l'heure bleue
How to say "time change" in French

How to say "to staple" in French? And a wardrobe malfunction on the way to a wedding in Cassis

Cliff - Falaise in Cassis (c) Kristin Espinasse
 Today's story takes place in Cassis, where risks are taken... especially with fashion. Read on...

agrafer (ah graf ay) verb

    : to staple, to fasten, hook up, clip together

Audio File: hear Jean-Marc*: Download MP3 or wav
J'ai agrafé mon pantalon. I stapled my pants.

Have a moment? Check out my husband's wine blog & see videos of our farm. Click here.

Sara Midda's South of France: a sketchbook  Featured book: Sara Midda's South of France: a sketchbook


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

In the narrow lobby of Hotel Le Golf (Cassis), I wait for my husband. I am flipping through a slim Souleiado catalogue that I have found on a little side table. The model on the cover is wearing a seductive evening gown en soie. Her shoulders are bare, her neckline, golden before the plunge.

I look down at my own pasty "plunge".... As for my dress, I begin to have doubts. We are on our way to a wedding... will this dress fera l'affaire? It is knee-length, showing off my neon-white legs. The fabric is black and made of gauze. There is raspberry stitching along the square neckline, voilà for subtle design. My daughter has helped me by gathering the side ties into a noeud papillon in the back of the robe. The bow tie she has fashioned reminds me of the way I wore my dresses... in the third grade.

I try to put aside doubt, reasoning, the dress is new! Shouldn't newness alone guarantee it is not démodé? 

Suddenly all of my self-doubts dissolve the minute I see my husband, whereupon the focus is no longer on my threads... but on his.

Tossing the magazine onto the table... I study my husband's getup. What an entrance he has made! Even the woman behind the counter has dropped her calculator and lowered her glasses. Take a look at him

I wonder, why isn't his dress shirt tucked in?
"I like it this way," he insists.
"But you must tuck your shirt in when you wear a cravate!"

"Do you have a stapler?" my husband asks the woman behind the counter, dismissing me. That is when I notice his jeans, the bottom seams of which are coming undone. Jeans?! Undone seams?! 

"A big one or a small one?" the woman asks, searching for une agrafeuse. The question seems absurd.
"Une petite fera l'affaire," Jean-Marc answers.

And just like that—with a no-nonsense sweep of the stapler, tac! tac! tac!—he fixes his pantalons.

I look over to the woman behind the counter, whose reading glasses are now dangling from her hand, as if knocked over by one Frenchman's innovation. "Pas mal!" she declares, appraising Mr Fix It. 

I gather my purse from the side table, when my eyes catch on the Souleiado catalogue. The model on the cover is now looking up at me and her head is shaking, condemningly. Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Next time help him dress, darling. As for you....

But, not giving her the chance to utter one word more, I turn my head and hurry out the door. 
Part One (or the last scene in this story)
 In case you missed the "suite" to this story, read part one: click here.

French Vocabulary

Souleiado = a maker of Provençal fabrics, clothing, and linens
en soie = in silk
fera l'affaire = will fit the bill
voilà = presto
noeud papillon = bow tie
une cravate = tie
une agrafeuse = a stapler
une petite fera l'affaire = a small one will do it
le pantalon = pants

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G. Corvan

Have to confess I've done that same trick for an emergency repair ...but not to go to a wedding. Ton mari est bien plus brave que moi!

Has anyone else besides me had difficulty accessing the audio files (mp3/wav)for L'Heure Bleu?


The picture of Cassis is lovely. I can't to go there in September. A plunge into those waters seems like a great idea from where I am sitting in muggy, hot Durham.

As for the need of une agraffeuse, I think most of your readers have used this trick a time or two even if they don't admit it. Perhaps the stares meant "oh what a clever and handsome Frenchman!" Perhaps not. In any event, loved the story especially in your words.


I see I made a typo again. I meant to write, I can't wait to go to Cassis rather than I can't go to Cassis. Apparently the heat and humidity has fried my little gray cells.

Patricia Anzalone

Would love to see the dress!


Salut Patricia and friends,

If I get a photo of the dress I will post it...

G., sorry about the sound file (I forgot to upload it after Jean-Marc recorded it!) Will do so at the next chance.

Margaret, You will love Cassis! This photo was taken from a restaurant in nearby calanque. You can rent a chair there, and climb down (partly via stairs) to the turquoise water. I will need to find the name for you...


Hello Kristin,

Last time I read a FWAD newsletter, you were in the middle of your fantastic week in Paris, so I have a lot of catching up to do. Today, I'll stick to this “histoire cocasse d'agrafage du pantalon”, which I thoroughly enjoyed, even without having read the first part of it yet!

