Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I Love Paris!

How quickly the month of June has passed! I thought one month would give me enough time to post about my Paris adventures but surprisingly I'm not even close to being finished. And so, I'll continue to write about Paris but I will also get back to writing about the intersection of fashion, style, art, history and books.

Please watch for a special announcement tomorrow on Canada Day, July 1st.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

La Petite Robe Noire

I have had a long fascination with la petite robe noire (the little black dress). In fact, my very first fashion illustration from age 12 was of a little black dress.

"You can wear black at any hour of day or night, at any age and for any occasion. A little black dress is the most essential thing in any woman's wardrobe. I could write a book about black."
Christian Dior

"Black is both material and colour, shadow and light. It is neither happy nor sad, but bearing and elegance. Perfect and inescapable, it is as irrestable as night."
Christian Lacroix

"You should wear a black dress at all ages. When the little black dress is right, there is nothing else."
Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor

I wrote down the above quotes on the exhibition pamphlet from a 2004 display of little black dresses in Toronto. La Petite Robe Noire presented 54 little black dresses from Didier Ludot's private collection of vintage couture and included labels such as Chanel, Lucien Lelong, Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, Azzadine Alaia, John Galliano and others.

Of course, when I was in Paris in May, I had to visit Didier Ludot's vintage shops at the Palais Royale. Didier Ludot has an extensive collection of vintage couture, not all of which is black!

Photo credit: Ingrid Mida, 2009

As well, he has a storage facility packed with the most beautiful gowns, some of which he has made available to museums for display. I was quite taken with this lovely pink gown by Dior.

Photo credit: Ingrid Mida, 2009

I have many little black dresses in my closet but one of my favourites is this one from Didier Ludot's private label. It was a prototype dress (made as a sample for production) and was a little too big when I wore it for a dinner in Paris. I basted the side seems on the top and used a ribbon from a Dior gift bag for my belt! (Notice my "purse" on the stool nearby which is actually my toiletry bag!)

If you cannot make it to Paris to visit Didier Ludot's shops at the Palais Royale, you might want to pick up a copy of his Assouline book "The Little Black Dress, Vintage Treasure" (New York, 2001).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Chair Gallery at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs

Chairs can have incredible personality.
Their lines and shapes can be as expressive as a haute couture dress. While visiting the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, I was enchanted by their extensive collection of chairs.

The chair, which can be either an instrument of comfort or torture, conveyed the status of the person who was invited to or allowed to sit in it. For example, in the 18th century, there was a rigid protocol in the French court for who was allowed to sit in the presence of royalty.

Over time, stylistic trends in chairs have evolved to reflect the societal, political and aesthetic morays of any given period. Those types of changes were beautifully displayed in the Musee des Arts Decoratifs chair gallery.

Throughout the museum, there were many interesting examples of unusual chairs including this terribly uncomfortable looking Medevial chair dated 1540-1560 from Florence.

This set of chairs were also dated to the 16th century and were chairs designed for Fountainbleu using Italian artisans brought to France by Francoise I.

Photo credits: Ingrid Mida, 2009

The Musee des Arts Decoratifs is filled with eclectic treasures including jewelery, glass, ceramics, furniture, and other ornamental and decorative objects. The Musee de la Mode et du Textile is housed in the same facility but was not open during my visit.

Musee des Arts Decoratifs
Palais du Louvre
107 Rue de Rivoli

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Le Grand Monde d'Andy Warhol

Being a huge fan of Andy Warhol's work, I could not miss seeing the exhibition "Le Grand Monde d'Andy Warhol" in Paris. Even on a Sunday night, the exhibition was packed with people but that did not stop me from taking a close look at the many gems on display. I was astonished at how many celebrities he captured. There were rooms and rooms of portraits and it felt like a walk back in time.

Seeing this exhibition prompted me to finally undertake an Andy Warhol style portrait. (Something I've wanted to do for ages but never got around to). This is a portrait that I made of my friend Laura. It is her birthday today and although she doesn't know it yet, this will be her present! Happy Birthday Laura!

