Monday, April 27, 2009

Spring Visits

I have mentioned in another post that it is nice when a friend visits. I had a particularly nice visit from a dear friend last week. She is very much like a sister to me and this being her second visit to Paris, wanted to have a different experience than the first. She seemed more interested in the normal goings on, going to places I go to, eating where I eat and catching the usual cultural even here and there. She stayed with me and Alain and since we visit sights, so did she. Since we go to parks, so did she. Since we meet with friends for dinner, so did she. For the 5 days she was here she lived as we do, sans the usual film going. It is not always the most relaxed time having someone over to stay because you constantly wonder, if they are enjoying themselves. Sure, you can ask, but politeness colors your acceptance and you fear the person is just being polite by saying "yes". In Paris it is sometimes good to plan, which can be difficult for some people. This is a city where you have to assume others are thinking like you, or else you will arrive to a restaurant and not get a table, go to a museum and find a huge line. That is no fun. We planned the basics and just let the other things happen. My friend had a day to herself to go and explore, shop at her favorite vintage shop (praying the whole way it was still there) and possibly catch the eye of some lonely artist (Yes, they do exist outside Hollywood movies). The last day was a chateau day, having gone to see Fountainbleau and Vaux-le-Vicomte. At the end of her trip she told me it was one of her best ever and I don't believe she was just being polite.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

O. vs A. in regard to Mrs. O

I am about to weigh in on something totally silly, superficial and yet certainly of embarassing interest to me. There is suddenly much ado about the recent visit of Michelle Obama, and her husband, to Europe. More has been made of what she wore and how she wore it. It is so easy to dismiss these goings on, but at the heart of the matter is something I find interesting. There have been words passed by designer Oscar de la Renta in regard to what Mrs. Obama wore to meet the Queen, something to the effect of 'you don't wear a sweater to meet the Queen.' It had a chastising tone which I found a little arrogant. Now, I must admit that I was a little taken aback by Mrs. Obama's choice of outfit. On the one hand there was a casualness to it and yet it had the air of Americaness that has had the fashion world whirling for decades. She looked wonderful, relaxed, welcoming, all the things we wants a representative of the United States to uphold. Obviously, by the gesture of touching Mrs. Obama during the photo op., the Queen approved. When it was revealed that the sweater in question was by the french designer Azzedine Alaïa, this little debate took on more color. In this simple gesture, Mrs. Obama broke the usual standard (a silly one if you ask me) that an American First Lady has to confine herself to American designers. Not only did she choose to wear a French designer once, but she wore his clothes again throughout the remainder of the trip. She wore Alaïa again while in Germany, this time a gorgeous black dress to a high profile NATO concert in Baden-Baden. Everyone has remarked how stunning she looked and from the photos I have seen, I must agree. At recent, Mr. Alaïa has come to comment about Mrs. Obama wearing his clothes and the comments made my Mr. de la Renta. Normally, I don't really go for tit-for-tat, but this time I have to commend Mr. Alaïa. He remarked that Mrs. Obama is "of her time", which is completely true. After 8 years of a nearly non-existent First Lady, it is exciting to have one who expresses her opinions, shows her style and is smart enough to do it as a compliment to her husband, who just happens to be the President of the United States. Everyone makes their own decisions and I am sure Mrs. Bush carefully chose how she would express herself through her position, and Mrs Obama has made her decision. Where I am interested and where this is relavent to this blog is that Mr. Alaïa is a french institution. He, along with Christian Lacroix, Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana defined french fashion in the 80's. For me Alaïa was different because he had a special history being from Tunisia. He brought and cintinues to bring a sensuality and sexiness to women's clothes while still remaining chic. His work is playful and a celebration of a woman's curves, whether it is his once signature "bandage" dresses, or his use of white lace (evocing a classic french maid) under a short skirt, he played with the references of what is french, while adding the spices of his North African heritage. Like Yves Saint Laurent, before him, he also celebrated black models. His use of colors and tailoring were perfect for the skin and bodies of Naomi Campbell, Farida and Veronica Webb, who were just starting out at the time. Fashionable women of Paris like architect/designer Andrée Putman, were mad for his clothes and looking unique and mysterious at the same time. It was cross-cultural. I remember seeing his designs in American fashion magazines and girls I knew squealing with delight. Alaïa even became a pop culture reference in the movie "Clueless". Mr. de la Renta is one of the most accomplished designers in the world. He was, I believe, the first American to head a french couture house, Balmain. He has impeccable style, and incredible charm, you see that in countless interviews and press snipets, which is why I was a little surprised at his comments about Mrs. Obama. Perhaps he feels left out. He has famously dressed every First Lady since Barbara Bush, maybe even Nancy Reagan (not sure). He might feel a slight has been made since Mrs. Obama has chosen younger, lesser known designers and not his more established house. Still, these kinds of things seems to bring up the oh-so-tired French vs. American notions of the past administration. Perhaps because of these past tensions Mrs. Obama was more inclined to wear a french designer during her European visit. Who knows and who cares. What matters most is that this gesture has actually, in my mind, helped to bridge the gap between the US and France. Skeptics can roll their eyes all they want, but these little things stick in people's minds. They do mine. Will Mrs. Obama wear Mr. de la Renta, I hope she will at some point. She would look stunning in one of his dramatic opéra capes in a strong jeweltone color. At the same time, Mr. de la Renta's clothes scream opulence and glamour and, is that the message we want the First Lady to send out right now, with so many people suffering financially and her husband's decisions constantly in question? We don't want her to be called Michelle Antoinette. So, let her continue to wear what she wants in the way she wants. Let her continue to dazzle some and confound others. She is an individual that obviously women all over seem to identify with and when was the last time the U.S. has had this in a First Lady?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Paris Eye

The Paris Eye:
focusing on the beauty that is a city
april in paris