Sarah Alexandra would love for you to meet Julia Amory, the woman behind the dreamy lifestyle brand, India Amory. Julia’s home collections and delightful social media presence provide abundant inspiration, making her one of our favorite tastemakers to follow (check out her Instagram @indiaamory) Plus, we love that she’s a go-getter—the idea for her business (named for the Indian block printing technique) came from being unable to find the right textiles for her wedding and deciding to design her own. Bright and playful, yet sophisticated and timeless, Julia’s designs are perfect for stylish holiday gatherings. Below, we ask Julia about tablescape rules and holiday traditions, and share some examples from her collection to help energize your own gathering preparations:
Q: What inspires your tablescape décor?
A: I generally build a tablescape around the print—not the other way around. I use the colors of the pattern and the amount of white space to help me select flowers, plates and accessories. I’m drawn to bright and clean palates and am never afraid to experiment; it’s just a table and it’s meant to be fun! Try something new. Worst case, you don’t like it and move on. Life is too short to always play it safe.
Q: Sarah’s business was sparked by the idea of a ready-to-wear design version of her mother’s beautiful shirts. Likewise, how have the women in your family influenced your style and design aesthetic?
A: I’ve been greatly influenced in my life by the women in my family. My grandparents taught us to always “dress”—that meant bringing an element of elegance to every aspect of life. Living beautifully is about being graceful in every way—not just the aesthetics. Sending a thank you note is as important as picking out a beautiful outfit or setting the perfect table. On a more visual note, the women in my family love color; they have a flair for Pucci and Shanghai Tang. My husband’s aunt was Chessy Rayner and, while I never knew Chessy, her ethos of mixing high and low style, couture with Gap, is something I embody in my own approach to style. Good taste is not measured by cost.
Q: The holidays are right around the corner. How do you typically spend them and what’s a favorite tradition in your family?
A: This will be a transitional holiday. My entire life, holidays were spent at my family’s farm in the Hudson Valley—which we sadly sold last summer—and for the first time we’ll all be together in Southampton, followed by Palm Beach after Christmas for New Years. It’s an important lesson in recognizing that new traditions can be just as fun as old ones. One tradition that we’ll stick with, however, is planting hundreds of paperwhites, which my mother is in charge of, and smell divine! We also always have clementines all over the house, which will always remind me of the holidays and adds such a nice burst of color, as well. Lastly, my father is from Germany and we’ve upheld the tradition of opening one small gift on Christmas Eve, usually in black tie attire.
Q: What’s a quintessential rule to live by when hosting a holiday family gathering?
A: Prep! I try to get as much of the work—in terms of meal prep and decorating—out of the way before there is a sudden full house. I’ve also become far more adept in delegating responsibility so that everyone has a role and feels involved.
Ah Paris, the city of lights and romance! When you think “Paris,” you probably conjure up visions of you and your significant other at the Eiffel Tower, with good wine and all the carbohydrates you normally eschew. But Paris is a culturally rich destination that offers plenty of fun options for all your family members, both big and small alike. Read on to learn about our family vacation, with all its triumphs and tribulations, in my daily trip itinerary:
We arrived in Paris at 8:30 AM on the non-stop flight from Seattle; highly recommend! If you cannot book first class, upgrading to Delta Comfort is the next best thing. Two words: bulkhead seats. Luckily, the kids did really well with the journey, phew!
We booked our stay in the 6th Arrondissement, at the Le Saint Paris, which also conveniently can arrange for a driver to pick you up from the airport—Alex came to get us and gave us a French lesson, too; très bien!
When we arrived, our room wasn’t quite ready so we ate a much-needed breakfast after the long flight, after which we were shown up to our quarters. I can’t recommend Le Saint Paris enough. With a perfect location on the Left Bank, just across the Seine from the Louvre, it felt quaint without being too touristy. It’s also great for families, because they have connecting rooms that are spacious and well appointed.
