Shoes – Historical High Heels

American Duchess

American Duchess

In looking for a pair of 17th century style shoes, I came across the website “All About Shoes” which details historical facts about shoes through various eras.

“Throughout Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, heels were an indicator of wealth and status for both men and women. In France, the wearing of heels even became a regulated expression of political privilege. In the 17th century court of King Louis XIV (reign 1643-1715), only those granted access to his court were allowed to wear red coloured heels.”  (I wonder if this is where Louboutin got the idea for his red-soled shoes!)

“Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, King Louis XV (reign 1715-1774) also left his mark on high heel history. Although men began abandoning high heels by the 1730s, heels remained important in women’s fashion. During the reign of Louis XV, fashionable heels for women were curved through the waist and splayed at the base to increase stability. The French favoured a delicate interpretation of this style, while the English preferred heels that were a bit stouter.

This combination of graceful shape and sturdy construction was revived and revamped in the 1860s. Although christened the “Louis heel,” the later heel featured a much more dramatic curve where the heel met the shoe.

Increasing criticism of frivolous extravagance heralded the end of the aristocratic age. With revolution in the air, the upper classes throughout Europe and North America began to embrace the more modest aesthetic of the rising middle class.

Men had abandoned high heels by the middle of the 18th century and, throughout the last decades of the century, women’s heels became increasing lower. Sturdy heels were replaced by more delicate and thin heels and, by the 1790s, heels usually rose no higher than a few centimetres. 

After the French Revolution, heels quickly went out of style. By the early 1800s, flats were the fashion. High heels would not be seen again in Western fashion for another fifty years.”  

Official Website HERE 


Body Language in the 17th Century

Body language refers to various forms of nonverbal communication, wherein a person may reveal clues as to some unspoken intention or feeling through their physical behavior. These behaviors can include body posture, gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements; the meanings varies depending on the culture.

In 17th century France, MOUCHE (applied beauty marks) were used in fashion to convey body language, as well as to physically cover pock marks. They could take the shape of hearts and/or be made of lace, but their facial placement was key to the intended body language message.


Women also carried FANS — not just to cool themselves or for mere decor, but to communicate when it wasn’t appropriate to verbalize something. The fan had to be carried, opened, closed and fluttered with precision and reason. A woman held it in front of her, not covering her face, with the painted side facing out. Every movement had a meaning.


Carrying Open fan: come speak with me

Twirling the fan in the right hand: I love another

Twirling the fan in the left hand: We are being watched

Placing the fan near your heart: I love you

A half-closed fan pressed to the lips: You may kiss me

Letting the fan rest on the right cheek: Yes

Letting the fan rest on the left cheek: No

Dropping the fan: We will be friends

Other sources decoding fan language offer some pretty specific statements:

Placing fan on left ear: I wish to be rid of you

Carrying fan in right hand in front of face: Follow me

Drawing fan across the forehead: You have changed

Drawing fan through the hand: I hate you

Threaten with shut fan: You are imprudent

Gazing at shut fan: Why do you misunderstand me?

most commonly understood fan gestures.

A fan placed near the heart: “You have won my love.”
A closed fan touching the right eye: “When may I be allowed to see you?”
The number of sticks shown answered the question: “At what hour?”
Threatening gestures with a closed fan: “Do not be so imprudent”
Half-opened fan pressed to the lips: “You may kiss me.”
Hands clasped together holding an open fan: “Forgive me.”
Covering the left ear with an open fan: “Do not betray our secret.”
Hiding the eyes behind an open fan: “I love you.”
Shutting a fully-opened fan slowly: “I promise to marry you.”
Drawing the fan across the eyes: “I am sorry.”

Touching the finger to the tip of the fan:“I wish to speak with you.”
Letting the fan rest on the right cheek:“Yes.”
Letting the fan rest on the left cheek:“No.”
Opening and closing the fan several times: “You are cruel”
Dropping the fan: “We will be friends.”
Fanning slowly: “I am married.”
Fanning quickly: “I am engaged.”
Putting the fan handle to the lips: “Kiss me.”
Opening a fan wide: “Wait for me.”
Placing the fan behind the head: “Do not forget me”
Placing the fan behind the head with finger extended: “Goodbye.”
Fan in right hand in front of face: “Follow me.”
Fan in left hand in front of face: “I am desirous of your acquaintance.”
Fan held over left ear: “I wish to get rid of you.”

