How to swear.

img_9785

Truth be told, I’m quite susceptible. Once I read in American ELLE Decor about white Charvet shirts belonging to the ten things some American designer can’t live without, I feel the urge to suffer from separation anxiety as well, or at least to own a white Charvet shirt, too. Strangely, I can’t recall that designer’s name. But what’s in a name?
Anyway, the next time I was in Paris, this time with my mother, we were celebrating her birthday, I insisted on heading to Place Vendôme first thing, to enter the sacred halls of Charvet, not paying attention to my mother’s need to have an extended coffee in Saint-Germain, my mother is rather a Rive Gauche person, which I get of course, the Flore and Simone de Beauvoir and the Sorbonne, which she calls “her” Sorbonne, and all that, but hey, there’s no Place Vendôme on the Left Bank, is there?
Charvet’s shirt department is on the second floor, it looks utterly old school, very much like earnest tailoring being done, not at all like Barney’s if you know what I mean, and when I was sent to the fitting room to check if the sleeve’s length was right, I didn’t care to come out for a very long time, some contemplation was to be done first, I immediately put that room on my list of the ten things I can’t live without, this elegance of times long gone by, it looked as if Charles Swann had been in just before me. I was in my natural habitat – and then I screamed “Merde!”. With quite some resonance. Wall shakingly. You see, I had put on my pullover again, and my beautiful quiff was gone, despite all that Elnett hair lacquer. I, of course, being German, think it a very noble swearword to use as it’s French. But for the French it just means “Shit!”. My mother, waiting outside with Mademoiselle Charvet – at least for a quarter of an hour, for just trying on a shirt, you have to remember – and always disapproving of losing one’s temper, was deeply ashamed by my total lack of time frames and composure on top of that. But she was quite impressed by the Frenchwoman’s poker face

Post scriptum: I bought a tie as well. Not because its purple silk was so exquisite but because Sebastian Flyte wore a Charvet tie, too, when he met Charles Ryder. As I’ve said, I’m very susceptible.

img_9802

img_9788

F. Scott Waugham

image

It was a page that I didn’t turn, the one in W. Somerset Maugham’s novel “On Razor’s Edge” that had his narrator guess who designed his hostess’ elegant dress this time, this time being an afternoon in late 1920s Paris. Lanvin or Chanel? The dress turned out to be by Jeanne Lanvin on the following page, but I had already drifted away, to a world where Coco Chanel was alive and kicking, where I, the 14 year old that I was, was strolling through Paris, from couture house to couture house, stopping at Cartier and Goyard, sniffing my way from Guerlain to Caron, not buying, just looking, with my coral cigarette holder, the one I knew from Saki’s unbearable Bassington, wearing one of the exquisite shirts I had borrowed from J. Gatsby, and with a best buddy next to me, some partner in crime, like Sebastian Flyte’s companion Aloysius, a teddy bear friend, serving as alter ego and advocatus diaboli at the same time.

F.Scott Fitzgerald, W.Somerset Maugham, Evelyn Waugh, and Saki – these were not only my favourite authors for their exquisite stories, but more importantly, these refined guys introduced me to style in such a convincingly romantic way, that I was changed for life. Mousey will confirm all of it.