A Pleasing Entity

The other day, I read a post about treating yourself on a friend’s blog. On the spur of the moment, I commented the entry mentioning that travel would be my treat. I love to see and discover and learn and rediscover places. I have traveled copiously in my three decades, but travel is an unsatisfiable thirst for me that will never be quenched. There are still so many countries I long to visit, continents yet to set foot on, so much still to learn of cultures and people in the world. Yet, I think I wrote too quickly; after some reflection, given my extensive travel record, I can think of other treats that I think would prefer first.

Since Wednesday, I’ve been having some pretty horrible-no-good-very-bad-days. I know we all have days like these, all the time. You always believe tomorrow will be better, new, different. The misery started slowly, almost unnoticeable, and then became an accumulation sparked by my eldest son’s intolerable behavior, testing me and pushing my limits and enhanced by the emotions brought on by phone calls and emails to and from friends left behind in Brazil. I think the other reason the days were so mediocre (despite our energetic walks, fun visits to the parks and quiet moments at the library) is that I feel displaced and this feeling has tarnished almost everything. I haven’t made any new friends because I haven’t signed up for anything, or done anything ‘for me’ because I haven’t found a babysitter available during the day. So everything I’ve been doing has been for and with my kids, and the only people I speak to during the day other than my kids are asking the receptionist at the front desk for the new door code this week, asking the pharmacist for cold meds for Damien, and asking the baker for two baguettes. My adult conversations stop there. Not very varied!

My ever faithful and supportive husband is special in that he feels something is wrong before I even have to tell him anything. When he came home from work he just gave me a big hug and held me. He understands. Then he hugged the kids and spoke to Thibault. Thursday night, we all went out to dinner. An Italian restaurant down the street! I had the shrimp scampi which was truly scrumptious. When he came home Friday night, he proposed going out to dinner again! We went for sushi and yakitori. He realizes that he speaks to adults at work. He also knows that French mothers are not necessarily the friendliest, so in this culture befriending mothers at the park while the children play is not really a tangible option!


Today, he gave me the ultimate treat! After lunch, after we put the boys down for their naps, I went out, A L O N E, withOUT the kids and went to a MUSEUM. It’s the first exhibit I’ve gone to since we’ve been back and it felt SO good. I took the Métro, which I never take when I’m alone with the boys for security reasons. I J-W A L K E D, which I never do with the boys for security reasons, and I walked F A S T. I picked the Musée des Arts Décoratifs as the destination of my solitary excursion. There is a retrospective of Madeleine Voinnet’s work going on until the end of January 2010.

Madeleine Voinnet was a cutting-edge French Fashion Designer between the two World Wars. She was quite progressive in her ways. In 1896, at age 20 she decided to go to London to learn English, leaving behind a husband she was in the process of divorcing and a baby (who died in her absence). She returned to Paris in 1910, and in 1912 she opened her couture house and was forced to close it in 1914 with the outbreak of the First World War. In 1918 she reopened and had great success with her modern style.


Vionnet was labeled as an innovator for several reasons. She was the first to work without real models, preferring to work an a wooden dress-dummy 80 cm high. She worked directly with muslin fabric to design her dresses, forming and shaping on a smaller scale rather than make paper patterns with real measurements. The smaller size allowed her to be freer in manipulating the fabric, and more creative with the structure of the garment and its position on the body. She used geometric forms and cut the fabric on the bias. (The bias technique had already been introduced but was reserved for undergarments rather than the actual dress.) By using a bias cut, she sewed the dress (no hooks attaching a skirt to it’s bodice, for example) and eliminated all buttons, hooks, linings, stays and other trimmings that in the past had restricted and imprisoned women. Women thus no longer needed to wear corsets and as a result could dress on their own, by themselves without assistants. Vionnet’s dresses where therefore adaptable to all activities, such as riding in an automobile or on a bike, going out for an evening, or an afternoon.

Vionnet designed her dresses using four principles. Proportions inspired by Jay Hambidge’s Dynamic Symmetry (using geometric shapes), Balance inspired by the Greek wardrobe, Movement in that the dress was a second skin and should flow easily with the body and the movements the body makes, and Truth meaning that the dress should be simple and finished with no unnecessary things (like hooks, buttons, stays, etc).

Madeleine Vionnet was truely an avant-garde couturière and business woman; she ran her couture house like a modern company. In the 1920 when counterfeiting began, she played a leading role in the fight against copies. In 1939, with the outbreak of the Second World War, Vionnet closed her couture house permanently. In 1952, with an awareness of the importance of preserving her artistic heritage, she was the first designer to donated dresses, patterns, photo albums, ledgers, and books from her personal library to the Union Française des Arts du Costume which in now a part of the Arts Décoratifs fashion collection.

I spent an hour in the exhibit. I walked through the first level, then walked back and started again before continue to the second level of the collection. I looked at the dresses, and the details. I read the history, took notes and did a few sketches. And then I came back home just in time for Snack-time! Going out for the two and a half hours I was gone, taking in the exhibit, with the time taken to get there and back on the Métro was an unusual breath of fresh air. It was an inspiration. It made me giddy. It was such a Treat!

Happy Halloween!



About Alexandra

wife, lover, mother, sister, daughter, friend, teacher, blogger, scrap-booker, cross-stitcher, photographer, designer, multi-lingual speaker, dual-citizenship holder, world traveler, dreamer... hopeful, happy, blessed
This entry was posted in adapting, exhibits, fashion, France, motherhood, reflections. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A Pleasing Entity

  1. Sabine says:

    should have call me when you were down it would have been a real treat for me to hear your voice…Miss you so much and understand so well what you say about speaking to adults.

  2. Yeah! I’m so happy to hear that you found a couple of hours for *YOU*

    I know the feeling of having this time when you haven’t had it in a long time. I imagined your quick gait as you crossed busy streets. It is so very hard when you have small children to have time for you. My son is now 13 so I have the luxury of so much time. I still focus on him each day and every night after a busy day at work I make certain that I’m “present” for him. He yearns for time with his friends and so we both get time for ourselves.

    Your post is filled with interesting details. I loved reading about the designer and her approach to her work. I know very little about fashion design but appreciate your notes as I have studied the elements of design which apply to all mediums.

    Kudos to you for recognizing your need for treats including treats that nourish your body, mind, and soul. Now that you have identified this desire you can make it happen on a regular basis. I’m so happy to hear that you have a loving and supportive husband.

    Thank you for sharing your week. If ever you need a cheerleader, all you have to do is write!

    {soul hugs}

  3. Caity says:

    Wow, what gorgeous dresses! What a fantastic treat! I think it is great to treat yourself like that once in a while, especially when you have had such horrible days like that. I hope your days get better!!

  4. Catherine says:

    Glad you enjoyed yourself at the museum. Yes, you have a special sensitive husband! Miss you loads!

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