asthetics, Balmain, Black is Not a Color, Christian Dior, Costume Institute, elegance, exhibit, Harold Koda, Jackie Kennedy, Jacqueline de Ribes, Jacqueline Onassis, Marlon Brando, Metropolitan Museum of Art, remarkable women, Richard Burton, Rozsa Gaston author, shaken but not stirred, The Art of Style, The Westchester Guardian, Yves St. Laurent, zeitgeist
The Impeccable Hauteur of Jacqueline de Ribes
By Rozsa Gaston for The Westchester Guardian, Dec. 10, 2015
“Elegance. It’s an attitude. A frame of mind. An intuition, a refusal, a rigor, a research, a knowledge. The attitude of elegance is also a way of behaving.”—Jacqueline de Ribes
Gift yourself this holiday season with a visit to see Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s latest exhibit. The impeccable hauteur of Parisian designer Jacqueline de Ribes is on display now through February 21, 2016 in a dazzling exhibit featuring 60 haute couture and ready-to-wear ensembles from her personal archive, dating from 1962 on. The clothes are gorgeous, unfussy, and vibrantly colorful. But the exhibit’s focus on Jacqueline de Ribes’ life and imprint on the zeitgeist of international fashion is the takeaway that will make a permanent impression on those with a thirst for refinement of both spirit and manners.
There are Jacquelines, then there are Jacquelines. A notable few are known for their style, such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. But the ne plus ultra of style goes to Jacqueline de Ribes, a Frenchwoman who defines grace and chic for all times. Unflappable sangfroid? she has it; the rest of us want it.
One can see the “intellect, rigor, and discipline that went into creating each dress,” exhibit curator and Costume Institute director Harold Koda observed in his remarks at the exhibit’s press opening on November 17.
One can also see these qualities in the ramrod straight posture and firm upward thrust of the chin of international style icon Jacqueline de Ribes in the exhibit’s many photos and photo montage show.
Designer, fashion leader, theater director, television and movie producer, patron of the arts, wife and mother, she was also a crack sportswoman in her younger years. A French aristocrat, de Ribes exercises discipline to present the best version of herself to the world at all times– qualities also seen in the top echelon of blue-blooded American society.
Jacqueline, Countess de Ribe’s long-limbed litheness provides the framework for the carefully thought out performance art she exhibits in every public appearance. Born on Bastille Day, July 14, 1929, she grew up in the highest circles of French society. Upon exiting convent school, she married Vicomte Édouard de Ribes in 1948 and emerged as an international style icon during the 1950s. In 1956 she came to the attention of the international stage by making the International Best Dressed List; in 1962 de Ribes was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame, where she remains.
After years of wearing haute couture by favorite designers Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and Pierre Balmain, Jacqueline de Ribes began her own line in 1982. She found little support among her own social circle, with her family objecting that “an aristocratic woman doesn’t enter commerce.” Her husband finally gave his blessing, but said, “you have to raise your own money.”
She came to New York and did. Why was she able to succeed in New York and not in Paris?
Jacqueline de Ribes’ “biggest support was in America: that was because her lines were very clean. There is a lucidity, a clarity about what she does,” explains Koda, who spent the past year working with Countess de Ribes on her Met exhibit. The flow and lack of fuss of the clothes on display in the exhibit are notable. Her mindset was modern. She chose daytime outfits she could work in. “I am not a lady who lunches. My suits have to move. My clothes have to be comfortable. I have to be able to work,” she says.
Certain photos of Jacqueline de Ribes in one-on-one encounters with celebrities captured in the photo montage at the exhibit’s entrance are worth the visit alone. Marlon Brando appears bedazzled by Countess de Ribes as she warmly greets him. Richard Burton looks captivated as she offers him an embracing smile atop a sharply jutting chin while Elizabeth Taylor peers helplessly on; the mix of alarm and envy on her face: priceless.
“As a person she’s incredibly seductive,” Koda remarks, describing how she leans in toward her conversation partner, speaks in a soft silvery voice, and touches her throat from time to time in an “it’s just the two of us” gesture. Again, Jacqueline Onassis comes to mind.
“Does anyone want to be elegant rather than sexy?” Jacqueline de Ribes fretted to Koda while they worked together on preparing the exhibit. Most emphatically, yes. In Countess de Ribes’ own words, “The art of being sexy is to suggest. To let people have fantasy.” So timelessly true.
