Day three of our Parisian vacation was pure magic for me.
Have you read the book or seen the TV movie called Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris? It’s a sweet little novel by Paul Gallico which was published in 1958 in the UK, about a London house maid (charwoman) who, after seeing a client’s Dior haute-couture dresses, becomes determined to own a Dior dress of her own. I empathized with the passion that springs up in Mrs. Harris after seeing Mr. Dior’s handmade confections. I’ve had a life-long love (this word doesn’t seem adequate for the fiery emotion) for fashion and often feel transported to some other exciting, ethereal world when watching the videos of fashion’s reigning kings and queens, such as Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino and Raf Simons for Dior. I’m a modest girl from Utah, though. I was raised by practical, hardworking parents, and the thought of owning Chanel of my own is not a thought I entertained… until I became infected by the Mrs.-‘Arris bug! Mrs. Harris’ determination to own Dior ignited something in me. If a determined charwoman who was far more strapped for cash than me could put her mind to saving for a great dream, then so could I. And, that’s just what I did for over a year, in preparation for our trip to Paris.
Something that I thought about often leading up to day three of our trip, just as Mrs. Harris had, was what does one wear when visiting the house of one of fashion’s greatest? Don’t laugh (too hard), but yes, I did google, “What should one wear when shopping at Chanel?” Interestingly, I learned that a Harvard study had found that women who dressed casually in, say, exercise wear, were treated better than those who arrived dressed to the nines in the best designer goods that their closets had to offer. This caused me more distress than relief. I don’t wear workout apparel to the grocery store… why in the world would I wear it to Chanel? So, I trusted my own fashion instincts and selected a favorite silk blouse I had purchased in Beijing’s 798 Art Zone, a pair of placeless (read inexpensive) black jeggings, and a pair of pristine second-hand Valentino pumps that I purchased from thredUP. Not wanting to tromp in Valentinos all the way to the 1st arrondissement from our 14th neighborhood, we hopped onto the subway — and our adventure began!
I’ll be honest. This Chanel-loving little gal from Utah was *nervous* entering the legendary doors of 31 Rue Cambon. Mademoiselle Chanel’s history is dear to me, and the idea of being in her shop was exhilarating, but this excitement was simultaneously paired with a fear of being out-classed by the wealthy and more experienced Chanel shoppers. This unease was put to rest by the sweet Anne Louise (who I highly recommend if you find yourself shopping at Chanel’s flagship), who helped me to select my treasures.
I was pleased to learn that I had saved more than enough for the iconic 2.55 — Mademoiselle Chanel’s own creation and the handbag she carried herself. As I’ve said before, the history behind the brand is important to me and this item is brimming with Chanel nostalgia. The 2.55 is named as such because it was created by Chanel in February 1955. She was a lifelong lover of horses, and selected a leather that was similar to her saddle blanket (quilted, aged calfskin). The handbag honors all of the details Mademoiselle Chanel selected when creating her own flap bag, including a pocket on the back she could easily slip her hand into to find a few francs for tipping, a zippered sleeve in which she kept letters, a thin compartment for her theater tickets, and a separate maroon-leather lined interior section (because in her later years her eyes began to fail and the lighter leather made it easier to find objects). I selected gold metal (as it’s the original), but the 2.55 is also available in white metal. And… I had enough left over that I picked up another work of art. This one from the newest Métiers d’Art collection, but still a classic in my eyes. I’ll show it to you below in an unboxing!
I had so much fun talking shop and browsing the rooms with Anne Louise that when it was finally time to go and she asked if I would like to stand on *her* stairs (the stairs that Mademoiselle used to sit on, just out of sight, to watch her shows), my heart skipped a beat. Wow. Just, wow. This was the ultimate Mrs.-Harris-finally-made-it-to-Paris moment (!), and I couldn’t have been more grateful for the kind reception Anne Louise gave me.
We wandered up to the Place Vendôme, the area where Mademoiselle Chanel had her first shop — a millinery store. On a high, and with the courage that only holding two Chanel shopping bags can bring, we mustered our courage and entered the doors of CHANEL Fine Jewellery. Words fail me in trying to describe the originality of design and creative use of all sorts of the finest and most beautiful baubles one can imagine. These truly are treasures. If you’re curious to see them in action, many of Chanel’s original fine-jewelry designs are worn by celebrities who gather around roulette tables for pantomime fun while models show off Lagerfeld’s latest masterpiece of a show (click here).
I then slipped on walking shoes and we headed off to the bottom of the Champs-Élysées where we love to eat at a fantastic café called The Grand Corona. Yum! Our journey from here is a circuitous route that eventually led us back to our cozy room in Montparnasse.
Once we were back in our hotel room, it was time to dive into my shopping bags and admire my new treasures.
And that was Mrs. Marvick’s magical day in Paris!
I hope that you have a wonderful weekend!