Pink

When my sister and I were kids, my mom was dismayed that our favorite colors were purple and green, respectively. Isn’t part of the fun of having two little girls dressing them in pink?

Maybe her love of pink sank into my penchants subconsciously, because as an adult I found my wardrobe becoming pink and red.

The first time I realized that I had developed a style was around sophomore year of college. I bought a sleeveless red shirt with a lacy crocheted trim around the neck in a secondhand store. When I got home, in my closet I saw my dark red sleeveless dress with lace for the neckline. Without realizing it, I had bought an item I basically already had.

Since then, I have gone through other color phases—black, gray, navy blue—but I still have a lot of pink and red in my closet.

Naturally, when I heard about the Museum at FIT’s exhibit “Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color,” I emailed several friends I thought would be interested and asked if they’d like to join me. Being the kinds of friends I have, they were enthusiastic, and we planned an outing.

Several of us had been to the museum together for “Fairy Tale Fashion” a few years ago when our friend was visiting from Boston. Since then, I keep the Museum at FIT’s exhibits, which are free, on my radar.

This time I got in the spirit of the exhibit, wearing a pink coat, pink scarf, and pink purse, which wasn’t too far a stretch from my normal outfits.

After viewing the exhibit “Fashion Unraveled” on the ground floor, we went downstairs for pink, pink, pink.

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Does anyone remember this dress? I saw it at Sotheby’s pre-auction exhibit in Paris a few years ago! Now I know who bought this John Galliano. I wouldn’t say I’m particularly knowledgeable of high fashion, but I guess I do get out there. I would not have thought that not only would I see the same dress in Paris and New York, but also that I would remember it.

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Speaking of connections, I was surprised to see a caption featuring the book Pink Sari Revolution, which was sitting at home waiting for me to read it. A few weeks earlier, I had borrowed it from my local library after a quick browse of the nonfiction shelves and finding the book flap summary interesting. When I picked it up, I had no idea whether it was well-known. Now I was even more intrigued to read this book about a women’s movement in India.

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There was also some vintage children’s clothing to illustrate that in the early 1900s, pink was actually seen as masculine, a boy’s color.

I remember that in grammar school, most of my classmates, boys and girls, said their favorite color was blue (or were some of them pretending in order to fit in?). Mine is still green, but from my wardrobe, you’d think it was pink.

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A Day at the Races

During my trip to Yorkshire a while back, I went along for a day at the York Races with my host, one of her daughters, and her daughter’s fiancé and friend. I had brought my bright coral dress to England expressly for this event. That morning, my friend tried on several of her long summery dresses, asking for all of our opinions before settling on her red flowery maxi dress.

Everything about that day was a welcome bombardment to my senses. It was hot, the British girls were out in their colored printed dresses and showing skin, and excitement surrounded each horse race. I saw a grown man dressed as a baby surrounded by his pals who were in button-down shirts, ties, and trousers. It was prime time for people watching.

Everything about that day was a welcome bombardment to my senses. It was hot, the British girls were out in their colored printed dresses and showing skin, and excitement surrounded each horse race. I saw a grown man dressed as a baby surrounded by his pals who were in button-down shirts, ties, and trousers. It was prime time for people watching.

Can you find the former jockey below?

And the baby-man?

At the end of the day, the Scottish band Wet Wet Wet gave a concert. It was fun to see my friend singing along and swaying to the music. She was in heaven. If you don’t know this group that was especially popular in the 1980s and 90s, like me you may at least have heard the song “Love is all around.” “I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes…”

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Afterward, we stopped in the pub where my friend’s other daughter worked.

Pubs. British fashion. The York Races. Wet Wet Wet. Everything about the day was out of the ordinary for me. Americans share many similarities with the British, but we still have our distinct cultural characteristics.

She’s Beauty and She’s Grace (Lucky Her)

Sometimes I dream that I am a graceful girl, and then I wake up and walk into a door.

When I was eleven, my gym teacher said that I looked like a ballerina. I seem to remember that she was referring to my face, which would make sense since I certainly didn’t move like a dancer. No gazelle here. Well, when a volleyball flew towards me, I did resemble a deer… in headlights.

