Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ordered Beauty in Paris

I love this deep purple -- presque noir -- hollyhock against a background of lavender in the Jardin desTuileries.

Here's Pater posing in front of the scene for me -- do you think he worries about how he looks, how suitable his dress is for the Paris streets? Not a chance!

But look at that precision, that order, not only in the rows of lavender, but in the trees behind, in the trim of the lawn, in the neatness of the hems and know that this care translates everywhere into dress whereas I, on the other hand . . .
Let's just say that I loved reading Mardel's honest post today, a post in which she describes having her sense of self seriously eroded by a cosmetician at the department store lipstick counter. For no matter how much I might know my own worth, no matter how much commenters might pipe up to say that Mardel or I or any of us should ignore those other voices and affirm our own beauty and style, etc., etc., the truth is that sometimes seeing ourselves as we suspect others see us can arouse every doubting inner voice we thought had been hushed long ago, and there's not much we can do but ride the moment out. If we're lucky, like Mardel, we'll arrive back in a place where our loved ones reflect our beauty back to us before the day is through.
All to say that when I read Mardel's post, I immediately thought of days such as this one, in Paris, when I left our hotel room feeling good about what I was wearing -- I knew the dainty floral print on the little scarf was a stretch with the stripes on the white v-neck, but at the time I thought it was a clever stretch. The colours were perhaps a bit de trop for Paris (besides the turquoise in scarf and shoes, and the cobalt bag, there are tomato, navy, and turquoise stripes in the white v-neck you can't see), but for me there was a playful logic to them -- they pleased me. My shoes, with their slightly curled-up points, definitely quirky, but besides being comfortable, their whimsy makes me happy. The combination of my curls in humidity and my glasses is not, I know, my best look, but I was relieved that day that the overcast sky meant I could leave the sunglasses home and give my eyes a rest from the contacts. And walking with Pater, who seems always to think I look fabulous, I was confident, happy even in the rain.
But within minutes of walking through Galaries Lafayette an hour or so later, I began to feel ever so gauche -- every potential infraction of a fashion rule seemed to manifest itself in every passing mirror. If I'd had a magic wand, I would have used it not to feed the world's starving children, nor to end war, nor to cure cancer, but rather I would have been clad in taupes and/or blacks, with simple yet substantial gold jewelry -- my hair would have been impeccably straight and shiny and most of all, my maquillage would have been flawless. Sadly, even if I'd already fed the children, ended the war, or cured cancer, none of those achievements would matter in the face of the gaucheness. My head says it shouldn't be so; some little girl inside knows it always will be. And I loved Mardel's post for acknowledging that. And then for moving on.
I have to laugh, though. While Pater tried to be understanding any time I went through one of these little crises, he continues to think I look great no matter what. And any time he took a photo of me -- one I would later examine to see how heavy I looked or whether a dress was too short or an unflattering shape or made me arms look big or . . . . he would be most pleased if he'd captured a smile -- "You have a great smile," he'd say. And, you know, I should! No matter that I will never be flawlessly made up and/or dressed, I have much to smile about -- and many to smile with, lucky me!


  1. Your post rang many bells, reminding me of the undercurrent of inadequacy (in the apparel department) that always lurks when I go back to Italy. I've been visiting Italy for over 50 years, since I was a child; it's where I feel most at home, most connected, but it's also the place where women (and men) are impossibly stylish. (Discounting Italian television, where the all-pervading style is cheap and trashy thanks to the Berlusconi factor.) No matter what I wear in Italy, nothing quite seems to cut the mustard.

    But I do remember a mid-winter visit to Venice, in the 1990s, when I wore my favourite coat and favourite boots (still have coat and boots, still love them) and I was with someone who loved me. Felt fabulous and barely noticed what anyone else was wearing . . .

  2. Ah, Mater, I had to come right over and read your message after I saw your comment. Your express those feelings of inadequacy so much better than I and I love your post. I wish I could be more like my G (or like Pater) not thinking about what others think of what he wears or how he looks. But we (I mean the societal we here) rear our girls differently than boys, don't we, and it is very hard to overcome the years of often subtle conditioning (and all too often overt as well).

    I love that picture of you smiling in the garden with your turquoise and blue; you look so happy and fun, and the curl of the toes suggests an impish quality and a great sense of humor. You look like someone who would be fun to get to know.

  3. It's worth even more, after you have solved world hunger, to feel bien dans sa peau. You look so happy and relaxed, and no amount of taupe can provide that.

  4. I have to agree with Paul. You have a great smile!
    I love the lavender makes me want Paris to be our next trip to Europe.

  5. 60/16: Nothing like love and a great pair of boots to make one feel fabulous! I haven't been to Italy yet but am hoping to get there in the next year or two -- have to fill myself with affirmations first ;-)
    Mardel: Can't agree with your comparison of our two posts -- I loved yours and I'm pleased to think you find mine complementary. And thanks for the comments on how my appearance might reflect my personality -- if only the Internet could physically, as well as geographically, shrink distance, I know we'd have some good long chats . . .
    Duchesse: Thanks -- I do wish that achieving these larger goals might get one closer to feeling bien dans ma peau than does a swish of Touche Eclate and gold I can't afford ;-)
    Hilary: You'll love it, especially if you allow for an hour or two AWAY from Roland Garros . . . Actually, I have no doubt we'll be seeing you there before too very long.

  6. Flawlessness is over-rated, anyway! And how lucky you are to have a husband like that ... (and shoes like that too, I love them!)

  7. Tiffany: I know -- am I not lucky?! If only I could keep this mind when assailed by those mirrors in chic French department stores!

  8. Wow, Pater looks amazing. I love his sneakers! I am so excited to go back to Paris again this September with my Viking. Your photos are getting me excited.

  9. Karen: Yes, Pater keeps his look very simple and it works well for him -- the sneakers were a great find a few years ago (PF Flyers, they're actually leather and have held up really well) and punch up the otherwise almost-austere black-and-jeans he favours.

  10. And I think your ensemble looks perfectly appropriate. Pas de trop at all!

    It was so great meeting you yesterday...I broke down and paid for internet so I could post about it. ;-)


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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