Journey Woman


Shopping in Paris - She Gets the Best Deals

Bras, lipsticks, sweaters and jeans...

I also am a big fan of the Monoprix chain, where under a single roof you can find all sorts of goodies, ranging from gourmet food gifts to lovely silk scarves that are virtually Hermes knockoffs. On my most recent trip, I bought some lovely matching bras and panty sets on sale, fine cotton ribbed socks and some lipstick by the same company that makes Chanel products for half the price. (I'm not allowed to say which company!). If you have long hair that you like to tie back in a bow, or wear with a headband, Monoprix is also your best bet for both quality and price. Even their sweaters and jeans are nice for casual wear, and their children's clothing is definitely worth looking at. Best of all, the size of these stores (which are in every arrondissement in Paris) is do-able -- unlike department stores, which tend to be exhausting.


Les soldes and designer resales...

Most people don't realize this, but thirty percent of the retail sales in Paris are done during a six-week biannual period, called "les soldes" (the sales). They usually start the first week in January, and in the second week in June. If you are enterprising and love French clothes, try to schedule a week in Paris to get the best deals on designer clothes and accessories. Or if you can't schedule in a trip during those times, head for the designer resale shops where you can find gently used clothes and accessories by Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Yves St. Laurent, and Sonia Rykiel, to name a few. My favorite outlets of this type include Griff'troc (17, Boulevard de Courcelles) on the Right Bank and Chercheminippes (110, rue de Cherchemidi) on the Left Bank.


Gifts for the men in your life...

While many would argue that Paris is a woman's city, don't think the needs of men are overlooked. Not only are there wonderful discount designer men's wear stores, but there are shops selling fine custom-made shirts for less than $100 such as JLR Paris, and ready-to-wear shirts for less than $35 (Ray R. Club), sewn with finest Pima cotton. The discerning man will also be delighted with the selection of stores selling cigars, desktop accessories, sailing gear, fishing gear and gourmet cookware.


Culturally correct dress...

So what's the down side of shopping in Paris? Two things: the sizes do run smaller than those in North America or the United Kingdom. The sales help can often be indifferent and even rude. To brace yourself for shopping in Paris, try to be as chic as some Parisians -- while you don't have to dress to kill, it's a good idea to dress smart, and favor slacks and blazers over jeans and sweatshirts or tee-shirts. Women should make up lightly, and men should be well groomed.


French shopping etiquette...

Keep in mind basic shopping etiquette. "Bonjour (hello), s'il vous plait (please), and merci (thank you), au revoir (good bye)" go a very, very long way. When in doubt, ask "parlez-vous anglais? (do you speak English?)" When you walk into a shop, please avoid touching the displays. Ditto for fine food stores, such as Fauchon, unless it's very clear that it's self-service. There's nothing more gauche than walking into an antique store with a backpack.

Why, pay attention to all these niceties? It so happens that in France, a shop isn't a moneymaking machine, but an extension of the storeowner's personal space. Shopkeepers are watchful and tend to favor their regular customers over walk-in trade. Many have invested their life-savings into their small operation, and barely break even. But they are passionate about what they do, whether it's offering homemade chocolate shaped into a colorful painter's palette or an Eiffel Tower, or selling a custom-made hat that makes you feel like Greta Garbo or Audrey Hepburn. Often their mouthwatering displays are works of art in themselves. I have stopped counting the number of times when I have said the Flea Market is the only museum in the world where you can go shopping. And all of these things make shopping like the French an unforgettable experience, warranting many return visits to Paris.

 

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