After unpacking and freshening up, we headed out to the Eiffel Tower. Pro tip: purchase tickets ahead of time so you don’t have to stand in line. During our visit, the grounds were under major construction, but that didn’t take away from how much the kids loved seeing such a famous landmark.
We then hopped onto a bike taxi, bringing us to the Jardin des Tuileries. We checked out the trampolines and walked around to keep ourselves awake and adjusted to our new time zone. The kids enjoyed the fresh air, and Ryan and I got a chance to people watch.
Unfortunately, we ended up having dinner at a not-so-special bistro near our hotel. Note: Not all French bistros are created equal!
We woke up and dined downstairs at our hotel, which had a great breakfast consisting of omelets, French toast, pancakes and yogurt. Added bonus? If the kids forgot something, or we thought better of bringing something up in our room, we could easily run back before heading out for the day.
Prior to leaving Seattle, I made a reservation for the Paris Muse Clues: A Louvre Family Tour. We met our tour guide, Henry (who was English and great with kids), just outside the Louvre and he snapped a few photos of us before entering the museum. He had scavenger hunt books for each kid to fill out and then find treasure at the end. It was one of the kids’ favorite activities, and us adults learned a lot, too! It made me want to go back to school and study history.
Post-hunting, we had lunch. If you’re looking for a particularly special spot in the area, and don’t mind shelling out a few extra Euros, I recommend eating at Le Café Marly, where you can see inside the Louvre!
We then walked towards the 3rd Arrondissement, where you can find stores Supreme and Merci nearby (note: double check closed days/hours before you go). We shopped around a bit and then grabbed a drink from the Merci café and sat outside.
We continued walking through the streets of Paris, which, surprisingly, turned out to be one of our favorite activities on the trip. Looking at the architecture and just being present in a new city was also fun for our kids. Believe it or not, we didn’t hear one complaint about walking so much – even from our 6-year-old, Oliver. We took in the view of the stunning Notre Dame Cathedral, across the Île Saint-Louis, and along the Seine towards our hotel. We stopped at the Golden Goose store, which was conveniently located right near our hotel. After all, you can’t resist looking at shoes in Paris, right?
I also learned a valuable lesson that day: it’s impossible to do everything. I repeat, don’t be a hero; you can’t do everything! For example, I really wanted to take the guided/private tour of Notre Dame, but it started at 9 AM, and with the jetlag and having to get everyone up in the morning—I just decided against it. After our trip, my mom also pointed out that we missed the world-famous ice cream on Île Saint-Louis called Berthillon. . . shhh don’t mention it to my kids—they’ll never forgive me.
We did, however, have a great end to our day dining at Les Antiquaire. It really hit the spot and we enjoyed the roasted chicken and profiteroles for dessert!
Before our trip I had schedule a private bike tour for the five of us from Fat Tire Bike Tours. I chose this bike tour because they had child-sized bikes for Hudson and tandem bikes for Helen & Oliver. It was great! We went by the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, where the tomb of Napoleon is located, the Musée de l’Armée, Petit Palais, Grand Palais, the Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre. It was really fun for the kids and helped keep their energy levels up, being in the fresh air.
After our bike ride we were ready for lunch. We ate next to the bike tour office at a great little Italian spot: Firmine. The food was fabulous and a welcome change after solely dining on French meals.
Once full, Oliver really wanted to go inside Les Invalides to see the actual tomb of Napoleon, so we wandered over and got some fun pictures of the kids with the Eiffel Tower in the background. After seeing the tomb, we went inside the Musée de l’Armée. The museum was really interesting and well laid out—though I do admit to taking a little cat nap on a bench while the rest of the family explored. BUT it really was impressive and the refurbishing of the outside of the building was absolutely pristine with its limestone façade and courtyard with old canons (the kids were climbing all over them, having a great time). After the Musée, we did a little shopping at Le Bon Marché—one of my favorite places to shop in Paris where I can always find the perfect pair of shoes. Following our shopping excursion, we ate dinner at Chez Fernand. The kids loved it! Oliver and Hudson devoured the beef short ribs and of course we ordered dessert—chocolate lava cake, divine! The dessert was served while Oliver was in the restroom and was completely gone by the time he returned! Luckily, he settled for ice cream on our walk back to the hotel, oops!
