Sunday, 14 April 2013

Vintage Chinese Silk Blouse

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


  1. It's a beautiful blouse and your story is wonderful. I wish I had been able to spend time with my grandparents. There is so much to be learned and enjoyed with them. You are lucky.

  2. Beautiful blouse, and so amazing that it evokes so many great memories and emotions for you. I have a friend like R who taught me how to stage fashion shows - he was always my style mentor. Glad R has found you - wonder if he's in fashion? Xo

  3. great memories, esp. the sentimental value towards your grandmother. as much as I shop online, I tend to have a greater sentimental attachment to the things I've bought in person esp. on my vacations.

  4. Beautiful blouse and story, V. I love that it shows its age and retains its beauty . . .

  5. Gorgeous silk blouse, V!
    I love your stories! Can't wait to hear of your meeting with Mr. R in May!

  6. This is an amazing blouse, classic and will remain stylish forever.

  7. What a heavenly oriental blouse, and a lovely story behind it. I adore vintage chinoiserie and used to so love frequenting the fripperies when I lived in Paris, particularly the Chinese stores (there was a wonderful one behind Shakespeare & Co by Notre Dame where I worked at the time). How lovely that it is a piece with such history and fond memory behind it - you wear it beautifully.

  8. What a beautiful blouse. I love that it has special meaning, memories and connections to special people in your life.

  9. A lovely story, and a lovely blouse. I love silk that's so worn it's shattering, and so soft and light you can barely feel it at all.

  10. Beautiful friendship story about all the fun you and are had in the past... How cool that you will be seeing him again soon. Your blouse is lovely and I think that its vintage aspects definitely add to the charm. How wonderful to have that connection with your grandmother, even if it is through photographs and stories. I have a grandmother that I took after that I miss very very much.
    Becky :)

  11. What a beautiful blouse, and such great memories of the friperies of Paris!

    My own grandmother was a great style inspiration to me. I wish I had gotten to explore her wardrobe more before she died. I did get some amazing vintage jewelry from her.

  12. What a smashing read. That blouse is all the more beautiful for being rough and ragged around the edges. xxx

  13. Hi my dear! What a lovely post, the blouse is a stunning friperie find and obviously so sentimental regarding your grandmother too. How lovely you and your friend are meeting up again, that is wonderful for the both of you! Have a good week xxx

  14. What a lovely story. You must have been channeling your Grandmother all along without knowing it.


  15. The vintage blouse is gorgeous, I'm really fond of the seafoam colour. Social media has a way of lending its great uses in this case reuniting with R for you. Always love these extra nuggets about bloggers when they fit it into outfit posts.xx

  16. This is such a beautiful, heartwarming story. Thank you for allowing us into this part of your life and sharing with us. The photo's and blouse most difintely reach the beauty of the message. I do hope you share about your meeting with Mr. R.
    Thank you for visiting me today, so glad to have found you.

  17. I love words, and the sound of them in any language.
    Thank you for not forgetting me.
    Un abrazo grande.

  18. Hello!
    I love the beautiful details on your blouse, looks adorable.
    Great blog,
    ♥ Have a lovely day

  19. LOVE that story! I also friperied in Paris when I was young. I love your blouse and had a similar one in cream which I wore so much it tore! Happily a replacement was found on *ebay some time later which I still have - I adore silk blouses!

  20. What a wonderful story with so many touching aspects. I love the femininity of the blouse and that it holds treasured memories for you.
    Thank you for sharing your friperie find and the stories behind it.
    Please let us know how your reunion with R goes!

  21. Lovely story about your time in Paris, tales of your Grandmother, and the very special vintage blouse. I have one almost identical, which I found at an estate sale. I too find that even though a piece becomes worn, it appears more beautiful because of its meaning and the memories it evokes.


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