Thursday, July 30, 2009

What suits a Gentleman...Part 2

Here are 10 more elegant gentlemen, for your eyes only.
1- My favourite 007, Sean Connery in the 1960s, as you can tell from the notched collar tuxedo and the small bow tie. Nice!

2- My favourite secret agent, John Steed, played by Patrick Macnee on the British series, The Avengers. One of Steed's trademarks was his impeccable dress, consisting of a Savile Row bespoke suit, a metal-plated bowler hat and an everpresent umbrella by James Smith & Sons (here hidden in the weeds).

3- Herbert von Karajan, the orchestra and opera conductor. Renowned for being strict and charismatic but flamboyantly animated too when conducting. Isaiah Berlin referred to Karajan as "a genius, with a whiff of sulphur about him"... Watch him conducting the Berlin Philarmonic. Enjoy!
4- Marcel Proust, and his remarkable style both as a novelist and as a dandy. Here, I love his tie, boutonniere and gingham trousers.

Count Robert de Montesquiou (1855-1921)
by Giovanni Boldini, , Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

5- A notorious poet, art collector and dandy of his time, Robert de Montesquiou was the inspiration for Baron de Charlus in Marcel Proust's À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time). Notice his sophisticated pose, his Duke of Richelieu-like moustache , and his suit, perfectly fitted in a beautiful shade of gris de perle.

6- Jeff Buckley (1966-1997), the modern Romantic figure of avant-garde music, who heralded both musically daring and overtly emotional approaches. Here wearing a heavy black velvet coat with the Grace of an angel.

7- The Duke! Wow, he really had the swing and the style that goes with it. The tie bar holds the knot high up, and the fluffiness of the handkerchief gives the whole style its ease and elegance.

8- Rudolph Valentino in a tuxedo that is so perfectly fitted that it looks like a corset. Wow! I want the same!

9- Ahh, a breathtaking case of Italian sprezzatura. The nonchalant elegance of Vittorio Gassman on a scooter, wearing a Prince de Galles suit. Ready for a ride, ladies?

10- Pierre Cardin and Yves Saint Laurent, master and disciple united, 1965, Paris- Photograph by Willy Rizo. Stripes, structural frames and paisley for YSL and rich grey wool suit with peaked lapels for Monsieur Cardin.

Helmut Newton's iconic 1975 photo of YSL's Le Smoking

Last but not least, I haven't found anything more suitable to conclude on than YSL's 1966 Le Smoking, the pioneering tuxedo suit for women...Talking of women, now is my turn to delve into what will make my bridal outfit look like me. Hum! Let me think...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What suits a Gentleman...Part 1

Our big day drawing closer, my fiancé and I are getting quite obsessed with the last finicky details in our outfits...Last night, as he was researching on the internet as if to resolve the sartorial conundrums of the perfect tuxedo suit, he got really animated and passionately reviewed the styles he would go through.
I thus started to draw a mental list of who I considered as an inspiring male stylish icon. Here is my top-ten list of the moment...

1- Cary Grant, both impeccably elegant and charmingly bold, as always. In this photo, I love the detail of his mother-of-pearl cuff links!
Memo: My current favourite film starring Cary Grant is George Cukor's Holiday (1938), with Katharine Hepburn. A treat!

2- Alain Delon in The Leopard (Il Gattopardo) by Luchino Visconti - one of the happy few who can wear a black band or patch on his eye, and still look hyper stylish! As a young girl, I found this aristocratic dandy-pirate look of his so irresistible that, for years, my ideal name for a baby boy was...Tancrède (Tancredi, Delon's character in the film).

3- Gary Cooper. Notice the thin ring! I love his ease and confidence in style, not to mention his childish elegance in Mr Deeds goes to Town by Frank Capra (1936)...

4- Serge Gainsbourg, the French singer, composer, poet and great agitator -a perfect dandy with a twist.

5-Omar Sharif in a tuxedo shirt with a wing collar, stiff in the attitude but so graceful; a must in Funny Girl, directed by William Wyler (1968)

6- Jacques Dutronc, the French crooner with a cigar and an attitude. Wearing three-piece suits or tuxedos was his signature in the 1970s. See Jacques Dutronc sing Gentleman Cambrioleur (Gentleman burglar).

7- Yves Klein. Photograph of a performance by Yves Klein at Rue Gentil-Bernard, Fontenay-aux-Roses, October 1960, by Harry Shunk. Le Saut dans le Vide, Leap into the Void, leap but confidently and in a black suit...

8- Noel Coward, the English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, known for his wit and flamboyance; unparalleled. Here in a white dinner jacket and a waistcoat with lapels.

9- Jean-Louis Trintignant, playing the ice-cold conformist in his tailored suit (notice the slender silhouette) - from The Conformist, directed By Bernardo Bertolucci.
10-Vincent Cassel, falsely casual. Notice the thin ring, again! - © John Rankin

And 'hors-catégorie', the man who has taught me how to look better at the details of a suit, the one and only gentleman that suits me...