Side note – there are two Chez Fernand’s. I prefer the location on Rue Christine, which is like sitting inside a cave with beautiful limestone walls. The staff is also incredibly friendly, which always makes for a fun evening.
We decided to venture onto the Metro, and it was so easy to take. Having an iPhone made it super simple—as soon as you land in Paris, Apple Maps updates to the transit maps for the bus and Metro. I highly recommend taking the Metro instead of taxis—especially with five of us. The taxi drivers weren’t keen on piling four of us in the back with Ryan in the front, so taking the Metro was a convenient solution.
We had the concierge of our hotel schedule a bakery tour for us at Le Grenier àPain Caulaincourt in the 18th Arrondissement. It was amazing to me how small their space was where they made bread. We learned that in all Paris bakeries bread making has to be separated from pastry making. They can make a tremendous number of baguettes, up to 1,000 a day if needed. We sampled several tarts and breads; everything was delicious.
We walked off our carbs, heading up the hill to Sacré-Cœur. The line to enter was really quick! There was a mass going on at the time, but it’s a gorgeous church with a stunning view of Paris from the front steps. Not to be missed!
Taking the subway back to Le Marais, we revisited the Supreme store (ahem, hence my note above about double checking closing days/hours). The kids thought it was cool—Hudson especially! They all bought a hat and Hudson bought a sweatshirt. I’m not sure I understand what all the hype is about, but I can tell you the founder, James Jebbia, has done an incredible job creating a brand. He’s been able to collaborate with some very famous and influential people that have helped propel Supreme into a $1 billion dollar business—pretty genius if you ask me! I also think the key to their success is producing products in very limited editions and tightly controlled releases.
After shopping we treated ourselves to croque-madame and –monsieur sandwiches at the charming Carré Pain de Mie then headed to the Centre Pompidou. It turns out I’m a bigger fan of Modern Art than Ryan and the kids, and some of it was quite out there, but I did mention to Ryan, “It definitely does get you talking.”
The kids were tired, so we headed back to the hotel and ordered them room service while Ryan and I went out to dinner at Le Voltaire. It is lovely and very typical French, not to mention so fun to have night out just the two of us! Never underestimate having a little time to yourselves on a family trip.
Thursday, April 5th, 2018
The concierge at our hotel purchased “skip the line” tickets for us to the Catacombs, which was essential (Are you noticing a theme here about booking ahead?) We only waited about 20-30 minutes to enter, whereas, if you didn’t have tickets, the line was three hours long! The Catacombs was a lot more entertaining than I imagined. All of us enjoyed learning the history behind the famous burial spot and the city of Paris.
Such underground fun definitely called for a drink afterwards, and we discovered a great place called L’Ecir. We should have stayed for lunch, but decided to keep going and eat later. The food here looked amazing though, and, three hours later when we were wandering around searching for a restaurant, we really wished we would have eaten there.
We decided to go check out the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle and the zoo. Here’s another pro tip: skip the zoo. Fortunately, in between the zoo and museum we had one of the best meals of our trip at a café called Chez Léa. Everything on the menu was to die for and we were so hungry I think we did order almost one of everything!
Next, we made our way to the Jardin du Luxembourg. We stopped at several places along the way, such as the candy store, Le Bonbon Au Palais, on Rue Monge and Aux Merveilleux de Fred that had the most DELECTABLE cakes! It might be the best cake I’ve ever had. With a vanilla or chocolate whipped cream over a meringue, they were light, sweet and delicious!!! After a few treats we walked past the Pantheon and took several photos before strolling to a toy store around the corner, Bass et Bass.
