Friday, November 8, 2013

Glamour Puss Goes to Paris, Part Deux

Glamour Puss Goes to Paris, Part Two

Catherine Deneuve- The archetype of french chic.

We all know what the Parisian woman is supposed to be like. She’s as elegant as Catherine

Deneuve, as cool as Charlotte Gainsbourg, as knowing as Jeanne Moreau, and she does things

with scarves. She whips up soufflés, can draw the perfect cat’s eye with liner, and maintains

sangfroid in the face of haughty waiters and amorous playboys. She might be a charming Pixie

like Amélie or a worldly seductress like Madame de Pompadour, but she’s the immutable icon of


Charlotte Gainsbourg- it's hard to compete with that level of coolness.

Here’s the thing: except in fiction, this mythical French woman doesn’t exist. In the Paris metro,

chances are higher you’ll sit next to a woman in jeans mass-produced in China with a shrink-

wrapped baguette poking out of her grocery bag than next to Anouk Aimée’s double.

That said, chic women do roam the streets of Paris here and there. To wit, the Puss admired

an executive at a Comme des Garçons party. The executive was of a “certain age,” wearing no

discernable make-up, and her fox-brown hair was piled loosely on her head. With this tossed-off

glamour, she wore a to-the-knee strapless black dress. Fastened over it was an elaborately folded

black corset culminating in a twist of stiff cotton over her left breast. She leaned against the wall,

reached into the fold, and extracted a cigarette. Merveilleux.

But for the most part, Parisiennes live off reputation more than reality. The chic allure of the

French woman is a fairy story.

Does that make you sad? Not the Puss. In fact, it’s remarkably freeing. You know why? It

means you can make the myth your own. You don’t have to be born in Paris to live the dream—

whatever that means to you. The romance of “French chic” is something you can define on your

own terms and roll into your own life.

Let the Puss give you a few ideas she’s picked up in Paris and elsewhere for embracing savoir

vivre both in your wardrobe and your life:

• Throw out your ratty yoga pants and wear something glamorous but comfortable when

you’re lounging alone at home. When you were a little girl, did you dream of yourself

as an adult slumped by the television in pilled sweats and a Buffalo Bills tee shirt? The

Puss didn’t think so. The Puss opts for old kimonos and 1930s nightgowns for watching

Carole Lombard screwball comedies, but you might prefer a pair of men’s cotton pajamas

or a satin quilted robe.

• Try a drop of soy sauce in your homemade salad dressing to add a savory layer of flavor.

• If you normally wear somber, basic colors, top them with a bright, expertly cut coat. A

vintage coat is the Puss’s top choice—the quality and fabrics of vintage outerwear crush

anything you might buy at Nordstrom, and for a fraction of the price. One of the Puss’s

Parisian friends dropped a bundle on a custom made peony pink mohair swing coat. The

Puss knew she could find something equally stunning at the Xtabay and not blow her


• Look for crystal knife blocks to keep your tablecloth clean longer and make your meal

feel special. The Puss found a set of six Baccarat knife rests at the Porte de Vanves flea

market for an easy 20 euros. (On that note, buy heavy, well-made cutlery. A set of old

Christofle coffee spoons or horn-tipped Laguiole knives transform meal time. And look

for crystal cocktail glasses at Goodwill. The Puss recently found a set of champagne

glasses exactly like those Audrey Hepburn drank from in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.)

• Hang fat tassels from door knobs and drawer pulls.

• Find a cocktail dress that you love but that pushes the envelope just a little for you, and

rock it. Don’t go overboard on the makeup and gems, but choose one or two standout

pieces. Wear that dress like you were born in it.

• Be fabulous! It takes guts. Some people out there will try to pull you toward mediocrity.

But in you burns a flame of magnificence that is so you, so inspiring, and so individual

that no Marion Cotillard or Loulou de la Falaise or Colette could ever compete, because

they are not you.

The Puss could go on and on! But she has tested your patience long enough. What to you is

Parisian chic? And how can you incorporate it into your life?

P.S. For a limited time Xtabay has teamed up with Portland's legendary Jane's Vanity to bring you a Capsule Collection of exquisite european lingerie. Xtabay now features a gilded rack filled with fine French corsetry and lingerie collections from Maison Cadolle, as well as decadent loungewear and lingerie from Lucile Lingerie's 'Rue Penthievre' collection. These collections are a perfect match for our breathtaking vintage pieces and the perfect way to ad a little french glamour to your life.

Images from old 1940's Cadolle ad campaigns. 

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