Jan. 17: Dear Diary. C’est moi . Phyllis Stine redux in Paris, France. Smooth flight to Orly-Sud, despite turbulent boarding at Kennedy. “Stewardess,” I asked when I got on the plane, “where’s my seat?” I’m wearing tailored, to-die-for, gray Helmut Lang trousers, a black cashmere thermal-knit top by Marc Jacobs, and crocodile stilettos from Manolo Blahnik (about $2,500) and she goes, “Two inches lower than last year.”
Why Paris? Couture week, Dear Diary, despite earlier stated intentions of pursuing only a spiritual life. Mr. Stine, sweet as 10 pounds of Equal in a five-pound bag, telephoned when I returned from St. Barts to the Carlyle, where I am residing, you may recall, in divorce purgatory until Mr. Stine and I find our way. “Phyllis Stine, sweetie,” my estranged gargled down the phone. “Let me make to you a belated Christmas present. How’s about a week at the Ritz for couture? Buy something. Make sure you use chauffeurs from the hotel. Don’t waste your time with taxis.”
Be still, my diamond heart.
Jan. 18: Dear friend Mr. Salt arrives on business. Telephones. Advises me thusly: “Whatever you do, Phyllis Stine, during couture week don’t mention the Asian market crisis. The only time it is safe to mention Asia is when something at Givenchy or Dior is très Japonaise . And, if someone invites you to their house, look before you sit-there’s usually a small dog in the chair-and don’t go flinging your lavender shatoosh around, lest you topple the antiques,” which my friend pronounced “an-ti-cues.” This confused me as French isn’t my best language.
My room in the Ritz is so near the Rue Cambon I could walk to Chanel in my slippers. Love that. Jet lag. Hate it. Recent scientific reports suggest shining a bright light on the back of the knee helps cure Jet Lag. The Ritz gift shop is out of flashlights. Try Diptyque candle-cannelle (cinnamon) scent, which is Karl Lagerfeld’s favorite-against back of leg and nearly fall asleep. Get goosebumps. Remember Diana, Princess of Wales, was here at the Ritz. Create meditative altar to Diana with cannelle candle next to Lady Dior bag on mantel. In case Diana wants to get in touch.
Dress in black. Go downstairs. The lobby is teeming with people you know. There’s Henry and Marie-Josée Kravis in Paris shopping for their New York apartment, Anna Wintour, Liz Tilberis, Patrick McCarthy, Polly Allen Mellen, Gilles Bensimon, Elizabeth Saltzman, André Leon Talley, Eileen and Jerry Ford, Ashley Judd, Susan Gutfreund, Deeda Blair, Cathy Graham, Oscar de la Renta preparing his Balmain couture show, Dominick Dunne here to write a Paris letter for Vanity Fair and, well, maybe we’ll have a pajama party one night? Maybe we won’t.
First show: Emanuel Ungaro. So Ungaro. See Joan Juliet Buck, the American writer who became the editor in chief of French Vogue , front row and center. We wave. “Allo, Phyllis Stine.” “Allo, Joan.” She’s wearing dark pants and a sweater and incandescent Nike sneakers. That’s the rage with the hip set in France. Sneakers as wearable Pop Art. Make a note.
Second show: Alexander McQueen for Givenchy. Instead of going the bad boy route, he’s all Japanese-y and calm. Think pretty. I like a certain yellow harlequin coat and the evening dress fringed with horsehair. (About $55,000 of Mr. Stine’s what-does-he-need-all-that-money-for dollars.) Marie-Chantal of Greece and her sister Alexandra Von Furstenberg in the front row. Marie-Chantal is illustrating a book of fairy tales to be published in Greece as a fund-raiser for a foundation she and her father recently started.
Best show: Valentino. Notice that, with the exception of Claudia Schiffer and Kylie Bax, most of the supermodels aren’t in Paris. Amber Valletta is supposedly studying I-don’t-know-what at college I-don’t-know-where. Shalom Harlow is filming a movie called Cherry in Manhattan. Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell are in Paris for a W shoot, but they aren’t catwalking. Stella Tennant is fixing up her new house in New York City. Beautifying the neighborhood.
Whatever. Must have beaded cashmere sweater from Valentino immediately or I’ll die. Die!
Jan. 19: Survive night without sweater, but place order toute de suite at Valentino. Breathe again. Hit John Galliano’s show for Christian Dior at the Palais Garnier and not since the Steinberg wedding in the 1980’s have I seen anything like this: tangoing actors on the grand staircase, garlands of faded roses hither and dither, a ballet dancer in Nijinsky’s costume from L’Après-midi d’un faune . An “orgy of gorgeousness,” Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune tells me. There are Oriental coats and white suits. “Think Titanic ,” says Mr. Galliano. “Hot knife in butter silhouettes.”
“What a privilege,” Polly Allen Mellen purrs in my direction at the end of the show. Nice word. Means the same in French and English.
Sneak off to shoe shop at Christian Louboutin. He tells me Toni Morrison recently bought 25 pairs. Proof that new shoes make you smart. Attend premiere couture collection of a fellow named Thimister. He’d been designing for Balenciaga. Very minimal. Where are the buttons, I wonder. Then remember that’s the point. Dine at Sao Schlumberger’s with the Eiffel Tower in her backyard. “What are your favorite collections?” Madame Schlumberger asks me. And I want to impress her, so I answer: “Everything at the Louvre.”
Jan. 20: Karl Lagerfeld’s collection for Chanel is of such a chic, I cannot make selections fast enough. The show was staged not on a hyper runway, but in the Rue Cambon salon where Coco herself would crouch on the staircase and watch reactions. I read about this when I was 16.
That night, lit candle on Diana altar. Dream Diana walked barefoot from Ritz to Chanel. I followed. We’re 16. Any princes are just twinkles in our eyes. We order the same white evening dress shimmering with silver embroideries. “Dreams are made in Paris,” Diana whispers. “To be worn in heaven.”
Jan. 21: Awakened by Mr. Salt. “Did you hear what Queen Elizabeth gave Fergie, the Duchess of York, for Christmas?” I say I hadn’t heard. “A weekend at the Ritz,” he tells me. Laughing himself silly. I think of Mr. Stine. See red royally.
There’s Yves Saint Laurent’s show. There’s Oscar de la Renta for Balmain. Very nice. Accessorized by $35,000 worth of Fred Leighton jewelry. Some of the pieces used to be mine.
Jan. 22: Dream that I turned into a perfume bottle. At Valentino fitting, he himself tells me about new red pepper diet. You wrap yourself in crushed red pepper and sweat yourself thin. Order sheets from Porthault for heavy sweat come Presidents’ Weekend; red pepper from Fauchon.
Jan. 23: Taxi to Orly. About couture: It’s a fantasy in search of fantastic people. Stateside, Smith Limousine driver gives me a copy of New York Post . The Washington mess. I will wager this about Monica Lewinsky’s certain black dress. It isn’t Paris couture.