Haute Couture on the Cote d’Azur

One of my fiance’s friends has captained several sailing trips to the Caribbean and Bahamas over the past few years.  Until now, I’ve declined the offer to embark on the journey because…well, it seems like a “boy’s trip.”  (I’ll spare you the details, but lots of wild and crazy stories have emerged.)  That is,  I’ve declined until now.  His next adventure?  A sailing trip on the Mediterranean, the thought of which hurtles me into all kinds of insert-me-as-Grace-Kelly-in-Monaco-or-Brigitte-Bardot-on-the-Cote-D’Azur montages.

Um, yes please.

Even though I’m a firm supporter of the bikini, I must admit that I first envisioned myself lying underneath a striped cabana umbrella (in case you’re landlocked and want to transform your backyard into a diminutive version of the French Riviera, the one below is from UmbrellasUSA) in a retro one-piece —

This mini polka-dot maillot is by J. Crew (on sale now for $59), and it has “Monte Carlo Beach Babe” written all over it.  Alternately, you could combine the cabana stripe look and the one-piece retro styling with this sailor-inspired French Connection suit (available at Bluefly for $76; also comes in a navy stripe):

Or — if you’re stubborn and have a hard time adjusting to the idea of wearing a one-piece — pick up the J. Crew scalloped white bikini I’ve been bananas over this entire season (still on sale!):

Grace Kelly would approve.

I’d love to accompany the swimwear with this impractically expensive nautical Chanel towel —

…but candy-colored cabana towels are easier to come by (you can find them for as cheap as $4.95 from KMart…just saying).

While sailing along the Mediterranean coast, you’d need to overcome your millinery fears by investing in a sun hat, a la Mademoiselle Bardot.  (Repeat the following mantra: yes, I can wear a hat without looking like Mary Poppins.  It’s all a matter of owning it.)

The peasant-slash-gaucho straw hat look was all over the runway last spring/summer season, especially in Marc Jacobs’ collection, of which the shot below is my absolute favorite.  Something about the dress makes me do a double take whenever I see it — maybe the almost-mandarin-collar, which I adore.

For our purposes, I’m thinking a wider-brimmed style would be more suitable — it just screams “glam beach-going goddess.”  I snagged this one from J. Crew for an affordable $34 — and it’s foldable, making it ideal for traveling:

I’m pretty sure J. Crew “borrowed” the idea behind this hat from Eric Javits, milliner to the stars.  He’s got a wide collection of awesome vintage-looking hats — including this one, which I find too fanciful for practical use, but appealingly reminiscent of one of those 1940s “Travel to the Cote D’Azur” posters you see all over the place (especially in Nice, which I visited while studying abroad).

If the name Javits sounds familiar, it’s probably because Gossip Girl‘s Blair Waldorf has worn a number of his head pieces over the past few seasons.  Only Waldorf could pull off a head-to-toe throwback look.  Let’s not go there ourselves.

But don’t worry — not all of Javits’ designs are as bold as the few I’ve featured above.  He also has some insta-classics (heirloom material) if you’re willing to pony up the cash for something you’ll likely only wear a handful of times a year — most are within the $200-$375 range.  I’m into the lavish-yet-wearable style below.

You’d also need some legit glam glasses.  I’ve been coveting these vintage lucite YSLs (available at LoveWorn.com) for awhile now — you wouldn’t need any other accessories with them on.  They speak (loudly) for themselves.

White-framed sunglasses would also fit with the Riviera vibe — check out Bardot in these bold square-framed sunnies:

I’d probably go with some white Ray-Ban wayfarers instead — I’m pretty sure there’s a rule somewhere that only those with perfect bone structure can pull of silly-looking styles without looking like an idiot.

While on the subject of Bardot and Cote d’Azur sea-faring style, I’ve just got to bring up the breton striped shirt she popularized back in the day.  Originally worn by French sailors, she took the look and ran with it.

The style has come back in a big way (see this month’s full-page spread on breton shirts in Vogue), and it fits seamlessly with the “in the navy” looks I featured in my Nautical By Nature post.  You can find a similar style at J. Crew for only $36:

I’d keep the look simple, pairing it with big black sunglasses (Oliver Peoples), white shorts (Milly), a straw bag (Serpui Maria), and some nautical knot-inspired gold sandals (“The Ines” by Kate Spade) — many of which I’ve featured in previous posts.

If you’re not “all aboard” with the French sailor look, check out alternative styling options favored by neo-Bardot-ite Kate Moss, one of my fashion icons:

or adorably casual Reese Witherspoon:

If you want a more conceptual approach, I think we can all admire (if not readily adorn) Balmain’s edgy epaulette-inspired take on the look in his 2009 spring/summer runway collection:

Bold shoulder for sure.  For eveningwear, I’m thinking a classic white bustier dress (this one, by D&G, is available at Nordstrom and Saks for just shy of $500 — I bought the same style in a sky blue for the honeymoon and plan on wearing it with a pair of killer neutral wedge espadrilles by Louboutin and a straw clutch):

I’d pair this LWD with forget-me-not Louboutin peep toes in a pattern reminiscent of the sailor’s knot:

Can you imagine strutting down the street in that getup?  People would think you were Grace Kelley reincarnated.  Oh la la!  Tres chic, ca!

Addendum: I feel compelled to share some amazing coupon codes I’ve received over the past couple of days:

  • 20% off all Saks online purchases April 20th-25th — some designer exclusions apply.  Code: FRIEND3
  • Free Shipping at TheOutnet.com through May19th.  Code: FreeShipBDay
  • 20% off candles and party tubs at Fontaine Maury (I’ve featured his monogrammed goodies multiple times) through April 30th.  Code: New0410
  • If you become a friend of the MacBeth Collection on Facebook, you will receive an email giving you 20% off orders over $100!
  • Amrita Singh posted an update on its Facebook wall about my Monday post (Neckwear for the Preppy Set) — become a fan and receive a 20% off coupon!

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