Marco Jacob © Miguel Jacob

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Avec Plaisir


As you already know, last Saturday three friends of mine took me to St Jacob's Market for my bachelorette party. I thought I could totally trust my girl friends - but my firm belief got a bit shaken when I entered the car and saw the boa and the tiara waiting for me...Fortunately enough, the individual flasks of champagne that Jen provided to the crew (except for her, the driver, of course) quickly eased off my trauma! I agreed to wear the boa and tiara for 5 minutes in the car and that was it! I felt like a hybrid of Wonderwoman and Zizi Jeanmaire. Mon truc en plumes ...

Zizi Jeanmaire and her Truc en Plumes
After Dark June 1981

When we arrived at St Jacob's market, a Mennonite market, I realized that men there have created the perfect society for them to enjoy; the women work on the market...

...and the men go shopping.
Not being Menonnites ourselves, we decided we could do like them, the men that is, and go shopping! So we headed to the Antiques Market. Every booth was perfectly organized and every item, neatly labeled - I had the weird impression that what I was seeing was not real antiques as they were too clean. But I got used to the Old Order's sense of order and my eyes were caught by several interesting pieces, among which was this milk glass set...

The girls and I reveled in a shop full of extraordinary antique jewellery and bought ourselves earrings, brooches, hair clips and necklaces for next to nothing.

My set of earrings...
Tess also found a beautiful hat, look!

Tess and her hat

After a day of fun, we needed to finish on a higher note and so we went to Benjamin's, a charming vintage local inn, where we had a delicious dinner.

Jen, Lara and Tess : Le trio de charme!

There the girls offered me a very thoughtful present, a gift certificate for a fine lingerie shop, Avec Plaisir...
Brigitte Bardot wearing a fancy corset in Louis Malle's Viva Maria-1965

Friday, July 24, 2009

Of future Brides and Rites...

Today was my day! Or what we call in France, my fête as indicated in the Roman Catholic calendar of saints- mind you, it is not to be confused with the local "bonne fête" being an equivalent to "happy birthday" for French Canadians here.

Jour de Fête (The Big Day), directed by Jacques Tati - 1949

But strangely enough, tomorrow is my day, again! Tomorrow, I am taken on a trip to celebrate what is more commonly called a bachelorette party in Canada, or the "enterrement de vie de jeune fille" in France. Hum, I didn't feel the urge to have any, really, as my years as a young maiden or even as a Catherinette are long gone but I eventually accepted...

A vestal virgin, detail of an engraving by Sir Frederick Leighton- c.1880
In Roman times, the Vestal Virgins remained celibate for 30 years on penalty of death.

Under the express condition, though, that I would be spared the sleazy paraphernalia so typical to the parties I have seen around...meaning, pub crawling orgies exhibiting the 'Bachelorette', performing her pantomime and wearing all the props ranging from the veil planted on her head to the T-Shirt with an inspiring message printed on it, all this while watching the savvy contortions of Chippendale strippers.
Bachelorette tops... Not for me.

Yes, I accepted because I trust my girl friends! How beautiful is that? And also because I know it does not mean the end of my life as an individual who craves her moments of solitude or of sisterhood. I will have many more nights out with my girls even as a married wife! Now, this being said, I am really looking forward to celebrating the end of a certain idea of singlehood and to undergoing this sort of ancient ritual. I am well aware that this secular ceremony will take me a step closer to the wedlock and that my wedding will mark a significant change in both my personal and social status as another and bigger rite of passage.

Signing The Register (Detail) by Edmund Blair Leighton

I am going to be introduced to my future married life by a wonderful trio of friends, namely Jen, Lara and Tess. My special request was just to have a picnic outside of the city, and they have been kind enough, as I am sure relieved too, to comply with my desires ! After consulting each other, they came up with a delightful idea. Tomorrow, we'll embark on a journey to Waterloo's St Jacob's Market - how appropriate when you think that my future married name is Jacob...

The real the old Mennonite fashion. I love it already!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Sartorialist in Toronto...

Today, I swung by Holt Renfrew at lunch time to see the Sartorialist's exhibit and 'meet with' Scott Schuman who was present for the occasion.

But before I get into the details of the event, allow me to digress a bit- I know, I know, this is so typical of me. Well, just as we stepped out of our building, we met face to face, or rather bumper to bumper, with a Figaro car . Have you ever seen one? It is absolutely beautiful! I loved it so much that I pretended it was mine...

We resumed our walk up to the Holt Renfrew store now with longer strides as we were running a bit late. When we arrived on location, on Bloor Street, the crowd of aficionados was already there, all gathered around Scott Schuman, the Fantastic Man of the event.

