Tuesday, July 21, 2009

La Jupe d'Edith: All It Takes Is One Skirt

If ever we needed proof Frenchwomen know how to make the most out of the least, here follows a real-life story.

My friend Edith has a swimming pool -- stay with me, this is pertinent to the story -- and, with few exceptions, every day from May through September we do laps and gossip. (We refer to these months as "summer camp" -- in English -- because she thinks the notion is hilarious.) 

Our constant contact allowed me to witness the following phenomenon day after day after day.

One summer a few years ago she wore the same YSL (on sale, she likes to point-out) fuchsia
cotton full skirt nearly every time she left her house. Whether she was attending a wedding or buying her vegetables at the market, she wore that skirt. Most of the time teamed with the same pair of black Repetto ballerinas. Occasionally she switched to a pair of flat espadrilles or navy Repettos. 

She maintains that when one reaches a certain age we already own all the black we will need for a lifetime. She's certainly right in my case. It is for that reason, every season she buys two or three things in bright colors because as she points out: "What doesn't go with black?" Good point. I have always believed there's nothing like quite like black with black, but that's another story for another day.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, Edith is an artist so I asked her to sketch three ways she has or would wear her skirt. (It looks orange-y here, but it is fuchsia.) 

These are the other ways I saw her wear it:
  1. Sleeveless black t-shirt; wide, stretchy black belt.
  2. Hermes scarf as a halter.
  3. Hermes scarf as a strapless "tube" top.
  4. Black lace-up bustier.
  5. White eyelet bustier.
  6. White cotton shirt, sleeves rolled-up, black patent leather belt.
  7. White linen fitted jacket with peplum.
  8. Navy linen Spencer.
  9. White t-shirts in every imaginable incarnation: V-neck; scoop-neck; short sleeves; long-sleeves.
  10. White Marcel, tucked-in and belted.
  11. Black Marcel, tucked-in and belted.
  12. Pale pink button-down oxford shirt from boys' department with a purple leather belt.
  13. Multi-colored satin striped vest.
  14. Black linen vest.
  15. Short-sleeve white peasant blouse, Hermes scarf as cummerbund.
  16. Long-sleeve white eyelet peasant blouse, wide black belt.
  17. Filmy white linen Russian Cossack blouse with embroidery, worn outside and bloused gently with a navy blue ribbon.
  18. A wildly flowered silk blouse a la Pucci.
  19. Navy fine cotton twin-set.
  20. Navy linen big shirt, worn out with double, wrap-around belt in fuchsia patent leather.
  21. Pink and white striped polished cotton shirt -- worn in or out and always belted.
  22. Long sleeve fine cotton boat neck sweater in black.
  23. Multi-colored stripe band-collar tunic with purple belt.
  24. White sleeveless blouse cut slightly like a halter.
  25. Black camisole with lace, wide belt, often worn with a cardigan, jacket or a shawl.
  26. Polo shirts, pearls, collar turned-up, wide belts.
  27. In late September her black cashmere turtleneck.

Add to these the three looks she put together and you have 30 different outfits around one skirt, a couple of belts and basically two pairs of shoes. (She added the bottines for fun with the plaid shirt and vest, they weren't part of her summer wardrobe that year.)

Beyond the belts she often wore pearls; various other brightly colored, inexpensive summery jewelry;  a big flower and so on. A quick glance at the list and one can already start to make more combinations. 


Marsi said...


So this skirt was a little fuller than an a-line? And it was just a plain fuschia cotton?

This list of outfits is really incredible. What's more incredible is that it makes it sound like a hot pink full skirt is a staple, a basic, a goes-with-everything must-have. Now that is a feat. Edith sounds extremely chic.

What is a Marcel?

I love that she'd just wear it every day -- this hot pink skirt that she clearly wore yesterday and the day before and the day before that -- unabashedly, differently, un-self-consciously, and without apology.

Her thoughts on having enough black to last a lifetime strikes a chord with me, as does "what doesn't go with black." If that doesn't get my mental wheels churning, then nothing will. This is a fabulous post. (Do you do any other kind, Tish??)

xoxo --

P.S. I read your article on Sonia Rykiel in a recent issue of "Vogue Knitting" last night. What a surprise to come across it, and a treat. How is your research into French knitting history going?

the paris apartment said...

Great sketch! I love your list of what to wear, it's the perfect cheat sheet!

Drea said...

Back when you first mentioned 20-something ways she wore a skirt, I thought you were going to say "1) as a long skirt; 2) as a short skirt; 3)as a strapless dress; 4) as a tube top, etc, etc..."

