Shopping in Paris requires planning and careful consideration. Paris is fashion and shopping in Paris evokes a range of emotions from anticipation to awe to respect. Even now, as I type this, I am mentally thinking about what I will wear in September.
This is completely opposite as to how I approach shopping at home where I have been known to wear a ball cap if it means arriving earlier to the Holt Renfrew Boxing Day sale. A couple of years ago, a girlfriend and I went to Seattle for the sole purpose of shopping. Staying at a downtown five star hotel, mere blocks from the shopping district, we spent two blissful days going from store-to-store in our athletic gear, sweaty and disheveled. We skipped dinner, ate a pound of chocolate fudge and didn't unpack our bags, except to dig out our bathing suits for swimming in the hotel pool which we decided was just as good as taking a shower. We ate donuts in bed while drooling over our new Coach bags and our real, gold-plated Juicy Couture charm bracelets. Our hair was greasy, our skin was pasty and we were so, so happy.
But Paris is serious.
Is it too obvious to wear my Hermès scarf while shopping at Hermès? LV#1 will travel to Paris, looking appropriately worn and not too "nouveau", while LV #2 will stay at home and continue to ripen for another trip. No Coach (too American!) and obviously no white sneakers or anything that I wear to the gym. High-ish heels preferable and lots of classic black and white pieces. I am already anxious thinking about how my flat iron never works in Paris leaving me feeling as though I am the evil hair twin of 197o's Elvis and I am considering cutting my hair a la Audrey Tatou in Amelie.
In Paris last May, I struggled with the shopping. Spring and summer aren't my favourite seasons; too many open-toed shoes and not enough boots; too many cashmere-blend tank tops and not enough cashmere-blend coats; and flimsy fabrics that look as though they will fall apart or crumple unrecognizably after wearing them a few times. But then I stumbled upon a new trend - summer boots!
Summer boots! All the women in Paris were wearing them with short skirts and bare legs. They looked sexy and inspiring and I started lusting after my own pair. The pair, when I finally found them, were in the shoe department of Galeries Lafayette. They were heather coloured, a warm grey-purple, with leather soles and wooden heels. The boots cost 300 euros. I purchased them after drinking too many Kronenbourgs at a cafe near l'Opera and immediately had major buyer's regret.
Back in our hotel, I worried to my husband that I didn't think I had made the right decision. The colour wasn't exactly West Coast friendly where it rains six months of the year - including the summer - and I wasn't sure I could afford to have a pair of 300 euros indoor boots. And they really didn't fit. My husband was confused.
"What do you mean? You tried them on, right?"
"Yes, but... "
Of course I had tried them on. Truthfully though it had been more like a wrestling match between me and the boots with me Kronenbourg-confident that I would win despite the fact that it took a pair of nude hose, a shoe horn, the combined pulling and tugging of both me and the saleswoman, and finally me stomping my feet to get the boots in place. Fabulous!
At the hotel, I reenacted the embarrassing ordeal for my husband and it was clear that the boots had to be returned. As in I had to return 300 euros boots in Paris. Return 300 euros boots in my broken, nervous French, wearing the same black and white, now sweaty, pleated skirt I had worn the day before to purchase them.
The following morning I arrived at Galeries Lafayette just as le grand magasin was opening. I tried to bypass the shoe department by going straight to the international customer service desk where I was politely, but firmly told the boots had to be returned to their original department. I rode the elevator red-faced and shaking.
"Je, je... je suis desolé . Je voudrais rapporter mes bottes."
"Madame. C'est pas grave. Vous avez le droit à changer votre avis."
You have the right to change your mind. Le droit. The right.
Elegant! Chic! And so very, very French. One thing is for certain, summer boots may come and may go but I will never change my mind about Paris. Paris pour toujours.