Friday, 29 January 2016

ITSO . . . In the Style of . . . Bianca Jagger

Bianca Jagger in White during the 70s.
Composite Photo Source: 360Nobs
I remember reading about Bianca Jagger buying t-shirts and underwear in Paris in the 1970's, one in every colour: matching. I was in elementary school at the time and Bianca Jagger was the "it girl" during the 70s and 80s. Now as I look back at what she wore, I wonder if it wasn't her beauty first that garnered all the attention. She has an exotic look that I find ravishing. As well, she was married to Mick Jagger. So she was exotically beautiful and married to a rock star: of course, everything she wore would have been considered iconic. See Harper's Bazaar slideshow of her style development from 1971 to 1978.

Bianca Jagger with daughter, Jade.
Photo Source: Dave Benett Evening Standard
When one mentions Bianca Jagger, my first recollection is the white suit. She did the white suit more than once and it always looked fabulous, particularly in the 80s when over-emphasized shoulder pads were the rage. Somehow she didn't have that top heavy look.

On May 7, 2015 she celebrated her 70th birthday. She's still wearing that white suit, well - maybe not that particular white suit but generically, the white suit is still a significant element in her wardrobe choices. See the last three photos of the Dianab series of Bianca Jagger in 2014. She wore white well in the 70s and she is wearing it well now that she is 70. Of course, she wore black and she wore red exceptionally well with her exotic looks but when I think of Bianca Jagger, I still think of her in white.

Photo Source: Vogue. 
There are others who have worn white well . . . think of Angelina Jolie, another woman with a dark exotic look. In a way, she reminds me of a young Bianca Jagger, if in no other way, but those exotic looks.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Considering the Dollar during Sales in France . . .

The United States has Black Friday, Canada is loyal to Boxing Day but it is the July and January sales in France that are the most awaited. The January sales, which officially are not allowed to start until after January 5th, certainly can't compete with the hype that Black Friday and Boxing Day have. In fact, on December 26th, I saw employees in a large department store removing Christmas decor and never saw any of it on sale in January. Do they store it? Really?

The French may be visiting outlet stores, local malls, and even independently owned shops in the villages now because of the January sales but seldom do they offer anything more than 30 to 50% off. Not only are the reductions never as enormous as they are in North America, but the sale selection is not as varied. That makes me wonder . . . Are mark-ups for regularly priced goods lower in France? Or are North American mark-ups so high that 70% off still allows the merchant to make an acceptable profit?


The Canadian dollar is the most pathetic I have ever seen it. The last time it was bad, but not this bad, was in 2009. As a result, I am certainly not buying as much as I did last year. I was looking at a "bouti", basically a quilted bedspread, that was priced at 160Euro. By the time I figured out the dollars I would need to spend (multiply by a humiliating 1.6), I began to walk away. The shopkeepers in small town South-West France are feeling the consequences of high unemployment, the loss of the the summer tourist trade, and the reticence of retired local Brits who are not buying much either even though their sterling is considerably well-positioned next to the Euro. The vendor offered a discount of about 20% on what she claimed were not sale goods and "free" matching pillow covers. Yes, well . . . I shook my head, did my best to express myself emitting that pouty puff of air (a French gesture of non-compliance) and shrug. She shrugged back and I said, "merci, mais non" and walked away. It is a matter of need. And I certainly don't need a "bouti" at the present exchange rate.

Now of course, I am reminiscing about a set of bedding that I saw at a previous July 2015 sale . . . sigh . . . would have, could have and should have . . . I'll be back and maybe the July sale in 2016 will once again have what I want at an exchange rate that is a tad more gentle on my wallet. I'm glad we bought our car in May.

While in Canada, a dollar is a dollar is a dollar to me since I get paid at that exchange; however when I am in France, it is quite a different thing.

The conclusion, of course is that, I don't have any motivation for a shopping spree, especially for clothing, before I return to Canada. This is a good thing for my 2016 clothing resolutions. I'll be back in Canada in less than two weeks and happy to spend my dollars there.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Considering Gifts from France

Closet Content Analysis: Scarves

Choices: Never a Bad One

Money doesn't buy elegance. You can take an inexpensive sheath, add a pretty scarf, gray shoes and a wonderful bag, and it will always be elegant.
— Carolina Herrera

NICE: For those of you who are visiting France and are committed to gifting friends and family, the best gift to buy is a scarf for either men or women. Everyone . . .  yes, everyone wears them. All the time. 

