LA VIE EN ROUGE
Byline: Eric Wilson
NEW YORK — When you feel blue, wear red.
It’s been Pauline Trigere’s philosophy for all of her 93 years, and she stuck to her mantra Thursday night, accepting France’s highest honor, the Legion of Honor, in a red-on-red pantsuit, signature turtle pin in its place.
“Red also happens to be the color of the Legion d’Honneur,” said Richard Duque, consul general of France, noting his pleasure with the well-accessorized association during a ceremony at the French Embassy on Fifth Avenue.
Born in Paris, Trigere and her family, of Russian-Jewish descent, emigrated to the U.S. in the Thirties. As a girl, she wanted to become a surgeon, but followed in her father’s footsteps instead, taking up a pair of scissors rather than a scalpel and carving out a career that has been as much a testament to her French heritage as to her adopted country.
“Your family and friends are here in America,” Duque said. “But your accent will remain entirely French, as is the silent ‘e’ your parents added to your name to avoid an American pronunciation of your name as ‘Trigger.”‘
“I’ve tried all my life to speak without an accent,” Trigere deadpanned. “But I can’t.”
Trigere worked here in the French style of Chanel and Vionnet, not sketching her designs but cutting them on a model, and she continues to offer a realm of timeless sartorial advice. For instance, “Trust what you see in a mirror. Start by seeing what you observe,” said Duque, recalling her quotation. “If you had a great night out, go back home and study what you wore that night. Make a note of it and wear it again. If you wore red that night, don’t wear green the next.”
As for the designer, Trigere had nothing but fond memories of her adolescence in France, recalling the mornings she ran to buy milk in the Place Pigalle and couldn’t help but notice how great the girls seemed to look there.
“I would run home and tell my mother how fantastic they looked going out,” Trigere said. “And she said, ‘Darling, they’re not going out, they’re going to sleep!”‘