Our Sale is Sailing Away...

What is about the word SALE that makes women's blood boil?  It's the worst four-letter word I know. 

When I lived in Boston, my favorite day of the year was going to watch the Running of the Brides—a knock-down, drag-out fight to the death of brides-to-be for an entire warehouse full of designer wedding gowns at prices that might make you think you could throw that Vera Wang in the washing machine with your other wash-n-wears. There was hip-checking, hair pulling, name calling, and a flurry of white tulle and lace as far as the eye could see.  Needless to say, it was wildly entertaining for the spectators, but even more thrilling for the brides who made off with a steal of a dress at the end of all the campy showmanship. 

{Image found here

I thought my days of crazy-sale-spectating were over when Filene's Basement closed down last year, but I was wrong.  Oh was I wrong.  

You see, in France, merchandise sales are highly regulated, and it is actually illegal  to put things on sale for most of the year.  Can you imagine? No browsing the sale rack of your favorite store on your lunch break?  No quick online steals?  The women of France are completely sale-starved.

It turns out that the month of July is the sacred month of the Soldes, or SALES.  And everything, I mean, everything—from mattresses to Mahnolo Blaniks—goes on sale.  All that pent-up sale-repression bursts forth on the appointed date, with women lining up outside Printemps, Galleries Lafayette, and Le Bon Marché in the wee hours of the morning, getting ready to push through the doors and beeline towards whatever they've been eying for weeks. 

I have a confession to make: I'm a sale-a-holic. Getting a good deal is my drug. (I blame it on being an art dealer?  Maybe?)  Regardless, ninety percent of what is in my closet is the result of obsessive sale-shopping.   So when I found myself in Paris on the day the Soldes were starting, I couldn't resist taking in the spectacle…camera—and Amex—in hand. 

Here's a glimpse of a day in the life of the Soldes:

6:30 am, leave my friend's apartment on a borrowed bike, in slip-on shoes, and jeans and a t-shirt.  I have been warned: don't bother with belts, buttons or anything that will take longer than 30 seconds to take off or put back on.   Grab a pain au chocolate at the blessedly early-opening bakery down the street. Head towards Galleries Lafayette. 

7:15 am, nearly mauled to death in the shoe section of Galleries Lafayette—it turns out that I drew the unlucky 'average' card, and had to fight tooth and nail just to try on a pair of Louboutins in size 38 (the most common shoe size in France, it seems).   Snap some contemplative pictures.  Scolded by security guard.  Hide camera. Give up on finding shoes today. 

8:15 am, gaze longingly at all the Hermes/Prada/Louis Vuitton things that are behind little velvet-roped stanchions that essentially say, "yes, even when it's on sale you are still faaaaar to poor to even be able to touch this beautiful ostrich leather."  Sigh.

8:45 am, wriggle my way onto the escalator and make my way to the lingerie floor. Yes, there is an entire floor for it.  (Can we have a moment for how much I love that in France they understand that what you wear underneath your clothes is equally as important in making you look good as the clothes themselves?  And that they make bras that don't fall apart in a month's wear?  Okay, thank you.)  Blissfully rummage through bins of properly-sized bras.  Find my first purchases of the day. Blush slightly when I realize that every last cashier on the lingerie floor is a good looking french garçon. 

10:30 am, snack break.  Macarons from Ladurée.

11:15 am, Hit Printemps, and cruise the young designers.  Everyone is heaping all thing striped into their piles of to-be-tried-on. Follow suit.  Wonder what kind of math Italian designers are doing—if this is a size 38, who is wearing a 34? A broomstick? Watch a woman surreptitiously knick a dress out of someone else's selections that were waiting for them in their dressing room.  Yes. 

12:10 pm, Run into this stylish gal, and chat her up for a bit.  She tells me that she planned not only her outfit for the day (comfortable, easy-on/off and completely stylish), but had spent hours and hours over the last week trying on everything she was hoping to buy during the soldes, and making a map of where to find each thing, to make the whole trip so much quicker. Genius. 

1:30 pm, bike to the Marais, grab lunch at my favorite café in that part of town.  

2:45 pm, hit the smaller boutiques in the Marais, many of which are packed and—gasp!—already picked over.  The sales last a month!  How can this be? 

3:35 pm, After much searching, find the best autumn coat I could have ever dreamed of.  Do the percentage math in my head.  Do the euro-to-dollar conversion on my ipod. Hem and haw.  Reason with myself: You got your ticket to Alsace on sale last week!  You saved 70 euros on that!  And if you don't go out to dinner this month, and if you take back that skirt you bought, and, and, and—buy the coat. It is 90 degrees.  I have just purchased a thick canvas-and-leather swing coat.  Behold the power of the Soldes. 

6:15 pm, stop for dinner—a falafel sandwich, because I am now carrying a month's worth of dinners around in my shopping bag.  Run into this Canadian-turned-Berliner, who told me that she plans her summer vacation to Paris each summer in July just for the shopping, and saves a certain number of euros a month in a shoebox to be spent only on the Soldes. Wonder why I didn't think of this. 

8 pm, get sucked into browsing sexy melon ballers, macaron mats and copper pans at a high-end kitchen supply store.  Slightly regret purchasing my coat when I realize that for the price of the coat I could have acquired a Le Crusset dutch oven and a perfectly honed chef's knife—seasonless essentials.  Start doing the hemming and hawing in my head again.  Cannot actually find any way to justify more big purchases.  

9:30 pm, bike back across the river, meet up with friends, and collapse into a wicker chair at the neighborhood café, exhausted but triumphant. 
And that was just day one…

In case you didn't know, this is the LAST week of Shabby Apple's summer sale—the ultimate time to stock up on all those things you've been meaning to buy but were too busy to when the weather was nice enough that you didn't want to stay locked up in a dark air-conditioned room in front of your computer while the heatwave raged outside.   So get to it!   


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