What’s Your Dresscode?

Posted on October 26, 2010 by admin

Kiev, Ukraine – Opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenki, the former prime minister know for her love of designer dresses and high heels, …called the new government dress code “laughable”. You can understand Ms. Tymoshenki’s response when you realize that she appeared on the front cover of Elle magazine Ukrane in 2005.This is from an article by James Marson regarding the new dress code for cabinet of ministers employees. An aid called the code “archaic” and was quoted as saying, “Everyone should have a sense of moderation. If they don’t have it, it’s worth considering whether such a person should be employed in government service.”

The code includes a ban on mini skirts and high heels and calls for employees to maintain a “responsible appearance”. There is lengthy instruction on moderation of dress include instructions for men as well. They are advised to have at least three suits in subtle colors; for work, for summer and for weekends. Plunging necklines are out for ladies as are see-through garments. It is also suggested to tone down perfume and makeup. And, of course, one must not wear the same outfit two days in a row.

What makes this more amusing is when you understand the Russian woman’s fashion mentality. My friend Nina Gleyser who owns Nina’s Couture in Buckhead says that fashion is all-important to Russian women.

Before coming to the United States, Nina had a thriving Couture business in St. Petersburg where women came from all over the USSR and Europe to purchase her designs. She told me that a Russian woman would not even take out the trash in the morning without having her make-up fully applied and being fashionably dressed. Nina also said that they would cut back on food and other necessities in order to be fashionably dressed.

When we were in Russia some ten or fifteen years ago, I observed that the ladies were all wearing fashionable clothing, heels, make-up and well coiffed hair. Just an aside: when women reached a certain unknown age, they transformed into the babushka – wearing a raincoat with a head- scarf, no make-up and “sensible” shoes. There was no transition. No in between. Poof! They were babushkas! 

Although Ukraine is no longer a part of Russia, I get the impression that the women follow the Russian sense of style. Russia today is one of the biggest importers of couture from Paris and Milan. They lead the world in consumption of high-end fashion design.

It will be interesting to see if these new rules are followed. Ukrainian politicians are not known for their decorum in Parliament. Last April a dispute descended into egg-throwing, fisticuffs and torn shirts!

To explore how you can be stylish without sacrificing food or necessities, call us at Style With Aplomb. Beryl@StyleWithAplomb.com 404-467-0288

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The Gospel According to Coco Chanel

Posted on December 30, 2009 by admin 

 I just finished reading The Gospel According to Coco Chanel  by Karen Karbo.  It is humorously written and joins a stable of other books and films on this icon of fashion.

Chanel died in 1971 at the age of 87 having influenced women’s fashion more than any other designer.  Much of her success was due to the two wars the world experienced while she was young.  Her simpler, easier to wear clothes and pants for heaven’s sake met the changing needs as women joined the work force.  They found corsets, restricting feminine dresses and huge hats requiring a mound of hair to keep balanced impossible in the workplace.  Coco adapted her ideas from the closets of her various boyfriends and the simpler styles were perfect for her rectangular figure.  She was her own best advertisement. 

Chanel was known for her pronouncements on style, many of which contradicted each other!  “Fashion fades, only style remains, and I am style,” is one of her most noted.   I thought it would be fun to quote some of the fashion edicts attributed to Chanel as we close one year and look forward to the New Year and what fashion has to offer.

She said elegance equates to luxury, which must be invisible and must be felt.  Luxury is simple and the opposite of complication.  It is the opposite of vulgarity or status.  “Luxury is liberty.  Luxury is elegance.”

“And then modern times were upon us, and luxury was no more, according to Chanel.  Women went to dinner in dirty pants and a man’s shirt.  Luxury was replaced by squalor.  And Coco said fashion is always a reflection of its own time, but we forget this when it is stupid.  …And if a dress is shaped like a bubble, a barrel, or any other form that does not conform to your body, you must tear it from your body. 

And if the dress is well formed but also brings to mind a bed sheet, a linen napkin, or a tarp, which may also be used to cover the vessel parked in your driveway, you must tear it from your body.

And if you were to wear pants that rest so low upon the hips that which is called a muffin top is created, you must tear it from your body, and if you wear pants that rest so low upon your hips that upon sitting the cheeks of your buttocks are revealed, you must tear it from your body, for it offends me, also the multitude who pass behind you.”

