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Place de la Bastille, Paris by Barbara Redmond

Place de la Bastille, Paris by Barbara Redmond

Wellies. Gummies. Barn boots.

For mucking about the roses or following the riders astride a horse, who trail the hounds that chase the fox.

My dashing old Hunters, a radish-ing pair, — flamboyant with images of peas, carrots, cabbages and radishes, — wait for me at my daughter’s home where I prune the roses, walk through the barn, or follow the fox hunt.

Muckboots indeed, but Wellingtons on the streets of Paris?

Must be girls from England or Boston’s North Shore, I thought.

A familiar and fashionable sight with the horsey set in New England and Northern regions, mid-calf boots worn when walking on wet or muddy ground, often made of rubber, generally just below the knee or shorter with low cut heels. These “green Wellies,” introduced by Hunter in 1955, had become abbreviations for the “country life,” or for those of us who wanted to be considered country denizens. Rubber boots worn by fisherman and those clamming for steamers on the fine sandy shores of the Atlantic.

In Paris, could they be Australians in their Blücher boots, New Zealanders in gummies, or Canadian girls who wear their billy boots to school or take them to summer camp?

Last January, during Paris Fashion Week’s 2011 Spring/Summer Haute-Couture Collections, I saw one young woman on the stone slab sidewalk, invitation in hand, waiting to enter French fashion designer Maxime Simoëns’ catwalk show. She was wearing Wellies, mid-calf in lavender plaid. Her rubber country boots out of context in Paris, but worn among the trendy la branchée of the Left Bank, adhering to le look intello (intellectual); the cutting-edge look found in the trendiest clubs — l’avant garde — with their daring hair colors and attention-getting accessories; and la BCBG, (bon chic bon genre) the woman of the Right Bank, Neuilly, the sixteenth arrondissement; and everything outrageous from around the world in between. I loved it!

Once inside Maxime’s show, I seized a slot near the swarm of photographers and noticed a second young woman in green Wellies searching for a spot in my direction. I whisked to a fresh page in my red leather sketchbook scribbled with notes and marked: Note to self:  barn boots, Hunter’s. Sketch 1. Sketch 2. Green. Lavender, plaid.

Rule of Five:

I was chasing the fox, in Paris, that is. Two noted. (Three Wellies to go if I’m spot-on.)

The day after Maxime’s show, I walked boulevard Beaumarchais, the hip street near Le Marais in the third arrondissement, to get a café at a favorite stop. Like most Januarys in Paris, it was cold, wet and damp. Backtracking on Beaumarchais on my way to the train station, Gare de Lyon, I glanced across the puddly boulevard at a well-dressed woman clothed in a pair of glossy-black rubber country boots. Hunters? Unmistakable! I yanked open my little red book and scrawled: Three Wellies.

Waiting on a bench in Gare de Lyon, the sixth largest railway terminal in Paris, I saw a college girl in polka dot Wellies reading a text. Soon after, as I walked to my track, I passed another girl in more plaid Wellies at the far end of the station. Rule of Five…

On extended stays in Paris, I’ve seen trends take hold. French sailor jerseys: waves of blue and white stripes shifting in the Paris breeze; each wave like a cat-paw on the surface of the ocean, now dark, now light, now gone. Iconic frames: Ray-Ban Wayfarer from the mid-1950s; and Shuron’s RonSir, worn by Malcom X and JFK, an authentic original piece from the 1960s restored by RetroSpecs & Co., and available back in Minneapolis at Specs Optical.

When I returned to Paris ten days later, Hunter boots were infiltrating through the streets in every color and print imaginable. Still, the Parisienne never tried to fit in. Daring, carrying herself confidently, with her own inbred style, she moved quickly through the city, hardly disturbing its surface, with a slight breeze that riffled through her hair. La Parisienne in Wellies; as sexy and seductive as ever.

Rule of Five: Street trends

We have our Rule of Five, my two daughters and I. Street trends.

Mother, flip-flops in Grand Central Terminal this morning on the train ride in to work. Five. Businesswomen – no fresh pedicures… Gotta go.”