Jacqueline de Ribes reflects the indomitable hauteur of Paris: shaken, but not stirred. Run, do not walk, to see Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. You will come away with straighter posture, a higher tilt to your chin, and a heightened sense of self-possession after immersing yourself in the life and clothing design choices of this exquisite woman.
Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style exhibition is on view from now through February 21, 2016 at the Anna Wintour Costume Center of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue at E. 82nd Street, New York, New York 10028.
Rozsa Gaston is a Bronxville author who writes playful books on serious matters. Women getting what they want out of life is one of them. Her novel Black is Not a Color is the story of Manhattan woman Ava Fodor’s quest to balance a new U.N. job and new French boyfriend while caring for her ailing Hungarian father in the final year of his life. Midwest Book Review calls Black is Not a Color “A compelling, entertaining, and deftly crafted read from first page to last.” Black is Not a Color is available on amazon.com in paperback, eBook, or audiobook editions.
Author Rozsa Gaston, be here now, Budapest, career, career and romance conflicts, contemporary romance, dating, Dutchman, Hungarian American woman, Publishers Weekly review, Szechenyi Baths, thermal bath spas, thoughtful romance
Publishers Weekly weighs in on my Dec. 2014 latest release Budapest Romance in its June 22, 2015 issue:
“The traditional healing properties and beauty of the thermal spa baths still enjoyed throughout Budapest are the true stars of this thoughtful romance.”—Publishers Weekly
Budapest Romance is now available on all major online retail sites. Thank you, Publishers Weekly, for this greatest of all honors, a review in the publishing industry’s most respected news magazine.
Readers—for those of you who read and post a short review of my tender romance set in Budapest’s thermal bath spas, I will be delighted to send you an eBook thank you gift of your choice of any of my other books.
Enjoy and stay playful. —Rozsa Gaston
Budapest, Cafe Gerbeaud, eBooks, fiction online, fitness, Gellert Hotel, Hungary, Kindle, pleasure, promotion, publishing, pursuit of pleasure, relationships, romance, self-discovery, self-esteem, seo, spa, spa baths, spa culture, Szechenyi Baths, travel
Budapest Romance comes out November 17, 2014, darling readers. My latest book is a contemporary romance. Set in Budapest, it’s the story of an American woman meeting a Dutchman at a thermal bath spa hotel. Ready to help me decide on the cover?
Let’s go to Budapest and soak in this mineralized pool at the Gellert Hotel Spa while we consider cover choices.
Hot pink or light pink? Big title font or smaller title font? Interested to review and advance copy and send me your review to be posted on launch day in a place of honor? Here’s the story:
But from the moment she sets foot in the city of her father’s youth, it’s pleasure that pursues her. At the thermal bath spa hotel where she’s staying, she meets a Dutchman who reminds her of Béla Dunai, a Hungarian refugee who fled his homeland shortly after its 1956 revolution.
Jan has never met a woman like Kati before. Her blend of New England restraint with gypsy spirit captivates him. While Jan introduces Kati to Budapest’s leisurely pace of life, Kati introduces Jan to her own leisurely pace of sensual exploration as their attraction to each other grows over six magical days.
When Kati returns to New York, their relationship continues. But it’s not just an ocean that separates them. Kati’s corporate job with lots of travel is the antithesis of the slow-paced pleasures she enjoyed in her father’s favorite city, one of Europe’s crown jewels.
Which will Kati put first—her new career or her new love; a man who reminds her of the father she never fully understood? And is it the Hungarian pleasure-loving side of herself that she really needs to understand before she can offer her heart to the man who has awakened her to who she truly is?
Now darlings, if you really want to enjoy a book that’s already out there, take a trip to Paris without the airfare with Paris Adieu.
And if you want to be part of the final design and advance review team for Budapest Romance, send me your thoughts on cover design choice or request for advance review copy to email@example.com.
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Many authors, when looking for subjects of the most emotional value, turn inward to their own lives as a jumping off point. And that’s just what Greenwich’s Rozsa Gaston has done in her latest novel.
In Black Is Not A Color (Unless Worn By A Blonde), Ms. Gaston writes of a young woman reconnecting with her father after many years of estrangement. In this story, Ava Fodor is a woman with a thriving career and a budding new romance who was not raised by her father only to find herself having to take care of him over the course of the final year of his life. Despite not knowing her father, and having all the resentment and confusion that comes with that, Ava finds herself drawn to the eccentric Transylvanian/Hungarian man with his passion and zest for life even as it slips away.