I am not sure if this is actually quoted from Chanel or what the author thought she would have about today’s styles.  There is, however, a ring of truth when we reflect on recent fashion offerings.    “It is better to possess a few elegant pieces in which one feels at ease” than to follow fashion trends that simply don’t work.

Happy New Year to all!

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Hostess Gifts – RIP

Posted on November 3, 2009 by admin 

Hostess Gifts – RIP

As the holiday season approaches, it’s time to think of hostess gift ideas for holiday parties you will be attending. 

Several years ago I had the privilege to attend a presentation by a Canadian protocol advisor who had worked with different embassies.  Her rule of thumb was to give a gift that dies!  The point being, you don’t leave a hostess with something that just doesn’t work for her or her home but she must remember to display it each time you come to visit. 

We have friends living in France who received a gnome (you know, the little guy who represents Travelocity and originated in the French movie Amelie.)  The gnome was not even in the top 200 of what this couple would have liked to receive.  Their tiny back yard had no corner in which to hide a gnome and the entire yard was in full view of the neighbors.  When the neighbors no longer saw the little guy in the back yard they inquired as to his whereabouts.  Our ever-resourceful friends, would respond, “Oh, we just heard from him in Australia” or the next time, “The last time we knew, he was in Denmark”. 

Since not every unwanted hostess gift can be turned into a topic of amusement, what is a “gift that dies”?  Obviously, a bottle of wine get consumed, thus “dies” or flowers ultimately wilt and die.  If the event is for just a few couples, either is most appropriate.   Just one note, if you take a bottle of wine, be sure to mention to the hostess that it is for their cellar.  This allows her the freedom of either serving it that evening or, if she has a menu planned with specific wine, she does not feel obligated to open the bottle you brought.

Although wine and flowers are the most common hostess gifts, you may want to exercise a bit more creativity when invited to a party with a number of other guests.   You surely don’t want your hostess to be searching for a seventh vase in which to place your flowers or to present one of twelve bottles of wine.  A lovely box of chocolates can be a welcome gift to many but should only be presented if you know your hosts would appreciate it.  If someone in the family is a diabetic or on a restricted diet, consider something else.  Maybe you enjoy baking.  Cranberry pumpkin bread is one of my favorites for the holidays.  It is festive, comes from a Cooking Light recipe for those conscious of calories and freezes well.   Homemade jams or jellies are among the favorite hostess gifts I have received.  They need not be homemade by you.  These can be purchased at farmer’s markets and food stands.  

Let your imagination run free as you are selecting the right hostess gift.  I would suggest that you have some things in mind so that you will not be at a loss if you get a last minute invitation.  If you know the hostess well, you can think of things she  would really appreciate.  If you don’t know her that well, it is better to stick to more generic selections.

Approach the holidays with “aplomb” and have a wonderful season!

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Seen on the Streets of Paris

My husband and I had the opportunity to attend a conference last week in Paris so of course, I was watching to see which fashion trends were popular in this fashion capital of the world.   (With the exchange rate at $1.50 to every 1 Euro, observing was as close as I wanted to get to participating in the Paris fashion scene!) The majority of people I saw were the young, which makes sense when you understand that Paris has 600,000 college students and most of our time was spent in the vicinity of the various universities.   This remained true with our one-day TGV ride to Rennes where one third of the population is university students.

Jeans – The vast majority of the students were wearing some sort of jeans.  Skinny legged jeans, many of which were distressed like  stores are showing here, were the most popular.  I did not see even one person – male or female – wearing baggy or oversized jeans.

Boots – To complete the jeans look, most of the young women had on knee high boots.   I wrote in an earlier blog how the knee-high boots were expensive and not that wearable but their popularity in Paris certainly proved me wrong.

Winter shorts – Although I only saw a few students sporting the winter shorts look, it was enough to get my attention.  Of course, they were all worn with opaque tights so it definitely gave a more winter look.  Some were quite attractive but others did nothing for their wearers.  I doubt that this will be a big hit in Atlanta but then, maybe if I were around the college campuses more, I might be proven wrong.

Opaque Tights – The young women not wearing jeans or shorts were wearing very short skirts.   Without exception, they all completed the look with opaque tights.  With temperatures dropping to freezing some mornings, tights offered the practicality of modesty as well as much needed warmth!

