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.

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.


I love shopping with you in Paris through these posts!! We all need friends who challenge our sense of style and give us the courage to push the envelope a little. She sounds like a really cool woman!!
Frugal Scholar said…
Very exciting. Believe it or not, I've never shopped in Paris (except when Miss Em wanted--as a 12 y.o.--to check out the underwhelming H and M). Way too stressful for me. But then, I don't have a friend there to shop with. Lucky you.
déjà pseu said…
This was so much fun to read! I'd love to shop in Paris with a Parisienne. I love that jacket you chose. Are Parisians wearing more color these days, or is Huguette's navy as bright as it gets? How did you feel wearing a brightly colored jacket? I remember wearing a navy jacket and green scarf and feeling so our of place among all of the black, grey and beige.
Anonymous said…
Welcome back! Your shopping trip looks great. Love your purchases and wish you'd bought that fantastic skirt. Can't wait to see your purse too.
Susan Tiner said…
Oh, that asymmetrically cut boiled wool jacket has me yearning!

Your friend sounds like a fun person to be with, good for her embracing flirty if she can pull it off.

By the way, I read the two previous posts that showed up in my reader but somehow didn't show up on your actual blog. Thank you for sharing what happened with Paris Address. I'm glad you were able to transfer to a better apartment.
Duchesse said…
Pam: Sometimes shopping with a friend is a help, and sometimes I've ended up buying what was her taste, not mine.

Frugal: Key is being happy with a leisurely visit to a few places, not trying to go everywhere.

Pseu: I looked like a tourist! (But maybe a German tourist?) The locals are all in camel, navy, black. But back home it will be fine.

kathy: When it would warm up to wear that skirt here, would not look like spring or summer. Really, it is tissue thin. One can freeze here in most "winter" clothes shown in Paris.

Susan Tiner: Published those by mistake, they were not ready... wish I could recall. The final versions will follow soon.
The boiled wool jacket has great lines and chartreuse will be lovely with your complexion and hair colour.
How interesting that your friend is hanging onto her youth through clothing.
I do like the fact that she tried to get you to experiment with other options that you would not normally gravitate to, only a great friend can get away with that, if it comes from the sales clerks one really does dismiss them quite promptly.
Can't wait for more....and a new bag!
Jill Ann said…
Sounds like you and your friend are taking different approaches to "midlife" dressing, which echoes many of the issues we readers are having. I see a variety of approaches among my friends and sisters-in-law; still trying to work out my own style.

I did notice, however, in a recent shopping recon at an upscale mall, that there were actually a good number of dresses with sleeves! Yikes! And the new Talbots catalog also had several dresses with sleeves (although I know many of us have had issues with their quality lately.) So maybe designers are getting a hint!
Anonymous said…
Welcome back, Duchesse. Can't wait for more tales of shopping...I rarely shop for myself with others, because I take SO long to make up my mind, but I love to play "personal shopper" for a friend in need of encouragement (bossy eldest-child behavior, I'm afraid.)

Don't you think one's marital status is a big determinant when choosing clothes? A single woman of almost any age might instinctively go for a flirtier look--especially if she's in love. It's probably not a bad thing, then, for us married women to get a nudge in that direction once in a while!

That's a beautiful jacket you found.

Toby Wollin said…
In the end, all that matters is that when you put the thing on, it makes you want to twirl in the mirror (even virtually); otherwise, for my money, it's a waste of time. Your friend has her emotional needs in clothing - yours are different. It sounds as if her inner voice is telling her to be afraid of being 'terne'; yours is beating a different drum. I hate going shopping .. period. To me, everything I see is boring, badly made, and won't fit my frame (either too big in the shoulders, too long in the sleeve, or too long in the leg), which is why I tend to make my clothing. The only thing I will probably be making this fall is a new raincoat with a zip or button-out liner (and the fabric for the outside is cherry red - on rainy days I need some color to life the mood).
Mardel said…
Oh my, I think I would have gone for the dress to wear over narrow pants, and I already did buy a pair of Clergerie Platforms for fall, two tone, black and tan, but not the same model you posted. Perhaps in my mid 50s I am still more frivolous.

Love the jacket though, I would imagine it will look stunning with your coloring. I have a friend who lives in Oska; there is a boutique that carries it not far from here. The skirt is fabulous though even if it wouldn't work for you. By spring it will look all wrong. I can perfectly understand that Paris winter clothing would not stand up to the harsher Canadian winters you must endure.
materfamilias said…
What fun! As you read in my latest post, I often catch myself trying to integrate a Parisian approach with my more playful tendencies -- here it seems the Parisienne is the one who goes for the play, but you do point out that she does so over a lifelong structure of strict, so that she's already got proportions, cut, textures well in hand before she adds in prints, etc.
You might note of the dress I posted (the one that might be "too much" fun) that it has the long sleeves and the appropriate knee length that we women of a certain age have been looking for. I'm starting to find more and more of these dresses out there, thank goodness.
Can't wait for your other upcoming Paris posts. Take care with the jet lag.
Rubi said…
Oh, dear, those Oska jackets look tempting!