“It doesn’t start that way, but this is a book that ends up being about elder care,” Ms. Gaston told the Post in an interview last week. “That’s not a very sexy subject, but it is an extremely topical one and this is definitely a book for Baby Boomers to read and also for those younger than Baby Boomers who are going to be facing this down the line. This is about caring for an aging parent who didn’t raise you as a child. That changes the conversation. Her relationship with her father is she’s just discovering him for the first time as a 30-year-old woman and he’s from a completely different culture.”
Ms. Gaston indeed drew from her own relationship with her father for the book but only in a loose way. It might be the genesis for the story, but it quickly goes in its own direction.
“My father was a Hungarian/Transylvanian refugee from the 1956 Hungarian uprising and I did not get to know him until I was older,” Ms. Gaston said. “I met him when I was about 16 and I wanted to work through feelings about our relationship. Writing the book ended up being a wonderful eye opener for me to realize how much my father actually did give me and how satisfying it was for me that when he did die I did the right thing. I might not have done the best job of doing the right thing, but I knew I did the right thing. I wanted to share that journey and writing this book allowed me to develop a deeper appreciation for my father.”
In the book, while Ava finds herself trying to relate to someone she doesn’t know and who comes from an entirely different cultural frame of mind than she has, she also has to struggle with the feelings of abandonment she has always had toward her father while finding herself drawn to him and his unique style. The more she learns about him the more she relates to her father which makes things even more difficult and that’s before life further complicates her romance…but to find out more you’re going to have to read the book which is available at Amazon.com and can also be ordered from Rozsagaston.com.
“The great thing about this book is that there’s progress between Ava and her father and the reason there’s progress is that her father is very forgiving,” Ms. Gaston said. “He didn’t parent her and she’s his only child so he didn’t parent anyone and he knows he was not a father at all. So he forgives her for whatever she says to him and how she acts toward him. He just wants to get to know her because he does love her and always has loved her.”
This book, which was first released in March, is a sequel to Paris Adieu, which had Ava living as an au pair coming of age in Paris. The romance between Ava and Pierre that began in the first book is a major theme in this new book. Ms. Gaston is quick to compare her lead character to widely known characters like Bridget Jones or Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City in that she’s no saint and can be a complicated person, but is someone readers want to root for.
“As soon as I finished Paris Adieu, I realized that Ava took on a life of her own and that I owed it to her to continue her story,” Ms. Gaston said. “And I owe it to her now to also continue her story through another book if not more.”
That book is still in the planning stages but Ms. Gaston is eager to get to work. A driven writer with several books to her name, Ms. Gaston said she loves to think ahead. Her next book, Sense of Touch, is inspired by the famed The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries at the Cluny Museum in Paris. No one has ever definitively sourced who the women are in those tapestries, which date back to the 1490’s, and this story is a historical fiction exploring that mystery.
However that story might have to wait until 2015 as Ms. Gaston is planning on having her sequel to Black Is Not A Color done by the fall.
“I can’t stop and I don’t want to,” Ms. Gaston said. “The projects keep coming to me one after the other.”
But she will stop long enough to sign copies of her book this week. Tomorrow, May 23, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Doncaster pop up boutique at 219 East Putnam Avenue in Cos Cob, Ms. Gaston will be on hand for a book signing. Details below.
Excerpt from Paris Adieu:
In Paris, people-watching was an art form. Jean-Michel was a discreet observer of public conduct and style, unlike my friend Elizabeth, who was unabashedly snide in her commentary on the failings of other human beings, with her snarky British wit. I enjoyed time with Elizabeth until invariably I felt as if I were participating in some sort of vivisection of poor, hapless strangers who really weren’t all that inferior to us. But with Jean-Michel, I learned a great deal from his restrained commentary on the people around us. He wasn’t so much judgmental as he was instructional. Now, he motioned to a woman with henna’d hair standing next to a man in line.
“Look at the woman there,” he said in a low voice. “You see her scarf?”
I glanced in her direction, pretending to survey the crowd as I caught sight of the long black, white, and gray scarf loosely slung around her neck.
“Yes. What about it?”
“That’s how to wear a scarf.” He sniffed.
“I mean everything like that. The black and white is chic but would be too severe without the gray. The design is not too busy. And the way she wears it shows she knows how good she looks in it. The scarf has made her jacket come alive.”
I’d never had a conversation like this with an American man.
“It is chic, isn’t it?” I agreed.
