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Made in France: The Toronto Edition

Let's prance! However, don't forget to gaze up at the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Let’s prance! However, don’t forget to gaze up at the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Pack your binoculars! September Issue featuring Christian Dior at Holt Renfrew, 1951 (Vogue, Theadora Brack's Collection)

Pack your binoculars! September Issue featuring Christian Dior at Holt Renfrew, 1951 (Vogue, Theadora Brack’s Collection)

By Princess Theadora

Bonjour! Bonne Année!

Rocking a New Me for the New Year—this week, I’m taking you to the 70th anniversary Christian Dior exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. That’s right, we’re going slink along the icy Mink Mile (faux, please) in the breath-taking Queen City. So grab my pearl-studded mitten. Grab your girdle, too!

Curated by Dr. Alexandra Palmer, the show shines a bright spotlight on 38 wasp-waisted wonders, advertisements, sketches, and photographs, along with endless catwalk clips from Paris and Toronto fashion shows. After a few spins around the rebelliously boned and flared showstoppers, I could hardly breathe from excitement.

“Give me your A, H, and Y-shaped silhouettes, Monsieur Dior! Tulip, too! Bring it!” I squeaked, suddenly feeling the polyester seams in my own nipped-waist blazer by Zara working overtime.

The mind reels! Whilst imagining the logistics of the tight maneuvering, rib-popping squeeze into one of the vintage Christian Dior numbers, then and there I pledged to self never, ever to feast on another half-dozen cookies, or at least not in one sitting. But luckily for all the bakers in world, my one-hour resolution was just a passing fancy. #Gottobeme

Does your eye spy the Holt Renfrew store on Bloor?  ( Postcard: T. Brack’s collection, 1950s)

Does your eye spy the Holt Renfrew store on Bloor?  ( Postcard: T. Brack’s collection, 1950s)

More squeal

Most of the “New Look” Dior dresses in the exhibition were donated by Toronto socialites, and scored at the Holt Renfrew department store during the 1950s.

At the time, the shop president Alvin J. Walker had not only just signed a five-year license for the exclusive rights to sell Dior in Canada, but he also got the Botanist Couturier to pop by Holt Renfrew at the launch of the new flagship on Bloor Street with romp and circumstance. No expense was too great. Models from Paris were even flown in for the extra-extravaganza.

“Christian Dior is NOW in Canada, ONLY at Holt Renfrew!” roared the headlines.

Wings of Desire: Silk organza two-piece garden party dress with silk satin sash: Avril from the Ailée Spring-Summer Collection by Christian Dior, 1955 (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Wings of Desire: Silk organza two-piece garden party dress with silk satin sash: Avril from the Ailée Spring-Summer Collection by Christian Dior, 1955 (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

New Look: Ligne Parfaite

The fashion forward executive also sent his fleet of buyers to the City of Light’s fashion weeks throughout the year to scoop up haute couture goodies by Pierre Balmain, Jacques Fath, and Jacques Griffe. Front row seating, no doubt. During the nifty fifties, Holt Renfrew was a Paradise Found for any Toronto-based Francophile.

What’s so funny about global love, peace, and passion for fashion? Absolutely nothing. In fact, France showed its appreciation for their mutual cooperation in 1963 by making Alvin J. Walker a Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur. It was an international win-grin.

A Celanese acetate satin showstopper: Palmyre from the Profilée Autumn-Winter Collection by Christian Dior, 1952 (the Duchess of Windsor wore a similar design, Photograph by Theadora Brack)

A Celanese acetate satin showstopper: Palmyre from the Profilée Autumn-Winter Collection by Christian Dior, 1952 (the Duchess of Windsor wore a similar design, Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Visiting Toronto?

The Christian Dior exhibition is scheduled to run through the 18th of March 2018. Don’t miss it.

Because, as the late, great designer Dior himself once put it, “In this machine age, which esteems convention and uniformity, fashion is the ultimate refuge of the human, the personal, and the inimitable. Even the most outrageous innovations should be welcomed, if only because they shield us against the shabby and the humdrum!”

I completely agree. And the more outrageous, the better. So wear your heart on both puffy sleeves. #Beextra #Bekindtoo

Now, let’s take a gander at a few of my favorites among the fancy dresses.

Bonne Année!