Scarves – The biggest fashion trend for both women and men was the scarf at the neck.  These scarves are the oblong ones, a bit narrower and lighter weight than a traditional Pashmina.  These were often wrapped around the neck with both ends toward the front or wrapped a bit more snuggly and tied in front.  This was the most common mode for men.  Others folded the scarf in half lengthwise, drawing it around the neck and then place the ends through the loop.

So if you are like me, thinking the skinny jeans, winter shorts and opaque tights might be better on the 20’s crowd, consider the scarf.  This is one trend that is wearable by all ages. To find a fashion trend that is not only fashionable but also practical is truly an accomplishment.  And the best news is that stores in Atlanta are offering huge selections of scarves in a wide range of colors and weights.     

 

Seen on the Streets in Paris

 

My husband and I had the opportunity to attend a conference last week in Paris so of course, I was watching to see which fashion trends were popular in this fashion capital of the world.   (With the exchange rate being $1.50 to every 1 Euro, observing was as close as I wanted to get to participating in the Paris fashion scene!) The majority of people I saw were the young, which makes sense when you understand that Paris has 600,000 college students and most of our time was spent in the vicinity of the various universities.   This remained true with our one-day TGV ride to Rennes where one third of the population is university students.

Jeans – The vast majority of the students were wearing some sort of jeans.  Skinny legged jeans, many of which were distressed like department stores are showing here, were the most popular.  I did not see even one person – male or female – wearing baggy or oversized jeans.

Boots – To complete the jeans look, most of the young women had on knee high boots.   I wrote in an earlier blog how the knee-high boots were expensive and not that wearable but their popularity in Paris certainly proved me wrong.

Winter shorts – Although I only saw a few students sporting the winter shorts look, it was enough to get my attention.  Of course, they were all worn with opaque tights so it definitely gave a more winter look.  Some were quite attractive but others did nothing for their wearers.  I doubt that this will be a big hit in Atlanta but then, maybe if I were around the college campuses more, I might be proven wrong.

Opaque Tights – The young women not wearing jeans or shorts were wearing very short skirts.   Without exception, they all completed the look with opaque tights.  Of course, with temperatures dropping to freezing some mornings, tights were needed to keep warm.

Scarves – The biggest fashion trend for both women and men was the scarf at the neck.  These scarves are the oblong ones, a bit narrower and lighter weight than a traditional Pashmina.  These were often wrapped around the neck with both ends toward the front or wrapped a bit more snuggly and tied in front.  This was the most common mode for men.  Others folded the scarf in half, drawing it around the neck and then place the ends through the loop.

So if you are like me, thinking the skinny jeans, winter shorts and opaque tights might be better on the 20’s crowd, consider the scarf.  This is one trend that is wearable by all ages. To find a fashion trend that is not only fashionable but also practical is truly an accomplishment.  And the best news is that stores are offering huge sections featuring scarves in a wide range of colors and weights.

 

 

Time for a reality check.

 

A friend recently sent me an article about Delta flight attendants from the recently merged Northwest Airlines filing a grievance over availability of the red dress uniform.  That sounds innocent enough but wait until you hear the rest of the story.

As you probably remember, five years ago Delta hired Richard Tyler, a New York designer, to create a new, updated look to replace the old, drab uniforms for flight attendants and ticketing personnel.  He came up with a classic navy suit with blazer, slacks or skirt and vest, navy dresses and a spiffy new white blouse with red accents.  As an alternative, the selection also included a red wrap dress.   “I want them to look sexy and great, but you have to keep that classic look as well,” Tyler told the Associated Press at the time.   The red dress has become the object of the dispute.

The Northwest employees began wearing the Delta uniforms on March 30 and shortly thereafter, their union filed a grievance against Delta for not offering the red dress up to size 28.  Delta only offers that dress up to size 18 but other uniform choices are available in the larger sizes.

Now I am just shaking my head over this whole thing.   I remember traveling on Delta right after the new uniforms came out and asked one of the flight attendants how they liked the new choices.  She, wearing the navy suit, said everyone was quite happy.  She pointed to her co-worker (about a size 2), wearing the red dress and commented how attractive it was on a tiny person but said that she did not think it was flattering if one is a bit larger.  Now this comment came from probably a size 10 or 12.  She had wisely determined which of the new uniform choices most flattered her and did not choose the less flattering option.