“Right. That’s what I meant,” I corrected myself, chasing away a tiny cloud of irritation. His fussiness annoyed me but he had a point. Who cared about a piece of clothing? It was the person who wore it who gave it whatever value it possessed. I wondered how I’d do in a black, white, and gray scarf. Immediately, I vowed to look for a similar one then practice draping it in the mirror.
The point in life…is to find equilibrium in what is inherently unstable.~Pierre Reverdy from Coco Chanel by Lisa Chaney
Reverdy was a dear friend of Gabrielle Coco Chanel. Handsome, independent, a trifle brutish, he appealed to the peasant woman buried deep inside the exquisite Chanel.
Find out more about bad boys in my latest book Black is Not a Color, sequel to Paris Adieu. Out in audiobook, it’s the story of Ava Fodor’s struggle to care for her father while cultivating her relationship with her new French boyfriend Pierre. Not a bad boy. Too good for Ava, in her mind, in fact.
Ava is not the only grown up child of a parent who didn’t raise her. There are many men and women with such a tale out there. Coco Chanel was one. If Ava’s idol Chanel could get beyond a rough start in life, so can Ava. So can you.
Listen to Ava’s story in Black is Not a Color and take inspiration. Move out of the shadows of a less than ideal childhood and take your place in the sun. Coco Chanel is your lodestar. And Ava’s story in Black is Not a Color will help you find the hero within yourself.
aging parents, career, chicken paprikash, contemporary romance, culture, dating, elder care, Elizabeth Taylor, Fellini, free book, Hungarian culture, Hungary, Jackie Onassis, Judith Krantz, New York, personal growth, romance, Scruples, self-discovery, United Nations, women's issues, Yale
“When my father said black is not a color unless it’s worn by a blonde, he wasn’t just talking about the color black or women who were blonde. He was talking about the animus inside the packaging—the spirit inside the body, the woman inside the dress.”—Rozsa Gaston, Black is Not a Color
When Ava Fodor returns to New York from Paris, she leaves behind her budding romance with Pierre and turns her attention to another man: Zsolt Fodor, her father. He’s a penniless Hungarian poet transplanted to New York in the wake of the failed 1956 Hungarian uprising. Raised by her New England grandparents, Ava barely knows him. Dramatic, effusive, emotional, he’s everything her grandmother warned her against. Yet his crazy conversation fascinates her. His chicken paprikash isn’t bad either.
Pierre’s pull draws Ava back to France, to the medieval walled city of Carcassonne. There, his tender care of his ailing mother awakens Ava to something lacking in herself. Unless she finds it, she can’t give him her heart.
When her father has a heart attack, Ava is thrust into a caregiver role, looking after a man who never looked after her. She’s terrible at it. So was her father, so he forgives her. But can she forgive him? Until she learns to love the man she has every reason to abandon in his hour of need, she can’t move on. Only her father can show her the way. But will she let him? And if she can, will it be too late for Pierre and her?
Praise for Black is Not a Color
“Imagine if Judith Krantz had been a history scholar at Yale when she wrote Scruples. If this idea appeals, you are likely to be engaged and fascinated by Black Is Not A Color. The book is at once witty, smart and touching. It will make you want to devour chicken paprikash and then go shopping at a chic Manhattan boutique with your best girlfriend. A sensitive delineation of family dynamics and some wonderful insight into geopolitical geography.”
—Jane Stern, author of The New York Times bestselling Elvis World, Roadfood, and many other books on food and popular culture
“Rozsa Gaston takes us on another delicious adventure through France and
beyond. Sexy, thrilling, and deeply moving, Black is Not a Color has everything
you’d want in a novel, plus lots of spice, specifically paprika.”
— Jamie Cat Callan, author of French Women Don’t Sleep Alone, Bonjour Happiness! and Ooh La La!
“Readers will be delighted, intrigued and entertained by Black Is Not a Color. This enjoyable continuation of Ava’s worldly tale, begun in Paris Adieu, is full of vibrant characters with great chemistry. Gaston writes this story with intelligence, emotion, creativity and heart.”
—Laurie Weiner, Fairfield Public Library, Fairfield, CT
“Heartwarming, romantic and sexy, Black is Not a Color touches upon friendship, romantic relationships and the strength of familial bonds. This moving read for sophisticated readers evokes both a desire for European travel and a renewed appreciation for my hometown of New York City.”
— Meredith Schorr, author of Just Friends with Benefits and Blogger Girl
—Atessa Helm, film producer, script and story consultant