Portrait of Laura by Ingrid Mida, copyright 2009

Le Grand Monde d'Andy Warhol
March 18 to July 13, 2009
Grand Palais, Champs Elysees, Paris France

P.S. It is also Josephine Bonaparte's birthday today and Lucy at Enchanted by Josephine is having a party. Joy at Cupid's Charm made a beautiful necklace for the Josephine blog-giveaway. Join the fun by visiting these two delightful blogs!!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Musee Christian Dior: Les Annees Bohan

Marc Bohan for Christian Dior Pink Dress, Sketch by Ingrid Mida, copyright 2009

Marc Bohan designed for the house of Dior for nearly thirty years. Bohan began as an assistant at Dior in 1946 and later ran the London England branch of the house. After Yves Saint Laurent was dismissed from Dior in 1961, Marc Bohan took over the duties as designer. Bohan's collections for Dior were known for their quiet elegance and dedication to the ideal of "la beaute des femmes".

In May 1989, Bohan was replaced at Dior by Gianfranco Ferre and went on to become the fashion director of Norman Hartnell from 1990-1992. After that, he designed only under his own label. Monsieur Bohan graciously wrote a preface to the exhibition pamphlet in which he said (if my translation is correct) "my only ambition was always to justify the confidence credited to me".

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, Musee Christian Dior in Granville, France is exhibiting a retrospective of Bohan's work for Dior called "Dior, Les Annees Bohan 1961-1989". Encompassing three floors of Christian Dior's childhood home, the exhibition is packed with beautiful gowns (including a number worn by Princess Grace of Monaco), pantsuits, coats and accessories,

Floorplan of the exhibition

Unfortunately, there was no exhibition catalogue and photos were not allowed. However, I managed to make one mad sketch of my favourite Bohan for Dior dress which I think was in the room of gowns worn by Princess Caroline of Monaco. This hot pink number sang to me and I think its timeless elegance would make it wearable even today!

This exhibition will continue to September 20, 2009.

Musee Christian Dior
50400 Granville, France

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Musee Christian Dior in Granville, France

Photo credit: Ingrid Mida, copyright 2009

As a tribute to Father's Day, I thought I'd share my photos from Christian Dior's rose garden in Granville, France. My father was a devoted gardener and the vision of his pretty little rose garden will always be with me. (Sadly, I did not inherit my father's green thumb!)

Christian Dior's home, which is perched on the cliffs overlooking the ocean, is now a museum (and one of the museums on my bucket list). Each summer, the museum hosts an exhibition and this year, Marc Bohan's thirty years of designs for the house of Dior are chronicled. (Sorry, no photos were allowed inside.)

The grounds were stunningly beautiful and included several lovely garden rooms, filled with the heady scent of roses. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Granville, you'll understand why Christian Dior made the long trek from Paris back to his boyhood home as often as his schedule allowed. Dior's rose garden is what I imagine heaven is like.

Photo credit: Ingrid Mida, copyright 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sculptures in Les Jardins des Tuileries

As I write this, it is a beautiful sunny day just as it was on the day I took these photos in Les Jardins des Tuileries in Paris. Unlike that day, I have work to do.

But looking at my photos of Paris takes me back there and far away from my to-do lists.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Galerie Myrna Myers

It can be intimidating to walk in some galleries, especially in Paris, but that is not the case at Galerie Myrna Myers. Myrna and her husband are the friendliest gallery owners I've ever met and are happy to share their extensive knowledge about Oriental textiles, ceramics and works of art with visitors to their chic gallery in the 7th arrondisement of Paris.

Myrna talked at length about the items in her gallery, describing the main differences between Chinese, Japanese and Tibetan robes and other textiles that she collects and sells. While all the textiles were incredibly beautiful, I was most interested in the Japanese kimonos. I once made a series of miniature kimonos and I've been reluctant to display or sell them because I did not understand the symbolism inherent in their decoration. Myrna assured me that almost every type of object was portrayed on fabric used in kimonos. I especially liked her description of the kimono as "poems to wear".

