this ironic, ahead of its time Serge Gainsbourg song, En relisant ta lettre, in which he coldly points out each grammatical error in a desperate letter
from his lover. The song came to mind when reading about Sophie Calle’s
installation at the 2007 Venice Biennale, Take Care of Yourself, where she
invited 107 women to interpret a breakup email from her lover according to their professional expertise. See
the article on Calle in the recent, French-themedT Style.
I’m feeling poetic of late, and so I looked up the top 11 poems in the American literary
canon, according to Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker piece on genius and youth (he
mentions the poems at the bottom of page one).
A brief tangent on Jeremy Irons. I always thought he was pretty creepy. He does obsession very well (see: Lolita, The French Lieutenant’s Woman), but have you seen him young? And sunbathing on a roof? (The sunbathing begins around minute two.) Ow ow.
In college I read Brideshead Revisited.
And I'm all for the power of the written word, but if I had been aware
of the fantastically low budget and yet terrifically acted British
public tv version of Brideshead... Well, between Waugh's prose on the page and Waugh's prose on Jeremy Irons's lips, it would not have been a serious toss up.
Over the summer I spent a Sunday afternoon watching Brideshead clips on youtube, all in the name of research for the August
newsletter of Département Féminin, which you can read right here.
For the September newsletter, we turned to Luis Bunuel's Belle de Jour. I hadn’t seen the famous Deneuve-as-a-prostitue film in years, and remembered it as being quite sexy, but it’s really not a soutien-gorge ripper, not even a little bit. It’s much more poisonous. Centering on themes of perversion and respectability, it manages to suggest everything and show very little. There’s this scene where one of Deneuve's clients is suggesting an act so scandaleux that none of the other prostitutes will do it, but Deneuve says yes. You don’t know what he’s suggesting. You just see him open a a box which makes a ringing sound – the box holds whatever you imagine.
So much has happened since we last spoke! Obama is in, Yves Saint Laurent is gone, there was an earthquake in Sichuan, this Sex and the City thing came out, you may have heard…. oh, and I am back in Paris! I’ve been back since Sunday.
But what I came here to tell you is that with all the stuff going on, I did not even get to link to the May newsletter I wrote for Département Féminin. And so I didn’t get to show you this picture of Monica Vitti, like I’d been planning. And to tell you that of all my summer clothes, I am most excited about my new Gap shirtdress. If you’re in the market for a shirtdress, I’ll warn you it is short, but it is also oh, so Vitti (unbelted, with the collar up).
So much stuff! I have not even told you the biggest thing of all, so much bigger than Obama, YSL, Vitti’s sexy dress and the rest: My sister Aimee got engaged last week! While staying at my place in Paris with her boyfriend/fiance Jordan. I was still in Chicago, so it worked out perfectly. But I love the fact that they were staying at my place, and I can’t help boasting about it. As if my empty apartment had something to do with it.
And the last thing I want to say is that I hosted book club last night. (We discussed The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. I made quiche. Good times.) And now we are trying to decide what our next book will be. It has to be in French this time. I’m taking suggestions.
Today was a beautiful day in Paris. A little windier than expected. But boy, it wasn’t so long ago that it was raining every day. Buckets. There was even a point where it was warmer in Chicago than here. It hardly seemed fair.
But then, I went for a run in the park Buttes Chaumont a few hours ago, where the tulips were looking downright perky and the color compositions made me feel all proud that I live in France. (At citrus palettes, we scoff. Too easy, says France! We prefer the brilliance of burgundy, offset by pastels. La Classe.) I've written about parks here before, and I suspect I will continue to write about them. When did I become so into parks? I just love them.
I even got warm enough to strip down to my grey American college tee.
I know what you're thinking. Oh, but that hardly seems fair! You're in Paris. On a nice day. Running in the park. Wearing a tee-shirt.
Well observed, kid. But it's been far too long since I've bragged on this site about living in Paris. Like last Saturday morning, I work up early and went to the Belleville market where I bought herb goat cheese, white asparagus ("It's in season," said the tall, dark, handsome vegetable man), fresh salmon, bread with noisette and pistachio inside, and macarons which I froze and have been eating for dessert all week.
Ok, I'll cut it out now.
I’ll be writing a newsletter for Département Féminin every month, the store in Toulouse whose new shopping site (recently featured in Jalouse, Elle, and Madame Figaro) is elegantly designed by the good people at Spill. The wonderfully spectacled Garance (I’ve got more to say about her glasses, much more) did the French translations for the newsletter. Mise en page by Spill. This is the result.
If you’d like to sign up to receive the newsletter monthly, here’s what you do: Enter the site. Choose your language, then go to “visit,” then “contact.” Maintenant c’est a vous.
Susan recently captured this picture of a little fashion posse in Paris, which is typical of the looks you see during fashion week, and it’s what I like to call X-treme chic. There is something very French about this look, but there’s another quieter side to French fashion, too, a side that doesn’t call as much attention to itself and is less hard. More romantic. And as much as I like to pretend that my heart is harder than a canary yellow diamond, I have a little secret, which I will tell you right now: I love romantic clothes.
I went down to Toulouse just before fashion week to check out a store called Département Féminin.
They sell Alaia, Balenciaga, Chloe, Lanvin -- you know, designers that none of us like very much at all.
It’s all in the way you wear something of course, and it’s too bad the owner is so shy, because she is just a walking billboard for the reason why French women get it right. It pains me to write such a cliché, and let's be honest, not all French women do, but the ones that get it right really get it right.
When I met the owner, Carole, she was wearing NDC derby shoes (they're like saddle shoes, but monochromatic), the most feminine and small Balenciaga bag (I’m kind of starting to get sick of big bags, personally), a navy blue jacket, and a blue and white striped oxford shirt. What stands out to me about the store and her personal style is that, while there’s a lot of ribbon-y, satin-y Lanvin in the store (mmmm, Lanvin), she really incorporates menswear elements. They are parlayed not in a hard and modern Calvin Klein way, but as a coquettish girl-in-chiffon-dress-with-boyfriend’s-jacket sort of way. Think Charlotte Gainsbourg. When you walk into a store in New York that has chandeliers and lots of lace (the touchstones of the America-doing-French look), those stores so often seems ersatz to me because they forget about the menswear side, such an important part of the French look. Le Smoking, anyone? Coco Chanel?
This is the Département Féminin inspiration wall, downstairs in the stockroom of the store. I feel like these pictures alone are some of the most valuable images I’ve ever put on this blog. It’s essentially a collection of the greatest hits of Jalouse, Paris Vogue, and French Elle in recent years. I live to serve, people.
The store recently created an online shopping site which is still bold new territory in the luxury market, especially in France (neither Colette nor L’Eclaireur sell clothes online, nor do the big department stores here. It’s very different from the US in that way, where you can shop Barneys, Neimans, Nordstom, etc, online).
I think the site really transmits the feeling of the store and takes you into the owner's world, which is again, pretty rare in the online shopping world. It’s done by a design firm called Spill, who created the much acclaimed site for Colette, among other brilliant sites.
I’m over the moon that they have asked me to do some work for the Departement Feminin site, translating the item descriptions into English, and potentially writing a newsletter for them. Because of this, I feel like I should stop talking before I go overboard, like before I say that I want to go into that black and white boudoir on the site and French kiss all of the silky, shiny Lanvin ballerina slippers. That would be unprofessional of me.