Monday, December 10, 2007

Marie Antoinette

There is something to be said for a historical figure's love of fashion to be remembered centuries later. Marie Antoinette is such a person.

Kirsten Dunst playing Marie Antoinette in the movie directed by Sophia Coppola based on the book written by Antonia Fraser. While this article is more about the movie than the book, I've read all 458 glorious pages of this book. And I still haven't had my fill of this captivating historical figure. I highly recommend the book, you won't be able to put it down, and when you do it will be because you are in flight on your way to France to visit Versailles!

The more I've read about Marie Antoinette, the more I feel that she is France's most misunderstood monarch. However tragic her life was and how it ended, she was the Queen who rocked-out Versailles in her fashion forward wardrobe. Maybe it is the worst case of "retail therapy" ever recorded, but to us fashion lovers, we can appreciate her passion for fashion. While we enjoy this modern rendition of the life story of the doomed Queen of France by the talented Sophia Coppola, let us enjoy the variety of senses that Sophia uses to lure us to this movie, namely, sight and sound.

Filmed on location in Versailles, the costumes match the historical surroundings and also mix into the modern music Sophia chose to use. The soundtrack is nothing short of genius. I listened to the CD daily for 10 months straight. I encourage you to sample listen to it and then purchase it on itunes. One of my favorite songs on the CD is "The Melody Of A Fallen Tree" by Windsor For The Derby. Which I am listening to as I write this article.

The movie received harsh criticism from some critics, but how often do we listen to them anyway? Sophia Coppola used her wildest imagination to form a masterpiece of a historically accurate film that would appeal to a younger generation. Using modern music to tell her story of the clueless Queen worked magically. At the perfect moment, Sophia switches to classical or period music, it's hardly noticeable and adds much to the feel of the movie. I can't imagine this movie without each song that is seemingly hand picked by Sophia.

The costumes leave nothing to be desired. Beautiful use of color, fabric and texture makes this movie a feast for your eyes. Each costume is walking you through the changes the Queen is going through. As the years pass in Versailles, you see the Queen's style change and you understand her fashion choices. At times flamboyant and at other times meek an natural.

Marie Antoinette was criticized among her friends and family and most frequently by her mother, hundred of miles away in Austria. She longed to please her husband and her mother. It seemed near impossible as the political movement was heading straight for a then unseen revolution.

She was home sick and in a foreign country much different from the royal court where she was raised. She gave of herself to charities and to her children, always wanting to be a supportive wife. Marie Antoinette regarded the last 5 years of her life spent in prison, as her happiest. In prison is where she found what she was always searching for, time alone with her husband and children.

Read the book, watch the movie and listen to the soundtrack. Each will leave you wanting more of the opulent French court during the reign of Marie Antoinette. In the end of it all, you too will feel empathy for the young Queen who fell into the French Revolution. You will be astounded by the courage and brave actions of the infamous Marie Antoinette.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Our Roman Holiday

After returning home from vacationing in Italy, my husband Freddie and I made a decision. We decided to look at ways of life that most Europeans have in common. One thing we noticed in Italy and France is how commonplace if not prevalent scooters are. Since we live in Southern California where the weather is agreeable most of the time, we contemplated purchasing a scooter. But not just any scooter. Our theme is a European life. So naturally we decided to purchase a Vespa.

We came to this decision because Vespas are made in Italy and they have a vintage look like the kind you see in the movie 'Roman Holiday' with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. 

Imported directly from Italy, our Vespa (which we nicknamed "Scootie") added much to our European life in Los Angeles. Besides the obvious great things about owning a Vespa is the fact that you will save a lot of money on gas.  A Vespa gets a little over 60 miles to the gallon. The gas tank holds 2 gallons. So the cost to fill up the tank is anywhere between $6.00-$6.75.  It makes absolute sense why most Europeans use scooters for transportation. Their price of gas is at least double what we are paying in the US.

When we first purchased the Vespa, which is now my husband's main mode of transportation, he worked 10 minutes away from home. He was filling up the gas tank once or twice a month. Now he works in Santa Monica, CA (about a 1 hour commute, 5o miles roundtrip each day). He now spends about $48 per month on gasoline. Not a bad deal when you compare it to the price of putting gas into a car or SUV. It's great for quick trips around town or going to busy places around LA where it's difficult to find parking.

Enough with the logical reasoning. We adore our Vespa. I generally will put on a skirt when riding with my husband. Hey, if the European girls can do it, why can't I? That's one of things I admired when I saw people on their scooters in Europe. Especially in Italy, everybody was so nicely dressed, girls wearing their stilettos and skirts or dresses and the men were wearing their suits and ties on their way to work. Can you imagine it?! 