Mother, vintage rhinestone broaches. Five. Today on ‘The T,’ Boylston Street and in ‘The Common.’ Do we have Great Grandma’s costume jewelry? Send it, please!”

The Rule of Five is our take from the Times Style column, “On the Street,” by Bill Cunningham, a photojournalist who chronicles fashion and humanity on the streets of New York for The New York Times. A regular contributor to the Times since the 1980s, Bill has seen it all. We adore his work! (“On the Street,” Cunningham’s video column, can be viewed on The New York Times website.)

January 20th I will attend the fashion exhibit, Character in Costume: A Jack Edwards Retrospective, running January 21 – May 20 at the Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota. The exhibit features highlights from Edwards’ remarkable fifty-year career from Minneapolis, to New York City, to Los Angeles and Santa Fe. I will hold in my mind’s-eye our Rule of Five, and discreetly scribble on my cocktail napkin what catches my eye.

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. Coco Chanel (1883-1971) French fashion designer whose pursuit of simplicity made her an important 20th-century figure in fashion and founder of the brand, Chanel.

Paris Fashion Week: Haute-Couture 2012 Spring/Summer runway shows are January 23-26, 2012.

You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris™ blog post, Fashion crashing: Paris Haute-Couture, about my experience crashing Maxime Simoëns haute-couture catwalk show during Paris Fashion Week for the 2011 Spring/Summer Collections. (I expect to be back in July, for Maxime’s 2012-2013 Autumn/Winter Haute-Couture Collection.)

Don’t think. Just maneuver toward the cameras. Dodge the celebrities and reporters, I told myself. Don’t Stop! I had January 26 in Paris, but no invitation, to pull all sorts of strings and do whatever I could to get into a collection. I’ve never even crashed a wedding, let alone an haute-couture show. “Go for it!” said my friend Sally.

A Woman’s Paris™ recommends: Fashion picks

Francis Klein, Opticien Créateur, Paris. A small shop on rue Bonaparte, where the family-run business offers bespoke eyeglass frames of unparalleled quality and originality. A special product in limited quantities.

Specs Optical, Minneapolis, MN, USA. A small shop offering eyewear products they love and trust. Whose customers have a passion for style, architecture and commitment to their vision.

Le Chameau USA / Nordstrom. Established in France in 1927. Boots are handcrafted with the highest quality materials available. Worn by the Brits and a staple of the Royals. We adore the Vierzon Lady.

AIGLE Boots. Established in France in 1853 by the American Hiram Hutchinson stands for uncompromising quality combined with superb design and craftsmanship.

Hunter Boots USA. Hunter has moved from being a Scottish company with a predominantly British clientele to being a truly global brand. Hunter has receive The Royal Warrants of Appointment as suppliers of waterproof footwear to HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

Lightbox.time.com. Featuring Bill Cunningham New York.

Street-Fashion.net Street style photos, listings and news and generally awesome street fashion culture.

Street Peeper.com  Global street fashion and street style photo site featuring the best street styles from around the globe. Street fashion from cities like New York, Berlin, Paris, London, Tokyo, and more.

Street Style – Street Fashion – Street Chic on Elle.com At Elle.com you can see the hottest street styles from around the globe. Get a look at street chic fashion from New York to London.

Character in Costume: A Jack Edwards Retrospective. January 21 – May 20, 2012 Goldstein Museum of Design, College of Design, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

“This exhibition will feature dozens of refined costume sketches, photographs, press clippings, playbills, reviews, and 30 actual costumes designed by Edwards. In a diverse 50-year career that included New York City, Santa Fe, Hollywood, and Minneapolis, Edwards (a master costume designer) designed memorable costumes for solo performers, opera, Broadway plays, television, Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater, Hollidazzle Parade, and Dayton’s holiday events. In the hands of a designer such as Edwards, a performer’s stage identity is made visible through costume, hair, and accessories, so that the character he or she portrays is understood by the audience.” — The Goldstein Museum of Design

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Text copyright ©2012 Barbara Redmond
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond
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