(I dedicate this post to my two Toronto WordPress friends, Virginia and Alexander.)

Fire up the grill, sparky! Silk organza Avril is the perfect garb for a shindig in the winter, spring, summer, or fall, in my book (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Fire up the grill, sparky! Silk organza Avril is the perfect garb for a shindig in the winter, spring, summer, or fall, in my book (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Swinging from the chandelier: Blue velvet is always a great idea, especially whilst rocking sequins and opera length gloves, 1950s, (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Swinging from the chandelier: Blue velvet is always a great idea, especially whilst rocking sequins and opera length gloves, 1950s, (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Flying High: Silk pékin formal evening dress: Isabelle from the Envol Spring-Summer Collection by Christian Dior, 1948 (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Flying High: Silk pékin formal evening dress: Isabelle from the Envol Spring-Summer Collection by Christian Dior, 1948 (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

This is how you make an entrance: Back in the day, Christian Dior embroidered dresses typically took 100 to 150 hours to complete, 1950s (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

This is how you make an entrance: Back in the day, Christian Dior embroidered dresses typically took 100 to 150 hours to complete, 1950s (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

"I want to make women not only beautiful but also happier!" Monsieur Dior liked to say. Mission accomplished is what I say! (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

“I want to make women not only beautiful but also happier!” Monsieur Dior liked to say. Mission accomplished is what I say! (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

And speaking of happiness! Give up cookies? I don't think so! Luckily for all the bakers in the Toronto, my resolution was just a passing fancy. #Gottobeme (Photo by Theadora Brack)

And speaking of happiness! Give up cookies? I don’t think so! Luckily for all the bakers in the Toronto, my resolution was just a passing fancy. #Gottobeme (Photo by Theadora Brack)

September Issue: Paris Collections celebrating Dior's arrival at Holt Renfrew, 1951 (Vogue, Theadora Brack's Collection)

September Issue: Paris Collections celebrating Dior’s arrival at Holt Renfrew, 1951 (Vogue, Theadora Brack’s Collection)

Holt Renfrew ad featuring Christian Dior, 1951 (Vogue, Theadora Brack's Collection)

Holt Renfrew ad featuring Christian Dior, 1951 (Vogue, Theadora Brack’s Collection)

 

 

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Paris: Exploring Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Donning faux fur, let’s channel our inner-La Salle and explore Parc des Buttes-Chaumont (Photo by T. Brack)

First Stop: Marrons grilles! My Treat! (Votre Amie Marie France, January 1948, Magazine, T. Brack’s archives)

First Stop: Marrons grilles! My Treat! (Votre Amie Marie France, January 1948, Magazine, T. Brack’s archives)

By Theadora “La Salle” Brack

Ernest Hemingway once said, “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus, you remember them as they actually are.”

But that goes double for traveling by foot, especially at my favorite sacred stomping ground, the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont—the hilliest, and perhaps most weirdly “scenic” park in Paris.

This week, I’d like to take you along for the excursion, so grab my hand. Let’s take a restorative, explorative stroll, shall we? Donning head-to-toe faux fur, get ready to channel your inner-surrealist.

It’s time to rumble!

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Designed in 1867 by Emperor Napoleon III, engineer Jean-Charles Alphand, and horticulturist Jean-Pierre Barillet-Deschamps, this floral showstopper with its mountain-village vibe opened with razzle-dazzle during the launch of the Paris Universal Exposition.

This park has everything: As we make our way along its narrow winding paths, prepare to be bug-eyed at sights ranging from caverns complete with waterfalls and faux stalactites, to a lake fashioned from a former gypsum quarry surrounding a craggy island topped with a neo-Roman temple, reached by a suspension bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel himself. (more…)

Paris Tips: Soaring with Dalida in Montmartre

Let's meet at Place du Tertre in Montmartre, and then pay homage to pop star Dalida (Photo by T. Brack)

Let’s meet at Place du Tertre in Montmartre, and then pay homage to pop star Dalida (Photo by T. Brack)

(If you are an Instagram devotee, please leave a link below.)

By Theadora “Dancing Queen” Brack

Whenever my mood is in need of a reboot or an overhaul, I hoof it on over to Dalida. Because energy flows where obsession goes, my tête-à-tête with the high-spirited pop idol extraordinaire does the trick each and every time—especially during the fall season. With the trees boasting 24-karat autumnal hues, the blues completely vanish.

