One of my favorite things to do in Paris is to rummage through the interesting junk at local flea markets (les marchés au puces) and thrift/junk stores (les brocantes). My mother has always loved going to thrift stores, or “junking” as she calls it. As a snotty teenager, I turned up my nose at used stuff, except for the occasional vintage sweater. But genetics are hard to escape, and these days I love to rummage through old treasures. There’s a historical and cultural aspect I find intriguing when rummaging through old junk in other countries, not that it’s all interesting or old.
My recent trip to Paris included a trip to le Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves, which I wrote about here, and to a small, cluttered brocante (thrift store) owned by Simone Baulez. She’s been a brocanteuse (seller of junk) for years and owns a little store on Rue Mouton-Duvernet. She empties basements and apartments and found a stunning cache of literature I’ll write about later. On our last couple of trips, we’ve stopped by a her shop to look at books (Todd) and everything else (me.)
I spent lots of time poring over old (late Victorian-early Edwardian) lingerie. Really – so very French! I imagine the brocanteuse emptied out the basement of someone whose grandmother saved everything. The frillies were linen and silk, were beautifully embroidered, and were of an ample size for a woman in the late 1890s- maybe a size 16 in a US size? They were old but in very good condition, very clean, and ironed nicely. There were dozens of chemises, bloomers, drawers (there is a difference!), slips, and corset covers. Fascinating stuff. And even though it was all in a pile, it was a very artful pile.
Not as titillating but still fun to look at were the glassware and dishes, mostly rustic rather than refined. Parisians make the most of their space as this photos shows. There was no graceful way to reach over to look through the books against the wall without risking shattering something. Todd spent time looking through the books and CDs. He found someone’s collection of classical piano music by a Turkish pianist, Idil Biret, and a few books. Not the Californie title. The bolts of fabric included beautiful tulles, silks, and cottons with an occasional bolt of ugly polyester.
I found two of these hand-embroidered linen pieces on my last visit to Madame Baulez’ brocante. Roughly translated, this one means “a good cellar brings a happy house.” I could be wrong about this, of course. Google translates it as “a well-stocked cellar is a home of prosperous.” Perhaps a kind French speaker will tell me what it really means?
4 rue Mouton Duvernet