Well, now my husband is that guy on a Vespa wearing his suit and tie on his way to work. Mama Mia! And from time to time I am that girl on the back of a Vespa holding on with excitement. Just another way to continue living a European life. 

Thursday, December 6, 2007

How To Be European in the US

Here is my fun list of ways to immerse European lifestyle into your daily routine in the United States. I'd like to hear your ideas of how to live Euro style. Post a comment if you so feel inclined.

1.Act nonchalant about things you really enjoy.
2.Go for a short walk in the afternoon.
3. Say “ooh la la” instead of “wow”.
4. Watch American movies with French subtitles.
5. Say “ah-hah” when someone says something interesting.
6. Pucker your lips, raise your shoulders and shake your head slightly when someone asks you a question you don’t know the answer to.
7. Own a scooter.
8. Own a copy of the soundtrack from “Amelie”.
9. Drink wine with lunch and dinner.
10. Greet your friends with a kiss on each cheek.
11. Answer your phone by saying “salut”.
12. Eat fresh fruit as a snack.
13. Sit at a restaurant for 3 hours during dinner and always order coffee at the end.
14. Walk to a nearby store and buy a baguette and fresh flowers.
15. Use regular sugar in your coffee and not Equal or Sweet N Low
16. Set the table even if you are only having cereal and toast.
17. Ride your bicycle in a cute outfit, preferably a skirt or a dress if you’re a girl.
18. Eat your fries using a fork with mayonnaise instead of ketchup.
19. Always wear high heels with your jeans if you are a girl.
20. Go to museums and botanical gardens on Saturdays and Sundays dressed as if you were going out to a nice dinner.
21. Drink water out of a wine glass.
22. Do not use ice in your drinks (even in the summer).
23. Do not use deodorant.
24. Eat and enjoy stinky cheese.
25. Ask for “Coke Light” instead of “Diet Coke”.
26. When ordering at a restaurant start your order by saying “I’ll take….”
27. Do not talk loudly on your cell phone.
28. Love soccer.
29. Hate Lance Armstrong.
30. Listen to French music instead of American.
31. You’ve visited Versailles but have never been to the White House.
32. Ride the metro, ride your bike or walk more than you use your car.
33. Have multiple hats and scarves in your closet.
34. Know the words to “La Vie En Rose”.
35. Always have at least one Paris metro ticket or coin in your wallet at all times.
36. Have an ample supply of Nutella in the cupboard.
37. Use the phrase “C’est la vie” liberally.
38. Name your dog “Fi Fi”.
39. Have friends that live in France and other parts of Europe.
40. Call your friends by their would be names in French.
41. Check the weather in Paris frequently.
42. Know more about the French Revolution than you do about the American Revolution.
43. Have at least two Eiffel Towers in your house.
44. Visit a Farmer's Market at least once a month, if not every week.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Paris Always Sizzles

I might be a self proclaimed authority on Paris, but in reality my insight on Paris is very well researched. While I am no Samantha Brown, I have a unique insight into this chic city. I've been there 3 times (working on 4). I am constantly in search of new things to do, and yet, there are things on my "Must See" list, even though I've done them before. Here is my list of "Must See". This is no list of typical stops highlighted on a map, rather a list of what my daily life would include, should I live there un jour. My favorite places would be too difficult to number in order of importance so pay no attention to the place they hold on my list. They are all places deemed worthy by the locals.

Café Angelina
226, rue de Rivoli 1st Arrondissement
75001 Paris

This cafe has been in place since the 1900's. The decor says it all. Immediately when you enter you feel transformed into the days of yesterday. This salon de thé (tea) is actually known for their chocolat chaud (hot chocolate). The best way to describe it is a melted bar of chocolate, but richer and thicker. It comes in a small pitcher. One can never hope to finish it, it's very rich and decadent. But oh so delicious! Stop in for chocolat chaud and a pastry. HINT: They also have wonderful macaroons. Prices range from 5-15 euro.

Grevi Firenze
1, Place Alphonse Deville
75006 Paris

No trip to Paris could ever be complete without a trip to this hat store. I simply adore hats and wear them all the time. By chance I happened across this store. Just like a dream, I bought a beautiful hat in Paris. Not to burst my own bubble, but these hats are made in Italy. There are only two stores in the world. One in Florence, Italy and one in Paris, France. That is what makes this store so unique. Imagine only two stores in the world and I stumbled across one of them! With so many hats to choose from, one could go broke in this store. Hats for all occasions, chic and casual Grevi will make any girl crazy for hats if they aren't already. Even if you don't buy one, it's fun to go in and look and try them on. I actually can not think of a better souvenir. This store excels in customer service and pretty packaging. In the US, it's very difficult to find great hats. This store really is a treat! Did I mention I have two Grevi hats? Prices range from 50-150 euro. It's worth every euro cent!

