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Five Things to do in Paris: The Winter Weekend

photo the style bar
photo the style bar

Heading out into the crisp winter air recently for a Fashion Sunday expedition, I realised with a shiver that many of my favourite Sunday in Paris activities were in need of a wee winter update!

For while outdoor strolling and al fresco dining is super fun in the warmer weather, the winter months definitely call for slightly more indoors-y pursuits…

photo the style bar
photo the style bar
  1. Les Jardins – at any time of the year, it’s wonderful to take a stroll through one of Paris’ many beautiful jardins. But when winter comes around, rather than spending hours lolling about on the grass with a gourmet spread of wine, cheese, baguette & other tasty treats, it’s nicer – and more prudent – to use the park as a thoroughfare or somewhere to sit & relax in a more temporary manner as you make your way to the winter equivalent of the summer ‘pique nique”…
photo the style bar
photo the style bar
  1. Brunch – this Anglo weekend institution has been totally ‘a la mode’ for a while now in Paris, but no more so than in winter when the colder temperatures call for tasty and inventive indoor dining options. There are lots of variations on the brunch theme, from French-style (i.e. sweet!) croissant, jam & friandes-style spreads, to the more English and American-influenced menus of bacon and eggs, eggs Benedict or pancakes. Or, seeing as it’s really lunchtime by the time you meet for brunch, I personally like to take advantage of Paris’ best burgers washed down with a cheeky glass of red wine in lieu of summer’s requisite Bloody Mary. My current favourites are Paris New York in the 10th & The Bottleshop in the 11th…
photo the style bar
photo the style bar
  1. Culture – in a cultural sense, winter in Paris is all about exhibition season. However if you aren’t a huge fan of paintings, photographs or sculpture, the other option is to while away a few hours in one of the many crowded and terribly romantic bookshops in the 5th arrondissement, famous for their livres anciens. The St Michel area is also home to the multiple outlets of chain Gibert Joseph and, of course the iconic Shakespeare & Company. Add to that the fact that Hemingway lived in and around this area for many years and you have a literary feast for the senses on more levels than one…
Paris Winter Bookshops
photo the style bar
  1. Baths – while this is not everyone’s cup of hot mint tea, a relaxing, invigorating visit to the arab baths, or hammam, was something I came to cherish when living in the south of Spain. And the good news is that the equivalent does exist in the heart of Paris, at la Mosquée, also located in the 5th arrondissement. With various affordable bath packages on offer, you can easily while away a few hours amongst the quiet chatter of women, relaxing in the languid, steamy air and completely cocooned from the cold. Then, when you emerge bathed, scrubbed, massaged and completely refreshed, head to the tea room or restaurant and complete the experience with tea and baclava or a fragrant cous cous with spiced chicken or mahgreb sausages.

Paris Winter Drinks

  1. The art of drinking – and finally, it’s no surprise that we come back to one of the country’s favourite past times – the aperitif. No matter what the time of year, the institution of les apèros is alive and well in any part of France that you’d care to mention. However in the winter months, especially around Christmas, vin chaud – or mulled wine – is a welcome addition to the beverage menu of most cafes and restaurants. Alternatively, if you don’t fancy anything of an alcoholic nature, then this is the perfect time of year to indulge in a guilt-free hot chocolate, with or without cream on top. After all, you will soon walk it off once you head back outside into the fresh – yet curiously refreshing! – Parisian air.
photo the style bar
photo the style bar

Happy Parisian winter weekend-ing!!

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Look 1, Look 2: Parisian Winter Style

Look 1, photo the style bar 2013

As one of my ex-pat galpals so astutely observed after 6 months living on the ruthlessly chic & eternally elegant ‘Rive Gauche’ of Paris, there are basically 2 looks going on for the Parisian woman about town this Autumn/Winter.

Look 1, photo dryzie 2013

Look 1. Take a pair of skinny jeans – black, grey or denim – throw on a blouse, t-shirt or cotton knit, wrap a scarf around your neck, and finish off your ensemble with a short coat or jacket. Ballet flats or boots – high heeled or flat, short or riding style – complete the look.