We then arrived at Jardin du Luxembourg and found the playground. The kids had a great time running around on the beautiful grounds before heading back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner. We ended up at this great Italian place, La Locanda, near our hotel. The owners were marvelous, taking the kids back to the kitchen to meet the chef and asking them lots of questions while showing them around the back of the restaurant.
For our last day in Paris, we decided to take the kids to the Arc de Triomphe. We were able to get “skip the line” tickets again from the concierge, which saved a ton of time, enabling us to enter the staircase right away. There are about 200 stairs to the top and the view was breathtaking. There was a bit of a chill in the air, so make sure to bring jackets.
Soon following, we went to the Picasso Museum—my absolute favorite. I loved the building and, of course, the art. It was so special to see all of the artwork in person. I could’ve spent hours in there.
After a quick lunch, we headed back to Jardin du Luxembourg as it was such a beautiful day and the kids just wanted to run around and blow off some steam. Then we walked back to our hotel, stopping at the renowned Café de Flore for a drink.
For dinner the kids ate room service and Ryan and I headed to Fish la Boissonnerie. Despite lovely décor and great reviews, neither Ryan or I particularly cared for it (I’ve included some other recommendations below for restaurants that I’ve been to in the past that I would highly recommend), but it was nice, all the same, to end the trip with just the two of us.
Like all travel experiences, some things can be hit or miss. But overall we had an amazing time together learning, seeing and doing new things, as well as old favorites. I hope this guide will help inspire you to navigate your own family trip to Paris. If we can do it with our family of five, so can you!
Further Restaurant Recommendations:Continue reading
Looking for something a little more feminine? Add some structure to a chic skirt and finish with feminine jewelry. It’s the perfect mix of classic style with a glamorous edge.
Throw on your leather pants and finish it off with a pair of head-turning heels. This is the perfect look that will take you from work to a night out on the town!
Bare a little skin! A white shirt is the perfect staple for the Spring and Summer season. Pair it with shorts and embellished wedges – effortless!
One of our favorite looks done right. Pair with your well-loved boyfriend jeans for a tailored look. Style with everything from flats to heels. Tuck it in or let it hang loose. You can’t go wrong!
White, the perfect Summer shirt. Whether you’re going to Sunday brunch or running errands, there is something about an all-white ensemble that keeps things simple and fresh.
Although the fashion industry is built on creating clothing and accessories for women, it is somewhat surprising that there are relatively only a few female designers. Diane Von Furstenberg, and recently Carolina Herrera have handed over the reins to male designers to oversee their namesake collections. While these venerable brands maintain the vision of creating beautiful looks for powerful and confident women, there is a noticeable absence of female driven labels on the runways. At Sarah Alexandra, we believe in the power of female owned and operated businesses. Our goal is to create the most beautiful shirting for every women and occasion. It has been said that in order to understand the present, you must look to the past. With that in mind, we wanted to share some of our favorite fashion heroines who helped create the industry as we know it. We firmly believe that the future is female, and these incredible women have helped pave the way.
Mademoiselle Jeanne Lanvin began her career as an apprentice before opening up her very own millinery shop in Paris. After her daughter and biggest inspiration was born, Lanvin focused her attention on creating beautiful pieces for her. In time this attracted her clients into dressmaking for themselves, their children, and some of the most famous names in Europe. These creations caught the eye of the Parisian elite, and Lanvin opened her namesake house featuring her signature embroidered and embellished gowns. Lanvin was the first designer to create a lifestyle brand including women and men’s clothing, swimwear, accessories, and home décor. Her first perfume L’Arpege, is one of the most well-known perfumes in the world with the iconic logo designed by Paul Iribe. The logo was inspired by a picture of Jeanne and her daughter Marguerite, as well as her passion for robe de style. Her visions are a testament to her talent and ingenuity, along with being an inspiration to women taking power in the workplace.