Drawing the fan across the forehead:“You have changed.”
Twirling the fan in the left hand: “We are being watched.”
Twirling the fan in the right hand: “I love another.”
Carrying the open fan in the right hand:“You are too willing.”

Carrying the open fan in the left hand: “Come and talk to me.”
Drawing the fan through the hand: “I hate you!”
Drawing the fan across the cheek: “I love you!”
Presenting the fan shut: “Do you love me?”

~From All About Fans

Photo/Source: Wikipedia

How to be Parisian? Move to Paris

Reblog: Written by Hadley Freeman for the Guardian:

Real French women don’t resemble the stereotype peddled by endless guides to looking chic, having lovers, eating baguettes and staying thin

Parisian woman near the Eiffel Tower
Your GCSE French teacher probably didn’t look like this … Photograph: Alija/Getty Images

I’ve noticed that yet another book has come out telling us that we should all be more like Parisian women. To save me reading this book, can you tell me how to be more Parisian?

Pas de problème, mon petit chou-fleur! After French Women Don’t Get Fat, French Women Don’t Get Facelifts, French Children Don’t Throw Food, Like a French Woman and French Women Are Just Better Than You So Shut Up About the War Already Because They’re Thinner and Sexier and We All Know What’s Really Important So Nyahhh!, yet another crucial addition to this delightful genre arrives called How To Be Parisian Wherever You are.

I’m afraid I haven’t read the whole thing due to a severe allergy to books that are predicated on national stereotypes so tired they would make the producers of ’Allo ’Allo! balk, but I did read an extract (hard-working journalist, me), and I can tell you, this book looks pretty spectacular. It was written, we are told, by “four stunning and accomplished French women … [who are] talented bohemian iconoclasts”. Coo! Stunning andiconoclastic? That is so Frrrrench, n’est-ce pas? So let’s see how this “iconoclastic” book shatters some French stereotypes. Well, we are told that French women “take their scooter to buy a baguette”. Take their scooter to buy a baguette? I’m sorry, is this a book about how to be French or a GCSE Tricolore text book? What next, “Monsieur Dupont habite à la Rochelle et il aime aller a la piscine”? Anyway, carry on. What else do we clueless non-Frenchies have to do to be more like French women, please?

“Smoke like a chimney on the way to the countryside to get some fresh air.”

“Don’t feel guilty [about infidelity].”

“Cheat on your lover with your boyfriend.”

Wow, this book really blows the lid on French stereotypes, doesn’t it? Totally doesn’t rehash them at all. Mon Dieu! Ooh la la! Nicole Papa! Du vin, du pain, du Boursin!

Admittedly, I am not Parisian. However, half my family is, I lived in Paris for a while after university “studying very hard” (dossing about with my cousins) and my parents still live there, so I have some experience of the place. But the funny thing is, in all my life of being related to Parisians, visiting Parisians and eating baguettes with Parisians on their scooters, I have never once come across a single woman who fits the stereotype peddled by these books. These idiotic guides present an image that is about as representative of Parisians as Four Weddings and a Funeral is of the average Brit. Are there skinny, scary women in Paris who have lots of lovers and always look fabulous? Yes, probably, and I’m guessing they all live in the same tiny square mile off the Boulevard Saint-Germain. But I have never come across any of them, and I used to cover Paris fashion week. It is perhaps the greatest trick France has ever pulled, constantly telling the world how innately chic its people are, while actually not being especially different from any other country. After all, there are rich, skinny, scary women in all major cities. But it is only Paris where we’re led to believe that this tiny demographic is representative of the entire populace.

Seriously, who buys these books? Have they never seen a French person? Do they just forget that their French GCSE teacher didn’t look and dress like Catherine Deneuve? Or are they so filled with self-loathing that they’re willing to cling on to whatever ridiculous lie is peddled by the publishing industry as long as it comes with a promise of self-improvement? Je ne sais pas, c’est très bizarre (see? This “being French” lark is un morceau de gâteau.) We all know that national stereotypes exist, but whoever would have thought that an entire publishing genre could be built upon them? But I appreciate that the publishing industry is struggling, so to help them on their way, here are some other titles that might be worth pursuing:

1. How to Get the Best Sunlounger Round the Hotel Pool Like a German.

2. How to Say ‘I’m WAWKIN’ here, I’m WAWKIN’!’ Like a New Yorker.

3. How to Throw a Shrimp on the Barbie like an Australian.

I’m going to stop now because each of these ideas is gold and I can’t just give them away, you know. The point is, there is nothing inherently chic about Parisians – they just happen to speak French, which is a very chic-sounding language, and they live in a stonkingly beautiful city (which they only saved by being cheese-eating surrender monkeys to the Nazis – I wonder if any of these “How to be Parisian” guides give any tips about how to acquiesce most stylishly to invading fascists? Yeah. I went there.) But as there seems to be some sort of appetite for this nonsense, here – EXCLUSIVELY!!!! – is my guide to being Parisian:

Move to Paris.

