I don’t have a lot of age-related hang-ups. Getting older doesn’t bother me: the alternative, as they say, is much less desirable.
So on April 30, I faced the first day of my fifth decade with no regrets – not to mention a belly full of pain au chocolate from the amazing bakery next door to my hotel in Paris.
My decision to head to France for my birthday was a fairly last-minute decision. I’d always planned to take a big trip for my Big 4-0, but the purchase of my first home in January made me reconsider.
It was the promise of free accommodations and travel that convinced me to go. In late March, I found out my friend Kerry was working in Paris for three days during my birthday week and had space in her hotel room (the amazing Hotel Amour, where I ran into our Nashville home-girl Karen Elson, who was also staying there); our mutual buddy Alex offered to put me up at her apartment for the other four. The flight was purchased with frequent flier miles.
It wasn’t my first trip to Paris: I spent half of my junior year at Hollins College studying there, and a high point of my old job as a New York fashion editor was getting to cover Paris Fashion Week.
But this trip was not about work: it was about relaxing in a city where I knew my way around and had logged in enough time at national landmarks that I didn’t feel guilty about not working them into my itinerary.
Basically, my Paris plan was not to have a Paris plan … and to shop, bien sur.
I landed at Charles de Gaulle armed with Euros and ready to scout secondhand goodies for my East Nashville vintage store, Diamond Star Halo, and to pick up some special birthday treats for myself.
Though it was a memorable trip all around, there were some definite highlights:
Enjoying the scene at the Hotel Amour. This is easily the hippest hotel in Paris right now. Located just off the steep and beautiful Rue des Martyrs in the Montmartre district, it’s a choice environment for watching Beautiful People: lovely girls in very little makeup and very much Isabel Marant (she’s the hottest indie designer in Paris – nay, the world – right now) and pale guys in skinny suits and simple, collared shirts. The look is deceptively simple: it makes everyone looks like Someone.
Amour only has 20 rooms, and each is decorated in a different variation on what I can only describe as “haute perv”. The walls of our white lacquered room (the hallways are a shiny peony pink with black trim) was hung with arty black and white photos of jeune filles in various stages of undress. Save for a the Minnie Mouse-esque plastic doll dressed up in Karl Lagerfeld/Coco Chanel drag that sat on a short table beside a vintage biography of Marianne Faithful, the room is otherwise spare – right down to the plain white towels with the hotel’s name hand-stamped on the seam.
Scoring a limited edition Karl Largerfeld Diet Coke bottle. The week I arrived, Coke released a pink, white and black metal bottle of “Coca-Cola Light” featuring the Chanel designer’s signature and famously slim, pony-tailed silhouette. You could buy them at supermarkets for under 3 Euros, which is a helluva good price for something that’s already a collector’s item. (Funny story: When Kerry showed her Karl bottle to her boyfriend when she got home, he asked her why the French would want to put Thomas Jefferson on a Coke bottle. Hysterical. “Well, at least you can be sure he’s straight,” Alex told her.)
Locating the perfect pair of khakis. The going cut is slim-fitting at the dropped waist, slightly baggy through the leg and then pegged and rolled above the ankle. All the French girls had them on with Breton stripe shirts (no, these tops are not just a cliché: people really do wear them!). I found my perfect pair at the chain Comptoir des Cotonnaires, which is like a chicer version of our J.Crew. I’ve been wearing my khakis with a navy tank and the vintage bandeau-style fabric belt with metal horse themed buckle, one of my only purchases at the wildly over-priced Clingancourt flea market.
Purchasing four dozen vintage dresses at Free P Star. Paris vintage can be prohibitively expensive. So while searching for secondhand stores in my price range, all signs (and all the cute girls) pointed me to this small boutique located in the Marais (8 rue Sainte-Croix de la Brettonnerie). It is very literally packed from the bottom of the basement to the ceiling of the main shopping with racks and bails bulging with vintage clothes. The shopping is competitive and stressful (and tiring: my arms ached the next day from carrying all the dresses I could hold!), but worth it considering everything is 10 euros or under. SCORE! (You can still view some of my Free P Star finds at my store, Diamond Star Halo Vintage, located at 1101 Holly Street in East Nashville.)
Spying my vintage blue sequined showgirl headdress. I was perusing the wares at the very charming Porte des Vanves flea market when I spotted this gorgeous blue sequined headdress, which looks a little like something a“mermaid” would have worn in a Folies Bergere review. It’s not extremely old – I’d date it as being from the early 60s, maybe 50s – but it is extremely cool. And very tall: I actually had to dissemble it in order to ship it home. The 1930s top hat I bought the same day has already appeared in a shoot I styled for this month’s issue of Her Magazine, so you can probably expect to see my mermaid topper show up in one of my photo spreads sometime in the future.
Buying the biggest Comme des Garcons wallet on the market. The Comme wallet – a simple slab of high-quality leather with a wrap-around zipper and multiple pockets inside – is, well, comme il faut among my fashion friends, and I’ve always admired how handsome and sleek they look. In fact, every time I’ve been in New York over the last year I’ve come this close to getting one. On my birthday, I threw all practicality out the window (I mean, the wallet I had wasn’t in that bad shape …) and hit the very minimalist, very hard-to-find CDG store (54 rue de Faubourg Saint-Honore) to buy a large, 5 x 9 model in bright orange – a risky move for a graduate of UTK, I know. But I can guarantee you Rei Kawakubo wasn’t humming “Rocky Top” while choosing the color range for her small leather goods line. So orange it is.
Eating warm chocolate-filled croissants sprinkled with smashed pistachio and almonds for breakfast. Enough said.
Treating myself to some birthday treats at the Right Bank consignment store Reciproque. In big cities like Paris, I always like to hit consignment and upscale resale stores as well as the down-and-dirty joints. Among my favorite high-end stops is Reciproque (88-101 rue de la Pompe), which is located in an old-school residential area near Trocadero. On my birthday, I spent three hours in the two-story women’s store (there are actually four storefronts, including those for accessories, menswear and home goods), trying on pieces from Sonia Rykiel (iconic striped sweaters), Gaultier (I was in Paris, so it seemed like required trying-on-ing), Chloe, Chanel and YSL (a safari jacket, which his a major score – alas, it was too small). I ended up leaving with only two things. I got a killer pair of 1970’s gold snakeskin wedge sandals by London designer Terry de Havilland, the mastermind behind Elton John’s early stage shoes as well as a favorite of Bianca Jagger, who my shoes would look amazing on (in my daydreams, this is the exact pair of shoes she wore to Provence to visit Mick at the storied villa Nellcote, when he and the Rolling Stones were there in ‘71 recording Exile on Main Street). And I also snapped up a dazzling metallic lavender zip-front jacket by Herve Leger; it has a handwritten tag on the inside that reads “ETE 2000 Modele No 10265,”which makes me think it must be a one-off runway sample. Together, they were under $400 – pretty good for pieces that will stay in my closet forever. In fact, I’m going to wear the jacket with my new khakis to a party this weekend. Viva la France!