; get to work, go directly to the washroom, scrub your hands. Do not pass go, do not collect 200$. I was so deep into my meditation that I wasn’t aware of my own hand reaching up to itch my left eye. Brilliant.
Then this morning, as I bent down to kiss a sleeping Em goodbye for the day, she lifted her head bashing my two front teeth into my lower lip. Which has swollen to twice its regular size.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is time for another quote from my fashion icon.
En mai, mets ce qu’il vous plaît! Ok, she stole that line from a classic French saying which warns you that you still need your winter wardrobe in April, but May you can do as you please. And, yes, I am aware I have already ranted about our freezing cold spring and my lack of optimism for May.
But Inès isn’t necessarily talking about the weather, she recommends going all out to please your inner fashionista, even if it displeases your man. Which is very un-Parisienne of her, because although the local women dress to please themselves, they do so keeping in mind their man’s taste and respecting it with in the limits of their own tastes.
I know Parisiennes who don’t wear platform shoes, or open-toed pumps, or the color pink, all because their men don’t like it. And I know even more divorces that have resulted in immediate shopping sprees collecting platform shoes, open-toed pumps or pink shirts.
It was hard for my hippy dressing little self to understand at first. When Mr French would say things like, “You don’t really plan on going out with that handbag, do you?” I’d do a double take. Seriously, imagine that coming out of the lips of an American alpha male. You’d think you’d entered the Twilight Zone!!!
So every spring, Inès suggests going a bit wild and putting on that pink shirt even if Monsieur detests the color. Especially if Monsieur detests the color (I’m paraphrasing now). There are two advantages to this strategy. You get to wear that beloved pink shirt you’ve been keeping in the back of your closet for ages and Monsieur gets a loving reminder that “you’re not the boss of me”. Keeps him on his toes. Spices things up a bit and keeps you just a tad more interesting, because he never knows what to expect.yet its not threatening at all, because there you are, by his side, savouring the month of May.
On any given day, if a man came up to me on the Pont des Arts and asked to take a photo of my left breast, I’d probably clock him one.
Yesterday was not any given day. It was the one week anniversary of the explosions as the Boston Marathon. Local marathon man, blogger, Phd student and over all good guy, Bryan Pirolli was inspired by events to organize a run, Boston Strong Paris, in commemoration of all those who could not complete their run, and others who will never run again.
Until recently I was very disconnected from the local expat community. My girls went to public school because I wanted to be an active member of my neighborhood. Blogging has changed all that and I am now aware of events that happen regularly across the city. Between my busy schedule, French friends and the very limited time I have with Mr French, I don’t attend very many events.
But Boston Strong Paris fascinated me. Here was a guy organizing a large event on the spur of the moment. In Paris!!! 130 runners with about a dozen paparazzi met at La Bastille, as 19h last night. Bryon had asked some friends to be our “guides” leading groups of 10-15 runners towards the Seine so that we wouldn’t stopping traffic, or getting run over by cars, as a large group. Then it was a direct line along the river to the Pont des Arts, where we stopped for a photo op before crossing over into the Tuileries gardens and ending at L’Orangerie where Bob’s Juice Bar had set up a table with refreshments for everyone.
In a refreshingly un-French way, we started our run on time, people respected their groups and there was no complaining. But there was a ton of yelling as a core group of French ran with shouting cheers for Boston. Running under the arch of bridge, along the uneven cobblestones with the Seine just metres from my feet, I looked up and there was Notre Dame, perfectly framed by the arc of the arch, a beautiful rosy gold enchanted castle in the intensely blue, dusk tinted skies. Breathtaking.
Tourist on the Bateaux Mouches cheered us on and after the photo op on the Pont des Arts another tourist stopped me, asking if he could take a photo of the blue and gold ribbons I was wearing in on of Boston. On my left breast. Absoluement ! I replied, proud to have been invited by a remarkable group of people who get things done!
