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.
soldes and designer resales...
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.
for the men in your life...
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
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.
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.