|Random Cute Strangers at Les Puces de Saint-Ouen|
Why had I never been to the flea markets on previous trips to Paris? Well, for one thing, when I hear "flea market" I instantly think of the Englishtown Auction where I had my very first job in a breakfast stand in the Red Building, serving Canadian bacon and egg sandwiches to the bargain hunters of New Jersey at the crack of dawn. As my olfactory memory is overcome by greasy breakfast smells, I remember the Englishtown Auction (billed as one of the largest open air flea markets in the United States) as an enormous and overwhelming yard sale full of a mixture of junk and brand-new clothing with tags, recently shoplifted from the nearby malls. You can get in some interesting people-watching at the Englishtown Auction, but did I really need to go to a giant French yard sale and look through French people's junk while I was in Paris?
The answer is oui, oui, OUI!! I can tell you most emphatically that the Parisian flea markets are MUCH more elegant than Les Puces de New Jersey! ;-)
|Ventriloquist's Dummy and Vintage, Antique Doll Parts|
Another quick disclaimer, before we get started: There are two main flea markets in Paris, Les Puces de Saint-Ouen (where I went) and Clignancourt (where I did not go, although I heard it's more affordable). Then there are all kinds of smaller, less permanent flea markets going on in different places at different times. Again, if you're looking for something specific, check out Claudia's Keys to the Fleas before you head out. My goal was just to get a taste of what the flea markets had to offer in the few hours I was there. I saw much that I loved but bought nothing -- everything I liked seemed to cost at least 3,000 euros and the exchange rate was lousy.
Françoise Schuler, Marché Vernaison, Saint-Ouen
This was one of my favorite stalls. This antique textile dealer had the most amazing things, everything from embroidered table linens to silk damask window treatments (I was tempted to buy the valance in the photo above to hang in my office, but she would only sell it as part of a set with several other matching valances and drapery tiebacks that I wouldn't be able to use). There were also some beautiful 18th century aristocratic garments, embellished with some of the most exquisite hand embroidery I've ever seen in person.
|Can't you just imagine Mozart scampering around in this outfit?|
|Detail of Hand-Embroidered Floral Motif|
This vendor also had museum-worthy religious vestments (see above), antique quilts, and tapestries. I feel terrible for drooling all over her lovely things.
|Tapestries from Françoise Schuler|
This was another fun booth. I think our fearless leader Deb Barrett may have gone back and purchased the vintage Draperies sign later in the day. The vendor at this stall asked me not to take pictures (after I'd already taken this one -- oops!), but then she relented and gave us permission to photograph a fascinating antique window blind that she'd already sold to another customer:
|Antique Window Blind; Love the Metal Cornice!|
|Fit for the Queen of the Universe?|
The same stall had a great collection of vintage Chanel costume jewelry as well.
|Vintage Chanel Costume Jewelry|
Look at the hand embroidery and beadwork on this piece! This definitely gives me some ideas. A little bead bling embellishment (with restraint) added to an embroidered drapery fabric could be amazing on a drapery cornice or pillow. Pearl beads, small rhinestones and seed beads could also be added to machine embroidered designs to give them a more unique, three-dimensional flair. The piece in the photo here is an embroidered collar, and Mme. Barlan explained that it would have been used as a sample in a shop where clients could order custom embroidered garments. What would I do with something like this if I had purchased it? Well, it would be stunning framed as textile art. It might be possible to adapt the collar pieces for use as drapery tiebacks, but it would be an absolute shame to destroy any of the embroidery and I would worry about UV damage -- you'd definitely want to invest in UV film for your window before you used a vintage textile for a window treatment.
|Embroidered and Beaded Sample Collar|
|Cutwork and Beaded Sample Collar|
|Antique Crocheted Lace Trim Samples|
By the way, after I returned from Paris, I came across a wonderful idea for these small pieces of antique crocheted lace trims. Of course, now I can't remember where I saw it -- Pinterest, maybe? Someone had framed a piece of fabric stretched over a board, with horizontal "stripes" of different laces, and was using it as a place to organize and display her collection of earrings. These bits of lace would be perfect for a project like that, and they could also be sewn into one of those fabric jewelry travel pouches for the same purpose.
|Vintage Crystal Pagoda Chandelier|
By the time we came to this lovely courtyard of shops, it was almost time to head back for lunch and our afternoon trip to Versailles. We really only got a glimpse of the treasures to be found at Les Puces de Saint-Ouen. Next time I'm in Paris, I plan to spend a whole day at the flea markets, and I'll be bringing back more than memories and pretty pictures!