La Vie Tropezienne

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The late icon of elegance in dressing, Oscar de la Renta, is quoted as having said, “The great thing about fashion is that it always looks forward.” While this is undoubtedly true and evidenced by existence of new-age de la Rentas like Zac Posen and Giambattista Valli whose take on glamour is very much of our epoch, it obviously also looks back, these same two designers again being examples of influences of yore in today’s style.

As one who is truly smitten by the era of elegance in fashion– the times of the full skirts of Jacques Fath, the goddess draping of  Madame Grès, and me when millinery was never considered OTT, I do have a penchant for looking back in time for fashion finds and inspiration. My mind was certainly racing through a time far gone when I  logged onto eBay and searched “Brigette Bardot hat” earlier this year. And boy, was I in luck! I came away with a superb vintage find, a 1940s wide-brim straw hat  that sits perched just so on the head, practically begging to have its day in the sun again.

I first wore the hat in Baru, Colombia in May but I must say I don’t really feel as though I wore it until its second outing: my second day in Saint Tropez in September. Mr. de la Renta also opined that “being well dressed hasn’t much to do with having good clothes…It’s a question of balance and good common sense”.  Good balance is indeed, key. To offset the drama of the chapeau, I chose to wear a clean all-white ensemble with a bare-bones black bikini top as the only point of contrast. In retrospect, the look probably owes much to Yves Saint-Laurent’s Le Smoking suit of the 70s and the infamous image of a model in said suit on Paris’ rue Aubriot, shot by that god of feminine mystique himself, Helmut Newton.

ysl l Yves Saint Laurent’s Le Smoking, Photography by Helmut Newton. Paris, 1975

There is something that feels just right– as Tropezienne as the ubiquitous La Tarte Tropezienne in fact– about strolling along the port of Saint Tropez and stopping for a mid-afternoon verre under Sénéquier’s scarlet awning in an obnoxious hat the harkens back to another time, especially when the day began with breakfast in the jardin chez Dior.

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St. Tropez’s beautiful Dior mansion, impossible to miss, the garden of which is home to a quaint restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner

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The picturesque port of the village is lined with gigantic yachts and quaint old boats from the world over

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The port is particularly a joy at sunset, when one can watch the sun disappear behind the masts of the boats from the terrace of the historic café Sénéquier:

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A friend on Facebook remarked, jokingly, that I seemed a mite over-dressed in comparison to the other tourists in my photos. “And when has that ever stopped me?” was my tongue-in-cheek riposte. Today, we tend towards  what we currently define as “casual”, yet, based on the postcards bearing old photos of the the plage à La Ponche and other famous nooks and crannies of the French Riviera’s most infamous village, there was time when I would not have stood out at all, milling about in my fanciful hat. Of course, once the shopping and day drinking was done and we were back at Pearl Beach, I disrobed down to my bikini: clothes all of sudden are such a bother when the white sand touches your toes, you know?

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Post-card perfect: la plage à La Ponche

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A stroll along the port lands one at the ocean behind the hotel La Ponche, just past the Vieux Port, where rust-coloured rocks jut out of deep blue water and, on a good day, the sky and the mountains are as endless as dreams

But, back at Pearl Beach, it was all about being unencumbered:

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 If singer Solange Knowles has taught us anything at all this week,  it is that one should not be perturbed by the notion of standing out, doing thats as one does them. There are not brownie points to be won for dulling your sartorial or other inclinations to blend in with the crowd. For me, when it comes to clothes, it has always been about a good (I hope, though some recently unearthed photos from a concert I attended in my salad days belie any notion of the “good”) balance of old and new; the breath of bygone eras inspired into current sartorial leanings. Yes, that and a “senequier red” lip.

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A coincidental resemblance in stance to Le Smoking. La plage de la Ponche, St. Tropez. 2014

What I Wore: Club Monaco blazer, custom linen trousers, ASOS bikini, vintage hat, Linda Farrow sunglasses

Special thanks to my friend with “the eye” for snapping cool shots of me. Do check out her website http://www.blueprintafrica.tumblr.com where she blogs about African-inspired interior design.

About Natasha

Word- and dough-smith. Girl in search of "the illumination, that ecstatic flash, from which truth emerges".

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