Paris Tips: The Eiffel Tower’s Beauty Secrets

At the end of the day in a dream that’s divine (My Prayer, The Platters, 1956) Photos by Theadora Brack

Emmanuel “Manny” Herring at the tower, 1956 (T. Brack’s photo archives)

By Theadora Brack

Today I’ve decided to share a few of the Eiffel Tower’s beauty secrets. How does the century-old glamazon manage to keep her good looks? Maybe it’s Maybelline or perhaps it’s the 2.5 million rivets holding together the 20,000 square meters of intricate iron latticework. Never a mess, don’t hate her because she is still beautiful.

Doll back the clock: Oblong and ruler-straight from shoulder to hip, the Eiffel Tower was built in 1887 by visionary architect Gustave Eiffel (the Couturier in Iron!) to serve as a showstopper at the Exposition Universelle. On inauguration day, Monsieur Eiffel signed an adoring female visitor’s fan with the inscription: “The French flag is the only one with a 300-meter pole.” Mais oui.

The Eiffel Tower’s colossal measurements are more than impressive. Rangy and long-limbed, the 1,046-foot-tall stunner stood heads above the other structures on the planet from 1889 until 1930. Her shapely 620 foot “gams” rely on their curvaceous geometry to carry the wind pressure so she doesn’t topple over into the Seine on a blustery day.

Glamorous Jeanne Herring, 1956 (T. Brack’s photo archives)

Everyone knows it’s Windy

So take cover! Wind, the dominant natural force affecting her, is strongest at the top, but most of it blows through her and not against her because of her airy wrought iron. Well, almost! She has been known to jiggle on a gusty day—but only a few inches. Although crease-proof with a steely core, such constant change can wreak havoc on the complexion.

So what’s a gal to do?

The Tower’s beauty regimen involves 60 tons of paint, which must be applied at least every seven years to protect her from rust. Each paint job takes 15 to 18 months. Thinking ahead, Eiffel nailed it when he said, “The more meticulous the paint job, the longer the Tower shall endure.”

Through the years the colors have varied from dark red to a bright yellow, and from dark chocolate to her current “Brun Tour Eiffel”—a special grayish-brown hue. To emphasize her fabulous silhouette as seen from the ground, there are actually three different shades of the hue that change from dark to light, the higher up you go.

More tidbits: Painters must follow traditional methods, which haven’t changed since her débutante days. Paint must be applied manually, with brushes and rollers. Leave the paint guns at home. Lastly, work may not start until each morning’s dew has evaporated. Now that’s a spa-worthy treatment!

A Rapture in “Brun” 1956 (T. Brack’s photo archives)

Shooting the Tower

Like the moon and stars, the Eiffel Tower is a free show from almost anywhere in the city, but better yet go there at least once. Just do it! Looking for a picture-perfect shot? Shoot up from below, center stage. Here the tower’s iron lattice resembles classic French black lace knickers. Oh, la la.

Le Mur pour la Paix (The Wall for Peace) is another favorite spot. Located on the southeast end of the grassy Champ de Mars (near the École Militaire), it was created in 2000 by artist Clara Halter and architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte. The word “peace” in 49 languages is inscribed on large glass panes and tall, slender metal columns.

Gaze up at the Eiffel Tower through the monument’s glass panels, and try not to feel a bit more mellow. Where is the love? Trust me, it’s here. Tips: For optimum viewing, the glass and metal play nicely against the soft late afternoon sun. Also, advance tickets are now available online. Life is groovy!

Seize the day!

But for heaven’s sake, don’t forget your sunblock, day cream and powder puff! As Florence Nightingale Graham (a.k.a. Elizabeth Arden) used to say, “The investments of a little care now will bring you tremendous dividends in the years to come!”

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71 thoughts on “Paris Tips: The Eiffel Tower’s Beauty Secrets

    • As always, thanks for your lovely words!! Yes, I have a mad penchant for collecting compacts. For the love of mana, especially the well-loved ones with little dents, scratches, and traces of powder and rouge. Oh, if only they could chitchat. Short story material?! T.

