Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Standing up, standing out

Welcome back to the Passage! This week's posts are about discovering life in Montreal, through a newcomer's eyes.

The move was as grueling as everyone warned, but here we are, enjoying the city's flavours and sights. Thanks for all your well-wishes, which carried me though long days.

On the train here, a young man in the seat behind mine spoke nonstop to his pretty seatmate. Because I didn't pack my headphones, I learned a great deal about him.

At one point he interrupted his monologue to ask how the woman had enjoyed her week working in Toronto, my former city. Her brief response was inaudible, but his boomed forth: "It's so sparkling there, everything's so clean. Montreal is dirty, but it's good dirty."

Fine with me; the superb people-watching is more valuable to me than a pristine streetscape. 

This is the home city of one of my oldest friends, Ruth, a consummate Montrealaise to this day. "French Canadian women can put on weight as they age", she told me, "but they really pay attention to their posture, so they carry themselves well." In my first week, through a haze of fatigue, this is what struck me among many 50+ women, from the fiercely fashionable to the comfortably casual.

A 50+ woman seems more apt to wear decolletage or tight jeans if she feels like it, despite body type, bien dans sa peau. Isn't that a wonderful physical attitude?

Gap white jeans
White jeans or skinny pants are everywhere; I've bought a pair. (Shown Gap jeans, $40. Why spend more when a splash of soy sauce lurks?) 

The love affair with tall boots continues, leather swapped for spring suede or high Wellies. 

Marinieres are cherished by both sexes. (Fantastic women's spring/summer-weight marinieres, size range US 4–US 20 by mail here.)
Galathee mariniere


The much-vaunted Quebecoise sexiness is on display at every price point. (A local story goes that a young woman congratulated for participating in the local Slut Walk protest march on May 29 said, "Alors, I'm just going to work.")

A certain type like mini dresses, the shortest shorts, and the five-inch heel.But what draws my eye even more is the diverse originality of personal style (at least in my neighbourhood and those nearby).

A woman might dash about in moto boots and a vintage full skirt, wrap her head African style, add mauve tips to grey hair (surprisingly pretty), or mash up plaids and prints: it's all here, sharing the sidewalk with religiously conservative women in black and baba cool college kids.
Future Classics dress

But more discreet looks abound, too with women in well-cut neutrals like Future Classics' LBD from the newly opened boutique Cahier d'Exercises.

To enter into the spirit, relative to my age and stage, I bought a French close-fitting dark denim pencil skirt with pyramid studs on the back yoke and a few on each side seam, quite daring for me.  Sussed out a top-notch salon where a stylist tweaked my cut and said next stop, colour: not quite so red: "Maintenant, c'est trop violente".

There's fascinating freedom and expressiveness in dress here in Montreal, and I'll show you some when my camera surfaces.

And where did I pack that garlic press?

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Welcome back Duchesse! Have been looking forward to your return. What a fun post and to hear you are experimenting with your style a bit. Can't wait to see pictures. J.

C'estChic! said...

Oh, how you have been missed! SO glad to hear you're settling in, and finding plenty to enjoy in your new home. Do hope the Duc is enjoying his new life in Montreal as much as you seem to be!
A la prochaine!

Rebecca said...

I'm a little jealous of your new adventure. (And how I wish I could accent my comments with some French phrases....)

Alas. For now I shall adventure vicariously through you :) Don't let me down!

Jane W. said...

So happy to have you back! I'm really looking forward to your upcoming posts about your new city.

MJ said...

Welcome to your new home - or should I say bienvenue? Glad to hear that you're adapting already. Have fun!

AN said...

Nice to be back here, duchesse! Enjoy your new city.

LPC said...

Glad you have landed. Very interested in your observations of Montreal, and in the actions you take in response. Welcome home, by which I mean the Passage:).

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

Montreal sounds like my kind of city!
You sound very happy Duchesse and what a bonus to have your friend Ruth living there.
With a move there is the thrill of discovery and it sounds like you are immersed in this transformative experience.
Congratulations!

lagatta à montréal said...