I can think of at least two people who have described me as poised, though I can only assume they meant when I am sitting down.

I recently bought a pair of three and a half inch heels for a close friend’s wedding. I can wear low heels, around an inch or less, but I rarely wear high heels. I also walk a lot, favoring a 25-minute walk over a metro ride, so sneakers or comfortable boots, flats, or sandals are my go-to shoe. I like the way high heels look, but in almost every situation I choose comfort over towering style. Cute comfort, but comfort nonetheless.

However.

I will be maid-of-honor for my friend this summer. My dress is yellow to match the color theme of her wedding. She being the ultimate cool and easygoing bride, gave bridesmaids free reign on footwear. She herself will probably wear cowboy boots. Yet when I saw a pair of sunny yellow high heels for an unbeatable price, I couldn’t just leave them there. I slipped them on and walked up and down the aisles of the store before tucking them back in the box and under my arm.

That’s how, in the middle of winter, I ended up wearing heels the color of springtime and sunshine to a social event I attend regularly. I believe that practice makes perfect. A walk to the bar and a couple of hours standing seemed like a good initial test.

I wanted to pretend that I was the kind of cosmopolitan woman who wears yellow heels every day, but unfortunately—though not surprisingly—a fellow regular greeted me by saying, “You’re tall!” He had previously remarked upon the day I wore a suit and noted that I usually dressed casually for this event, so I could count on him to blow my cover. I’m not really Carrie Bradshaw. I walk the walk, but only for about twenty minutes and then I have to sit down.

I explained to him and the other person we were with that I was trying to train myself for my friend’s wedding—which, by the way, was six months away. They thought that was funny. I turned away for a few moments to order a drink and used it as an excuse to sit down while I waited. As I retrieved my drink and stood up, my heel caught on the stool and I stumbled forward slightly, almost having to reach for one of their arms, but not quite. They thought that was funnier.

I have a nice yellow dress and nice yellow heels, but I am glad all eyes will be on the bride.

Tale as Old as Time

Why do fairy tales possess such enduring popularity? I think it’s the element of fantasy, of neat division between good and evil, of dreaming of that happy ending. For me they have more of a nostalgic appeal. I grew up on Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin,” and their songs unfailingly make some kind of feeling swell up within me. I haven’t seen the more recent animated films such as “Brave,” “The Princess and the Frog,” and “Frozen,” though many of my peers have enjoyed them. I did recently read a collection of Hans Christian Andersen’s tales, which like the Grimms Brothers’, are usually darker than their Disney renditions. In any case, fairy tales old and new take us to places where odd and extraordinary things happen.

High fashion has that same fantastical allure. Everyday clothing’s primary function is to cover us per societal convention, but sweeping skirts add drama and architectural lines turn fabric into sculpture.

The current exhibit “Fairy Tale Fashion” at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York combines story with finely draped mannequins. The outfits, some darkly elegant, some whimsical, are each footed by a concisely told fairy tale.

Sleeping Beauty’s dresses were dreamy. The beautiful piece on the right fluffs out on top, then perfectly hugs the body before fluting out like an inverted daffodil. As for the Marchesa gown on the left, I usually prefer cinched waists, but even I was taken by the soft uninterrupted layers of what I imagined to be moonlit fabric as Briar Rose made her way through the forest. 100_9838

This intricate dress and headpiece by Dolce and Gabbana had a harder edge. I think I’d enjoy wearing this armor of tough femininity while stomping through the hectic subway environment in New York. Who would get in my way?

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This gold and black dress in the Alice in Wonderland set shone under the muted light. I see it at an evening version of the Mad Tea Party. 100_9845In the Beauty and the Beast group, I honed in on two pieces: a pretty, printed long-sleeved dress with heaps of material suspended in the air from designer Mary Katrantzou’s fall 2012 collection, and a white dress from Rodarte’s 2007 spring collection that would have been prim if not for the bold roses down the front. Both are not over the top but inch right to the edge.

How about these dark Little Red Riding Hoods?100_9857

And then you’ve got the wolf in his nightgown…

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These three dresses were paired with a disturbing story by the Brothers Grimm about a girl whose father wants to marry her after her mother’s death. From left to right, they embody the stars, moon, and sun.