I say Coco, you say, Chanel! The legendary designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, started an evolution that transformed women’s fashion and women’s lives in the 20th century. After opening her first store in Paris in 1913 she wanted to minimize fabric costs and purchased Jersey regularly. In time, she found that Jersey fit well with her designs which were seen as simple, and frequently inspired by men’s wear. Some of her classic pieces including a cropped jacket, LBD (Little Black Dress), and statement cocktail necklaces are as relevant today as they have ever been. Chanel is credited in seeking to free women of discomfort from their corsets and stiff skirts by creating styles that were both classic and comfortable. This was noticed by many women, which led her to own on one of the most prominent fashion houses in the world.
Elsa Schiaparelli, also known as the Queen of Fashion, felt that fashion was as much about making art as it was about making clothes. Her debut collection of sweaters featured surrealist trompe l’oeil, also known as “fool of the eye” designs that became an instant success. Astrology, tattoos, the circus, along with surrealist art are some of the few varied themes in her collections. She then began to create collections including ski wear, swimwear, and eventually evening gowns. Schiaparelli designed clothes for theatre and film which appeared in many movies over the course of her career. Schiaparelli has relentlessly been remembered in the fashion world and has been featured in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, along with Italian designer Miuccia Prada in major exhibitions.
Claire McCardell is known to be the founder of American fashion. Her designs abandoned the fussy French notions of the times. She created functional, chic, and easy to wear designs including shift dresses, wrap dresses, and pleated details. She designed her sundresses in cotton, gingham, twill, denim and jersey that were to be worn both during the day or night. Similar to designer Coco Chanel, McCardell created designs for her own lifestyle and often created pieces out of necessity. For example, when faced with too much luggage for travel, she designed dresses in parts with interchangeable tops and skirts that revolutionized the way women dressed.
“Clothes aren’t going to change the world. The women who wears them will” (Anne Klein). Anne Klein began her fashion design career in the juniors market. With her husband, the company Junior Sophisticates was founded and specialized in designs for petite women, who at the time often had to shop in the children’s department. In 1968, she began her own line that featured chic menswear including jackets, skirts, blouses and pants that could be worn together in various combinations. This mix and match concept was revolutionary at the time and took the country by storm. Klein was also the mentor to Donna Karan, who took over after her death and went on to become another power player in the fashion industry.Continue reading
1. Sarah Alexandra Signature Shirt in Boyfriend Blue. Part of the new Spring/Summer 2018 Collection, the blue and white stripe broadcloth is the perfect staple in any woman’s wardrobe. It goes with anything from denim to a pencil skirt. It is truly timeless.
2. St. Benedict Bracelet. Our family and friends are wearing these bracelets in support of my 3 year old niece Vivian Rose who was recently diagnosed with a DIPG brain tumor. These bracelets are a reminder to keep Vivian in our thoughts and prayers each and every time we look at them. St. Benedict is the patron Saint against evil.
3. Maison Boinet Belt. I discovered these belts at Barney’s and love how simple and chic they are. Made in France, they are incredibly well made and a good basic for any woman looking for the accessory that can go with anything and isn’t so identifiable.
4. Donald Robertson Book. I love following @donaldrobertson on Instagram. He always has a clever and funny post and I’m obsessed with his art. It’s playful yet sophisticated. His book would be the perfect addition to any coffee table!
5. BioFreeze. One of my tennis friends put me on to this and it works so well, I kind of can’t believe it! I put it on my aching muscles and it really helps alleviate any pain or soreness. I put it in everyone’s stocking this year!
6. Natura Bisse Eye Cure. My sister-in-law Katie bought this for me several years ago and now I cannot live without it. I love a “fresh faced” look, but let’s be honest, it’s hard to get away without any makeup. The Eye Cure by Nature Bisse looks incredibly “make-up-less” yet at the same time gives you that glowing and luminous look.