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    • Yes, the Eiffel Tower is an iconic darling! Hard to believe she was once called an “esthetic misfit,” a “tower of Babel,” a “hollow chandelier,” and a “torturing nightmare.” Ouch!! T.

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    • Funny!! Parasites, indeed!! I loved your recent and oh, so clever “What does it mean” (Alternate Meanings of Words) post at Tales and Travels of the Tinman. “Parasites, noun. What you see from the top of the Eiffel Tower.” I’m still giggling. Big hugs!! T.

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    • Thank you!! And speaking of sunset stunners, I really liked your shot of the Santa Monica Pier. Yes, yes it’s Very California! Theadora (What do you think of the new Ferris Wheel?)

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    • Yes, add the Eiffel Tower to your list! According to the Tower’s PR guru Marthe, there are no “slow days” at the Tower. Perhaps in January! Marthe recommends buying advance tickets online. Have you started to pack?! T.

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    • Oh. Yes!! In a brilliant shade of “Brun Tour Eiffel.” Here’s a list of her colors:

      1887-1888 Venetian Red (Secret Formula #6254)
      1189-1891 Brun Rouge (Secret Formula #2986)
      1892-1898 Ochre Brun (Secret Formula #2A)
      1907-1914 Jaune Orange (Base) and Jaune Clair (Top)
      During the two World Wars, she was not painted.
      1954-1961 Rouge Brun
      1968-Present Brun Tour Eiffel (in three graduated shades)

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  1. Theodora,
    Fabulous, as always, darling. Your words must be divinely inspired. They graciously take up space across a page so perfectly. Pray tell: more about the “my prayers platters” and, who, I’m embarrassed to ask, are the Herrings? Sadly, I’m not acquainted. Carry on!

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    • Thanks, Anita!! “My Prayer” is a wonderful song. I get weepy every time I hear it! Here’s the scoop! It was written in 1939 by violinist Georges Boulanger and Jimmy Kennedy. (By the way, Kennedy wrote the slightly creepy “The Teddy Bear’s picnic!) Boulanger’s composition was originally called “Avant de mourir.” In 1939 it was covered by the Glenn Miller Band and the Ink Spots, and then by the Platters in 1956. It was the number one song in the US in August of 1956. Let me know what you think of it. Don’t forget the hankie!! T.

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  2. I was soooo waiting for this one. and not a disappointing micro second! I have some sort of romantic notion about this tower…one day, one day I will stand there. I have an absolutely beautiful photograph of it that my brother took for me when he was in Paris last year…it’s one of my favorite things. Thanks T…loved it!

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    • Thank you, Rhonda!! Have you found your brother’s photograph? Let me know if you post it! The Eiffel Tower is a beauty. It wasn’t an easy, breezy journey! In fact, it wasn’t until the 1930s, after enduring years of endless ribbing that she found herself in the good graces with the world. Better late than never!! T.

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      • absolutely. and i’d love to post it…i don’t have a story to go with it tho, ’cause i’ve never been. but it’s a beauty.

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    • Thanks, Corey!! Have you been to top of the Tower? Do you have any “French Frye in Paris” tips for beating the crowds and heat during the summertime? A favorite nearby café? Theadora

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    • Thanks, G.!! I dig the Eiffel Tower uniforms created by designer Jean Charles de Castelbajac. The smart-looking ensemble in olive and bright orange includes pants, a jacket, a blouse, a scarf, a hooded jacket, AND a matching purse! T.

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  3. Hey “T”–Your words were great but your pictures are an “eye-full”–as usual! Thanks!

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    • Merci!! I’ve always loved creating little tours. It started at the age of four or five! My cats were very patient with my safari tour! B. (Loved your brick shot with the lone cigarette, by the way.)

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    • Thank you!! Here are few more home, er, tower improvement tidbits. The redo requires 25 painters working for 15 months with 1500 brushes and 5000 sanding disks, while wearing out 1500 sets of work clothes. Now that’s a lot laundry! T.

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  4. Beautifully framed photos at the end! As far as the “free spectacle” goes, I learned that it’s technically illegal for us to post photos we’ve taken of the Eiffel Tower at night because the lighting is copyrighted! This is from the Eiffel Tower Wiki page:

    “The Société d’exploitation de la tour Eiffel (SETE) now considers any illumination of the tower to be under copyright. As a result, it is no longer legal to publish contemporary photographs of the tower at night without permission in France and some other countries.”