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A literal representation can be too much, but I found this dress littered with stars quite lovely with just the right amount of clustered and scattered stars. It was designed around 1930 by Mary Liotta, on whom a brief internet search yielded nothing.

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Cinderella’s dresses of gold and silver were accompanied by shoes that included a subtly-colored, butterfly-adorned pair by Christian Louboutin.

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This is just a taste of the exhibit, which is up until April 16 and free to the public. I highly recommend it if you happen to be in New York and seek a little enchantment.

Haute Couture at Sotheby’s

A friend and I recently checked out the haute couture exhibit at Sotheby’s, one of the major international auction houses. One hundred fifty items were on display, mostly dresses but also some hats and shoes and other accessories. All belong to Didier Ludot’s collection and will be auctioned off on July 8 in the first high fashion auction at Sotheby’s Paris location.

To my surprise, there was no line to enter the free exhibit. We had space to roam around the two floors and no competition to view the several catalogues available for reference.

The clothing ranged from the 1920s up to today and were arranged by color. Many of them have been worn by actresses and models.

My friend was the perfect companion, which is why I invited her—how can you go wrong taking a French woman who enjoys shopping to a fashion exhibit?

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My favorite dress was this pale pink John Galliano. The diagonal lines, the lace, the satin, the color… The lace-up made it sexy but not overly so, as the skirt was long and only slit up to the knee. Upon closer examination, I saw where a zipper began on the side but couldn’t find the end, the execution was so seamless. It was really beautiful.

sothebys.2015a 100_8641100_8640From Sotheby’s web site:
John Galliano, 2000
Robe longue en dentelle et satin duchesse rose pâle
A pink satin and lace sheath with asymmetric ‘corset’ bodice and diagonal lacing

Estimation: 1,000-1,500 euros

http://www.sothebys.com/fr/auctions/ecatalogue/2015/collection-didier-ludot-pf1570/lot.32.html

On the Sotheby’s web site you can view the estimated buying price in 20 different currencies. The paper catalogue included it in euros and dollars.

My other favorite was this elaborately pretty dress by Yves Saint Laurent.sothebys.2015bYves Saint Laurent Haute Couture, printemps-été 1963
Robe du soir courte en tulle tilleul brodé de perles et larmes de rhodoïd en nacre par la maison Lesage
Yves Saint Laurent haute couture, s/s 1963
A lavishly embroidered, beaded and sequined cocktail dress

Estimation: 2,500-3,500 euros

http://www.sothebys.com/fr/auctions/ecatalogue/2015/collection-didier-ludot-pf1570/lot.17.html

My friend’s pick in “Which one would you buy?” was this simple, chic dress, which appealed to me as well.sothebys.2015cCourrèges Haute Couture, 1967
Mini-robe en lainage rose buvard
A pink double-faced wool mini-dress with top-stitched detailing

Estimation: 2,000-3,000 euros

http://www.sothebys.com/fr/auctions/ecatalogue/2015/collection-didier-ludot-pf1570/lot.28.html

Her other favorite was this long printed dress. sothebys.2015eSchiaparelli Haute Couture, printemps-été 1938
Collection “cirque” ensemble du soir en crêpe de soie imprimé d’après un dessin de Marcel Vertès
‘Circus collection’, s/s 1938 a rare silk crepe gown printed with designs after Marcel Vertès

Estimation: 2,000-3,000 euros

http://www.sothebys.com/fr/auctions/ecatalogue/2015/collection-didier-ludot-pf1570/lot.26.html

There were more costume-y dresses as well—polka dots, a jumpsuit that resembled a space suit, a one-piece that was laced up from sneakers to pants to top.

A ball gown with full skirt prompted me to explain what an American prom is to my friend. When I think about it, it is a funny tradition that a bunch of 17 and 18-year-olds dress up in gowns and tuxes and ride in limos to dance. But really, unless you move in certain circles, how many times do you get to do that?

I wonder if I can find an opportunity to wear my prom dress. Assuming I can still fit in it, that is.