Look 1, photo dryzie 2013

Look 2. Instead of jeans, opt for a skirt or dress that finishes above the knee and has a full or a-line skirt. The same kind of top works here as well, although this time if you don’t want to the coat option you can go for a fitted jacket or leather biker style. The same boots or ballet flats go below but this time you need to decide on tights or bare legs & socks to balance out the exposed legs.

Look 1 & 2, photo dryzie 2013

In general colours should be kept fairly neutral – black, greys, navy & white – although a splash of colour is permitted in your choice of scarf & skirts are often small & delicate floral prints or spots.

Look 1 & 2, photo dryzie 2013

And then there’s the whole Parisian element of the ‘Oh, this? I just threw it together’ thing going on, which we all know is patently untrue – but who can help but love the way it’s done so effortlessly & yet is so studied at the same time?

Look 1 his & hers, photo the style bar 2013

Of course the only thing more fun than sitting on the terrace of a Left Bank café on a Sunday afternoon, observing these famous looks & admiring the best examples is the aperitif & hours of conversation – fashion or otherwise – that invariably go with it…

Look 1 his & hers, photo the style bar 2013

Long live Fashion Sunday!!

It’s Amore! Italian style

photo the style bar 2013
photo the style bar 2013

Okay. I think it’s official. The French may have chic, the Spaniards sartorial flamboyance, but the Italians. Have. STYLE.

So I think we all agree it’s impossible to travel to Italy and not have something to say about the way Italians dress. And while it’s one of those things about the country that’s widely accepted without question, it’s not until you see it up close that you realise just how fabulous it really is.

It’s effortless but with purpose. Casual yet smart.  Colourful and subtle. Like gelato in the late afternoon, a morning dip in the ocean, or aperitivos at sunset – it revives you & relaxes you all at once, and of course leaves you wanting more!

photo the style bar 2013
photo the style bar 2013

My favourite style idea from my recent trip to Italy – where I spent my time in turn soaking in the washed out, muted tones of Rome, the bright, sparkling colours of the Amalfi coast & the chaotic anything goes of Naples – was the monotone ensemble. Delicioso!

Let me explain. You choose a colour – say red – & make up your outfit entirely in that colour or variations on that shade. And you can stick with the same fabrics or mix up patterns & materials – but really, you can’t go wrong.

photo courtesy style.com
photo courtesy style.com

Exhibit A. A woman – not a day under 65 – who had popped down to the local shops in an unassuming Roman neighbourhood in a red silk shift that skimmed the body until it ended in a flirty a-line kick above the knee, red suede wedge sandals, and a slick of red lipstick. Gold jewellery & tortoiseshell sunglasses completed the look – and we couldn’t look away.

Another lady who popped into our pizza shop (the preferred stop for breakfast) was dressed entirely in bone and – adventurously for some, but it so worked! – that certain shade of pale grey that looks a bit beige in some lights – ¾ length Capri pants, a tee shirt, and flat leather sandals with gold buckles with a matching leather handbag.

photo courtesy style.com
photo courtesy style.com

Ahhhh, style amore!

Holy Haute Couture, Batman!

photo the style bar 2013
photo the style bar 2013

Before Haute Couture there was…well, haute couture.

On the eve of the Fall-Winter 2013/14 Haute Couture shows in Paris, I am reminded of the exquisite colours and costumes I recently saw represented in the portraits of the virgin saints at the ‘Santas de Zurbarán: Devoción y Persuasión’ exhibition in Seville.

photo the style bar 2013
photo the style bar 2013

Francisco de Zurbarán was a 17th century painter (which means he was painting totally fashionable ensembles as he saw them in the 1600s – love it!!) and if you could only see these painting up close: the fabrics, the prints, the richness of colour – even before you imagine wearing something this amazing! – you start to understand the legacy of this modern day art form, and also where designers get so much of their inspiration.

photo courtesy www.thepinkcarpet.es
photo courtesy http://www.thepinkcarpet.es

Visually devouring each and every painting of these unfortunate yet lovely ladies whilst there last month (I know, the term ‘virgin saint’ sounds macabre, but that’s because, alas, it is) I was struck by the fact that, when you think about it, everybody’s clothes used to be a lot like haute couture as we think of it today: the best fabrics, craftsmanship and designs all made to measure and one of a kind.