    Crazy, huh!?

    Thanks, as always, for the wonderful post!

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    • Really? Nah! Really, Paul? Société d’exploitation de la tour Eiffel (SETE), really? The policy doesn’t make sense. Weird! (Marthe is my PR contact at the Tower. She’s a gem!)

      Tip! Photography at Ladurée (while waiting in line to purchase macarons) is strictly forbidden. If caught, they scold you like there’s no tomorrow. This is why I now buy my macaroons at Gérald Mulot! They embrace social media and free publicity. Plus, the staff is friendly and the macarons are less expensive.

      Enjoy the weekend!!
      T.

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  5. Beautiful photos. I had no idea the tower had been red and even yellow! We have a family photo on the tower from when I was about five I am guessing. I think I will have it blown up and framed. It is stuffed away somewhere. How odd.

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    • As always, thanks for your swell words!! Let me know if you find the photograph. I’d love to see it!
      Flashback! Here is a listing of the Tower’s colors. (I also sent it to Rob below.) I love the “secret formula” numbers. So mysterious!! T.

      1887-1888 Venetian Red (Secret Formula #6254)
      1189-1891 Brun Rouge (Secret Formula #2986)
      1892-1898 Ochre Brun (Secret Formula #2A)
      1907-1914 Jaune Orange (Base) and Jaune Clair (Top)
      During the two World Wars, she was not painted
      1954-1961 Rouge Brun
      1968-Present Brun Tour Eiffel (in three graduated shades)

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  6. Love it – you know I never get tired of looking at La Tour Eiffel! The vintage shots are amazing, they make me want to step up my photographic game the next time I’m in Paris.

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    • Thanks, Krista!! You always post such fabulous travel illustrations on your site. I’ve just started collecting travel posters by French illustrator Roger Broders during the 1920s and 1930s. Reproductions, of course. He was a genius. I’m now on the hunt for the book: Voyages, avec Roger Broders: Affichiste des annees 20-30 (French Edition) by Annie de Montry. It’s a beauty! T.

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    • Thanks, Ann!! The Eiffel Tower is one of my favorite French moments. Stay tuned for the Arc de Triomphe! T. (I even have a few ghost stories from the 1880s up my sleeve!)

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  7. Just catching up on my people places and bling! awesome posts and i pinned lots of pics! keep it coming 🙂

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    • Dear Fellow Regal Pal, Wow!! How cool is that? I love the variety pack presentation. Congratulations to you!! I’ll trek it on over as soon as I powder my big wig. Merci Beaucoup! Theadora

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  8. Beautiful pictures of a very special place dear friend… You know that at the time of Eiffel and the exhibition, this was supposed to be a provisional construction (!) and many “aesthetes” complained of the ugliness of the building…

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    • I know! I know! She didn’t become the belle of the ball until the 1930s. They called her an “esthetic misfit,” a “tower of Babel,” a “hollow chandelier,” and a “torturing nightmare. It took awhile for her new look to catch fire! T. (Have you taken shots of your running route?)

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  9. I can’t wait! I leave to visit Paris and Normandy July 1-8! Super excited. Thanks for the post!

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      • Not yet but I bought a bunch of clothes to wear! I’m nervous that I’m not fashionable enough for Paris! Haha! So excited!

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      • Well it was a fabulous trip! I can’t even tell you what my favorite thing was! There was so much! I climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. That was such a beautiful view! I saw Mont Saint Michel, Notre Dame Cathedral, Sacre Coeur, Versailles and of course, the Louvre. It was amazing. AND now I’m addicted to macaroons. I’m so glad they don’t sell them here because I’d be so fat!

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      • Thanks for the fab trip report!! I also love the views from the Arc de Triomphe!! (Did you make it to their sweet gift shop?) And the macarons. Oh, I am still hooked! They’re so pretty and photogenic. I’d like to make my own one day. And tour the Gérard Mulot factory!! T.

