Thursday, October 27, 2011

Paris shopping: Daniele's style

Daniele
My other Parisienne girlfriend, Daniele, was not able to shop because she is recovering from a hip replacement, so we discussed clothes over drinks in her apartment, then walked slowly to dinner.

Though close in age, and also born and reared in Paris, she's an entirely different type from Huguette. Unlike her, Daniele cares little about how hot a boutique is. And also, she has had a family, with those expenses to think about. One of her favourite pieces, a black velvet jacket, is at least a decade old.

She wears neutrals, black and grey in winter, ecru in summer, sometimes lit by scarves, which are also on the quiet side. (I have not seen her in a bright-coloured item in 25 years.) When visiting Canada, she likes to shop for Ralph Lauren and is not averse to trolling Winners (our off-price chain) with her daughters to pick up summer vacation wear.

This retiree spends fall in jeans or a pencil skirt and sweaters, which she accessorizes with a black calf Hermès Kelly bag, gold hoops and the chain in the picture, to which she sometimes adds her mother's wedding ring. 

I asked Daniele what she chooses these days and she pointed to the Rodier ensemble below, shown in a window we passed, as an example.
Rodier's torsade sweater
Paris was brimming with exquisite clothes, but neither of us seek the highest end. Daniele will spend for that special piece, like this sweater by Pôles, a luxe knitwear boutique that she admires.
Pôles sweater and scarf
Paris offers an almost unimaginable array for every sensibility, but you still have to scout to find that sweet spot of stylish, affordable clothes that look good on a grown-up. 

One possibility is Cyrillus, a French chain somewhat like Boden, offering decent-quality clothes that are current, with some pieces up to French 46. Skirts are short and some items too junior-y, but for a tee or sweater, worth checking. (Grandparent alert: adorable kids' clothes.)

Cyrillus tee
I bought this striped long-sleeved fine cotton tee, about $50. Along with two house-label Bon Marché merino v-necks at about $80 each, this is indeed "bon marché"– a good deal.  

This invisibly-seamed wool coat looked good, too. (Price, about $380.)
Cyrillus wool/angora coat

As for the much-vaunted Monoprix, I'm not a fan of the apparel. On a quick stop-in, we found the season's clothes ill-cut and made. Why buy a $15 tee that looks like you're wearing a laundry bag? Good for cosmetics and household basics, though.

One last observation: French women are far less matchy then North Americans, and this is a major contributor to how they get so much mileage from their wardrobes. You will see a loden skirt, purple sweater and perhaps greeny-gray tights worn with charcoal shoes, accessorized with a brown bag. 

At the restaurant I could not take my eyes off a woman well into her 70s, in a marinière. The ground was cream, the stripes were navy sequins. She had a very pale blonde chin-length bob that was being affectionately ruffled by a man and a warm, fuchsia-lipped smile.

Le Duc wore one daily in Paris, his is pink and navy, but not sequined.

Hey, sailor!
We bid Daniele and her partner Michel good night, and I realized that her wardrobe has not changed much since we met 25 years ago.

For awhile she wore leggings with dress-length tops, and of course she refreshes her wardrobe, but despite the most minimal change she always looks entirely contemporary. This resistance to style-hopping and following trends returns value. It is a different look than Huguette's, but should they ever meet, I think each would admire the other's style.

Alors, bag reveal! I bought the "Retro Lalique" by Cuir et Terre, a small, artisanal company. Satchel-sized, no logo, quirky and sturdy, and neutral enough to wear with everything. Shown in green; mine is chocolate.



Regardless of budget, it builds the eye to look, so next week, some outstanding windows to lick virtually.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Paris shopping: Huguette's style

Jetlagged, writing at 4 am., only too happy to proffer a shopping report for the first of four Paris-related posts this week and next.

Huguette
This is my longtime friend Huguette, a style-devoted, 64-year-old professional who spends "way-way too much" on clothes and has maintained a consistent, slim figure for the thirty years I've known her.

She's funny, talks a mile a minute, and is the firm possessor of a certain, confident style.

We met for lunch in the 6th, with shopping to follow. She wore a strict black skirt, a pink/red/green floral Ventilo chiffon blouse, a dove grey fine cashmere cardi and a khaki cotton topper in that nothing-coordinates-but-everything-works French way.

