Leone’s Italian Cookbook — my Italian father sent to this me as a surprise gift in the mail. It has this great story in the beginning about how this Italian woman living in NYC dreamed of opening a restaurant but her husband didnt’ think it was appropriate. She was such a good cook, however, that he left one morning saying he was having some friends over from the opera that night and could she make dinner? Sure, she said. How many people? 50, he said. No problem.
Well, one of the diners was Caruso and by the end of the night (which was also her birthday) he had talked her husband into allowing (how archaic right?) to open a restaurant. The first one was in her living room. A few years later, after it had moved to a separate location of course, they were serving 6,000 dinners a night!
The Human Stain by Philip Roth — I glanced at the beginning of this and now am wondering if I have read it before. But it is one of those must reads at least once in your life so I’ll give it another glance before back to the library. (You would think a “must read” would leave more of an impression, though, right?)
Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann — Another library book. It is falling apart and doesn’t look like it has been checked out since the 1940s. However, I am already caught up in the story, which so far is about a rambunctious makeshift family of kids who lived next door with their grandparents.
The Nautical Chart by Arturo Perez-Reverte — I adore this author and snatched this up at the thrift store last week.
Reading Lolita in Tehran — another thrift store buy I will wait to read.
Brava Valentine by Adriana Trigiani — the only thing keeping me from devouring this is pretending it is not there. My bookclub meets next week and it will be my turn to introduce the book. I will probably start and finish it that day!
French Style by Veronique Vienne — I must say that despite different reviews on the French Chic board and the exorbitant cost of this out-of-print book, I loved this book, which got through interlibrary loan. For those who don’t have access to it from a library or who don’t want to spend $100 on a book they haven’t read, here are a summary of the parts I loved and copied down into my journal. One section has stuck with me for the past few days — the idea of discovering your silhouette. This has really made an impact on me and how I plan to dress. I’d be curious about your thoughts on these excerpts. Also, what do you think of the wardrobe “must haves” at the end. She includes black jeans (?) and a Hermes scarf.
EXCERPTS: This begins with some rules Vienne gave on how to dress like a French Woman. I paraphrased no. 2, it said something about wearing the wrong things like white shoes, satin gloves and plastic jewelry. I am a former journalist so if you see this … it usually means something was ommitted in the quote. I tried to do this whenever appropriate, but may have missed a few.
1. Don’t wear clothes that wear you. Do learn how to walk. When you enter a room, people should feel the undertow. Use the muscles in your hips and your thighs. The more calories you burn when you walk, the taller you look. French Style flatters people, not their clothes.
2. Don’t add finishing touches … when you have all the “right” accessories, you look like a matron. French Style is improvisation.
3. Don’t expect your mirror or your scale t0 tell the truth. Do ask your friends for tips, advice and addresses. Expect your older sister to be brutally honest. Her candor can be more effective than a crash diet. French Style — people talk about it.
4. Don’t buy overpriced basics. Do go bargain hunting. Wear secondhand paint-splattered jeans, thrift shop T-shirts and authentically frayed-at-the-edge plaid shirts. French Style is good champagne, costly perfume and a great haircut.
5. Don’t go by the book. Do check the real fashion scene. Take public transportation. Watch kids and teens at the mall. Linger in restaurants or cafes. Notice how people walk, sit and talk. French Style is Street Smart.
6. Don’t look “expensive.” Do admit that you long for a rich husband, a millionare aunt, a generous trust fund, a country estate in Provence. But never forget your own worth and never wear clothes that you cannot afford. French Style is your most precious asset.
To dress like a French Woman, don’t try to look like a model – try to be a role model. Think of the next generation; give them something to aspire to. Try to imagine yourself thorugh the eyes of those who don’t know you, as well as those who adore you. Think of looking your best as something you do for your own sake and for the sake of everyone around you …
The following will help you see yourself in the way others see you: Imagine walking down the street: the choice of a silhouette is your most important decision. Determine how you want to look from a distance. Ask yourself: who is this elegant woman coming toward me — and what is she wearing? A roomy jacket with slim pants? A sinuous and flowing dress? A tailored and slick suit? Trust that first impression it defines you.
(NOTE: HERE IS WHAT POPPED INTO MY MIND — the silhouette and style I want to define me, a stay-and-work-at-home mom):
(Now back to the book:)
What’s French? be different … lots of bracelets … black with navy … iron your T-shirt … understate … large loop earrings … cleavage … improvise …
Choose a role that matches your personality: like a good actress, put on a costume that fits your character and enhances the situation. Do you want to make an entrance? Wear a red suit. Do you want to be a team player? Wear a navy blazer. Do you want to be the belle of the ball? Wear a glamour dress.
Fashion is a language. Use it to communicate your intentions. Present a consistent image. Don’t change your style all the time. Take a lesson from men. Wear the same type of outfit all week long and select accessories that are unmistakably yours.
(NOTE: Check back at my blog and My French Corner’s blog on Monday — we are beginning a weeklong dual series called: “1 sweater 5 Ways” that will demonstrate this philosopy. Now, back to the book)
“I’ve got nothing to wear”
This timeless expression is the one and only fashion concept a woman every needs. Less is more. Spareness is the essence of style. …
To dress with flair, the French woman reads all about it in fahsion magazines — and then forgets it all. But beware. There is a difference between ignoring fashion altogether and choosing to disregard it. It’s the difference between cool and boring, crisp and bland, polished and dull. Remind yourself that you’ve got nothing to wear, but don’t dress negligently. Elminate superfluous and excessive detail. Get rid of the pretension. Simplify …
Learn to be surprising, not obvious. Dress as you normall would — and then take off a thing or two: remove your earrings and slick your hair back. Take off your jacket and throw a sweater over your shoulders. Remove the logo from your jeans … hide your hair under a hat, a scarf or a turban.
Unlike the American woman who loves to save money, the French woman loves to spend it, but sparingly. She compares value, not price, and calls any purchase that delivers what it promises a bargain. She gets as much pleasure dropping some change on a cheap-and-chic necklace as she gets splurging on a costly luxury. Money well spent is money that buys a sense of worth. The more expensive items test her self-esteem more than her sense of style.
She reviews the contents of her closet and makes a wish list – but leaves the list on the kitchen table. If you can’t remember what you wrote down, you probably don’t need it.
… French women have created a new fashion aristocracy – timeless clothes that are a must for every wardrobe. More than simply basics, these purebred classics are carefully selected and treasured by their owners. They are always in style, never to become outmoded:
— the supreme black turtleneck
— the definitive raincoat
— the reliable pair of black jeans
— the essential Hermes scarf
— the oversize white T-shirt
— the must have red gloves
— the versatile, fringed cashmere muffler
— the single strand of pearls.