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      • I did make it to their gift shop. Very nice. I didn’t get anything though. I work for a travel company and travel is a part of my life…after a while all the gift shop items start to look the same. Yes, the macaroons are so pretty. My favorite was the caramel and raspberry flavors. We had a wonderful guide that took us all over and she is the one who introduced me to macaroons! She took us to this quaint little town called Honfleur. It was so beautiful and I took some amazing pictures there! Click here to view a few of my shots (edited, of course): http://instacanv.as/janeyb7807

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      • Gorgeous shots!! Thanks for sharing. Honfleur is on my travel wish list. It’s always been quite popular with the artists, eh? And speaking of the water, La Rochelle is another favorite spot in France. I also loved your shots of dramatic Sacré Coeur and the Eiffel Tower. Lovely!! T. (I’ve been mad about souvenir stands and shops since the age of four!! I’ve never met one I didn’t love. Oh, la la.)

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      • Thank you! I am in LOVE with the buildings there and taking photos of them. Didn’t make it to La Rochelle. Looking at pictures, it is quite beautiful. Honfleur was VERY rainy the day I was there so I didn’t get much of a chance to explore. We ate dinner and then it was time to leave. The photos I got were the few I snapped while walking to the restaurant in the rain. They came out very nicely though!

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      • What a dramatic and romantic back story!! I love walking in Paris during rain. No umbrella is ever needed, in my book. Were you happy with the restaurant? Do you remember the name or address? Enjoy the week!! T. (Again, your pics are beauties. Thanks for sharing the link!!)

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      • No, I don’t remember the name. It was raining pretty hard for a while there so the umbrella was definitely needed at times. No light drizzle, more like a downpour but then it stopped and a nice rainbow came out! Thanks again!

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  10. I always love the experience of reading your posts. You allow me to feel like I’m in the romantic city of Paris. I have a deep seated love of French living that I don’t acknowledge enough, though I do have an Eiffel Tower room in my house. Tomorrow I’m finally going to start a CD collection of very basic French lessons because I’ve always wanted to learn learn French, which I believe is the most beautiful language in the world. Thank you for inspiring me to stay connected with this part of myself!

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    • Hello, Karen! Apologies for my delay!! Thanks for your thoughtful words. By the way, I feel the same way about your site. Your site inspires me to write, by the way. So thanks for that!! Have you started your French lessons? Who created it? Keep me posted!! Big hugs, Theadora

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  11. Sensational article! Thank you for such insights, wisdom and lessons. My sister in law has 8 replica models of The Eiffel Tower, the largest is over 4 metres tall, needing a special room to house it. The rest are up to a few metres tall, and adorn some of her studies, family room and living rooms. That is well and good, but Paris and the many human wonders built there are tonic necessary every few years I find. It is just great to be there, go to the bakery or bar, and the 2nd time you walk in, usually the following day, your coffee is server without only a glance of the eyes as bon jour cheerfully greets you.
    Isaac Mizrahi in the 90’s movie UNZIPPED said of Paris, ” I just love Paris, I love to go there, have a great cup of coffee, and get the hell out of there” or to that effect – he wasn’t putting Paris down at all, he spoke of just being there, partaking of the coffee was enough to inspire, and then you could leave. (Leave, changed and enlightened, inspired, I would add, as thats the way I find it.)
    David.

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    • Apologies!! Apologies for my delay. Thank you for writing such a thoughtful post!! I love the Isaac Mizrahi quote: “I just lvoe Paris, I love to go there, have a great cup of coffee, and get the hell out of there.” I completely agree. I’m so impressed with sister-in-law’s Eiffel Tower. Jealous!! Oh, my. Do you have a photograph? Where in the world did she find such a coveted treasure? Enjoy the week!! Theadora

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  12. Love those photos from 1956…fabulous! This was a fun post to read, especially since I have never been to France. Now I have visit.

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    • Thank you, Glenn!! Yes, I plan to feature more photographs of Emmanuel “Manny” and Jeanne Herring. By the way, I’ve been enjoying your work. Especially, the Aloysius Series. Talk about a photogenic cat!! Very striking. Say, do you still have your Kodak Brownie camera? Cheers! Theadora

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