The wrap dress is styled much like the Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dresses that have made such resurgence in the past few years.   However, this is where the similarity stops.  The DVF dress is made of a synthetic knit, which molds to your body and offers some stretch.  It can be quite flattering on a variety of body shapes and larger sizes.  The Delta dress is constructed in a woven fabric with no stretch.  Since the style tapers in at the waist with a slight  flair to the skirt, it will look best on an hourglass figure or at least one with a tapered waist.  The fabric choice is no doubt made for safety reasons.  In the event of a fire, a synthetic knit would melt and cause severe burns.

In the five years since the new uniforms have been in use, I have probably not seen more than a dozen flight attendants wearing the red dress.  Certainly, that might be because the separate pieces have more versatility, especially if one is on an overnight flight.  It strikes me though; that many of the attendants do not choose the red dress because they do not feel it is flattering.  I remember when   there were height, weight and age restrictions for flight attendants.  I applaud those having gone by the wayside but is there not a limit?  How can a size 28 maneuver in the confined spaces in which a flight attendant must work?  And really, is this grievance truly about wanting to wear that red dress or is there more to it.  It obviously has nothing to do with what style will be the most flattering.

The world’s most impossible to get handbag

Hermes, the French company that manufacturers the legendary Berkin and Kelly handbags, actually showed a 3.2% profit in first quarter.  The sales increase stands by itself in an economy where consultants project a 20% contraction of sales in luxury lines such as Gucci, Louis Viitton, Armani and others.  What is their secret?

Hermes started as a saddle maker back in 1837.   Now, they are primarily known for their exclusive leather handbags and wallets although their scarves have enjoyed great popularity.  The company’s Chief Executive, Patrick Thomas was quoted in an article in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “We are not fashionable, and we avoid being fashionable.”    The two most popular handbags are the Kelly and Berkin.  The Kelly was a favorite of Princess Grace and thus got its name.  The Berkin was named for French singer, Jane Berkin.  It seems that she sat beside the Hermes president Jean-Louis Dumas on a plane trip carrying a Kelly bag.  During the ensuing conversation Berkin remarked that she found the Kelly bag difficult to get into.  Mr. Dumas asked her to draw her dream bag.   Although the story has variations, ultimately Hermes produced the bag and presented it to her along with a $5000 bill!   She only owned one of her namesake bags and in 2006, when she announced she was retiring the bag, she was quoted stating, “I love my Berkin bag, but I lug so much stuff around in it I believe it is part of the reason I have tendonitis.”

These handbags are among the most expensive on the market.  A Berkin starts at $7000 and can go up to over $100,000, depending on materials and customization.  One devoted client stated,  “Every time I see another women carrying a Birkin in a color that I want, I get bag envy.”   She added, “The more you can’t have something, the more you want it.”  Therein may lay the key to the company’s success.  Victoria Beckham’ husband, David, presented his wife with a Himalayan diamond studded Birkin for her last birthday, costing 80,000 British pounds.  This purse joined her collection of 100+ other Hermes bags (over $2 million dollars worth according to Purseblog.com) of ostrich, crocodile and other exotic leathers.

Faithful customers place orders for bags in unique colors or leathers, creating a waiting list for sometimes years.   Custom bags may require waiting for up to three years. Although the styles remain the same, these variations coupled with the quality of workmanship, scream exclusivity – something that Hermes carefully guards.  Each bag is hand- stitched, using the same artisan from start to finish.    The Paris workroom produces only five handbags a week, which helps, explain the waiting list.  The company does not take a deposit and does not penalize the customer if the order is cancelled.  They do not reveal what percentage of their present sales is attributed to the back orders from their waiting list.

There is definitely something special about carrying a Hermes bag.  Three years ago while we were in Florence, Italy, I bought a Kelly look-a-like bag.  To my untrained eye, it looked like an exact replica.   Apparently, I was right.  We were skiing and had dinner in a popular restaurant in Vail.  The hostess, as she was seating us gushed, “I really like your bag.”  I just smiled demurely and respond softly, “Thank you.”

What is Style?

Jacqueline de Ribes: contessa, designer, fashion icon, on the International Best Dressed List for many years.