Au Pied de Cochon
6, Rue Coquillière75001

Paris, France
+33 1 40 13 03 81

Au Pied de Cochon (meaning the foot of the pig). I can't take any credit for this find. This restaurant was recommended to me by my friends who used to live in Paris. I have to say, this is the place where I truly had the best meal that I've ever eaten in my life. I can't imagine anything that could surpass it. I ordered the braised lamb and finished off with Crème brûlée. One great thing about this bistro is that you can make a reservation right from your home online. Prices range from 15-40 euro. They do have a set menu for 19 euro which includes three courses. You will not be disappointed.

Jardin du Luxembourg

The Jardin du Luxembourg is a public park. Parisians gather here on Sundays to relax and enjoy life amidst a busy city. Do not, however, underestimate what happens at this jardin. It is a live fashion show. Even the Parisian children are dressed to the nines. Women strut in their high heels and big sunglasses and men are equally dressed. I admire the way the French use every occasion to parade their wardrobe. 

This park is perfect for taking in the sights and sounds of old Paris, both intentional and unintentional. Great for relaxation, photographs and people-watching. If the French dress like this when they go to the park, what do they wear when they go out to a nice dinner?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Style To The Nines

Style and fashion are a trademark of femininity. A certain thought process happens on any given morning when we pick out our clothes and how we want to present ourselves to the world. For instance, maybe you are going on an interview and you head straight for your two piece suit. Going on a first date? Instinctively you head for your little black dress. Meeting your future in-laws? The cardigan sweater with the a pearl necklace is fail safe.  
But maybe you are having one of those days where you wake up in the morning feeling just blah? Possibly for no good reason. And you just know it's going to take everything out of you to get through the day. Well, that was me today.

I was already running late for work so I went to my default wrap dress which doesn't need to be ironed. It always looks great and it's comfortable. I was going to opt out of my usual make-up routine. Instead, here I was, knowing that the day ahead would be long and hard. And I decided to fake it until I could make it. What this means is I had to put on a full face of make-up.

Despite feeling horrible and wanting to crawl back into bed even though I had already hit the snooze button 3 times. I knew that I would have to look fabulous just to pull through the day even if I didn't feel fabulous.

I hope the next three steps can aid you in getting through your next "Blah Day".

1. Go Glamorous. It's okay to go to work with the "smokey eye" look. I used Sketch eye shadow by Mac along with Goldmine (for contrast) and Orb under my brow for highlighting, all products of Mac.

2. Don't leave the house without lip gloss. I decided to go with Ornamental also by Mac.

3. Wear your pretty dress. Yeah, the pretty dress that you hang ever so carefully in the back of your closet.  Pull it out and wear it like it's Saturday night. Even if it is only Tuesday.

Remember the scene from Breakfast At Tiffany's where Audrey Hepburn is forced to rush out of the house at a moments notice? She goes from pj's to positively glamorous in about 5 minutes. She is looking for her shoes underneath the bed and throws on a black dress, a fabulous black hat and big sunglasses. Not to underestimate the fact that she is after all, well, Audrey Hepburn, but you get the idea.

So the next time you wake up feeling "blah" think glamorous and go for it!!!

Branché Jewelry

In Europe I observed a dramatic difference in style and fashion. On various trips to France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Hungary I noticed a change in style from one country to the next. 

I developed a fondness for each country's individual sense of fashion and wanted to share it at home in the states. Using semi-precious stones mined in Italy, Africa, Russia, Canada, Brazil etc., I capture the essence of Branche.  99% of my jewelry is one-of-a-kind. 

My aim is to incorporate my personal style with European fashion and couture.Creating fashion forward jewelry is my passion. Inspired by European fashion I create pieces that will rock-out any wardrobe. You can visit my website at

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Having A Paris Day

It is all too often that I have days where I yearn for Paris. Today is one of them. It started off this morning when I woke up and the air was filled with fog. Much like a day in Paris, it was overcast. I immediately felt the presence of Paris. I put on one of my favorite self-made French cds and I was gone. It's the song called "Le Festin" by Camille. It doesn't get more French than that with "Le Festin". I suggest you sample listen to this song on itunes.

When I arrived at work I immediately checked the Air France website to see if the tickets RT to CDG were on sale. If you are a Paris lover comme moi, you'd know that CDG is the main airport in Paris called Charles De Gualle.

I adore the way Gwyneth Paltrow looks wearing a yellow coat with red lipstick in Paris. I liked it so much, I had to go out and buy a yellow coat for myself. In the movie, "View From The Top", Gwyneth goes to Paris and is sitting on a bench on the Seine wearing a black beret with a yellow coat and red lipstick. It doesn't get much better than that.

Paris will have to wait for now, I was there only 7 months ago! I am interested in hearing about your Paris/Europe days. What are they like? How do you satisfy your urge for Europe?