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Both Somebody and Nobody in Basic Black

Better late than never. Within a day of closing, I finally got a chance to see Christian Boltanski’s “Monumenta 2010” exhibit at the Grand Palais. You’ve probably already read lots about it in other media as I had, but wanted to experience it for myself. “Personnes” is the title of the installation — a French word meaning both “somebodies” and “nobodies.”

Old friend, compatriot oyster-lover, master story-teller and blogger, Geraldine Kaylor, wrote in her “Travel Oyster” blog: “Immersing myself in the installation, I walked back and forth contemplating the profound questions wordlessly posed by this monumental exhibit. I must admit, however, that every now and then, my attention was grabbed by a particularly attractive coat or sweater. Could I just take one? They belong, after all, to everyone and, at the same time, to nobody.”

(To read the entire Travel Oyster article and follow the blog, click here: )

Geraldine happens to be a master thrift-store shopper who boasts of her $2 finds worth 100 times that. So, one could see how all those coats and sweaters lying in perfect M.C. Escher formations and the mountain of garments in constant redistribution would be appealing to her sense of a bargain clothing adventure.

I must admit, I didn’t have the same fantasy, but instead, wanted to wash them, hang them and then donate them to the needy. Then suddenly, the urge came upon me to go shopping for something new. In fact, it dawned on me that I had totally missed an opportunity to find a bargain or two during the Winter “soldes” (sales) and how a Parisian wardrobe is more than complete with just a few basics: black slacks, black skirt, black turtleneck (maybe a red one, too, for a little color), black boots, black tights, black jacket (lightweight), black coat (wool and warm), scarf (any color), black gloves, beret (any color as long as it matches the scarf)…and of course, a small but important collection of lacy lingerie (black, of course) to wear under it all.

With just these few items, one can be “une personne” and be “somebody” or “nobody,” a

s she chooses.

Sunday afternoon, after downing a dozen oysters, Geraldine accompanied me on a small shopping spree in my favorite shop in Paris. It’s a small boutique that exists where a “Bagelry” once was on rue de Turenne (just north of rue des Francs-Bourgeois) named “Nina Kendosa.” At the back of the shop is a mirrored wall with water cascading down it making a stunning impression and giving the illusion of an expensive boutique. Instead, good quality knit dresses range from 25€ to 40€ and accessories are as inexpensive as 5€.

This one boutique along with a basic black wardrobe will take you far with a thrift-store budget. I walked out with three dresses: one black, one red and one blue, all for 79€. (Nina Kendosa boutiques are also located at 87 rue Mouffetard, 5th; 2 rue de Buci, 6th and 46 rue des Abbesses, 18th.)

On the fashionable rue Saint-Honoré last night, a clever display in the window at “Cotélac” sported magnifying circles on the window making their displayed boots larger than life to the naked eye. Again, they were appealing for their basicness — an addition to a Parisian wardrobe that can be worn until they wear out, but not for lack of style. I was certain they wouldn’t fit Geraldine’s idea of a bargain, but I vowed to return when the shop was open to further satisfy the urge for something new…and basic.

At the end of that evening with friends laughing hysterically to taped TV episodes of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” I got on the Métro and looked around at what people were wearing. Yep, you got it. Basic black and lots of basic black boots.

It was a far cry from the fashions worn by RuPaul’s drag queens! But, it was Paris, after all.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

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P.S. “Le Saint Tropez” and “La Brigitte” are finally making progress! The terrazzo tile is being laid, the aqua glass blocks are getting installed and the painted trompe l’oeil mural by artist Sheila Kern will be pasted to the wall this week. The two apartments with terrace and air conditioning will be ready for rental as of April 1st! If you’re willing to one of the first to enjoy it, visit Parler Paris Apartments Le Saint Tropez and book your stay now!


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