I just reread a book that I first read some twenty years ago when it was fresh off the press titled The Power of Style. The authors spent four years researching archives of such publications as Vogue, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Town and Country as well rare book shops to amass a collection of a hundred stylish women. They narrowed this list down to just fourteen ladies. Curiously, neither movie stars nor royalty were included. So what seemed to be the common denominator that resulted in these fourteen women being selected? People have different opinions about what constitutes style. For example, Jacqueline de Ribes was quoted to say, “Style is what makes you different,” while Givenchy advised, “With style, you must stay as you are.” Coco Chanel, probably the greatest lady of style of the twentieth-century, commented that “Fashion changes – style remains.” Let’s look at some of the ladies who were chosen. Elsie de Wolfe is known as the first interior decorator, transforming the dark, somber interiors of the 1920’s into light and cheerful rooms filled with Chintz. She came from a middle class background and was, in her own words, “ugly”. At about the age of twenty, she spent time in Scotland with relatives complete her education and being introduced to society. After discarding her drab school uniform to be fitted with appropriate dresses, she discovered that the lovely, soft colors of her new dresses in silk, linen and cashmere transformed her appearance and revealed a delightful figure. She decided that she need never again be ugly. Elsie de Wolfe was a gifted interior designer and an adept businesswoman but she perfected her style by recognizing who she was and what colors and styles best complimented her. Her focus was on her positive attributes and never seemed to go back and dwell on those she did not possess.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Jacqueline Kennedy Oanssis was also one of the fourteen women featured. She had an incredible sense of style. In looking over photos of her clothing during the campaign and the time she served as First Lady, it was easy to see that each garment was designed for the same person. She had a skeletal line (her bone structure was prominent) so she selected designs that looked like sculptures, beautifully complimenting her line. She was a reserved, private person and her clothes reflected this – nothing flamboyant but refined and elegant. I don’t believe I have ever seen a photo where she was not appropriately dressed for the occasion. It is evident that she understood her own personal style and remained true to it. The book also included ladies like Diana Vreeland, fashion editor for Harper’s Bazaar and later Vogue, Coco Chanel, and the Duchess of Windsor. Some ladies were great beauties, others not. Some came from common, disadvantaged backgrounds, others from wealth.

Diana Vreeland

All of them had excellent social skills but I think what truly gave them style, is that each woman knew who she was and built upon that knowledge. Some, like Elsie de Wolfe, accepted that she was not a beauty but emphasized those attributes that were outstanding. Each lady, recognized her “personal style” and made the most of it, thus, each was chosen as an icon of style during the twentieth century. Now, let’s look at the seeming contradictory statements defining style from the first of this article – “Style is what makes you different” and “With style, you must stay as you are.” If you know your individual style, you will be uniquely you, having a different style than others while at the same time, staying true to who you are. Thus, the quote from Coco Chanel rings true, “Fashion changes – style remains.”

Inaugural Dresses

 

At the historic inauguration on Tuesday, all eyes were on Mrs. Obama’s choice of dresses for the occasion.  As everyone is weighing in on her choices, I have to join the crowd.  I was especially disappointed in her inaugural ensemble .    Although I thought the style was good for her, the mustard yellow color was very unflattering.  The ornate brocade, in my estimation, did not support Mrs. Obama’s strong, athletic, natural beauty.   Likewise, with the evening dress she chose for the balls.  The one shoulder design of the dress was good but I would have preferred seeing it in a rich satin with accents of crystals.  This would have given her an understated elegance. The gown, covered with frills, would have worked better for a very feminine, romantic wearer.

The media has been quick to compare this youthful first lady with Jacqueline Kennedy, who was only 31 years old when her husband became president.   This seems to me an unfair comparison, as Jackie is still known throughout the world as a fashion icon.  It would be nearly impossible to match her style and, it certainly didn’t hurt that she and her mother-in-law habitually shopped in Paris and spent some $30,000 a year.  That is not pocket change when you calculate the value in 1950’s dollars!

Jackie had an incredible sense of which styles looked best on her.  She did not give her designer a free reign on what they made for her.  In fact, she became the target of criticism for not choosing American designers so she selected Oleg Cassini.  He was a surprising choice as there were other more highly acclaimed designers.  As it was later discovered, Jackie had cleverly selected a designer whose ego was not so large that he refused to take direction from her.  She simply got advance information of French designers new lines and had Cassini replicate them!   I just picked up a book (on the close-out table) picturing some of her wardrobe from the presidential years.  The structured, simple elegance of her clothes from suits to evening gowns, all perfectly complimented her skeletal bone structure and quiet elegance.

