Deirdre Kelly

How to Cover the Paris Fashion Shows — Wear the Right Boots



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I’m calling it my baptism by Fendi because at that fashion show, I was reborn.

I walked in as a stylist’s nightmare and emerged, about 12 days and 1,200 shots of espresso later, a wide-eyed convert to the world of fabulousness.

I bought the heels, the wide-hooped earrings, the fur-fringed coat. I went every second day to the hairdresser for a blow dry. I walked the aisles of Prada, for God’s sake, seriously contemplating the purchase of a $1,000, red-leather purse.

The fashion cross is hard to bear. But I had seen the error of my ski-hat ways and was keen to do penance.

My editor was the first to set me on the path of righteousness. She took one look at me my first day back at work after maternity leave and said, “Yo, girl, you need some help.”

She was sending me on a mission. I was to be the new fashion reporter assigned to Milan and Paris for the ready-to-wear shows. I was to report back to Canada’s style heathens not only on what to wear, but how, when and why.

I trained hard for the assignment — tracking down a personal shopper at The Bay, spending thousands of dollars on new dresses, jackets, skirts, shoes and sweaters, swanning about at Starbucks on Bloor Street on Sunday afternoons in hopes that somebody — anybody — would notice.

When it came time for my trip, I packed all the wonderful new purchases carefully, wrapping them in tissue and primping them with sachets. When I arrived in Milan in February, I was ready to conquer — and I was trampled before I even put pen to paper.

It wasn’t the models who did me in. Oh sure, they’re tall, they’re bodacious, they’re glossily coiffed. But they are also make-believe — aliens from another planet, painted, dressed and botoxed to within an inch of their lives.

My day of judgment came at the hands of the international fashion press. They are the true arbiters of style; the holders of the key to the temple of fabulousness. I sat at their feet — literally, because I was a mere Canadian from the what-did-you say-your-paper’s-name-is-again? I was often refused a ticket to the shows and sometimes had to duck to get in.

Those square-toed boots I bought just before my pilgrimage to the city of the Duomo? Like, totally last season. And that beautiful red dress, the one that in Toronto I reserved for special occasions and here I proudly wore at work on the collections? Well, I felt like Little Orphan Annie in a hand-me-down.

The big girls didn’t sneer. They just didn’t look my way. I watched them from the sidelines, strutting down sidewalks in the most divine tapered-toe boots, cutting a swath through the crowds by means of their one-of-a-kind designer handbags.

The funny thing was, most of the time these goddesses wore blue jeans. But you could tell they spent a long time shopping for the right pair, and by that, think flattering.

Not everyone was a size 4, as is more the norm in the New York media corps — the doyennes of Vogue, Elle and W. In Italy, the women were women, with long hair and eyelashes and curves galore. Their secret weapon was believing in their own wonderfulness. This attitude alone can wipe away lines, eliminate bulges, make you walk straighter and smile more often.

But the second most powerful gun in their arsenal is a keen eye for the runway trends, and emulating them with a less-is-more finesse.

And so this translated as jeans with polished high heels, big hoop earrings, a fur-fringed coat, a gorgeous (also big, for all that press bumf) handbag made of the finest leather, and grooming, grooming, grooming.

I shamelessly copied the look, writing in the margins of my notebook at the Fendi show just what I needed to make it to fashionista heaven.

I’m back in Plain Jane Toronto now. Friends have noticed my transformation. Which is good. But every time I step onto a bus, my heels keep getting stuck in the hem of my new coat. Which is bad. I have almost tumbled face first into the driver a couple of times this week. Is that pride coming before a fall? Or did I buy the wrong shoes — again? Damn.

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