"Un ourlet décousu" (= 'a hem coming undone/unstitched') "et qui commence à s'effilocher" (and starting to fray) … wouldn't be that bad for Jean-Marc on an ordinary day. On his way to a wedding, “c'est une autre paire de manches” (= 'it's a different matter altogether')

There was fortunately “une agrafeuse” and a certain Monsieur FIX IT with a remarkable sense of humour and “grande présence d'esprit” (= great presence of mind)
Pas de souci (= no worry)
Réparation instantanée! (= instant repair). Ouf!
"Soupir de soulagement" (= sigh of relief)

I am still smiling as I am typing, just imagining the discrete metallic dashes of “les agrafes de circonstance” and the look on the face of the women behind the counter!

1-> loved your "noeud papillon" at the back and got the feeling you looked very pretty in that charming black dress with raspberry stitching along the square neckline. Any photo? and any photo of the delightful couple?
maybe one day... in Cinéma Vérité (?...)

2-> By the way, "une agrafeuse" does a brilliant job with only one "f".
3-> Stunning photo!

Kristin Espinasse

Newforest, yay--youre back--and with more useful and delightful expressions for us! Off to jot them down in my carnet... just after I deal with that stuttering f in the French stapler...

merci beaucoup!

Phyllis Bratton

My boyfriend had been asking me to marry him for a while, but I was hesitant -- we hadn't really known each other very long (He started proposing on the second date.). We were leaving to go to a concert when I noticed his pants were sparkling -- he had stapled up the hem. I realized then that this was someone who would probably never criticize very much my own oddities (unlike other people I could name) and the next time he asked, said yes. Thirty-five years later, we are still enjoying each other's unique approach to life.

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Salut kristin,

Do not despair
Jean-Marc can repair
The torn out seams
Of his faded blue jeans

He said not a word
But clicks were heard
With a trusty staple gun
A fine job was done

À bientôt


Karen (in Towson, Md) Whitcome

You can take the man out of the farm but you can't take the farmer out of the man - évidemment. He is such a "guy".

Kristin, this story is so fluid and fun and your desciptions - as always - hit the mark and bring us readers to your side. I loved it.

And thanks to Herm, too! That was great.

Newforest - I agree. Can we see a photo of you in that dress, perhaps?


Well, remember, this is the man who made his own tool to harvest sea urchin. Jean-Marc definitely knows how to be inventive. Make do with what you have!

Diane Scott

A delightfully light-hearted post! Thank you, Kristin, for adding a lilt to my day! I add my wish to the others' that you post a picture of such a charming couple!

joie  carmel,ca

Electrical tape works also ;) This is why you don't leave men to their own devices!
Oh, why don't you ever record your voice using the "word".? You sounded ever so French in the video on Jean-Marc's site.

Christine in Salt Lake City

What a fun story - I loved it! Am still smiling at the image. Yes, please do post a photo of the smiling couple (or at least the dress).

Marianne Rankin

I've never used a stapler on a hem, although I've used tape. I've also used a paper clip to fasten a skirt whose button at the waistline came off.

This may sound fogeyish, but unless one has been told that the dress is casual, I would never wear jeans to a wedding.

The French are good at improvising, often adapting one thing for another. It's called the "Systeme D," where "D" means "[se] debrouiller."


I have used tape for fixing hemlines and assorted other things but not staplers...but the thing that has me surprised is that I never thought French would do such a thing, this is so American, in my opinion! Anyhow, you should give him a present for his creativity and for making you not doubt yourself. I am sure you were gorgeous even with neon white legs! : )


Cate Salenger

Thanks for the giggles, Kristin! It made my (very hot) day. Cate

Gwyn Ganjeau

Phyllis, that is one of the most delightful love stories I've ever heard!!! And here is my salute to you:

Young Phyllis, when seeking romance
Was a smart one who snapped up the chance.
She wisely said yes
'Cuz she saw the goodness
In the boy with the sparkling pants.



I'm with Jean Marc; I had to pin up some new pants for an emergency mercy mission back to France from the States last month. Yes, I can use a needle and thread, but......

Julie Dufaj

A beautifully crafted little slice of life, Kristin! You created the suspense (I couldn't wait) and then did not disappoint. It rang with truth and humor. I'll be remembering and smiling for the rest of the day . . .

Having been married 20 years, I think I can say with confidence, "It's on the Y chromosome, that characteristic of men." At my church, they used to call my husband "Mr. GQ" (tongue firmly implanted in cheek). But what do we want, our lovable slob or a metro male?

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Kudos to Gwyn. . . . nice salute!


To all,

It is clear that today's post brought a smile to our faces and a bit of flash back to the emergency repairs we have made -- any of you ladies remember using nail polish to stop a run in our stockings? Thank god I have given those up.

