American in Paris
Saturday, I had planned a celebration for the annual Worldwide Knit in Public Day, but fate had other plans for Mrs. B, because [*GASP!*] Dr. B wanted to go (now brace yourself) SHOPPING! As many women know, getting the husband out to shop is not always a fun proposition. When he works full days at the lab (often staying until 7 PM), and thus never has time during the week to go to the stores, that leaves us with Saturday only, because most shops in France are closed on Sunday (and some on Monday, too.) But Saturday comes along, and Dr. B would rather be holed up in the Hobbit Hutch tapping away on his laptop, watching Dr. Who, reading Bandes-Désinées, or perhaps curled up with a bowl of peanuts and an Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming or Patrick O'Brian novel. So I knew, despite the fact that I had plans, that this opportunity must be seized.
We headed out to the Haussman area, due to the proximity of so many stores we wanted to check out. Dr. B has come to the conclusion that French men's pants are much, much better than their American counterparts, at least for him fit-wise. He is not six foot three, and isn't built like so many hardy Vikings were that settled our home state of North Dakota, so finding pants that don't come up to his armpits and that, if they fit in the waist, do not have room for an entire other person in the legs can be difficult in the USA. French pants are cut for French men who, on average, are shorter and slimmer than for whomever the American companies cut their pants. All of Dr. B's American pants have been relegated to the Red Cross, and we are slowly (as we can afford to) filling his drawers with slimmer cut French pantalons.
We started at Benetton, an Italian store, and had great luck with their cut of trousers. We decided to keep looking and return later if we had decided that these were the ones. After a walk through H&M (where Dr. B nearly had a panic attack--way too many people), and Zara (cut for Spaniards. Dr. B and I? Not Spaniards.) we stopped to get a sandwich, and ate in the park in front of a church nearby. It was hot, and the sun was brutal, so we agreed to head back to Benetton and pick up the pants that he liked. After the successful purchases were made (tan pants, jeans, and a pink/white stripe button down shirt), we stopped in a café for une bière. He was still (unbelievably) in shopping mode, so we hunted for a *Celio to pick up some new things (another button down shirt, short-sleeved, and two t-shirts).
"I know that this is a tough day for you," Dr. B said to me, as we headed back down toward the Boulevard Haussman. "Huh? What do you mean?" I asked.
"Shopping, and not looking at anything for yourself. I know you love to shop," he answered. We discussed the tax refund we were getting, and the payment for some consulting he had done recently. "It must be hard for you, in France," he said, "because the clothes are so beautiful, but so expensive, and all you feel you can afford is the really inexpensive and somewhat ill-fitting tops at H&M or Monoprix." At this point, I vowed not to pinch myself, because the happy daydream I seemed to be living was just too good to be true. "You should get yourself something special, that will always remind you of France, of Paris, and of being a beautiful Parisienne. Something really nice, that fits you really well, and that you love. I want you to, and I insist." Then, he set a budget. A budget for me that was about 400% higher than I would have set for myself.
We headed into Printemps, to look around and get an idea of what I might get. Dr. B waited while I scanned the women's clothing departments. I had an idea of what I would like, partly from some of the movies we've been watching recently (To Catch a Thief, Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much), partly from the designer influences of the last few seasons (I love the full-skirted 1950's inspired designs, and the return to the classic Hitchcock look--a look that does not require Britney Spears abs circa 3 years ago), and partly from one of my favorite guilty pleasure movies, An American in Paris (and I love the music! Did you know it takes 14 different "car horns" to play the piece?) Inspired by these and the A Dress A Day blog, I had a dress in mind, in black and white, with a full skirt, some sort of pattern, and one that I didn't have to "suck in" to look good wearing. I wanted short or no sleeves, and not too fancy, so I could wear it more often.
We hunted high and low, through haute couture and ready-to-wear, but couldn't quite find what we were looking for. Then, I saw it.
Well, almost. The dress was on a mannequin in the Caroll section of Printemps. The lines were perfect, the design was beautiful, the pattern was both printed and then embroidered, but the colors were just a bit off (beige and tan), and they didn't have my size. "If this was black and white, it would be perfect," I said, and chose several other dresses to try on. After a dressing-room goof (where I entered and used a room another lady was still using, but she had left the area and didn't leave her stuff, so I had no idea), I still hadn't found "the one". They either didn't quite fit right, didn't quite "work" with my shape, or felt scratchy to wear. We had nearly given up for the day.
Then, a security guard came by and said no one could leave for five minutes. Apparently, someone had fallen ill and the pompiers (paramedics) needed space to help the person and take her out of the store, so we continued to scan the racks while we waited.
Then I saw it.
The dress. The one on the mannequin, only in black and white. Not my size, but one bigger, that just might fit.
I tried it. It was perfect. I stepped out of the room to show Dr. B, and he said, "That's it." "Do you really think...?" "Yes, it just...pops. It looks great, and you look beautiful and so happy."
Although I haven't narrowed down the choices yet for our 10th anniversary dinner, I know what I am wearing. Une Américaine à Paris with the most wonderful husband in the whole wide world.
PS: I'll get a pic of me in it when I can. Currently I am in my jammies, with bed-head, so please be patient. You really don't want to see me like this, believe me.