License to Dress

The legitimate use of artistic license is one of the many perks that go hand-in-hand with being an artist. Another thing that comes with the territory is a license to dress in ways that are off-the-wall and unconventional. In fact it is expected of you—wear something outrageous and all is forgiven when someone knowingly whispers “She’s an Artist”. Fortunately, this part of the job has not been too difficult to accomplish. I get a real kick out of concocting unusual fashion combinations which hopefully come off as ‘artsy’ but chic. Of course, I am talking about my public persona. In the studio, it’s strictly paint-splattered men’s shirts and torn jeans. As I begin to mentally pack for my trip to Paris next week (lucky me!) I realize that I dress differently when I am in Paris. Something about that city raises the bar on chic. Maybe it is the nostalgic childhood memories I have as a little girl growing up in Paris. I remember my sister and I heading off to kindergarten wearing matching dresses adorned the hand-smocked detailing, patent-leather shoes and big satin ribbons in our hair. Or perhaps I have been influenced by mother’s tales of biannual invitations to the haute couture fashion shows. As the models sashayed past her, my mother would take note of the clothes that took her fancy. Being a perfect size 4 at the time, she would then buy those runway samples at a hefty discount. Playing dress-up with these designer clothes as a child gave me an early taste for Parisian chic! This past winter in Paris, I attended a major haute couture fashion show (Dior Homme, spring 2010) for the first time. The atmosphere was charged with excitement and anticipation. Rail-thin male models strutted around in Dior’s latest creations to the heavy beat of hip-hop music, punctuated by the flash of multiple press cameras. But my eye kept straying to the outrageous fashion statements of the invitees, mostly creative types displaying lots of artistic license! My trusty watercolor pad came in handy… If haute couture is your thing but your budget objects, I would recommend checking out Le Mouton à Cinq Pattes, despite their weird website. These three stores specialize in heavily discounted designer clothing from last year’s range. You need to sift through the offerings, but there are good designer bargains to be had for men and women. My Australian friend J. advises getting to the store early. “Otherwise,” she claims, “you may find yourself pulling an Hermès-bag-carrying Frenchwoman’s elbow out of your ribs as you both battle for the same silk-suede apparel.” I prefer looking at what Parisians are wearing on the street as they go about their day-to-day business. I find that French women still have that certain je ne sais quoi in their understated dress style and comportment. Take for example the way they elegantly wrap their über-long scarves around their necks in the wintertime. Try as I might, I could not emulate the look. I felt as if I were struggling with an octopus tentacle! Not to be discouraged, I am determined to stick to my own individual style, which I think lies at the base of the self-confidence that gives French women their edge. For those who may need more concrete direction, the internet site eHow actually attempts to break down “How to dress like a French woman” into six easy steps! But back to my packing. The clothes which even as an ‘artist’ I might hesitate to wear in conservative Washington, DC, are literally jumping out of the closet in glee waiting for their turn in the French sunlight. Hot pants, striped silk stockings, funky hats, and a hot pink 80s-style knee-length velvet jacket are going to have to fight for suitcase space with wide-legged jeans, a black pencil skirt and second-hand store finds. I can’t wait to throw them all in the mix and experiment with some creative dressing-up. With a generous sprinkling of artistic license I’ll be ready to hit the streets of Paris, eyes peeled for unique fashion and interesting art.

More in haute couture, Paris fashion

Previous Article American Bordeaux
Next Article Avignon ‘OFF’

Paris-born Lilianne Milgrom is an internationally acclaimed artist and author residing in the greater Washington, DC, area. Her works can be found in private and institutional collections in the United States, Australia, Israel, France, Switzerland, England, and India. Aside from her blog, she has written essays and articles for publications such as Ceramics Art and Perception, Ceramics Monthly, Bonjour Paris, Dans le ventre des femme and the Huffington Post. "L’Origine: The Secret Life of the World’s Most Erotic Masterpiece" (Little French Girl Press, 2020) is her first novel.