New Forest's post was delightful and made me wish this adventure could be done as a short film. The whole story was made complete with Kristin's interpretation of the glare and disdain from the photo in the magazine.

I am with Mona. I was surprised not that Jean Marc would be so clever, but that the fashion police would allow such a repair in France. I might add, if Jean Marc were a good Southerner, he would have used the ever chic metallic duct tape!



Jean Marc is an elegant man-What he wears doesn't make him less so. You are a sucessful accomplished woman-And you are beautiful too. So every one here and in France can see the truth that you always look every bit the part, if ever they have met the both of you.I've been lucky to have met you in Phx-June at Superstition Mt.


This is the first day that I have read the posts. Tres bien! I studied French in high school and college but that was many moons ago. I am currently taking French lessons twice a week and the language has become my passion. I look forward everyday to my new word. Your stories are awesome...your pictures incredible...and the posts such fun.
Thank you for all of it.

Bill Facker

Bravo, Jean-Marc! Way to represent for the Men! You go Brother! Aloha, Bill Facker

Stacy, Applegate, Oregon

Smiles, giggles...you’ve created such a vivid, up-lifting story today, dear Kristi, with some help from Jean-Marc. Felt like I was standing beside you with a grin and a look of disbelief matching yours I’d guess. I am grateful your hubby’s nonchalance allowed you to leave any threads of self-consciousness behind in the hotel lobby! What a wonderful way to live!


In the context of this newsletter, "les agrafes" were the kind of staples you would use in an office. A different type of "agrafes" can be found in clothes.
Interested in "la couture", Kristin? I just mean 'sewing' here, not "la haute couture" displayed in glossy fashion magazines! Do you have any "agrafes" in your sewing box?

In clothes, "une agrafe" is a hook used for fastening 2 edges of material together - usually more reliable than "un bouton-pression" (= a press button)
You will find all about "les agrafes" here -> illustration, description and instructions on how to sew them:


Here is a link for "boutons-pression", providing another discreet/invisible fastening:

In the medical world, "une agrafe" is 'a skin clip'... but let's forget about them for the time being.

You're right. I think Jean-Marc must be quite an expert in "Système D"!
What the French call "Système D" is perfectly explained in the link below. You will also find a good definition of the word "débrouillard" in English:

"débrouillard(e)" is an adjective
It is also a noun: un/une débrouillard(e)

gail bingenheimer

C'est bizarre! Je ne sais plus où l'on va. I no longer know where we are going. gail

Lynn McBride

Oh this is too cute. Is he related to my husband by chance? You should come to Burgundy--the dress code is pretty simple here in the countryside. Ron says in Burgundy, you've got on pants, you're dressed (well, les mecs, anyway!).


What wonderful writing, so discriminating, and with such talent incorporating French phrases into English. Well done! And what a help in expanding one's French vocabulary.


I wonder where Cassis is ? recently (here in Australia) I went to buy my favourite cheese St Agur bleu - but alas they had sold out -the shop assistant suggested a cheese very similar Cassis bleu - which I purchased and liked - I'm wondering if it is associated with the Cassis you mention in your post.
Dianne xx

Jacqui McCargar

Kristi, loved your post today and having seen Jean-Marc in action during harvest I can see the practicality peeking through, very funny and I'm sure not unexpected!
I Hope you had a great time at the wedding, see you in September!

Marianne Rankin

Newforest, thanks for the links, all of which I looked at. I've used those hooks (ourlets) for years, as well as the boutons-pression(snaps).

There is another way to fix loose hems, if you don't have time to sew but do have a few minutes: glue. There's a type of special sewing fluid now that you can use to attach pieces of cloth to one another. I got it to use on my son's school pants. Of course I sewed them later, but in an emergency, the glue worked for a while.


--> "un bouton pression"
Thanks for the word "snap", Marianne. It gives the perfect sound for a 'press stud'!

--> hook and hem:
- "un ourlet" = a hem (one piece of material folded twice and edge stitched down)
- "une agrafe" = a hook (fastening device used when sewing clothes) and also a staple.

--> seams undone? / hems undone?
"une couture" = a seam (line where 2 pieces of fabric are stitched together).
Here, I think 'seams undone' meant 'hems undone'

Nicole lidji

Home from hospital and was welcomed
with your cute , funny story of your dress and your husband pants ,brought the first smile in a week !
Thanks for all the pleasure you give me !
J'aime toujours les petites phrases francaise .

Zoe Willet

Come on now, tell the truth- are Braise and Smokey allright? It's been a very long time since I saw the customary photo at the end, or since you talked about them. They are what I love the most in this blog!

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