Aug 12, 2015

What's In Your Closet?: Gargilesse


I feel it is only slight hyperbole to say that we could probably clothe all of Pippa's and Gigi's classmates -- at least their good friends -- with what we've got in their wardrobe. And that's after we've pared down, drastically, over the years of living in France. Now you can actually see the clothes in their closet, and get things in and out. To us, it's near miraculous, because trying to stuff their American-quantity of clothes in here when we first moved to Paris was a disaster.

The above rack is all the hanging space Gigi has, and Pippa has the same amount, compared to this (photo below) when they were younger, living in San Francisco. We laugh to see it now, knowing that we considered that a small, simple closet. They were still young after all, and their clothes were so tiny. We hadn't yet bothered to trick out the closet with all the fancy drawers and shelves. And there was a whole other walk-in closet this size, for the girls future use, that sat empty.

At the time, we also considered our own walk-in closet (below) modest. Our architect and builder kept suggesting a bigger closet, or his-and-hers closets, but, as it is, you could actually fit a bed in here if you needed to. We thought it was plenty big enough.
By contrast, the photos below show our space here in France, shared by me and Anthony, which is probably 1/5 of what we had in San Francisco yet still considered very generous by Paris standards.


Since we've been apartment hunting, we have to consider closet space. It's a question you need to ask (actually ask, out loud) in Paris, because sometimes there is, literally, none.

In this apartment that we saw, the only closet space, for all four of us, would be:

Even in very big apartments, this can be true. I saw a 165m² (almost 1800 ft²) apartment with a master bedroom around 25m² (270 ft²) and absolutely no closet space at all. Parisians often have to furnish their own: Bring on the IKEA wardrobe (or heavy wooden antique wardrobe, if you want to pay to move it in and out) and extra dressers.

Our friends have just moved to Paris for a sabbatical year (during the heat-wave. We want to give them a warm welcome, but the 100°F welcome is ridiculous). We're storing their luggage till they find an apartment; we don't need our floor space much since the girls and I won't be in Paris for most of the summer. They're storing nine enormous pieces of luggage, each of which looks big enough to hold the entire wardrobe -- summer and winter -- for most of my French friends. That's not to mention the guitars, ukuleles...

I covered the luggage up, just to make a "work" surface for the girls' room, and Gigi says it looks like there's a dozen coffins in their bedroom. I'm just picturing the closet and drawer space in the apartment this family eventually finds and wondering how it will all fit.

Living in Paris definitely increases the urge to purge. Even though it's fun to shop at the soldes and the vide-greniers, every time you do, you need to clear out room. Some friends with slightly older girls clean out their space and hand down to our girls bags of wonderful clothes. Pippa and Gigi squeal like it's Christmas morning. Then we spend hours purging out bags and bags of clothes and giving them to a friend with slightly smaller girls. I'm sure the cycle continues at their house. Interestingly, one of the beautiful side effects of this is that the girls love -- really love -- everything in their closets (even the stuff we keep for grungy wearing).


It's a paradox worth stating, and trying to remember once we're back in the States: the fewer clothes the girls have, the more they actually enjoy picking out their outfits and the happier they are with what they are wearing. It's not just the kids. I feel it. Parisians feel it.

Not only do we recognize most of the outfits on our smaller friends, now that they're wearing our girls' hand-me-downs, we also recognize most of the outfits on most of our own friends, co-workers, and acquaintances, because they simply don't have that many clothes. They have smaller wardrobes, filled with higher-quality clothes that last, and that they really like, and that really fit, and they actually wear them -- regularly. We see outfits and pieces repeated on a regular basis. This is not shocking, disturbing, or gauche; and it's true even for very wealthy French friends, with very big apartments. It's both a practical necessity and a cultural norm. That partially explains the Parisian penchant for blacks and grays; they match everything.

We haven't gone quite Parisian in the sparseness of our wardrobe, but then again, we know that when we move back to San Francisco, our clothes won't even come close to filling up our American closet space. The trick will be to retain that less-is-more approach and not overstuff our American closets. We'll see how long that lasts.

THE CHEESE: Gargilesse

Gargilesse is a farmhouse, raw goats' milk cheese from Garglisse-Dampierre,  in the department of l'Indre, in the region of Centre-Val de Loire.

The history of the medieval village dates back at least to the 10th century. More recently, it was home to 19th century writer George Sand, the masculine nom de plume for Amandine Aurore Lucile Dudevant. Other writers and painters have passed through, presumably because it's so lovely. Between that and the cheese, I now want to visit.

The cheese itself is a golf-ball sized, barrel-shaped, nugget of cheese that is dry and crumbly, thick and creamy all at the same time. It's a classic goat cheese with the taste of the farm, pepper, and flowers. It's gone in three seconds from the platter -- much too quickly for me to get an inside photo -- and that's not just because it's small, but also because it's delicious.


If less is more, according to the French, then is Gargilesse gargimore? Besides the name of it, this cheese is a great example of the less-is-more principle, since it's a small nugget of cheese with a beautiful, high-quality flavor. In turn, it comes from a tiny, medieval village with a population of 304 people (as of 2012) that packs a punch, filled with both history and charm; it even makes it onto the Most Beautiful Villages of France list. Quality over quantity -- the very quintessence of the French wardrobe philosophy.


  1. One of your best!

  2. I agree !
    And what a lovely cheese platter …

  3. Have you been to La Petite Rockette thrift shop? I was there this summer and it's SO much better than Emmaus...they were having a sale that day...all clothes 1euro (!!!) and I found several fun pieces!


Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Customized by Mihai