Now that I’m getting settled in France, I’m beginning to understand why I love it here. I’m a hopeless romantic.
It didn’t happen by accident that I live in a tower apartment. I’m a princess. Or at least, I always wanted to be one. If I had long hair, I’d wish to be Rapunzel, pining away in my tower prison, waiting on my prince to climb up the garden wall.
Seriously, that will never happen. But living in the small village of Uzes, across from the palace of the Duke, it is pretty close to having my own castle. Better yet, if I walk only a few steps down the cobblestone street, I enter into a pure fantasy land where I am transported to the early 1800’s — the Age of Romanticism.
Romance and fashion: L’Atelier des Ours
There’s a little shop at the end of the road where I live named “L’Atelier des Ours”. You can’t miss the place because of the teddy bear outdoor decorations, and because there are usually crowds of tourists standing around the entrance taking photos.
When I first stepped inside the fairytale-like shop, L’Atelier des Ours,I immediately felt I’d walked into another world. First of all, there is literally “sand beneath your feet.” The floor of the entire first level of the shop is covered in several inches of pure white sand.
Second, the cozy store is filled with a vast collection of clothing, folk art and fond reminders of years ago — even centuries passed. Wherever you look, there are decorations and clothing items from an earlier age arranged in elegant, small vignettes.
Being a shopaholic, I’ve visited many stores attempting a “return to the past” theme. Never before have I experienced anything like this.
The “feeling” is achieved masterfully at L’Atelier des Ours, no doubt, because of the clever, topical store decorations, but also because of the artful selection of clothing and accessories — couture straight out of early 1800 France.
How do you describe the look?
There is a certain style in the south of France that is best described as “provincial”. As I travel around other towns near Uzes, the provincial style of dress is scarcely visible.
It is alive and well in Uzes.
When I discovered how much I admired the look, I tried to discern why some of the avant garde, provincial” clothing at other shops around Uzes was so different from the distinctive style found at L’Atelier des Ours.
That’s when I discovered “Bobo”.
Here’s an example the clothing at one shop in Uzes that sells popular French “provincial” clothing.
Here’s a example of the style of clothing at L’Atelier des Ours
What is ” Bobo”?
David Brooks, the NY Times columnist who is currently in the midst of a firestorm of controversy for admitting to have “smoked weed” as a teenager, wrote a book about “Bobos” in the year 2000.
I missed it entirely. In 2000 I was deep into my career at IBM, with two sons in college, and with hardly enough time in my day to breathe, as I recall.
Brooks’ book, “Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper-Class and How They Got There,” was subject of an interview with Gwen Ifill on NPR the year it was published. (Read the interview here)
Bottomline, Brooks describes “Bobos” as the cultural result of the “information age”. Quoting from his own review in the NY Times of his own book, Brooks says about Bobos: “These are highly educated folk who have one foot in the bohemian world of creativity and another foot in the bourgeois realm of ambition and worldly success. The members of the new information age elite are bourgeois bohemian. Or, to take the first two letters of each word, they are Bobos.”
According to Brooks, Bobos are identified by having “rebel attitudes and social-climbing attitudes all scrambled together.”
So what does Bobo have to do with fashion?
Bobo fashionistas are everywhere. You may describe the style as “bohemian”, but it’s not. It’s a higher grade of the 1960s “hippy” generation. Kate and Ashley Olsen probably would say they are Bobo. They’d probably enjoy shopping at L’Atelier des Ours. However, I would describe the true Bobo “look” as much more sophisticated than the Olsen twins’.
This photo of Mary-Kate is from a recent article in the Huffington Post that labels her style as ” bag lady” or “homeless chic”. They even mention the moniker “Bobo Chic” for Olsen’s style. (Read full article here)
Personally, I like to think about Bobo as a look that was re-popularized in Paris at the beginning of this century. It is a true throwback to the early 19th century, with a uniqueness that makes it new. It’s a look that is flirty, yet puritan; dark, yet light; feminine, yet tight-laced; rich, yet peasant; fun; yet reserved; elegant, yet simple.
Such is the fashion you find at L’Atelier des Ours and I understand that wealthy Parisian women flock to the store and to its store online.
Expensive? Well, yes!
You can imitate “Bobo” by layering and stacking on clothes you find at the thrift store or in the back of your closet. If you want to go for the “real” Bobo, it’s going to cost you, big time.
I have yet to afford a stitch of clothing from L’Atelier des Ours. However, I will admit I couldn’t resist the throw pillow stamped “Uzes” (50 Euros). That doesn’t mean I won’t break down and buy something soon. It’s just that I’m not 100 percent into the style quite yet.
It’s tempting! And here’s why …
A teddy bear’s delight
I hope you have enjoyed this visit to L’Atelier des Ours — translated, Teddy Bear Workshop. Be sure to stop and visit the store when you visit Uzes. It’s definitely a “must see”.
Meanwhile, visit the L’Atelier des Ours Pinterest site and blog to see more. (See more here)
Next, while I have the time and passion for it, I’m going to spend energy dreaming and studying about the Age of Romanticism.
I am going to research the fashion, the art, the music and the literature of that brief period of time in the world’s history — especially in France. Hopefully you will enjoy the journey.