If you were poor of course, your wardrobe was – well, okay, you didn’t have a wardrobe, much less an array of ensembles to fill it with – let’s just say you had one outfit you wore day in day out and if you were lucky you had something to change into for Sunday best.

photo courtesy www.thepinkcarpet.es
photo courtesy http://www.thepinkcarpet.es

But if you were of noble lineage, the sky was the limit. And, judging by the frocks on these young ladies, sacrificing your life in the name of religion was no barrier to looking pretty damn fabulous. Or, at least, that’s clearly what Zurbarán wanted us to think. And yes, he did get quite a lot of flak for portraying these women in such sumptuous garb, but really, if you are going to be a martyr fighting for your cause, why not look as good as you possibly can whilst doing so?

photo courtesy www.lacomarcadepuertollano.com
photo courtesy http://www.lacomarcadepuertollano.com

As part of the exhibition there is a Balenciaga dress, haute couture, 1961, on display. It is apparently inspired by the portrait of Santa Casilda (thank you, Shoptimista for the information 🙂 )

photo www.thepinkcarpet.es
photo http://www.thepinkcarpet.es

By all accounts, the Basque designer was heavily influenced by Zurbarán, and I’m sure you can understand why.

Seeing Balenciaga’s dress featured alongside the almost life-size portraits brought home the fact that so much of what we see – and wear – today has its roots firmly planted in a bygone era of which we are blissfully unaware, but one that I hope we appreciate just a little bit whenever we wear something beautiful.

And speaking of beautiful, the exhibition venue is an example of inspiration and devotion in and of itself…

photo the style bar 2013
photo the style bar 2013

On at the incredible Espacio Santa Clara in Sevilla until the 20th of July 2013 – if you are Seville, do yourself a favour!

photo the style bar 2013
photo the style bar 2013

Happy fashion devotion!!

Up, Up & Away

l-affiche-de-l-exposition-paris-haute-couture-a-l-hotel-de-ville

Here’s the thing about fashion: even though we go on and on about how shallow & pointless it all is, all it takes is one incredible experience – so exquisite, so sublimely beautiful and uplifting that it literally brought tears to my eyes – to remember what it’s all about and just how fantastic it can be.

So that’s what happened to me at a recent visit to the Paris Haute Couture exhibition. Not unlike my afternoon in the presence of greatness when I stumbled upon the rooms of Jeanne Lanvin at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs a couple of winters ago, I almost forgot where I was, so absorbed did I become in the detail of the garments and the fashion dream that is haute couture.

John Galliano for Dior_Haute Couture AW08_Purple Ball Gown

This was the gown that pushed me over the edge: the jaw-dropping, show-stopping deep purple creation by John Galliano for Dior from the AW 2008-2009 Haute Couture collections. As gorgeous as it looks on the catwalk, I cannot tell you the impact it has when you see it up close…

little paris adventures JG for Dior 1

Yes, it was an onslaught of emotions, but even the uncomfortable ones somehow felt good. There was that feeling of futile longing – you know, the one you get when you see something totally beyond fabulous in a magazine or shop window and then find out the price. So near & yet…

Then comes the moment when you let go & dare to dream. You picture yourself actually wearing one of these painstakingly executed works of art (& would it make you feel like one as well? or would you disappear from view as it wore you?), descending the staircase of a ballroom or stepping out of a limo as you make your entrance…

Christian-Lacroix-robe-manteau-Faena-automne-hiver-1987-1988-Musée-Galliera-Paris-Mode-Fashion

A sketch by Christian Lacroix. I mean, imagine being able to sketch something you just thought up like this, let alone produce the frock!

Of course there is also the creative awe factor, the sheer admiration you feel at seeing the vision of these artists & their talented artisans made manifest. After all, it’s one thing to come up with a design in your head, but quite another to bring it to life.

As well as the finished garments, there is also a section filled with sketches, sections of fabric, and photos of the designers, models and atelier workers hard at work on the designs.

My favourite series was of the hands of several designers including Coco Chanel and Elsa Shiaparelli.

Haute Couture Expo_Shiaparelli Hands

So I know what you’re thinking: what possible relevance could haute couture have for the modern, post-post-millenium woman who is not about the shell out a lazy $20,000 on a frock for her upcoming dinner party Saturday night?