Glad you had fun and used boldness in your shopping.
Duchesse said…
hostess: She has (as I've noted on this blog) a lover 25 years younger (or not, depending on his behaviour.) So that is a huge motivation.

JillAnn: She says her French friends in her age bracket put thin tees under sleeveless dresses. She thinks Talbots is low quality. (H. visits new York often, familiar with our brands.) Living in Paris is to have access to another world, and she knows it- and tartly expresses her opinion with the deep superiority of the discriminating Parisienne.

C.: Do you mean "in love" or perhaps you mean, more accurately "trying to attract a man"? But do not let me put words in your mouth!

I *am* in love, and dress to please my love, but would not wear the clothes in that boutique- nor would he like them.

Le Duc thinks Huguette dresses far too young, and prefers the style of the friend I will profile Thurs. - but he adores luxurious, sexy lingerie, decolletage, etc.

Toby: The clothes I saw in Paris, (and many here in Montreal) are not boring or badly made. (Hang in for my windowshopping posts next week.)

But there are more lacklustre pieces in North America than there used to be, and the department store level is a minefield of lumpy hems, cheap buttons. We have to go up more in price in any market to get the ahhh effect of well-made.

Also in Paris I passed some exquisite couture shops, not the hyped big names, but the ateliers of expert dressmakers; here a woman who does not have your talents can be fitted. Now I am trying to find such a place here.

Mardel: Those little flower-sprigs are too twee for me, but I would take the platform loafers too!

materfamilias: That dress is *so* not Huguette, but *is* "you", so- enjoy! I too have seen sleeved dresses here, but a long enough skirt (just to the knee, for god's sake would be nice) is still a huge problem for me.

Rubi: It is great b/c not too heavy to wear indoors in this cold climate.
Mardel said…
Well, truthfully the little flower sprigs are way to twee for me as well. I was mostly attracted to the shape of the dress and would have liked it in a solid color.
Susan said…
I think very slim women, can get by with wearing much younger styles than those of us who are a bit stouter. I can't see myself in a little flippy skirt, but do wear longer skirts in flirty (at least to me) fabrics.
Murphy said…
Great post! It's interesting that Parisienne women of a certain age have trouble finding age-appropriate dresses, since it always seems like there are so many more choices in Paris than here.
I love the oxfords!
Anonymous said…
I put thin tee-shirts under sleeveless dresses sometimes or more often wear a very light-weight, elbow-length sweater that can be removed when it gets too warm. When it gets cooler here, I wear dresses over skinny pants or leggings, too, which is what I'd do with the dresses from Cotélac. Well, if they carried them in a size 1X I would, which they don't. I looked. They stop at size 10 US. Grrr. But when it's in the nineties or above, I wear sleeveless garments. Everyone here does or we'd be succumbing to heatstroke.

I suppose if you tried wearing the draped skirt over skinny pants with ankle boots it would look too bulky?

I think that Huguette's style suits her well. She looks charming, and not at all as though she is trying to appear younger than she is.

She's delightful and so are you, though I wish you'd not referred to women as meat, even metaphorically. It disturbed me.

I think it's great that you have someone to shop with who'll push you out of your comfort zone a little bit, too. We all need that, as well as a friend who'll let us know when a style's not working.
Duchesse said…
wendelah!: I too could not fit into anything in that store. The Crea skirt would lose its fineness over pants, leggings is the most it could bear, and at over $300 did not seem a sensible buy.

"Mutton Alarm" is shorthand for the well-known phrase "Mutton dressed as lamb", sometimes abbreviated MDAL.
Duchesse said…
Susan: Absolutely, and I wish I'd taken more shots of her to prove your perception.

Murphy: Debated b/t oxfords and boots but given the snow here, many fine boots would just get wrecked.

Paris has huge choice in clothes but I've seen the internet shopping make the world flat, too. Certain things I could only get in Paris 20 years ago, like Bompard sweaters, certain fragrances, are now easy to get online.
Chicatanyage said…
Really like the Oska jacket you chose. Reading your shopping in Paris post has got me all excited. We are planning to take the train to Paris and stay over one night followed by a days shopping. I wanted more but that is all I could manage to negotiate. Shame our visits did not coincide or we could have met up for that coffee. Perhaps you will visit London next.
Duchesse said…
chicatanyage: Worked in London regularly in the 80s but have not been back since then- and would love to return.

The posts with the most