I applaud Mrs. Obama for deliberately selected young, emerging designers with a wide variety of backgrounds.  Many are immigrants.  Not only is she giving them a little push to get national recognition, she is deliberately spotlighting the possibility of achieving the American Dream.

My hope is that she will become more involved in choosing what really fits her “signature style” and not defer to the designer’s concept of what will get his/her name in the limelight.  I think Princess Diana fell into that trap and never recognized her best style, thus was often a fashion victim at the hands of designers.    It will be fun fashion watching Michelle Obama grow in her style sense.  She comes across as a “take charge” kind of lady so I fully expect that she will take charge of her fashion as well and we will see her emerge as a new fashion icon – not with the precision of Jackie nor in the frequent mistakes of Princess Di but with a fresh, believable style of the “girl next door” turned First Lady.

What to take for a month away

After reflecting on our packing strategy for a month in France, I thought you might enjoy my sharing some tips. Packing was complicated by being in a transitional season and ending with a few days in Paris.

International travel allows two bags each weighing up to 50 pounds if you are traveling coach.  We checked three bags at exactly 50 pounds each, one containing books and materials for my husband’s presentations.  We had our computer bag and one smaller bag to carry on.  I never allow my colors and materials for workshops to be checked.

I’ll give you a quick recap of what we took.   First, I coordinated everything around black trousers and shoes for both of us.  Black does not show soil as easily and is much easier to find in the stores that trying to follow your color palette.  You can then use tops in your palette to compliment your coloring.  We each took walking shoes and dressy casual shoes.  In addition, I took a pair of pumps with 2” heel.   Good walking shoes are a necessity as Europeans walk much more than we do here and the sidewalks and streets are often cobblestones, gravel or other uneven surfaces.  Men’s walking shoes have been quite easy to find for a number of years now while attractive, comfortable women’s shoes have only recently become available.  I just received a catalogue showing 8 different styles that would work very well, several of them being available in narrow and wide widths.

I took two pair of slacks, black and gray and a pair of black, cropped pants, while my husband took one pair of black slacks and one pair of  Chinos.  We each took three pair of jeans, black and dressy blue.   I packed one dress and my husband a sports jacket for any special occasion.   I prefer good, firm-weave wool slacks as they hold their shape and don’t wrinkle badly.  If wool has picked up some wrinkles, you can run a hot shower and let the steam relax the wrinkles.

We packed four dress shirts (be sure they are wrinkle free), two cotton knit shirts, three sweaters – one that could be layered over a shirt – and a light jacket for my husband.  I took three sweater sets, three individual sweaters, a suede jacket and a vest.  We both included heavier jackets for the last three days in Paris.  I also included two Pashmina scarves for added style and/or warmth.  I mentioned the wrinkle free shirts as we did take two shirts to “Pressing” which cost us 11 Euro!  That’s about $14 with the exchange rate.   Otherwise, we were fortunate to have access to a washer and dryer but I have used a public Laundromat in the past.  If traveling from hotel to hotel, one can wash out lingerie using shampoo, letting it dry over night.   Men’ s underwear is also available in silk and will dry overnight as well.

Along with our toiletries, appropriate socks/hose and tights, vitamins, lingerie (I always pack lingerie for 7 days), we each added one fleece top and bottom and warm socks to wear in the evenings at the cottage.   We even remembered two travel umbrellas.  This was one of the few times that Europe has not benefitted from our purchase of an umbrella!  We were happy that we had added two heavier jackets for Paris – temperatures dropped to 30 degrees the last two nights.

Throughout our stay, we always felt well dressed, looking as if we were locals.  We also had enough variety that we never felt like we were wearing the same thing to the same events.   And the best part – there was room to bring home treasures from France!  Along with some special wines, foie gras, herbs and gifts, we visited my favorite resale shop in Paris, which we had discovered two years ago.   This shop carries designer clothes and accessories that have been gently used as well as new with tags still on from a previous season.  Their second boutique next door has eveningwear and vintage.  Although I was not able to determine the original price this time, my purchases last visit were about 20% of the original price and then I got the 12+% return in vat tax when departing the country.   And yes, I did fine some treasures this time – all with new tags!