Influenced by her skirt, I led her to a temple of strict, Anne Willi, certain that the discreet yet graceful styles would enthrall her. She would not cross the doorstep, murmuring only, "I see belts are back again". Well, you can't out-Parisienne Huguette, so I fell in beside her, asking to be taken to her favourite places. 
Anne Willi dress

She trotted briskly into Cotélac. I cast a look; my Mutton Alarm blared, and I hissed "Huguette! There is nothing here for us!" But H. was engrossed, purring "Marrant!", which means funny, as in odd or amusing.

Little flippy skirt, blue mohair sweater
Where I've grown simpler and more conventional (and yes, heavier) than when we were hanging out in the '80s, Huguette has embraced the flirty and dares to dress young. And I say, with some envy, she can carry it off.

She bought the blue print skirt you can just make out on my blurry phone photo and a cobwebby navy mohair pull, a piece that looked like many stitches had been dropped, on purpose... or not. Marrant.

She would have bought this dress (at left) to wear over slim pants, but it wasn't there in her size. (My mind shrieked, This is way too young, but that's my taste.)
She eyed Clergerie platform loafers, tagged for the next paycheque. 

But all is not milk and honey, chiffon and flower-prints for 60+ Parisiennes.

When I told her I'd given up finding clothes in Paris to fit my size, she said, "Same for my friends! We cannot find dresses long enough, and we can't get tops with long sleeves. We want to cover our arms and everything is cap sleeves or sleeveless. We are desperate."

On another day, I had a delightful, sympatico lunch with lovely blogger Tish Jett of A Femme d'un Certain Age, who is tall like me, and she said she orders pants from the US. You have to, if you are not built with the short French rise.

On other days, without Huguette teasing me about my "comfortable-Canadian choices", I made several purchases:


1. An ingeniously-cut chartreuse boiled-wool jacket by Oska, the German brand that sizes from 2 to at least 18. Shown in coral; mine is chartreuse. (You can't really see the side peplum, which gives it shape.) I wore this most days, since my trusty padded black nylon jacket proved impossibly non-breathable after ten minutes' brisk walking in unexpected 19C/66F temperatures.
Boiled wool jacket

2. A pair of Accessoire oxfords. Tish and I, the same shoe size (separated at birth?) rejoiced that a new generation of French women have pushed the size range up to 41.
Strict oxfords

3. A bag I'll show Thursday.

Crea Concept skirt
I almost bought this Crea Concept draped skirt, but realized that it would be like wearing a slip (even with tights) in a Montreal winter. Huguette called Crea Concept terne (drab), and the store, filled with dun-coloured clothes, partly reinforced her charge, though there were some appealing pieces, especially if mixed with other maker's designs.

Huguette and I traded appraising comments, the kind of things only old friends can venture. I wondered if she was trying to hang onto a youth that will become increasingly distant. She said I should try more daring pieces, reminding me of the Mugler and Kenzo I once wore. I'm certain a few choices I made after our outing were a little more audacious because of her.

Thursday, the style choices of another French friend, Daniele.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Friday morning

Just to say hi and breathlessly announce some style news from Paris: it's now OK to wear nude stockings. Really. You can see that little telltale crease on many carefully-shod insteps. (Of course if you are under 30 you are bare-legged till snow drifts.)

Even what we ungenerously called "cheaters" in high school, the knee-high version, seem to be acceptable with one's ballerines and loafers. Not that I have pulled up any Parisienne's pantalons to check, but I have my suspicions.

At 12C/32F, Parisiennes break out the parkas and duffles, heavy boots, bulky-knit scarves, even furs. They look bundled to us, as we walk comfortably in light jackets or a sweater.

Paris, as ever, gleams and drifts, winds and tempts. I'll report more next week, but today, a last long stroll in the brilliant, honeyed sunlight, a farewell blast of diesel, the seductive sillage of perfumes, peen-pong of sirens. 

à bientôt!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Retirement move as travel alternative

Is home still sweet?
A dear friend visited. Newly retired, she's trying to determine whether her retirement income will accommodate her passion for travel.

She and her partner, childless, have a four-bedroom house, two cars. Over a glass of rosé, we discussed whether that setup would make sense when he retires this winter.

She wondered, How can we trim our expenses to afford more trips? What about home exchanges?

I mentioned newly-retired friends who, like her, looked warily at the ever-rising costs of travel. Others are concerned about the environmental effects of tourism. A number of these people have said, "Instead of costly occasional trips, I want to live somewhere that lifts me up every day."