If you are buying in France, there will be scarves made in France and scarves made in other places in the world . . . India, China and so on. I try to buy those made in France but others will be bought because they are "perfect" for the recipients or "something I have always been looking for".

The reasons a scarf makes the perfect gift when travelling France are that:
1) Absolutely representative of the French look
2) Light-weight - what with airline luggage restrictions . . . 
3) Takes up very little space - more luggage restrictions . . . 
4) Packs easily and you can even use them to cushion fragile purchases which I don't encourage you buying. 
5) Scarves don't break.
6) Suitable for everyone, both male and female.
7) Whatever you don't give away as gifts, you can keep for yourself. 


Factors to consider when buying a scarf for someone else should, in the best case scenario, be specific to the person for whom you are buying. However, that will provoke you into shopping for others all the time without any consideration of yourself and worrying needlessly that you didn't pick something up for so and so.

My suggestion is to simply buy what you like when you see it and only buy scarves. Don't worry about the fabric. There are beautiful selections in cotton, acrylic, silk and cashmere at many different price points. I have purchased 100% cotton for 3Euro, acrylic for 20Euro and 100% silk for 45Euro so you can maintain your budget. Each one was beautiful in its own light. You can overbuy but don't overspend.

If possible, ask the sales associate to demonstrate how to tie the scarf. Learn it and share it. That too embellishes the gift. There are several great videos and websites demonstrating scarf tying. I like this one in particular.

One visit to Galleries Lafayette or Printemps may be sufficient to fill the entire gift order. Or you can leave it up to chance and hope that you will find artist-made unique specimens in the places you visit. Make sure you keep a journal describing the place where you bought it, whether a market,a department store, or from a crafter. The story, in fact, becomes part of the gift. This suggestion comes from an experience that I was able to laugh about later. 

That experience was with chocolate. We were in Zurich and of course, I went to a Lindt shop to buy gifts. I picked up what I thought were unique to Europe - miniature milk cans, representative of the old way of storing milk, filled with Lindt chocolates. Perfect. The chocolate was encased so that it wouldn't squish and there were no luggage restrictions at that time so I did not even consider the space. I would simply buy another suitcase if needed. I returned to Canada and within the first couple of days, without thinking about chocolates, I went to the local Shoppers Drug Mart. Wouldn't you know it? There in the chocolate section were my Lindt milk cans! I carried them through Switzerland and Italy and there they were 2 km away from my home in Canada. The story embellished the gift and everyone included laughed along with me.

NO THANKS: My only "do not do" regarding scarves is that you stay away from designer knock-offs. First, although they are readily available, especially if you are in Paris, it still is illegal (perhaps not always enforced) and if you are returning to Canada with 20 fakes you may end up having to spend time explaining your motives and intentions. The possibilities are not pleasant even though the likelihood may be remote.

NOTE-WORTHY: This can be a birthday or Christmas gift buying resolution for the year, not only when you are travelling. Choose an accessory - scarves, gloves, earrings, cuffs, socks . . .  whatever and be on the lookout for items in your chosen category to buy as gifts. It certainly simplifies the process. One year, I bought books, another year mittens or gloves and so on. You won't be financially overburdened when you have five birthday gifts to buy in one month or at Christmas.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

ITSO . . . In the Style of . . . Madonna . . .or Marlene Dietrich . . . or Milicent Rogers

Billboard does a great overview of Madonna's style evolution from 1984 to the present. I cannot think of anyone else who has reinvented herself so often and of anyone who could pull off so many different styles, trends and personas, from tacky to elegant.

For those whose style resolution in 2016 is to try a different look or style, Madonna can very well be your inspiration. Take a look at her on stage or in film or accepting awards or on the street over the years and there will definitely be something there that will motivate your style evolution.