Speak French.

The End.

Au revoir, mes petits! Je vous embrasse, ooh la la!

Local Fashion Show: “Journée de la Mode”

To celebrate the season changing from summer to winter, a local town held a fashion show to promote its local businesses. Not exactly haute couture, but entertaining and charming, in presenting fashion and beauty to consumers, to brighten an otherwise gray and overcast, rainy day (videos below). Not to mention that one of the male models certainly brightened my day!

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Music + Fashion = St. Tropez

Of course, St. Tropez is known as the playground for the rich and famous, and for the actress/singer Brigitte Bardot in the 1950/60’s, who now has a line of clothing.

In the recent music collaboration between French DJ, Jean Roch, and American rapper, Snoop Dogg, Chanel designer, Karl Lagerfeld, makes a cameo appearance in the video, asking “You were never told that Saint Tropez is paradise?”

We may not have actually been told, but I think we all believe it IS a little piece of paradise!

Fashion-able Versailles

The first time I visited the Chateau de Versailles, I was overwhelmed with its beauty and history, and was mesmerized with its Baroque style and sheer decadence!  I felt like I belonged there and sensed a strange connection to its past, bringing tears to my eyes.  Each time I travel to Paris, I feel I must visit Versailles and bathe myself in its opulence — as if I’m breathing in the essence of an ‘autrefois.’

In 1999, after the storm damage occurred in Northern France, I even ‘adopted’ a tree at Versailles — a program for the re-planting of 10,000 trees; ‘my’ tree is along the Allée de la Reine in the Trianon Gardens, and so,  I am  represented through nature, at the very place I love. 

I hope you will enjoy the linked DIOR fashion video — as it shows beauty of style — both in fashion and in its chosen location!

Symbolism – Then & Now for Chanel

One day, some friends and I decided to get out of town! We decided to have lunch in the vicinity of a nearby castle, where we had planned on doing a guided visit and degustation (wine tasting). The drive up into the heart of the Bellet vineyards took about 25 minutes, as we meandered our way up into the hills behind Nice.

Stopping in Colomars, we walked around and discovered a hotel/restaurant, L’Auberge du Redier, nestled into a hillside and with magnificent gardens. The staff was very welcoming, and after lingering in the beautiful gardens, we were seated at a table in front of one of the large windows in the light and spacious dining room. The food was excellent and the service was top rate – combined with the lovely surroundings and warm ambience, this lunch was special, affordable, and a great find!

In keeping with our planned itinerary, we drove to the Chateau de Cremat, noting for future reference that we could take bus #62 from Nice = no designated driver needed! The castle, built in 1906, was strikingly beautiful, with panoramic and breathtaking views. The doors and stained glass windows were impressive, etched with the castle’s symbol.

We heard and saw how the wine is produced, still some in oak barrels, and that it is AOC (appellation d’origine controllee) – an official label, which identifies a product’s geographical origin, standardized method of production and know-how, and authentic quality and characteristics. We were getting thirsty and ready for the wine tasting that followed the tour! (another point for taking a bus, to avoid missing out on the best part!)

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We learned that the castle had several owners in its history, and in particular, an American woman, who hosted many high-society parties. As the story was told, one of the guests that the owner befriended was Coco Chanel, to whom the owner gave the right to use the official symbol of the castle’s name: the two intertwining C’s – seen in the doors and windows at the castle! (three short videos in this link)

In 2001, the castle was bought by Cornelius Kamerbeek as a private residence; he rehabilitated the abandoned vineyards, a total of about 25 hectares/62 acres, modernized the wine caves, and added a boutique/wine tasting area. The original symbol (initials of the castle) can still be seen there, but the official symbol is the current owner’s initials: the intertwining letters a backward “C” and a “K.” (see slideshow photo)

I ended up buying a couple bottles of wine and a bottle of olive oil, as souvenirs, to end the day’s visit to a castle with TRUE fashionable style!
Informational video in French