Then we really went wild, jumped into a taxi and headed off for the Faubourg Saint Honoré. We entered boutique after boutique; it was as if time had stopped and we were running through a frozen film set. People came to life as we approached, everyone else blurring into the background. I tried on a slinky skintight sexier-than-peeled-grapes dress that looked great on me, and I relished watching Mr French eat me alive with his eyes (thank you for that, Mr Raf Simons). Almost everything seemed to fit, and as sales person after sales person entered the dressing rooms, I quite pleased I happened to be wearing my very best purple silk lingerie for the day.
Then we arrived at Prada. I was never much of a fan, finding the large metal logos on her handbags such a turn-off that I never looked beyond to the clothing. But the shop was there, and we were having fun, so we walked in and I asked the burly, rather intimidating security guard to point us towards dresses.
Downstairs, a lovely lady named Magali, asked if she could help us. I explained our challenge and she set to work, bringing me dress after dress. I did not know this at the time, but Magali is an image consultant, and spends her free time helping Parisiennes learn to dress. It was as if a good fairy had waved her wand, each dress was more beautiful than the next. It is no surprise that Miuccia Prada was nominated for the Design Awards for her spring 2013 collection. And she designed the dresses for Baz Lurhmann’s The Great Gatsby, adding a little capsule collection for the event. I was spoiled with an exceptionally rich collection.
I tried on a sublime finely knit black silk tunic with 1920′s fringe on the bottom that swayed seductively with every step. Then came a silk taffeta princess’ dress in rich blue with large green and ivory dots, a tight bodice and full skirt. A fun, 1950’s inspired white-trimmed black dress with a full skirt, v-neck and sleeves that rested just off the shoulders, followed by a shiny black silk dress with kimono accents that ended about mid-calf. It all fit, and it all liked good, I could tell by the look in Mr French’s eye as he sat there patiently waiting for me to don one dress after the other.
Finally, I tried on a grey silk dress that had been cut like it might have been made for Joan from the hit show Mad Men. Steel grey and sleeveless with a long pencil skirt, a fitted bodice and a rounded scooped-back opening nearly to my waist. The fabric was airbrushed with a large patch of white that through the skirt and across the bodice where some mauve Japanese style flowers printed on to the silk taffeta. Seeing it on there was no doubt. We had found The Dress.
Last week I referred to a certain shopping trip for a special dress, but I was so distracted by the prostitute scene at a swanky hotel that I forgot to talk about The Dress. Or rather, Shopping for The Dress.
Between the two of us Mr French and I have five children (I know, this is an odd segueway, but bear with me). This is probably not the first time I mention this overwhelming fact. Five is a pretty big number, and it amazes me that we are responsible for all those little souls. They’re mostly grown, but we’re seven, so there is plenty of turbulence; emergency hospital visits, existential angst, growing pains and ski accidents are just a few of the bumps that have come our way in the few months. But right now, this week, everyone is doing ok. It’s amazing, and we are both savouring the moment, which is why Saturday was so damn fun.
We headed out the door to run errands; the cobbler, tailor, dry cleaner and the stationary seller were all on our list. As I Iocked the door, Mr French asked if I had brought the window dimensions along, we really should look into getting some curtains. I had not, but then again, neither had he.
Our errands brought us to the Bon Marche, and after getting ink for his pen, he suggested a visit to the clothing department for The Dress. I need a dress because we have been invited to a dinner party. In a palazzo. In Venice. Tenue de Soirée is what the very sober, elegantly engraved invitation read. I had called the hostess, and she had confirmed that she’d be wearing a long dress.
My first thought had been Yves Saint Laurent’s tuxedo jacket. I mean doesn’t everyone immediately think of the YSL tuxedo jacket when having a fashion emergency? No? Well, I’ve been thinking of this jacket for years, and this was the perfect once-in-a-lifetime excuse. I know it’s not a long dress, but it is THE Style Icon of my generation. I went to my nearest YSL and asked to try one on. Again. I really have been dreaming about this jacket for years. Last year Hedi Slimane was hired as the new designer for the label, and since my last visit he had completely changed the cut of the jacket. It looked horrible on me! I was devastated. In a relative way, of course, but illusions were shattered. The man, who I stopped trusting when he dropped the Yves from Saint Laurent, has earned the moniker Slime-man in my head. His choice of Courtney Love for the new « face » of YSL merely confirms my convictions that he’s the wrong guy for the job.