I was struck by Myrna's incredible passion for Oriental textiles, especially the story of how she turned her passion into a career. Her extensive collection of Chinese textiles resulted in a book called "Silks for Thrones and Altars", co-authored with John E. Vollmer, a curator of textiles at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Myrna inscribed the book for me and encouraged me to "keep working on my Japanese inspirations". I have so much inspiration and so little time. If only there were 30 hours in a day and/or I had an apprentice!!!!

Galerie Myrna Myers
11 rue de Beaune
Paris 75007
01 42 61 11 08

Monday, June 15, 2009

Shopping for Fabric in Paris

Fabric shopping in Paris was a huge priority for me. I knew I wanted to buy some toile de jouey fabric for my artwork and also to make some luscious decorative pillows and other items.

As luck would have it, the fabric district was only a metro ride and a transfer away to get to the artsy hood of Montmarte. I had been told that there were two huge fabric stores just to the right of the Bascilica Sacre Coure and as I followed the crowds of tourists up the hill, I detoured into a few of the smaller fabric shops along the way.

And then I hit mecca - two huge fabric stores across from each other each with four floors of the most gorgeous fabrics imaginable at Tissus Reine and Marche St. Pierre. I had to force myself to focus on what I came for and not get distracted by all the other lovely fabric possibilities. I ran up and down the stairs of both stores surveying all that was available before returning to Tissus Reine and buying heaps of fabric!!!

I don't regret my pretty purchases now, but as I was dragging my heavy load on the subway, I'd wondered what I'd done. I haven't yet had time to focus on creating some beautiful new art, pillows and aprons, but that is the next thing on my to-do list.

Tissus Reine
3 and 5 Place St. Pierre
Paris 01 46 06 02 31

Marche St. Pierre
Across the street from Tissus Reine

Metro stop: Anvers

P.S. If you are purchasing a lot of fabric and you wish to reclaim duty at the airport, you must tell the shop keeper in advance of your purchase!!!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Les Fleurs en Les Jardins des Tuileries

One of my favourite things to do on a sunny day in Paris is stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries, the former gardens of the old Palais des Tuileries.

These formal gardens run parallel to the River Seine from the Louvre to the Champs-Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe. The royal gardener Andre Le Notre, royal gardener to Louis XIV, who also created the gardens of Versailles, created the original landscaping design. An extensive renovation and replanting of the Tuileries in recent years incorporated a striking mix of contemporary and classical sculpture.

Photo credits: Ingrid Mida copyright 2009

I was quite taken with this little patch of brilliant purple irises. They brought to mind Van Gogh's magnificent iris paintings as well as Yves Saint Laurent's exquisite embroidered and beaded iris evening jacket (Tribute to Van Gogh, summer 1988 collection).

Photo by Francois Gandier in Lesage by Lydia Kamitsis, published by Assouline 1999

Photo from Yves Saint Laurent Style Published by Abrams, New York, 2008

According to the book on Lesage, Les Iris de Van Gogh jacket took 600 hours of work to complete and includes 250000 paillettes in 22 colours, 200000 beads and 250 metres of ribbon!!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Musee Picasso

The news of the theft of a Pablo Picasso sketchbook from the Musee Picasso yesterday sent shivers down my spine. Although I don't specifically recall seeing the sketchbook with a red cover valued at $12.4 million during my visit, it was shocking nonetheless, especially since no alarms were set off in the museum and there were no signs of a break-in. This magnificent collection of Picasso's work is housed in a former mansion located in the Marais district of Paris and its out of the way location means that it is usually not crowded. (Could that be one of the reasons the thieves targeted this museum?)

The entire museum is devoted to the works of Picasso and includes more than 250 paintings, 180 sculptures and 1,500 drawings. The pieces were acquired by France upon the death of the prolific artist in lieu of death duties. I'd hazard a guess that no other museum in the world can rival this collection of Picasso works.