This week, I’ll take you along with me on this restorative glide. ’Tis the season!

Dalida and the trees boasting 24-karat magic in the Cimetière de Montmartre, sculpture by pinup artist Alain Aslan (Photo by T. Brack)

Dalida and the trees boasting 24-karat magic in the Cimetière de Montmartre, sculpture by pinup artist Alain Aslan (Photo by T. Brack)

(more…)

Paris: Unboxing Victorine’s Fashion Haul

Let's Rendezvous with Victorine at Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris (The Railway, Édouard Manet, 1873, National Gallery of Art)

Let’s Rendezvous with Victorine at Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris (The Railway, Édouard Manet, 1873, National Gallery of Art)

Hello guys! I’m Victorine-Louise Meurent: Artist. Model. Musician. Singer. Tutor. Paris Lifestyle Blogger. Welcome back to my back-to-the-future sartorial site, dear fellow time trekkers.

This week, I’d like to share my recent clothing haul from Zara at the Passage du Havre, kitty corner from the Gare Saint-Lazare. Actually, there are now four Zara shops in the Opéra ’hood, ideal for shop-hopping. Some call it crazy luck. I call it heaven. Seriously, this is how this busy “V to the L-O” gets it done during the big summer sales.

Built in 1845, the Passage du Havre was given a supreme makeover during the 1990s (Photo by T. Brack)

Built in 1845, the Passage du Havre was given a supreme makeover during the 1990s (Photo by T. Brack)

(more…)

Paris: Hotfooting to the Moulin Rouge

Celebrating World Theater Day, let’s hoof it on over to the Moulin Rouge in Montmartre (GIF Image: Theadora Brack)

Celebrating World Theater Day, let’s hoof it on over to the Moulin Rouge in Montmartre (Image: Theadora Brack)

By Theadora “Twinkle Toes” Brack

Embracing restorative #summertimegoals, let’s revel in some retro merrymaking, shall we? For the occasion, we’ll hoof on over to the Moulin Rouge in Montmartre. Up my sleeve, I’ve got some new postcards, illustrations, and scrapbook clippings, along with a swell cinema-related tale about the venerable dance hall.

But first, let’s also salute the recent World Theatre Day! Created in 1961, writer Jean Cocteau wrote the International Theatre Institute’s first message: “Nations, thanks to these World Theatre Days, will at last become aware of each other’s treasures, and will work together in the high enterprise of peace.”

I completely agree. It’s what the world still needs.

Now, let’s do an old school prance back in time. Step by step, I’m with you. (more…)

Paris Roars: Latest Fashion Rage

Latest Paris Fashion Trend: Cats wear custom-made hats, Abbesses-Montmartre (Photo by T. Brack)

Latest Paris Fashion Trend: Cats wear custom-made hats, Abbesses-Montmartre (Photo by T. Brack)

This just in, from the streets of Paris.

Cats have ousted dogs in the affections of French women.

Whereas, in the past it was considered fashionable for your typical Parisienne to promenade the boulevards with a little dog sporting a neat, tight-fitting coat, today this same Parisienne is often out with her cat of priceless value.

But cats do not wear coats. They wear specifically-fitted and made hats.

Below the Sacré Coeur, up at Montmartre, there lives a hatter. In his shop window, he has an exhibition of the tiniest hats ever seen in France. (more…)

Paris: Let’s Drop in on Galeries Lafayette

View of the Opera and the Eiffel Tower from Galeries Lafayette's rooftop (Photo by Wendy Brack-Fritz)

View of the Opera and the Eiffel Tower from Galeries Lafayette’s rooftop (Photo by Wendy Brack-Fritz)

By Theadora Brack

Paris is no longer Paris? Au contraire! The City of Light is still a special place, a very human place, and a place for the whole world to cherish. And as this world turns, I think yes, the city changes a little—but then again, it always has. After all, that’s what made it what it is today.

So in celebration of international friendships and robust innovation, let’s ride the escalators up to the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette. Located on Boulevard Haussmann, here my inner-lion never, ever fails to roar after a soda pop and some tête-à-tête action with WWI pilot, Jules Védrines.

