After ten days in Paris cavorting with black-clad French beauty editors, savoring jasmine macarons in the backroom of Jean Patou, prowling the opening night of the Georges Braque exhibition at the Grand Palais, and cruising neighborhoods high and low, Glamour Puss feels qualified to make a pronouncement: French women are no longer icons of chic.
There, it’s said. Now the Puss will take it one step further: Portland style is taking over Europe.
It’s not that French women don’t have a few style principles to teach their transatlantic sisters, because they do. It’s just that we Americans, with our wide smiles and legacy of jazz, old Hollywood, cowboys, and room-shattering laughter, have something that shimmers in the fashion zeitgeist.
Before we get into details, let’s step back a moment and review how the Puss found herself in this enviable position. The Puss is friends with a Parisienne who lives a stone’s throw from the Eiffel Tower. This Parisienne has earned her glamour points as the whip-smart translator of Fifty Shades of Grey, author of The Perfume Lover, and bestie of some of France’s perfume luminaries. (Her signature is a thick horn Yves Saint Laurent cuff, hand-drawn eyeliner, and thick, silvery hair.)
One morning not long ago, the Puss received an email from La Parisienne, undoubtedly written late at night while La Parisienne was tugging at her black lace Cadolle bra and puffing away at a cigarette. It turned out that she had to spend some time in Florence, then dash off to Grasse with Chanel for the jasmine harvest. Could the Puss come and take care of her cat?
Mais oui, chérie! The Puss tossed into a suitcase a handful of 1950s cotton sundresses (chiefly from the Xtabay, of course, including a black eyelet number fittingly labeled “Jeanne d’Arc”); a 1930s cotton piqué dressing gown in a pattern of bursts of anemones over stripes; a silk bias-cut nightgown; two scarves, including a 1950s rayon carré in spring green depicting a hatbox labeled “chapeaux”; several red lipsticks; and a couple of cardigans.
The Puss had to be chic. After all, she was going to Paris, where every newborn babe could tell a Hermès Kelly from a Constance, and where Chanel No. 5 flowed from breast milk. Right? Yet, the Puss’s strained budget would not allow her to assemble a tasteful wardrobe of Céline and Isabel Marant separates to pair with Belgian loafers or Chloé ankle boots and blown-out hair.
As if. The Puss would wilt like a bouquet in a hot Chevy if she were adorned all in solid colors—or, horror of horrors—forced to wear pants. Plus, the Puss’s vintage wardrobe has burned into her a love of quality rarely matched even in Nordstrom’s highest-end departments. So, the Puss would go “Portland,” hoping her madly patterned dresses and bright sweaters would at least brand her an original.
Results? In a sea of chattering fashionistas at a Comme des Garçons party, the Parisienne introduced the Puss to a handbag designer. “She’s bohemienne,” the Parisienne said, perhaps a little unsure of how the Puss’s blue and grey floral-sprigged housedress with a thin Alexander Wang pullover (the Puss’s only concession to modernity and purchased, like all the Puss’s adornment, secondhand) would fly among the high-fashion crowd. The handbag designer shrugged his azure fake fur-clad shoulders and looked the Puss head to toe. He smiled and nodded.
Oh my! Please forgive the Puss for testing your patience with such a long post. Stay tuned for part two, where the Puss lays out in more detail how what French women can teach us in style—and what we might be wiser to avoid.
( Thanks to Angela Sanders for guest blogging and sharing her wisdom as "Glamour Puss").