Recently I was reminded of a wonderful French word I had all but forgotten by another blogger. Adrienne of The Rich Life (on a budget) shared her experiences of the Parisian second hand clothing shops for which the French word is friperie. I love that word! I actually used to speak and write reasonably good French and sadly it all got pushed out of my brain when I learnt Spanish! But there was a time when I had a lot of French and French speaking friends and visited them in Paris often.
Adrienne asked if we had ever friperi-ed on vacation before and if we'd found anything special. I have to say that bargain hunting with a friend in the friperies of Paris are some of my favourite memories of the city.
When I was still a PhD student I went over to Paris one Easter to visit a dear friend, lets call him R, who had gone there to study law. R was a Swiss national who was fluent in a few languages including French and he knew Paris like the back of hand. He was also well into his clothes, always impeccably turned out and he and I had often bonded over our love of fashion.
When we were all studying together we often had formal dinners to attend at college where we would all get dressed up. All the girls loved R and he was always invited to come around to our rooms beforehand to see what the ladies were wearing, to give us opinions on our outfits and to accompany us to the venue. He would always coo enthusiastically over what I was wearing. "Vous ete maqnifique!" he would declare as he twirled me around.
So during my Paris visit it was inevitable that we made time in between visiting the tourist sites and galleries to trawl the fashionable shops together and he also showed me around the friperies of the city. Then in the evenings we would go dancing for hours in the gay nightclubs of Paris.
I had so much fun on that trip with R. Imagine having a companion with exquisite taste who knows all the best places to shop, pulls things out for you to look at and try and gives you his opinion.
This vintage Chinese silk blouse was the result of a trip to one of the friperies R took me to. I have worn this blouse so much over the years the silk is now shattering but I don't care. To me it just adds to its vintage charm. In spring and summer I wear it with shorts or jeans either buttoned up or open with a pretty singlet underneath.
This blouse became even more special to me when just after the death of my grandmother, a photo of her as a young woman was discovered in an old box of personal items of her wearing an almost identical oriental style blouse in the same tint of pale aqua. I bear such a striking resemblance to her physically that it could have been a photo of me wearing my blouse.
With the photo emerged during that time of mourning, so too did stories of her life recounted to me by older relatives who had known her throughout it. They painted the picture of a young woman who was the life and soul of the party, who loved dancing, who adored fashion and dressing up and who accumulated a vast amount of beautiful clothes. Turns out my resemblance to her was not just physical, we were similar in so many other respects and I was always a little sad to have made this discovery only after she had already gone.
These photos were taken in Penang where my grandmother was from. I took the blouse with me when I went there, in a way to pay the spirit of that wonderful woman my respects.
As for R, I unfortunately lost contact with him for many years after we both moved cities but happily he recently found me via social media! And it turns out his job brings him over to London quite often so we have arranged to meet up in May. No doubt there'll be some shopping involved!
Silk embroidered Chinese blouse: Vintage from Parisian Friperie; Navy lace shorts: Whistles; Beaded flip flops: Zara; Bag: Michael by Michael Kors