Grab your goggles and tweed knickerbockers, and follow me. I’ve got a story to tell. (more…)

Paris: Meet the Pusses at the Puces

Lend me your whiskers and pointy ears! (Photo by T. Brack)

Lend me your whiskers and pointy ears! (Photo by T. Brack)

Flying sky high on a lark (Elle magazine, 1954, T. Brack’s collection)

Flying sky high on a lark (Elle magazine, 1954, T. Brack’s collection)

By Theadora Brack

Lend me your whiskers and pointy ears.

Flying sky high on a lark, I knock. Grab a perch because I’ve got a feathered tale to tell. A great ball of yarn to re-wind, so to squeak! Ever since watching Walt Disney’s “The Aristocats” movie at the age of nine on the family television set, I’ve been obsessed with France and les chats domestiques. There. Full fur confession.

Set in Paris, the cartoon flick was a life changer. Not only did I yearn to be the rhinestone-laden, Parisian glamour puss (a.k.a., “Duchess”), but I also fancied running away with her swashbuckling, orange tabby beau, the flamboyant prince of the boulevard, “Abraham de Lacey Giuseppe Casey Thomas O’Malley—O’Malley, the alley cat.”

Oh, c’est très jolie, monsieur Thomas!” I’d purr again and again at my reflection in the mirror, channeling my inner-Duchess.

And now, I see cats. I see cats in Paris. All the time! Where? Where? They’re everywhere! Heck, once, during a winter tempest, I rescued a teeny, tiny tortoiseshell cat found trembling on the wet cobblestones outside the Grand Hotel de Clermont, just a fur ball’s throw from where Édith Piaf made one of her legendary busking debuts in Pigalle. Kitty was coming home with me. (more…)

Paris: Calling All Instagram Buffs

L'acteur grec by Baron Charles-Arthur Bourgeois, 1868, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris (Photo by Theadora Brack)

L’acteur grec by Baron Charles-Arthur Bourgeois, 1868, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Allo! C'est Moi! (Elle Magazine, 1955, T. Brack's archives)

Allo! C’est Moi! (Elle Magazine, 1955, T. Brack’s archives)

By Theadora Brack

Juggling social media platforms like a smooth operator (if I squint), I’ve recently added Instagram to my grapevine repertoire.

That’s right. During the month of November, I created a short stack of photographs of Paris—a baker’s dozen, to be exact! Pirouetting straight to the point: I am hooked. So stay tuned for more images.

In the meantime, if you are a fellow Instagram fan or fanatic, please leave a link to your Instagram portfolio below.

Always keeping my peepers peeled for inspiration, I’d love to pay a visit.

As Henry Miller once penned, “The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”

I completely agree.

In advance, thanks for sharing your own indescribably magnificent world, too—through your art!

So carpe the diem, folks! Keep on snapping! (more…)

Paris: A Saintly Tour de Force

A Saintly Tour de Force: Let’s go rustle up some spirits in another dimension (Image: T. Brack's archives)

A Saintly Tour de Force: Let’s go rustle up some spirits in another dimension (Image: T. Brack’s archives)

(Elle Magazine, 1952, T. Brack's collection)

(Elle Magazine, 1952, T. Brack’s collection)

By Theadora Brack

Paging all saints and old souls: Snuggle tight because it is time to crack open my pleather-bound volume of spirited adventures in Paris for another retelling. ’Tis the season! For tricks, I’ve added new photographs and one divine tale, too. I’ve also got the wine and a tongue-twisting tarte aux pommes—all à la Julia Child ode.

Now, let’s go raise some spirits.

1. Saint Vincent de Paul

Whenever my mood needs a boost, I make a beeline to the Chapel of the Lazarists, tucked behind the Bon Marché department store on rue de Sèvres. It does the trick each and every time. Never looking more beautiful, here Saint Vincent de Paul hovers over the altar. Sprightly, lightly tiptoe up the tight flight of stairs in the back of the sanctuary for a closer view of the reposed gent and patron saint of horses.

Keeping it real

Ordained as a priest in 1600, Saint Vincent not only championed the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy, but he also encouraged them to work together on charity missions financed by public subscriptions (much like today’s Kickstarter funding schemes). Fully embracing crowdsourcing on the streets, the ahead-of-the-curve saint fundraised for prisons, orphanages, and hospitals. Nobody got left behind. (more…)

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