There is a charming cafe in the garden where you can feast your eyes on this amusing goat sculpture.

I've been a long time admirer of Picasso's work. The energy, creativity and genius that he demonstrated in his lifetime is unparalleled.

Photo credits: Ingrid Mida

Musee Picasso
5 Rue de Thorigny
01 42 71 25 21
Metro: St-Sebastien.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fastes de Cour et Ceremonies Royales, Le costume de Cour en Europe 1650-1800

There are only 18 days left to see the exhibition of Costumes of the Court and Royal Ceremonies in Europe 1650-1800 at Chateau Versailles.

This stunningly beautiful exhibition took my breath away. Never have I seen so much opulence and beauty in one place. The grandeur of the exquisite beading, sparkling jewels, intricate embroidery and rich fabrics on display cannot be described.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the influence of French fashion was widespread across Europe. Many of the royal courts of Europe ordered their ceremonial dress from Parisian suppliers. And unlike the French court who abandoned their wardrobes of one year to the officers and ladies that served them, the courts in Sweden, Denmark and the region of Saxony systematically preserved royal garments linked to key moments in their reigns. The bulk of what is shown in this exhibition at Versailles has been loaned by the museums in these countries and supplemented by loans from the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Hermitage, the Pitti Palace, the Louvre, Musee Galleria de la Mode de la ville de Paris and private collectors. There are also many paintings on display to provide context to the exhibition of costumes and jewelery. In total, there are over 200 items on exhibit.

The exhibition encompasses seven rooms:
1. French royal costume - a gallery of portraits of all the kings of the senior branch of the Bourbons, including Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI

2. The coronation and the royal orders - a display of the coronation clothes including the grand habit worn for the coronation of Sophie Madeleine on May 29, 1772 in Sweden

3. Weddings and State ceremonies - a showcase that includes the wedding clothes of Danish Princess Sophie Madleine to crown prince Gustav III of Sweden on November 4, 1766

4. The grand habit - examples of the grand costume for a lady's official presentation to the king and queen which included a very rare (but amusing) doll mannequin

5. Religious pomp - a gallery of religious costumes worn by church officials

6. The king's day - a presentation of kings' dressing gowns and hunting attire

7. Fashion and court costume - a display showcasing the influence of fashion on court dress which includes the gown owned by the Royal Ontario Museum.

I had the pleasure of being guided through the exhibition by curator Pascale Gorguet Ballesteros. The depth of her knowledge and her passion for her work left me in awe.

Having the privilege to meet with the curator and others like her on my trip gave me a new-found respect for the challenges faced by museum staff. I now have a better appreciation of their desire to protect these priceless treasures and guard their copyright. No photos were allowed in the exhibition. I purchased the catalogue (even though it was only available in French) which is 278 pages of beauty and well worth the 52 Euro cover price if you can locate a copy. (I purchased mine at the Louvre bookshop and it may still be available from the Chateau Versailles website.)

The following three photos were provided to me as part of the press kit associated with the exhibition. I can attest to the fact that the photos do not really convey the magnificence of the clothing on display.

The last photo is of the gown owned by the Royal Ontario Museum that has been attributed to Rose Bertin, marchandes des modes for Marie Antoinette. The dress was displayed from the back to showcase the beautiful embroidery on the train. Shown adjacent to the dress was a sample of 18th century embroidery located in an archive from an atelier in Lyon. The emblematic peacock feathers and floral motifs favoured by Marie Antoinette which are on the dress matches that of the embroidery sample!

This grand exhibition will close on June 28, 2009. For more information visit http://fastesdecour.chateauversailles.fr/index_en.html#/en/exposition

Monday, June 8, 2009


The palace of Versailles defies description. Its opulence, grandeur and magnificence cannot really be conveyed through words or photos. I have been to Versailles three times and I still feel like I've not seen it all.

Although the palace is closed on Mondays for maintenance, the grounds are open to visitors. It was easier for me to imagine what it might have been like for Marie Antoinette to walk the grounds when there were fewer people around.

