What could be more romantic than to spend Valentine's Day in Paris with the one you love? February is not the most pleasant month to wander the massive boulevards and people watch while seated at an outdoor café, but it's Paris, and the airfare was a bargain at $340.00 round trip.
It had been nearly three years since my last rendezvous with this city I love, and by all accounts, the weather was going to cooperate for our six-night stay. The yellow vest protests that had captured headlines the last 17 weeks were somewhat quiet—although there was military presence on the Champs Elysees and station closures on the Metro lines during the weekend.
Valentine's Day morning we made our way to the lingerie department of Galeries Lafayette across from the Opera House. Why I thought this would be a good idea is curious, since shopping for underwear is not one of my favorite activities, especially with a husband at my side. But my need for functional undergarments outweighed my reason.
The Lingerie Department covers the entire 4th floor of the Galeries Lafayette’s famed atrium and offers lines from all over the world, including La Perla, Chantelle, Guia La Bruna and even Playtex. Over 11,000 square feet of delicate merchandise is hung to perfection in colored areas of blue/purple (Fashion Trends), pink (Luxury Design and Contemporary Styles) and red (Tights and Socks). There are 50 dressing rooms with adjustable lighting and plenty of expert staffing to make the experience, well… palpable. After spending what seemed an eternity roaming the isles and disagreeing about what constitutes underwear, we left the store in search of good Bordeaux, and a conversation about function and fantasy.
French designer Jean Paul Gaultier's fascination with undergarments is well documented, starting as a child when he fashioned a cone-shaped brassiere for his teddy bear, Nana. Fast forward to Paris 2019, with the opening of Jean Paul Gaultier’s Fashion Freak Show at the Folies-Bergère. We were fortunate to get tickets to this musical revue/fashion show based on the designer's life and work. It has been described as eccentric, scandalous, provocative, exuberant and funny. Although it was performed in French, there were unmistakable references through the runway, music, costuming and dance to Josephine Baker, Anna Wintour, Madonna, Rocky Horror Picture Show and Nana the teddy bear.
The production uses film and video cameos of Gaultier's long time friends and supporters such as Catherine Deneuve, who reads the hysterical names that Gaultier gave the creations in his men’s couture show of the early 90s. The strapping he-men wore bustled ball gowns with off-the-shoulder bodices as part of the androgynous movement. It was a look that was recently seen on the red carpet at the Academy Awards, by designer Christian Siriano.
As an impressionable little boy, Jean Paul watched a broadcast from Paris’s legendary Folies Bergère on a black and white TV. The production’s scantily clad performers in their glittering costumes and feather headdresses had a profound effect on the future designer: it was his dream to be a part of this magical world.
It has been my continued dream to be able to witness the world’s great beauty, in fashion, architecture, food and people. Paris never disappoints, except maybe in the underwear department.