Needless to say, this is MUCH more interesting! I'm inspired. By the creativity and by the guts it takes to wear a hot pink skirt over and over again with a new twist each time...

tishjett said...

Marsi, I am so happy you do. Isn't she amazing?

I'll show you a marcel tomorrow. I think it's what we call a t-shirt cut like a tank (?) U-neck, wide straps. . .

Edith is chic, but never fussy, which makes it so much fun and the hairdo she drew she has had without so much as a snip of difference every since I've known here.

She and I have plans for the future. We're working out details, but I think it will be lots of fun for all of us. That is the surprise I was alluding to on Monday. As things shape-up I'll keep you au courant.

How very funny you found the Rykiel article. Last night I set up an interview for late August with a woman reputed to be an expert on knitting, when I told her the assignment she said "ooh-la-la, quelle horreur." I knew I should have declined. . .

Re. my apricot tart, it was a disaster. It looked fairly attractive, it tasted OK -- I mean all the ingredients were good after all, but it had to be removed from the pie pan with a spoon. You were right I should have made a clafoutis. It looked like some sort of pudding. I hear it's impossible to mess up a clafoutis. We have some plums that will probably ripen all on the same day so maybe I'll try one with them.

tishjett said...


How great to hear from you. Yes, Edith is terrific. She doesn't ever do fashion sketches in her professional work, but she says she has fun doing them so we'll be doing more.

Yes, exactly, a cheat sheet.

tishjett said...

Drea, you know Edith, she has no fear.

This year she has a pair of big yellow trousers which she claims are brilliant. I think we'll be examining her claim in the very near future. . .

Bonjour Madame said...

This is so interesting. I think I'm going to bookmark this post and save it forever. All I have to say is she is a master at thinking outside of the box and using that skirt to it's full advantage. I am officially inspired!

Anonymous said...

My first time commenting here, but long time reader, and still...shy.
This is my favorite post. But where do we see a skirt like that in the states? Will Edith wear the yellow pants everyday for fall/winter? What else does she wear? How great it would be to have a truly minimalist closet with just a few items to wear over and over.Then discard and replace with something else worn over and over as needed. Do we even need to keep all the black still hanging in there?

Kai Jones said...

I love the word "Marcel" for that shirt. It's so much better than "wife beater" which is what I have read for it.

tishjett said...

Dear A,

(BTW, I think if you are really, really shy you should give yourself a pseudonym.) Thank-you though for being a longtime reader, that's very nice.

The skirt is several years old and it is now in the back of her closet to be pulled out perhaps next year. The yellow pants are this summer's biggie and she and I plan on doing a post on them.

As I've hinted we're working on things to do together because it's so much fun. We plan on putting together wardrobes from the winter collections for example a little later on. Can't wait.

We'll figure something out and it will be on a regular basis.

tishjett said...

Hello Kai,

Oh, I completely forgot about that. What an awful image. Marcel is so cute, but maybe women will hesitate to wear them if they always think of that. . Hope not. They look so great with so many things.

They even work, black ones for example, as little vests over shirts.

Marsi said...

I look forward to more of your collaborations with Edith. She is a wonderful artist -- and obviously very stylish as well.

Too bad about your apricot tart. Pies and tarts can be tricky; I prefer to cheat with tarts and make them with a nice custard on the bottom and then top them off with fresh fruit. It can be difficult to gauge how much juice will come out during baking. The clafoutis is very reliably easy.

I have meant to tell you, Tish, that after you suggested a few months ago I might try layering my navy and black tissueweight v-neck cardigans with a Carla violet cardigan, I wrote it on my "What's Missing" list that I carry in my handbag. (Keeping such a list helps me not make purchasing errors.) I didn't really expect to find one because the color's a little unusual and we were heading into summer season -- but lo! I happened upon one that is cashmere with a touch of silk, whose sleeve and hem lengths perfectly match my navy and black cardigans, and which was marked down 50 percent. I was so stunned! My husband couldn't believe that I actually keep a written list of "what's missing," and was impressed that I managed to find such an obscure item. Anyway, just wanted to share my minor victory with you. Now I can't wait for fall to wear it.

When layering, do you think the darkest color usually looks best on the top or the bottom? Is there a conventional wisdom?

tishjett said...

Marsi, bravo for your victory. Isn't it fun to just trip over something we want by chance instead of hopelessly searching to no avail?

Here's the beauty of the laying: It works both ways, no rules. And -- ta-da -- you have a twofer at least.

I love your idea of a "what's missing" list. I carry around a tiny notebook that lists by categories what I own because I have the nasty habit of re-buying the same things. I guess it's my pitiful black/gray/navy problem from which Edith may be helping me slowly disengage.

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