MTV Video Music Awards, September, 1984
Photo Source: Trendsylvannia.
Retrieved January 10, 2016
Of course, those of you who have read this blog before can predict that I am going to say that I prefer the "toned down" look. Sorry but if it is boring to be elegant and "toned down", I choose to be boring at least in my clothing choices. Madonna has of course been seen in very elegant pieces as well. I suppose it was her underwear as outerwear phase that I was least taken by. This photo probably represents the very beginning of that phase and it develops in an outlandish way after that. But the subsequent over-emphasized pointed cones covering her breasts was a "costume" after all, for a celebrity. That is another factor to consider when you are choosing to adopt a new style or perhaps I should write that as what you will choose not to adopt into your style transition. Trendsylvannia takes you through a 1984 to 2014 progression of her style at particular award shows. Nothing she has worn since those piercing points has been quite so tacky or dramatic, except for the star pasties perhaps - see the September 24, 1992 photo on Billboard. Madonna's 2014 clothing choice at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards re-incarnates Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992) in her classic black suit and top hat look.

Turquoise, silver and black statement necklace with crosses
Designed and Created by JoyD.
It was Madonna's layering of big gawdy costume jewellery that influenced my own jewellery making style. I loved the over-sized crosses that she worked into her jewellery choices. 

This look in accessories is much easier to pull off than the pointed cones or pasties. As well, this can become a signature style for the wearer. The pasties will only get you arrested for indecent exposure.

Madonna may have popularized that look for her contemporaries in the 80s but there were plenty of "influential women" prior to Madonna who were mixing fake with real and layering oversized jewellery pieces. Think about Chanel and her fondness of layering pearls of different lengths, Mellicent Rogers stacking bracelets, and Iris Apfel who does both to excess.

Photo retrieved from Dalena Vintage on January 10,
Millicent Rogers (over)did turquoise so well! (Dalena Vintage does a nice review of Melicent Rogers and her life.) Notice the cross necklace sitting in an untraditional position for the time and the stacked bracelets. The way she wore those necklaces and bangles proved that certain fashion is everlasting. Just "google" the following: "Millicent Rogers Museum, Taos, New Mexico - turquoise and silver bracelets" and you will see a ton of stackable bangles and bracelets that were popularized by Milicent Rogers before Madonna and many of you were born.

Is there anything new under the sun? Perhaps not, it is just a matter of combining, substituting, modifying and rearranging things to make them your own. Try it in 2016 . . . without buying anything new.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Re-Constructing a Fur Coat

Original fox trimmed mink coat that was re-constructed.
Photo taken by MachelleP.
NO THANKS: One of my resolutions for 2016 was "to update my clothing through some method of reconstruction rather than buying new". I actually began with the thought of re-constructing my fur coat and completed this resolution through 2015. It was a mink trimmed with fox, purchased in the 1980s. The fox had deteriorated in colour and grade over the 20 year gap when I never wore it and never had it "professionally" stored. Last April I began the process of having it re-made with a visit to The Bay (a previously Canadian owned department store but now in the hands of an American company since 2008) fur department. 

It was a friend, Louise K, who had successfully transformed her coat into a short jacket at the Bay and it was through her suggestion that I began the process. She too found that she was wearing her jacket more than she ever wore her coat.

NICE: I had it re-made into a short reversible jacket. I have only seen it in photos because I am still in France and the work was done in Canada. I am satisfied with what I see in the photographs. I feel that I will wear this short version more often than the long. Although it was in the making in 2015, it arrives just in time to qualify it as my 2016 resolution.

The reversible feature offers so much more versatility . . . I am very pleased.

Re-constructed reversible mink jacket.
Photo taken by MachelleP.

Re-constructed reversible mink jacket.
Photo taken by MachelleP.
The successful reinvention of the coat gives momentum and motivation to keep this resolution of re-constructing and even re-purposing clothing. 

If this is a project you have thought about, The Fur Coat Revamp blog post outlines factors to consider if you want to re-create a fur coat. The writer was given a coat by her mother and so her initial motivation was different than mine but other than that, she presents a good cross-section of ideas to move you through this endeavour. 

Re-constructed reversible mink and all-weather fabric.
Photo taken by MachelleP.