Parisian Charm School

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In Parisian Charm School Jamie Cat Callan provides an orientation to the uninitiated to the to élan of Paris. Her lessons on fashion, color, use of voice, flirtation and such explain why the French have such elegance and poise. In addition, she gives the names of tour guides and teachers with businesses that give unique experiences to English speakers.

The book is a fun, breezy read, that gives a romantic look at all things French. It’s far from a complete or sociological look at the City of Lights. I thoroughly enjoyed Callan’s writing, but realize that like any country France has its pros and cons and that a lot of the tours or experiences would be pricey. So remove your rose-colored glasses before you sell your house and move to Paris in search of amour.

Library of Luminaries: Coco Chanel

Similar to the illustrated biography of Jane Austen, Literary Luminaries: Coco Chanel is a delightful biography that provides the main details of Coco Chanel’s life.  Again, charm prevails as delightful illustrations show Chanel’s life from childhood as an orphan to later success with plenty of love affairs along the way.

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It’s a good introduction to the life of the sophisticated, brave woman who pared down fashion, gave us the “Little Black Dress” and quilted purses.

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I’m glad I discovered this book via Farah Shamma’s A BookTube Book channel.

The Collection

I gave Masterpiece’s The Collection a try when it premiered on Sunday. It didn’t take long for me to grow tired of a program where the characters all seemed dark, greedy and selfish. I confess after 10 minutes or so I changed the channel.

The show is about a struggling fashion house in Paris after WWII. The man in the center of the video’s first frame is the jaded, selfish owner of a fashion house is asked by a government official to help France’s fashion industry rise again to its former zenith.  To his left is his reprobate brother who’s a talented designer who’s got substance abuse problems.

I’d much rather PBS brought back The Paradise, where the characters were flawed and faced obstacles, but the heroine was good, though not at all boring. Dark characters like those in House of Cards or The Collection aren’t necessarily fascinating.

If I got the show wrong, and should give it a chance by catching up online, let me know.

Homme Less

 

This documentary follows the life of a fashionable, savvy New York model/photographer who has become homeless. Though he does photo shoots for international fashion magazines, rubs shoulders with the beau monde, and seems to have a fair amount of connections, this middle-aged man has no home. Unbeknownst to his friend who gave him an apartment key, the film’s hero sleeps on his friend’s rooftop. He has a locker at the Y, uses coffee shops as offices (not a bad thing), and somehow manages to look well heeled and even entice young 20-something women into bed. (He’s not mentioning that he’s homeless.)

The film was unique as is the subject, Mark, who had a lot of bravado, and was able to publish photos in a lot of publications. It wasn’t clear why he was homeless. He got checks and made deposits of $50,000 or more. I know that doesn’t go far in New York, but sleeping under a tarp and using an old gallon milk jug for a toilet in January in New York sounds like a horrid way to live. The hero alternated between being interesting, annoying and perplexing. He hasn’t figured out why he’s homeless and I couldn’t either.

The film’s website and promotional materials allude to how this film shows how poverty is encroaching on the middle class. Yet Mark is a talented and resourceful enough guy to have taken a different, less dreamy career path. He could live elsewhere and make enough money to put a roof over his head.

I’m glad I saw the film, but I can’t say it’s a “Must-See.” If you run across it, give it a watch, but don’t go to a lot of trouble to see it.

What to Wear, Teachers

As the new school season approaches, teachers, especially new ones may wonder what to wear to work. I’ve noticed a lot depends on the context. Yet overall, I tend to believe in looking professional. We’re not paid highly in most places so you don’t want to rack up dry cleaning bills so I’d go with pants, skirts and dresses (the last two for women) that are washable cottons or synthetics. I’m also conscious of the weather. Air conditioning isn’t a given everywhere and you don’t want to melt in August. The first week play it safe by going with short sleeves and skirts or dresses that go to the knee. Once you’ve seen how the other teachers dress and note any negative comments made about other teachers, you’ll figure out the norm.

You want the administrators to have a good impression of you so don’t be too rebellious.

If you’re teaching overseas note what the local teachers wear and be as or a little more formal than they are. While in North America some professors wear jeans, in Korea suits and outfits you’d see bankers wear was the norm. In China they’re less formal. Some men wear a nice shirt and pants, while women can wear dresses and skirts. A few would wear athletic clothes, but I would avoid that. We did have some foreign teachers who dressed like they were going to do chores, i.e. they wore an oversized t-shirt and shorts. None of them got a whole lot of respect.

Jeans are popular and can be dressed up. It all depends on what you wear with them. Still I’ve avoided jeans. Gossip is part of teaching and when someone’s writing an evaluation or criticizing they’ll say, “the teacher wears jeans all the time,” not “the teacher wears dark blue jeans with tops from Ann Taylor all the time.” I also figure if I want the profession to earn the sort of salaries business people and lawyers make, why not dress accordingly?

In Muslim countries women’ll probably be told what’s acceptable. Always ask first. In Indonesia most settings are pretty open, but cover your shoulders and knees. At my last setting we sometimes were asked to wear veils. It didn’t seem to be worth the fight for a three week stint, but we were told that the faculty was debating whether or not non-Muslim visitors from overseas should have to cover their hair. Thus a respectful conversation would be fine. What are the guidelines in the Middle East? Comment below if you know.

Below is a fashion take from an American Middle School teacher, who does go more casual some days than I would.

How to Put on Headscarves

As I’ve been in Indonesia for almost two weeks and surrounded by women in hajibs (i.e. headscarves) I wanted to learn more about them. So I found a Dina Tokio tutorial on how they put them on. I never knew about the fabric they use to control their hair under the scarf or the ways they make a bigger bump in the back of their heads.

There’s a seemingly unlimited number of ways to wear them.

Dressing Downton

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The Dressing Downton exhibit has opened in Chicago at the Driehaus Museum. I’d never been to the Driehaus, but the exhibit drew me. In this restored mansion once owned by the Nickerson Family, there’s an exhibit of the costumes featured in PBS’ Masterpiece’s lavish drama Downton Abbey.

This Gilded Age mansion was the perfect venue to see costumes of the same era. With your $25 admission, you get a free audio tour, which enables you to hear not only the descriptions of the rooms, but the stories behind the costumes from the early 20th century. In several cases the costumers would find a vintage dress and embellish or restore what remained of it, which gives the clothes more authenticity.

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My friend and I savoured both the costumes and the house itself so it took about 2 hours to get through the three story house. If you drive down, you can get your parking validated so you wind up paying just $14 for 12 hours parking, which is a real deal in Chicago. The museum is holding several events such as author talks and a viewing party for the series’ finalé. I wish I could attend, but I leave for China tomorrow. Alas.

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