I would not be getting my dream garment. Not wanting to spend a fortune on a dress I’d only wear twice or thrice in this lifetime, I was determined to visit my old friends at Reciproque, a consignment shop that has a room of gowns. My friend Out and About in Paris had an even better suggestion: La Femme Ecarlate, a gown rental service. But everytime I’d suggest a visit to either shop, Mr French would simply grunt and head to an art exhibit.
So we were looking, but I was not shopping. Because the party is in Italy and there may actually be a spot of sunshine, I was hoping to wear a bit of color. At a department with new, international designers we spotted a dress we both liked by someone from Lebanon. And then another, and another. Enough choices that it was worth disturbing the saleswoman to try on a few pieces. I went into the dressing room as she brought me the wrong dress, and then one that was two sizes too small, before confessing she didn’t have any of the dresses in my size. This made me feel fat and kind of grumpy.
Around the corner Alexander McQueen had a gorgeous tuxedo jacket with exquisite tailoring, the lapels integrated into the design. Even better, there was a dress version of the design. The designer, or artistic director as they are now known, Sarah Burton, knows women and our bodies. I slipped into the dress, and it was a perfect fit. I liked they way it felt, they way it moved and the way Mr French looked at me wearing it. But it was black and stopped at the knees, and I didn’t really see the point since I already have something similar. At least I wasn’t feeling so grumpy any more.
Then we really went wild, jumped into a taxi and headed off for the Faubourg Saint Honoré…
Reciproque - 93 rue de la Pompe, 16e - 01 47 04 30 28
La Femme Ecarlate - 42, avenue Bosquet, 7e - 01 45 51 08 44
Last Saturday after an exhausting day spent shopping for a very special evening dress, Mr French announced that he needed a drink. I am not sure if this is because he was parched, or because we’d just wasted an insane amount of time hunting down a wispy little handful of silk.
He’d actually been a bit more specific than needing a ‘drink’. The man wanted a cocktail, so I suggested the bar of a swanky hotel just up the street from where we were standing.
Mr French travels a lot for work, so he is quite hotel savvy and doesn’t even think twice before walking past the security standing in front of these places. I do. It intimidates the hell out of me. My heart used to skip a beat, worried they’d shoo me away, and that I’d be mortified. Neither of which should matter, but they both seem to.
The concierge pointed me to the bar and there was actually a maître d’ seating people. At a bar. I found that just slightly over the top. No one seated me at the Hemingway Bar of the Ritz. But we were in and I was happy to rest my shopping weary legs. It was a tough job, all that shopping, but I had enjoyed every minute of and was ready to savour some more adventure.
As we settled in, Mr French excused himself to the powder room and I started to look at the other guests. Next to us was a Mom with her 7 year old son. The bartenders and staff were so sweet to him that I immediately got over my surprise at seeing a young child at a bar. Then there was a couple our age. I was particularly taken with her stunning taupe Birkin bag and the fact that they were very much into each other, petting each other’s hands as she worriedly confirmed three or four times that there was no added sugar, or alcohol in her husband’s drink. I don’t think she was a nut, I think there was a health issue there.
Mr French arrived and asked what I was looking at, so I pointed at the next couple my eyes had moved to; two young, attractive girls laughing and giggling away in strongly accented English as they both played flirtatiously, running fingers through lustrous black hair. One of them had Celine’s Luggage bag in phantom black crocodile.
“Why are you looking at the prostitutes?”
“Prostitutes? How do you know they’re prostitutes?”
“Are you kidding? I spend my life in these hotels. They’re prostitutes,” he affirmed with that irrefutable gaelic shrug.
“They can’t be prostitutes, she’s got my dream bag!”