Scott Schuman in Fantastic Man magazine #7

I didn't get the chance to get near him, nor did I hear what he actually said, and believe me I tried - but to no avail...It was not a Q&A, it was a very informal meeting, once I had accepted the frustration of the concept, I had fun. It was really interesting to observe the whole phenomenon taking place in front of me. It was fascinating to look at the people around, a real fashion show, rich in styles and colours, either (too) overly sophisticated or more sprezzatura-like. I felt that everyone had cared to dress up more than usual to honour this sartorial meeting.

Suddenly , he appeared! From behind a glass case displaying a shoe, I could see him, Mr. Schuman.

The exhibit of The Sartorialist's photography

Here is a selection of the styles I loved:

A scooter rider's impeccable style. Look at his Barker Black shoes!

Both a highly-structured and super slick look for this elegant lady
The press journalists and TV crews were interviewing him, thus acknowledging his ever-growing celebrity status - an autodidact with a flair for the signs of his times. I learnt from Jelena Adzic, the CBC reporter, that he used to be a tailor, hence his devotion and great appreciation for craftsmanship. I like that a lot in a man!
He was also there to promote his book, The Sartorialist, that has just been published by Penguin.

Young man in a straw hat attending the event

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag!

Last Saturday, we decided to have a German party at our place : friends, food, music and movies from the Rhineland...

We had invited Tess and Daniel, our German friends, for dinner to celebrate Daniel's belated birthday. As soon as they arrived we popped the cork of a Moët & Chandon and yelled : Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag! while listening to a German album they had brought for the occasion, "Ich wollt, ich wär" by Max Raabe - He and his orchestra specialise in recreating the sound of German dance and film music of the 1920s and 1930s, amazing!

Daniel had also brought his own birthday cake (as agreed), a delicious cake which he made for the very first time. A big hit!
Here is the recipe for Schwäbischer Ofenschlupfer - literally: Swabian Oven Slipper (?!) ...don't ask:-)
25g raisins
1-2 tablespoons of rum or apple juice (for kiddies)
2 rolls (preferably yesterday's)
1 big sour apple (e.g. Granny Smith)
1/2 vanilla bean
100ml cream or milk
3 eggs
40g sugar
1 table spoon almond sticks
Icing sugar
A pat of butter to grease a 25cm springform pan or small individual ramekins.

1. Soak raisins in rum - cut rolls in 2cm cubes - wash apple and cut it into slices - slit the vanilla bean open lengthwise and scoop out the marrow - whisk cream, milk, eggs vanilla marrow and sugar gently.
2. Grease the baking pan and insert bread cubes, apple slices and raisins - pour over the egg-cream mixture - garnish with almond sticks - bake in preheated oven (390° - 400°) for 25-30 minutes (cover it after a while if necessary) .
Sprinkle with icing sugar as desired.

White wine sauce:
200ml white wine
1 egg
2 yolks
100g sugar
1. Gently whisk egg, yolks and sugar
2. Place bowl with mixture in a warm water bath and add wine
3. Whisk it until it's fluffy and serve it hot! (N.B: one generous spoonful on top of each slice of cake should do)

Guten Appetit!

Our night unfolded most pleasantly with inspiring conversations and listening to and even dancing to a few groovy tunes by Otis Redding such as Day Tripper ...

Otis Redding performing on stage...

After that, we were ready to watch the scene from Pretty in Pink , you know, when Duckie does this amazing entrance on Otis's Try a Little Tenderness. I thought they would love it, and they did! Tess suddenly exclaimed "Oh My God! If I were this girl, I would fall head over heels in love with a guy like him!" Well, well, well, the character actually does not...

Andrew McCarthy, Molly Ringwald, and John Cryer as 'Duckie' in Pretty in Pink (1986)

We had nearly reached Satisfaction, when Marco said, but wait a minute, there is a video that we must watch now...Otis starts the song with an introduction thanking his good friend, Mick Jaegger, for being in the audience--sheer rhythm, sheer madness! Totally phenomenal and astonishing, it caught us completely off-guard, Marco smiled with content.

When we eventually sat down on the couch to watch the German movie they had recommended, Vier Minuten (2006), Chris Kraus's film, it was already 1 A.M.
But we did not miss out one second of this film, from the beginning to the end, we were riveted to the screen, so intense it was.

Vier Minuten...

Trust me, it was not only in the last four minutes of the film that we felt the high tension of the pianist's chords, but these last four minutes were sharp! At the end of the night, that is to say early in Sunday morning, we had one last drink in the cool air, under the porch of the house, and I asked Daniel once more about this incredible pianist he had already mentioned before. He talked passionately about Gabriela Montero, and told us her interpretations were unique just like her improvisational gifts.

I found a piece that will help me loop the loop of our German night. She here plays a humorous and powerful improvisation based on a song the audience sang back to her at the Kölner Philharmonie in October, 2007.

What a night! Gute Nacht,...stille Nacht!
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