Under the Louvre

Two Sundays ago I attended an event that gathered 250 artisans under the Louvre. Called Le Carrousel des Métiers d’Art et de Création, five huge showrooms offered stand after stand of jewelry, hats, clothes, bags, home décor, and art. There were also works by art schools on display: avant garde dresses on mannequins and students, imaginative jewelry, stained glass, and hand bound books. Often, students were present to work on their craft: young shoemakers, embroiderers, and frame makers bent over the tools of their trade.

Most objects were for sale and were tied to boutiques from the Paris region and beyond. Everything had more of a creative streak and a freedom than what you see at regular markets. Even the people walking around tended to possess a style outside of the box. It made me think, why don’t we push our everyday fashion a little farther? It’s fun.

A visual feast of aesthetic creations, it was probably the best event I’ve been to all year. It was free too.

It’s funny to think that above the salon rested time-tested paintings and sculptures like the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. That spirit of experimentation and inspiration that lived in those artists was evident in the artisans’ work down below.

What about a headpiece made of origami? 100.artisanslouvre.201aI thought there was something timeless about this silver necklace against the brick and velvet black background. 100.artisanslouvre.201bVive la créativité.

Brocante-ing

This past weekend I went to an enormous flea market in Courbevoie, a suburb a stone’s throw from Paris. There were over 100 stands.

Often I walk around these markets and find nothing worth bringing home, but this was an exceptionally fruitful trip. I bought:
– a cozy fitted short-sleeved sweater with big buttons for 3 euros
– a red long-sleeved button-down Uniqlo blouse for 2 euros (!)
– a sleeveless short blue dress for an upcoming costume party for 3 euros
– an unopened copy of Bastille’s two-CD album “Bad Blood” for 1 euro

The only drawback to flea markets is that there are no fitting rooms. Luckily, I was able to slip on the clothes that interested me over my summer dress. Because there were no mirrors available, I asked the sellers to take a picture of me so I could see how the clothes looked. They were nice and happy to oblige. One of the Frenchies with whom I went to the brocante later told me that a French person would not have done that. True or not? It’s what I do when I choose eyeglasses too.88.brocante.2014a 88.brocante.2014bAfter we had exhausted almost all the stands, we took a cat nap on the green overlooking this long bike and roller blading path next to the Seine.88.brocante.2014c

Milan

This photo sums up Milan pretty well: business, shopping, and the Milan Cathedral.81.milan.2014cWe saw streets and streets of high-end shopping. It was like being on the Champs-Elysées, except that stores closed far earlier.

The city is much less touristy than Florence and Pisa, and with good reason. There are less tourist sites. Most of them are concentrated around the cathedral.81.milan.2014aSpeaking of which, did I tell you about the time I was turned away from the Milan Cathedral? I was wearing a halter top and shorts, and the man whose job it was to assess visitors’ clothing deemed by outfit impassable. It was quite a sight to see all the girls in line stretching a scarf around their shoulders or legs to make it through. My friend offered me a large t-shirt he had bought earlier, but I felt ridiculous wrapping it half-way around my waist. Luckily, we had one more morning in Milan. We went to the cathedral right before going to the airport. I had my rolling duffel bag with me, so if the guard disapproved of my sleeveless dress I would have had an array of wardrobe changes for him to select from. My choice was fine, though. Of course, we weren’t allowed to bring in our bags, but fortunately there were two of us and hardly any line.

Some unusual and beautiful stained glass adorned the cathedral. Often stained glass figures are abstracted into pieces; these were like illustrations but in glass form.81.milan.2014gWe ventured to the southern part of the city to see the canals. Upon exiting the metro station, the streets seemed a bit grungy and graffiti-covered, but one of the canals was especially pleasant.

81.milan.2014eAfter a day and a night in Milan, we flew back to “real life” in Paris. A presto, Italy!81.milan.2014d81.milan.2014b81.milan.2014f

Sell Me Something

Last Wednesday was the first day of the summer soldes. Twice a year, most stores—clothing, shoe, cosmetics—mark down their products. Unlike in the States, where sales are advertised for every holiday, from Labor Day to any excuse you can think of, in France there aren’t any great reductions until these big soldes.

I already bought a dress on the second day.

The product description on the store site says, “On aime aussi beaucoup les emmanchures américaines.” What are American armholes?

Now I just need a party to go to…