Photo credits: Ingrid Mida, 2009

I highly recommend the book "Versailles, Biography of a Palace" by Tony Spawforth (which I reviewed on May 25, 2009). As well, "Marie Antoinette and the Last Garden of Versailles" by Christian Duvernois and Francois Halard is hauntingly beautiful with photos of the gardens as they exist today (which I reviewed on April 7, 2009).

P.S. I know many of you have been patiently waiting for my post on the court costume exhibition "Fastes de Cour et Ceremonies Royales". I promise to post it tomorrow.

01 30 83 78 00

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Window Shopping in Paris

John Galliano
384-386 rue St. Honore
Paris 75001
01 55 35 40 40

31 rue Cambon
Paris 75001
01 42 86 28 00

Anne Fontaine
370 Rue St. Honore
75001 Paris
01 42 96 51 14

Friday, June 5, 2009

Postcards from Fondation Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent

Photo credit: Duane Michals for Metropolitan Museum of Art

Whenever I travel, I purchase postcards as mementos. When I wrote yesterday's post about Fondation Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent, I forgot (in my jet-lagged and disoriented state) that I'd purchased a stack of cards in the boutique.

The first postcard showcases six Russian-inspired dresses from the fall-winter 1976-77 collection. After having been to the show "Le costume populaire russe", I can see the influence of the voluptuous silks, rich colours, intricate beading and elaborate head-wear of traditional Russian costumes on these YSL gowns.

Photo credit: Duane Michals for the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Yves Saint Laurent also took inspiration from other cultures including Africa. The four dresses above from the YSL spring-summer 1967 collection were African inspired.

Photo credit: Duane Michals for the Metropolitan Museum of Art

And lastly, this postcard features YSL with three of his artist inspired creations, including the Mondrian dress (1965-66), the Matisse dress (1981-82) and the Picasso dress (1979-80).

Yves Saint Laurent revisited these inspirations many times over the course of his career. If you are as passionate about his work as I am, you'll want to (re)read the following posts:

Quotes from Yves Saint Laurent (June 3, 2008)
Lessons from Yves Saint Laurent (June 7, 2008)
YSL Retrospective at the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal (June 10, 2008)
Book Review: The Beautiful Fall, Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fondation Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent

Photo credit: Ingrid Mida, 2009

After writing extensively about Yves Saint Laurent after his death last June and after seeing the magnificent retrospective of his work at the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal last summer, I made it a priority to go to the Fondation Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent in Paris. (To read all my posts related to YSL, please click on the YSL on the blog archive sidebar).

Currently on display is an exhibition called "Le Costume Populaire Russe" which showcases a collection of Russian costumes from Le Musee Ethnographique de la Russie. The exhibition opened on March 18 and will continue to August 30, 2009.

Yves Saint Laurent took inspiration from the colourful, heavily embroidered and beaded garments of traditional Russian costumes. In particular, the YSL collection for Fall and Winter 1976 drew on Russian influences and he was acclaimed by the fashion press for the revolutionary nature (International Herald Tribune) and luxurious extravagence (NY Times) of the collection. Sadly, only one YSL outfit inspired by Russia was included in the display.

Photos were not allowed in the exhibition and I madly sketched these three costumes in 10 minutes. They are rough sketches but I think they convey the spirit of what I saw (if only I'd brought along some coloured pencils!).

Sketch by: Ingrid Mida, 2009

Sketch by: Ingrid Mida

Sketch by: Ingrid Mida, 2009

On my way out, I popped into the boutique and picked up the exhibition catalogue (only available in French). It does not include the costumes I sketched but will help me remember the magnificent colours and intricate beading when I attempt to work up these sketches into finished drawings.

Exhibition Catalogue edited by: Nicolas Beytout
Cover Photo by: Dominique Cohas

Published by: Societe Francaise de Promotion Artistique 2009

Fondation Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent
3, rue Leonce-Reynaud
75116 Paris
01 44 31 64 31
Metro: Alma-Marceau