This is an option for those not required to stay in their former locations for work or family reasons. These friends are avid travelers, but don't have limitless funds. Some of their moves:

Swedish cottage
- Toewe downsized from her large Stockholm apartment to a small one, then built a tiny, simple, energy-efficient cottage in the Swedish countryside, where she lives from spring through fall. (She sublets the apartment.)

- Pat and Vicky are selling their  townhouse in Toronto and moving to Palawan Bay, Philippines as permanent residents.

- Krista and Martin sold a house in Ottawa and moved to the Kootenay region of British Columbia, to hike and ski to their heart's content. They rent for the time being. This location is also closer to their child and his family.



Travel is a splendid and edifying adventure, but it is also a consumable, something the safari ad does not point out, but your Visa bill will.

My in-laws took another route; they sold the family home twenty-five years ago, took early retirement, bought an RV, and hit the road for sixteen years, fusing their home with travel. Now in their eighties, they have traded the RV for an apartment and road trips. My MIL recently said those sixteen years were the best of her life.

There are drawbacks to the strategy: cost and labour of a major move, adaptation to a different climate, culture or language, availability of services, especially health care.

Partners might find it tough to reach agreement on 'the right place'. Maybe your first choice will turn out to be too expensive or impractical. But before you think "Oh no, I (or we) couldn't", keep an open mind.

It's never too early to start your research. When I began this blog over three years ago, a move was not on the radar. Now, here we are in Montreal, a year after we decided to start looking. That was fairly fast; Pat and Vicky are in year four of the Philippines move, ETA January 2012.

You might opt for a full move or divide your time initially, but given that the major expense categories for seniors are housing and transportation, if you can find a permanent setting that delights you, aim for that.

Of course I'm biased; we are thrilled with our choice. Not all retirement moves work out; perhaps you have stories of some that didn't. 

But if you're intrigued, why not consider, calculate and investigate? Sometimes, the best room with a view is your own.



En vacances

Time to be inspired by the real  
passages of Paris 
and take a much-needed rest;
Pdesp closes
the weeks of Oct. 10 and 17. 

Thank you for stopping by.
See you Tuesday, October 25. 







Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sidestepping trends

Transparent skirt
There is precisely one trend I've never worn before, the transparent skirt or dress (black) seen everywhere this summer/fall on lithe young maidens, who wear it over leggings or bike shorts and a bra (all also black) underneath. Nor will I wear it, in this life.

But tartan, capes, Harris tweed, structured bags? Not only have I worn it the first time around, honey, I'm on the third or fourth spin. This is ground for some big mistakes.

Here, for example, is one I almost made: the hacking jacket. A "trend" again, this version is on offer at J. Crew.
No longer me: J. Crew jacket

When I was thirty, I bought one in Dublin, in colours of peat and sea. But the jacket wouldn't work now, even though I'd like another go.


What looked good once (and was such a versatile piece) no longer does. With a pang, I let my eye catch up with my shape.

Instead, I'll get a knit jacket, like those shown here, or a second colour in this, which I've worn often for the last three years. 
Eric Bompard shirt-jacket

So what are you going to do if you're middle aged (or better) and don't want to look like you haven't seen the inside of a boutique since pantyhose were invented?

Subvert the trend treadmill with smashing shoes! For my money, I'd rather buy one pair than a draggy maxi coat (honk if you had one in the '70s).

The winter range from Accessoire Diffusion could break from my flats habit. Below, three standouts that I'll check out in Paris next week. 
A fantastic colour, called "Baltic"
Perforated detail, graceful line
Snuggly, stylish bootlet


And I must show you one from Michel Perry's fall line, a shoe-example of my point. Ah, platform spectators: a fond, towering memory, an especially stylish revival, and a trend I won't revisit.


 ...or find a bag!

Have your ever set out search of a shoe and come home with a bag? Could happen with this Vivienne Westwood Vienna Show Saddle Bag, £570 from Liberty, which I'd carry till it shreds.
Vivienne Westwood saddle bag

I'm leery when I hear "This is really in right now." If we were given more wearable, beautiful choices, offered in the full range of sizes, designers would have our business without resorting to the fakery and hype of trends.


PS.  To the many readers who expressed such kind concern about our son, Jules: 
He's doing well. When I referred to what's happened as "a setback", he firmly corrected me: "No, it's a hairpin turn." We are most grateful for your wishes and comments.