La Mode on Cote D’Azure

Having been in the South of France for three weeks, I have had the opportunity to observe some of the local fashion.  There are several trends that one sees frequently.

The Converse tennis shoes that are popular with the younger crown in the US are also a hit here.  These are the old fashioned tennis shoes that came in black with white soles some 50 years ago and laced up around the ankle.  Their purpose was primarily for use by team members in sporting events.  Now, they can be found in bright colors with various nuances.  Most of the wearers are young but I have observed a few older people.  In Cannes, I noted a 50ish, rather rotund gentleman, with grey hair down to his shoulders, dressed in all black with the exception of the bright red tennis shoes.  He was a site to behold.   Some wearers turn down the top to form a collar and I noticed one pair of shoes designed with a special collar in a contrasting plaid to compliment beige tennies.  By the way, I have seen only two pair of our traditional white tennis shoes that we so often use for walking shoes and pack for travel.  This is a bit like wearing a neon sign saying “American Tourist”!

Opaque tights can be seen everywhere.  Ladies wear them with everything – very short shorts and short skirts as well as moderate length skirts or dresses.  I have seen a few tights in dramatic prints.  These are really quite attractive as well as practical.  They offer an “autumn” look to the short shorts or skirts as well as warmth as the mild temperatures become a bit more like fall.  The tights also give a finished look by tying the skirt or shorts to shoes with complimentary colors.

Many of the tights are worn with boots.  Boots of all kinds are seen everywhere.   It is not unusual to see Western cowboy boots with a feminine dress or tight jeans tucked into boots.  I have rarely seen the dressy, slender-heeled boot here but the heavier heels and more sporty models are worn with everything.   I don’t think I have seen any boot/skirt combination that did not include the tights.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, jeans are very popular with both men and women.  They are a bit spiffier than our traditional Levis, often with some pocket design that gives an air of being just a cut above.   Having lunch in Monte Carlo one day, I noted that ninety percent of the men in the restaurant were wearing jeans with well pressed, striped dress shirts, and sport jackets.  Some of the younger men left the shirttail out if it was a design intended to be worn out.  The look here is definitely more casual (suits are rare) but usually well groomed and intentional in how it is put together.

Le Bar Sur Loup

Le Bar Sur Loup

 

We are in the South of France on business for the month of October, staying in an adorable cottage on the outskirts of Le Bar Sur Loup.  This village overlooks the Loup (wolf) River and is located up in the mountains about twenty minutes from Cannes.  We were greeted Thursday morning with clear, sunny skies and the deep, azure blue of the Mediterranean.    Thus far the weather has been magnificent – cooling down to the mid-fifties at night and in the mid-seventies during the day.

Adjacent to our cottage is an orchard with apple trees ready to be harvested and olive trees in the process of ripening.   Right outside our front door is an olive tree with nicoise olives, just starting to ripen.  We talked to the people who own this cottage just down the hill from their home, and they told us that they harvest the olives in November to December, taking them to the local fabricant (manufacturer) who presses and bottles the oil for them.  The seeds are processed using part to sprinkle over bread and the remainder is fed to livestock.    I mentioned that I hoped to try an olive that had ripened before we leave and they said the newly picked olives taste like soap! They have to soak in a salty brine for a month before they are edible.

The roads here are narrow and wind up the mountain with lots of round-abouts and hairpin turns.   We rented a mid-sized car thinking it would be better for our luggage and when we needed to take others with us.  This was not a good decision considering the roads.  Probably a Smart Car might have been a better choice and strap the luggage on top!

Thus far, we have spent a few hours in each Cannes and Monaco.  Here, the ladies dress in “chic casual”.  There are a lot of jeans but all smart looking, pressed and some sort of designer label.  Their hair and make-up are impeccable and the tops range from blazers to smart casual tops.  The foulard (scarf) is seen everywhere.  These are like the Pashmina that we have worn for several years but not necessarily in cashmere.  They can be doubled, secured around the neck by bringing the ends through the center fold to make a scarf, or draped around the neck, letting one end fall toward the front and the other over the shoulder.  If the temperature drops, it changes into a stole wrapped around the shoulders.

With only three days here, we have much more to experience.   To be continued next week.

Japan Hime Girls

It seems each day brings new crisis to our news headlines so this Thanksgiving week blog is just frivolous.  The Wall Street Journal had a recent article that I found so amusing so I decided to share excerpts with you.

TOKYO – When Mayumi Yamamoto goes out for coffee or window shopping, she likes to look as though she’s going to a formal garden party.  One day recently, she was decked out in a frilly, rose-patterned dress, matching pink heels with ribbon and a huge pink bow atop her long hair, dyed brown and in pre-Raphaelite curls.

Ms. Yamamoto is a hime gyaru, or princess girl, a growing new tribe of Japanese women who aim to look like sugarcoated, 21st-century versions of old-style European royalty.  They idolize Marie Antoinette and Paris Hilton, for her baby-doll looks and princess lifestyle.  They speak in soft, chirpy voices and flock to specialized boutiques with names like Jesus Diamante, which looks like a bedroom in a European chateau.  There, some hime girls spend more than $1000 for an outfit including a satin dress, parasol and rhinestone-studded handbag.

“When they come out with a new item, I can’t sleep at night because that’s all I can think about,” says Ms. Yamamoto of the Diamante dresses.  The 36-year old housewife has amassed a collection of 20 princess dresses in the past eight months and even decked out her bedroom with imitation rococo furniture.

While it may be in style among fashionable women in New York and London, black isn’t an option for hime girls, who prefer pink and florals.  They have a doll-like sense of beauty that requires effort and practice to attain.  To create the ideal “super-volume hair” curl only a few strands of hair at a time and alternate between inward and outward curls, advised Vanilla Girl, a fashion magazine for teenagers aspiring to become hime girls.  Dyed hair extensions can help form more dynamic ringlets, while mascara applied on top of fake eyelashes plus black liquid eyeliner can really accentuate the eyes.

Keiko Mizoe, Jesus Diamante’s top sales clerk and a former customer, says she sees the princess style as one befitting an elegant woman from an upper-class family.  The girls are “perfect, georgeous and feminine,” says the 24-year old, herself dressed in a red checkered dress, pink stockings in heart patterns and pink nails studded with crystals.

Ms. Mizoe, who the company says single-handedly sells about $95,000 in clothing each month, has become an idol among Diamante customers, who try to imitate everything about her.

Of course, princess fashion isn’t exactly practical.  Ms. Yamamoto, a housewife princess, says she gave up wearing the frilly dresses while she works opening cardboard boxes at an accessory store four hours a day.

Ms. Yamamoto says she has long adored pink and wanted to dress in feminine clothes, but felt shy about her plump figure.  After losing 33 pounds in recent years, she got hooked on Diamante’s tight-waisted dresses adorned with huge rose patterns, and estimated she spends $2000 or $3000 a month.  Her husband, an architect who loves Europe,  pays for most of her purchases.  Her parents, who live nearby, send the couple food so they have more money for Ms. Yamamoto’s shopping sprees.

Maybe we should all just lighten up and become hime girls!

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Excerpts taken from the Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2008