The French have a phrase, "tonic la ' boutique,' " which means "the whole bag of tricks." This summer, at the same time that Italian and French designers of the haute couture were showing their mostly disappointing fall collections to the largest gathering ever of store buyers and press, their own boutique collections were full of sportswear that contained, if not "the whole bag of tricks," at least a good share of them.
Europe's boutique creations now have the same kind of outdoor vitality one finds in American sportswear. Whether situated on the elegant ground floor of a designer's Paris atelier or the sandy informality of a Riviera beachfront, the boutiques are crammed with fashions and bargains.
In the cool, gray quiet of Christian Dior's Paris boutique are buttery su�de coats, collectors' sweaters and knit costumes that exude the very air of the Bois de Boulogne. The knitwear starts at $50, for soft cable-stitched pullovers with collars of knitted loops, and goes on up to such luxuries for travelers or spectators as three-piece costumes of cashmere, with ribbon-edged jackets, sleeveless pullovers and pleated skirts.
While every fashion house in Paris denies that it copies itself in its own boutique, each reflects the personality and lines of the designers in charge and the prevailing trends of the season. Many smart young girls in Paris know that the successes of the couture turn up in boutique versions later in the season. And the difference in price certainly makes them worth waiting for. For example, a pink fleece coat that would be perfect at Longchamp or Santa Anita is fitted in front and straight-hanging in back, giving the owner the up-to-the-minute look of the fall season for $155, less 20% for traveler's checks, a buy hard to duplicate for value anywhere in the U.S.
Su�de and python skins
Nina Ricci's boutique export business has grown so that the house has established a "little collection" designed by Ruben Torres, prot�g� of Couturier Jules Crahay and onetime designer for White Stag of Portland, Oregon. At collection time in July, 200 different styles were shown with as much drama as at a big couture opening. Leather, cut like the less sporting materials upstairs in Crahay's collection, was the hit of the show. The su�de poncho shown in the illustration above, for example, has the same swirling silhouette, buttoned on one side, as the capes that were Crahay's big couture successes. It costs $240.
Sporty little raincoats have become the uniform of such New Wave actresses as Pascale Petit and Jean Seberg, and some kind of way-out slicker is in every boutique. Nina Ricci has one, for instance, that is a black-rubber balmacaan lined with gray flannel. And Aldo Chiesa of Turin has a raincoat made of six python skins.
Chanel is a designer whose great contemporary success is based on the easy cardigan jackets and walking skirts of her suits. She is also one of the few designers in Paris who don't have a boutique downstairs. Fortunately for the woman who likes the casual Chanel cut of things (and just about every smart woman in Paris does), almost every shop on the Faubourg Saint Honor� is in effect a Chanel boutique. To her delight these shops all copy her suits—Chanel is one designer who actually encourages the copycats. The collections had hardly been shown before the new look of Chanel's tweeds, so soft they looked like knits, trimmed with fuzzy wool and braid, and with bar pins clutching the jackets above the bosom, began showing up in all the windows.
One boutique that has not been affected by the caprices of French designers this season or any season in its 100-odd years is Hermes, the saddle, leather and sportswear shop on the Faubourg Saint Honor� (SI, May 23,1960). Hermes might be called the purveyor of the chateau look. Its customers include such chatelaines as the Duchess of Windsor, Suzy Volterra and the Princess de R�thy. Leather is the thing this season as always at Hermes, and a leather golf skirt is $100, a leather coat $400. Hermes' well-known silk scarves are now made up into casual skirts, and they're selling very well, for $40.
Meanwhile, in Saint Tropez, at Madame Vachon's (she's the Balenciaga of the Bardot beach set), this summer's bargain is a traffic-stopping outfit composed of hip-level pants—a bikini with legs, you might say—and an abbreviated pullover top that leaves about eight inches of skin showing. All this for $12. Anyone who could was wiggling into them last week, tended by shopgirls who rushed around with folding screens for dressing rooms.