Well, as I feasted my senses, the one thing I kept thinking of again & again was the absolutely transformational power of a beautiful dress on both the wearer and the beholder. And in reminding me of this fact, it strengthened my resolve to maintain my not always valiant effort to take the dress code – and the shoe height! – up a notch whenever the occasion calls.

This Yves Saint Laurent for Dior number from 1958 was pretty spectacular as well – so simple and yet so complex at the same time – and who else could get away with a bow that size and still make it look good?

Christian-Dior-par-Yves-Saint-Laurent-Robe-du-soir-Aurore-printemps-été-1958

I tell you, after seeing something like this I could almost let them do away with prêt-a-porter fashion weeks altogether if they had to! But not this, never this. Hand crafted  bespoke, custom made – call it what you will – haute couture is where it all started: with vision, exquisite craftsmanship and materials; and the feeling that if you slipped into even one sleeve of these gowns, all your dreams would true.

Haute Couture Expo_dress

Carven, 1948, dreamy…

Okay, I’ve gushed enough – go see for yourself! Paris Haute Couture at the Hôtel de Ville Paris, on until July 6…

Check out the great slideshow via the above link: you can see the room, the cabinets, the gowns, the sheer ahhhh factor of it all – haute-tastique!!

Happy ‘Haute’ styling…

Outside the Square

photo courtesy www.vogue.co.uk
photo courtesy http://www.vogue.co.uk

The Louis Vuitton show may not have been the most wearable collection to have come out of the Spring-Summer 2013 collections, but it was certainly one of the most eye-catching – and effective – I have seen in a long time.

photo courtesy www.vogue.co.uk
photo courtesy http://www.vogue.co.uk

It’s not often that the phrase ‘startling in its simplicity’ springs to mind when trawling through the fashions collections, but that’s exactly what I thought when I first saw this one.

photo courtesy www.vogue.co.uk
photo courtesy http://www.vogue.co.uk

It’s a deceptively simple concept – and so clever at the same time. Of course, once you see the clothes close up, you realise they are anything but simple in terms of fabric, cut and construction – but that’s what makes this collection so interesting for me.

photo courtesy www.vogue.co.uk
photo courtesy http://www.vogue.co.uk

The check prints are inspired by Louis Vuitton’s Damier canvas pattern, created in 1888 and already ageless in its own right, but made mod modern, with the sleek, airline stewardess-inspired styling and set that echoes the best of the early 1960s.

photo courtesy www.vogue.co.uk
photo courtesy http://www.vogue.co.uk

While I can’t see myself donning a large-check maxi skirt any time soon, the cropped jackets, pencil skirts & fitted sweaters fit in perfectly with the Mad Men influences of recent seasons, as do the pointed kitten heel shoes and square shaped bags.

photo courtesy www.vogue.co.uk
photo courtesy http://www.vogue.co.uk

I know I usually stick to my stripe fetish but I have a feeling that this Spring if it’s square, I’m there!!

photo courtesy www.vogue.co.uk
photo courtesy http://www.vogue.co.uk

If you are interested in more background to the show, there’s a really good wrap-up at Fashion Telegraph UK, including some great info about the set design and Marc Jacob’s influences & vision.

Happy Spring Styling!

324 Shades of Grey

La Tour sunset

Like all stylish women, she doesn’t seem to have a bad angle…

La Tour sunset 2

Now that’s my kind of Iron Mistress… 😉

 

 

Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris

Always a nice moment when you discover that the camera – & the cliché – do not lie…

 

The Snow Must Go On

Bercy Village Paris 1

Gotta hand it to the French: even when temperatures plummet & Paris is covered in a blanket of snow, it’s a Saturday during Sale Season so even if you can’t feel your fingers one must soldier on! So let’s grab the hats & mittens et on y va!

Bercy Village Paris 2Especially when it’s somewhere as quaint as Bercy Village in the 12th arrondissment – strangely alluring in a totally inexplicable way – although I am told it’s fabulous in the evening during summer…

Bercy Village Paris 3

Yes, it’s pretty much an open-air affair but perhaps that works to the shops’ advantage as peeps seek refuge from the chilly air…

Allez les soldes!!

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