“How do you think she can afford your dream bag? I wouldn’t be surprised if those two girls over there are prostitutes, too. When you have a hotel bar with so many more women than men, its louche.”
I was amazed and intrigued. Our drinks arrived, delightfully refreshing, and I started paying more attention to the scene. An Asian man arrived and sat himself down at a table, quietly text-ing away on his iPhone, or was her sext-ing? Then came a European guy, and the Maître d’ showed him a spot immediately next to the girls. Within minutes they were laughing and giggling, the three of them.
“Oh my, god!” I exclaim, “a call girl, that is a call girl!”
“No doubt” affirms a blasé Mr French as one of the girls at the bar starts typing her number into the European’s phone. The man asks the bartender for the bill, indicating he’d be paying for the girl’s drinks, as well. He leaves and the girls toast their good fortune enthusiastically. I am confident that Mr French has made a mistake, pointing out that the has man left… alone. He tells me that the girl will be leaving shortly. And she does. Leaving her friend alone at the bar for 27 minutes. I’ve become the crazy stalker-type.
Mr French goes on to explain that the girl alone at the bar is just learning the trade (the cheap jewelry, is how you can tell) and that the girls pay the staff to let them in the bar. I should be alarmed that he knows so much about the business, but I’m not. He says its from all the detective novels he reads and I am happy to believe him and thrilled to have an inside peek at the fascinating show at the bar. I mean, really, we’re just making this all up in our heads. Perhaps the girl in the Chanel skirt was a long lost friend of the Asian gentleman from their Oxford days? Or the two girls were distant cousins and the one disappeared on an innocent errand? Circumstantial evidence, my friends, but its fun!
The girls decide to leave at about the same time we’re heading home and as they leave the girl puts her hand into that Celine bag, pulls out a bill and tips the Maître d’. Case closed.
Somebody recently googled “in every Parisian’s closet” and landed on my blog. I’m sure I’ve written this sentence one or sixty times, but I have never actually produced a post about what I imagine to be in every Parisienne’s closet. So I thought I’d put it in writing. But, despite dwarf sized apartments with miniature closets, the list is long, très long. Especially when we start talking shoes.
The list is so long, in fact, it requires a book, not a post, so today I’m sticking to spring 2012. If you want the whole enchilada, I suggest consulting Inès de la Fressange’s book, but be forewarned; her list includes grandmother’s diamonds and vintage Hermès bags, so its not what the French would call accessible to every woman. Rest assured, this list is more reasonable;
1/ A military shirt. I found one at the military shop at Montparnasse and has a large, black ink HS (hors service) stamped on the back. At 20€, it was a easy purchase for all the girls chez nous. But, even the designers like Hartford are getting in on the action, re-vamping the classic for those who want a fresher look.
2/ A dark blue blazer. Some like them in linen for the summer, but usually they’re just a light weight wool. They’re worn by everyone, of all ages, even teens are happy to be sporting them.
3/ White or colored jeans. Denim blue is oh so very yesterday this summer, although I have no doubts it will be back for the fall. It is particularly obvious this spring because the weather has been too abysmal for the skirts and dresses we’re all wishing we could wear.
4/ Low ankle boots. Gotta have ‘em. With a dress, with jeans and even with shorts (if you’re young enough, or brave enough), looking like a cowboy from the Camargue is definitely a fashion faut this spring. Of course, we don’t have a lot of options as torential spring showers keep flip flops, or any kind of sandal from being a serious option.
5/ The Vanessa Bruno bag. That’s the canvas bag with sequin straps that you see on every other Parisienne as soon as spring has sprung. My first year in Paris, I was totally mystified when I opened my front door on that first warm day to discover that everyone was sporting the same design. I became convinced that I’d missed the national spring fashion bulletin. It has been popular for years now and will probably be so for many years to come. Boring, but tried, true and oh, so practical.
Perhaps, as the season progresses, the sun will come out and I’ll be able to add a bit of color, a swooshy skirt, or a lovely dress to the list, but for now I’m staying covered up.