I've been working on finding a new home for Simone - a grad student would be ideal...

Soon you'll have time to do a shoot at Marché Jean-Talon...

Cahier d'Exercices sounds great. And it is finally skirt-and-bare-legs weather - about time, after this cool, terribly rainy spring.

My verification word is "panting".

Mardel said...

Welcome back!

Your observations so far sound intriguing, as do your initial adaptive steps. I'm looking forward to more as you settle in. Montreal sounds like a very interesting place to be.

dana said...

Nothing like shopping to help one settle in! I'm glad the move went relatively well, and hope you're enjoying the new space. All best

Lorrie said...

Welcome back. What a fun take on a new city.

Rubiatonta said...

Hurrah! Glad that you're settling in... and so looking forward to lots of "visual aids"!

Susan Tiner said...

Montreal is my dream expat city. I am glad the worst part of the move is over and look forward to more of your observations.

Duchesse said...

Anonymous: I've got to get a new camera!
C'est Chic: Even more than I am, as French is his first language.
Rebecca: Having lived in a bilingual family for 25 years it comes somewhat easily but I need a lot more than phrases now!
Jane W: My comments will be somewhat naive, as any newcomer's, but I'll try.
MJ: Thanks, it's easy to adapt once I can move around the apt without tripping over boxes.
AN: I realized that my father always said when he was older he wanted to live in the middle of a big city- he did not, just a small city, but I have.
Lisa: The Passage is a home I could take with me while making a new one, an unanticipated benefit of blogging.
lagatta: Thanks and see you there! (All, lagatta has been so helpful in pointing me to everything from hardware stores to kabobs.)
hostess: Oh, Ruth is from here but lives in Toronto now- but visits the city often so I'll see her.
Mardel: It has to be a city for me. Are you still wondering about a move?
dana:Shopping is a great way to learn local resources and meet people. One store invited me to a most worthy fundraiser event- could not go but will be on list for next one.
Lorrie: it's even more different than our former city than I realized- more on that later.
Rubi; Hope you will be visiting Mtl again soon!
Susan Tiner: People told me but not having moved for 25 years, was not really aware of the implications. Huge project.

Araminta said...

Welcome to Montreal/Bienvenue à Montréal. I fell in love with it as a city when I first arrived here decades ago & have never wanted to leave. It has a higher quotient of style and joie de vivre than anywhere else I know in North America. I know you will love it here.

Susan said...

I am so glad that you are back! You have been missed. I hope your new apartment home is everything you hoped it would be. Have fun making it a home.

Tiffany said...

Wow, sounds really fun. Hope you settle in well and look forward to hearing more about Montreal.

Jane M said...

I have always wanted to visit Montreal and now I get to enjoy it first through your eyes. Welcome to your new home and it's great to se you back.

Anonymous said...

"How beauteous mankind is!
O brave new world
That has such people in't"

So glad for you, Duchesse. Have fun!

C.

Duchesse said...

Araminta: "It has a higher quotient of style and joie de vivre than anywhere else I know in North America." That's it, exactly!
Susan: "Making it a home": who knows the moment that happens? There is the moment when one falls asleep and doesn't wake with a start wondering "where am I?" Beginning to feel like home.
Tiffany: Thanks, settling in is a process that unfolds in layers, as well as some bureaucracy: driver's license, phones, tax bills- as well as simply learning bus routes.
c.: Having attended my parents in their last years of long lives, realized that there is a time when a move is joyous, and a time when it is a sad acknowledgment of inevitable dwindling, We both wanted a move we chose as relatively healthy 50s and 60s persons and are grateful we could do this.

materfamilias said...

Oh, I am sooo going to love having your view of Montreal. and you know you'll have a visitor one of these days, no? You'll have sussed out all the best shopping, wonderful vintage included, by then, bien sûr .. . I love the way you're jumping in, observing, tweaking your wardrobe and hair. Have fun!

HB said...

Welcome back! Congratulations on completing your move. I can't wait to read more about your new city. Admittedly I am living just a little vicariously as you paint your lovely pictures - fashion and otherwise.