Reliving my first encounter with International Women’s Day, and reading Duchesse’s question wondering what larger-sized women in Italy wear, has gotten me reminiscing about what was in my first European wardrobe. To start with, it all fit in one suitcase — which got me from January to June! And what was in there? The best description is BCBG meets New Wave, since in my freshman year I’d morphed from Muffy the Wonder Prep to someone much more ironic — or so I thought. At 19, irony is anything but a given.

I don’t remember everything in my armoire, but there are some standouts. Just before I left the States,  I made myself a black pencil-skirt suit out of some sort of stretch twill fabric, which proved to be an absolute workhorse. A pair of “les bleu-jeans,” which were immediately endowed with a crease by my beloved Mme. Charlet, who also ironed my socks and cotton undies. A powder blue sweater dress that stopped men in their tracks — oh, if only I’d been more aware of my youthful powers… One of my most treasured garments was an electric blue vintage bowling shirt from the team representing “Murphy’s Stude-Pack” in Detroit, which had belonged previously to one “Leo.” (Even though I was much too buxom for it for years, I could never bear to part with it. I finally gave it to my god-daughter a few years back — I so hope that she still has it, though I’m afraid to ask, lest my heart be broken by her reply.) For outerwear I had a navy-and-cream Geiger of Austria coat, which made the long, rainy Paris winter bearable, though I only packed it because Mama Rubi insisted. As soon as the temperatures squeaked past the bearable mark, it went back into the suitcase for good and I made do with sweaters and the jacket of my suit. I think I also bought, at Les Puces, an old raincoat of the sort favored by men who frequent public lavatories.

Besides Les Puces, my other favorite shopping haunts were commensurate with my age and station: Tati, Monoprix, and for a splurge, Naf-Naf. (Remember, it was 1982.) I bought cheap, fun, impractical shoes like The Naugahyde Slippers, and wore them with open-work cotton anklets and my rolled-up jeans. I quickly amassed a collection of scarves that had Mme. C. calling me “Mlle. Foulard,” had my nearly-waist length hair cut into a bob/pageboy, added a dash of red Bourjois lipstick, and “wah-lah.” Rubi, version parisienne.

Yes, there are photos somewhere. If I ever unearth them, I promise to share.

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