My Life in Paris: The Cat’s Whisker

My Life in Paris: The Cat’s Whisker

Theadora considers the early influences on her ‘you do you’ mood board

Startled by an elbow jab, I nearly drop my reporter’s notebook and swag bag. “They wish to take our photo,” the head-to-toe zebra print-clad fashionista seated next to me says, waving to the street style photographers. As they approach us, she tosses her tresses in the air, flashing a peek of chic: a 3D crystal manicure. I’m on the front row at the K-Collection show at the Palais Brongniart, historical home of the Paris stock exchange, and having a ball.

By no scratch of the imagination am I an industry A-list icon (yet). However, I just might have inadvertently started a trend. Thanks to some overzealous pre-show styling brought on by a brief bout of nerves on the Métro, I’m wearing two over-sized cat eye sunglasses. One is on my nose and the other sits on my head like a cat-eared tiara. What would Audrey Hepburn do? Most likely, not this! Some say, “Be a Gigi, not a Pippi”. I say, why not pin both to your “you do you” mood board?

Just be yourself

Me doing me is influenced heavily by two things in particular: I’m a Francophile and cat fanatic. I’m also a card-carrying Longchamp bag devotee, a three-cream cheese head and crochet-curious – but that’s a whole other ball of yarn. I’m also the daughter of an artist who dislikes traveling. That’s right. “I travel in here,” he says, pointing to his bookshelf, then his head. My dad – teacher, history buff, avid reader – wants to stay put. But here’s the thing. He helped spark my interest in France. Fueling my obsession with les chats domestiques, he decorated my childhood bedroom with prints of 19th-century Théophile Steinlen advertising posters. Since the Musée de Montmartre often exhibits Steinlen’s works, whenever I visit, it always feels like home.

Dad also tracked down the soundtrack from Walt Disney’s The Aristocats for me after we watched it on TV. Set in Paris, that cartoon flick was a game changer. Not only did it leave me yearning to be the rhinestone-collared Parisian glamour puss (aka “Duchess”), but I also fancied running away with her swashbuckling, orange tabby beau, the flamboyant prince of the boulevard, Abraham de Lacey Giuseppe Casey Thomas O’Malley – O’Malley, the alley cat.

Oh, c’est très jolie, monsieur Thomas!” I’d sing to my reflection in the mirror, all the while vowing to live in the City of Light one day. Years later, when I scooted into my very own garret close enough to three fromageries to mark the changing of the seasons by the cheese, I made good on my vow.

Théophile Steinlen’s poster advertising Le Chat Noir nightclub in Montmartre. Photo © Theodora Brack

Lucky Black Cat

And now I’m over-the-moon inspired by a catwalk at the Bourse. With the legendary Brasserie Vaudeville in view, I’m mesmerised by the meshing of old and new on the K-Collection models. I see edgy mod, frilly prairie, wild kinetic fringe, ruffled multi-tiered skirts and blouses, asymmetrical hems, long flowing, souped-up sleeves, and cheese wedge-patterned frocks. I also catch the whiff of real-life baguettes in bags, too. That’s right. Bread and cheese are also having a runway moment.

Seeing the fromage-fabric and bread peeking out of the bags makes me hungry, so after the K-Collection show, I take wing to the nearby glass-ceilinged Passage des Panoramas. Built in 1800, the arcade originally linked two rotundas adorned with massive wall paintings offering vistas of Paris, Rome, Naples, and Amsterdam. Though popular as the Imax of their day, they were demolished during the 1830s to make room for hotels and galleries. I think my dad would have appreciated the travel without the hassle opportunity.

At the end of the narrow tiled hall, I see a rack of Steinlen postcards. It takes just a few spins to find my favorite, Chat Noir. Then, from a pâtisserie with a sweet and flaky palmier in hand, I send an email: “Thanks for the inspiration, Dad”.

As another favourite Papa, Ernest Hemingway, once wrote: “There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other.”

And that goes triple if the memory features a cheese-patterned party dress.

From France Today magazine

Read more of Theadora’s “My Life in Paris” columns here:

My Life in Paris: A Touch of Reine Fall
My Life in Paris: For the Love of Cheese
My Life in Paris: Girl Racer
My Life in Paris: Fashion Victim
My Life in Paris: Monument Woman
My Life in Paris: Going Down in Style
My Life in Paris: Because She Cancan

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After 10 years at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Theadora moved to Montmartre in 2003 to write for the travel website She founded her own blog, "People, Places and Bling: Theadora's Field Guide to Shopping in Paris."

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