Friday, October 23, 2009
Is the carré passé?
Our beloved blogger Deja Pseu, posting her reports from her most recent Paris trip, wrote "Much to my chagrin, I did notice that the only other women wearing Hermès carrés were quite a bit older and very conservatively dressed." Commenters confirmed her suspicion: the classic carré has been abandoned by stylish Parisiennes under, uh, seventy. Or eighty.
Hermès scarves have always been bourgeois, proper "lady" wear, occasionally borrowed to wear ironically by teenaged daughters, but jamais cool. If you've never liked them, I'm not trying to convert you (salut, lagatta!). And I have disliked them on some women, even while wearing one!
I too had noticed their exile on my last several trips. One clue was the ample supply of Hermès scarves in the resale shops. My theory is that those who once wore the scarves don't like Hermès' rapid expansion, preferring to hold their artisanal patrimony closer to home. The thinking seems to be, "You can buy them at many major airports, and (even worse) online. Too common, too 'global'". Perhaps they are the canary in the coal mine, warning of the commodification of yet another of their great houses.
If you have but one, tant pis. But some of us have a collection. What to do? (The question applies to any enduring iconic object.)
You can wear yours anyway, very casually and functionally. I mean, if the Queen can blow her nose into hers (as played by Helen Mirren in the film "The Queen"), mine can ride knotted inside a sweater, with jeans, or leaven my usual black-pants-and-cashmere-vee uniform.
On a dull day, the snap of a fine silk print warms my spirits like a portable solarium. Shown, me on this gloomy morning in "Les Parisiens", a very graphic pattern that includes a café dog.
Try it with your favourite casual skirt and chic shoes, like the ensemble shown– hardly proper biddy gear!
Hermès' magazine, Le Monde du Hermes, pairs scarves with austere shirts or solid sweaters. Wear one with a tee and jeans, or as a belt.
The suit-and-scarf, a self-conscious presentation, screams 1980s realtor. Even a scarf worn with a constructed jacket feels a bit time-warped unless it has the relaxed attitude of a vintagey tweed or jean jacket. I still like the scarf tied to a bag.
Forgo complicated tie effects with lots of pleats and puffs. A carré ought not be tortured into a flower shape.
If you're simply no longer a fan, store them for a grand-niece, granddaughter or iconoclastic grandson who will treasure your bequest.
Or you could decorate: frame one, make cushions, or use a scarf as an original curtain tie-back. Drape one over a lampshade or the back of an upholstered chair. (Caution: make sure the bulb is low-wattage.)
Stopping by the calm Hermès boutique today with Le Duc, I fell in silk-print-love with one pattern. Despite reading Pseu's comment barely an hour before, I'd be delighted to enjoy one more addition.
The carré (or other shapes) has been his and my sons' traditional gift for decades, marking anniversaries, birthdays, Mothers Day, Christmas or achievements. One of the staff, who remembers helping the shy, excited six-year-olds choose a special gift, became a dear family friend.
Looking like a conservative Parisian grandmother is not an abhorrent outcome, even if I'm not quite not there yet.
"Bourgeois" as a label never bothered me, because I know these markers provide surefire camouflage for true subversives. Waxed jackets, sailing shirts, oxfords, samovars, leather sofas, and Hermès scarves: these items content me far more than the strenuously hip.
I'm not going to wear a dress over jeans at my next decade birthday, I'm wearing this.