Thursday, July 2, 2015

Les Soldes: How to Own the Summer Sales in Paris

When I packed my bags one suitcase for Paris, I decided to pack bare minimum. Because, ya know, I would just buy more clothes in Paris. Now we can all join together in collective laughter at my naivety. The truth is, shopping for clothing in Paris is expensive. When I decided I wanted to make this year about travel, I had to get over my shopping addiction and chain store snobbery. I measured every clothing purchase against a travel adventure. New pair of booties vs. dinner out Vienna. New trench coat vs. plane ticket to Barcelona. Instead of a new Christmas dress this year,  I bought gifts for my host families in England. Choices became pretty clear.

I behaved during the winter sales in February (okay, okay, so I was in Austria and Germany most of those weeks). Then last week, summer hit, and a heatwave with temperatures the 100s rushed in with it. And I quickly, soggily realized that my closet was in desperate need of some breathable fabrics.

What luck, as it coincides perfectly with France's biannual country-wide regulated seasonal sale. Twice a year, the government allows sales of up to 75% off. Yes, the government. We can blame the minimal European wardrobe on socialism. But it's not just clothing. This is a stores opportunity to lay a discount sticker on anything from dish towels to drill bits. But let's not get carried away, Ruth. And if you think Walmart is bad on Black Friday, you've never stood between a French woman and bargain Chanel. 

So as with any real shopping, you need a strategy. And one of the best is to go in and try things on before the soldes begin. Because the lines for the dressing rooms get insane and trust me you do not want to deal with that mess. It's better to go in a few days before, try on sizes and outfits and know what fits you so that come the Day of Reckoning, you can rush in, grab what you need, and rush out. Some women swear by going in and setting clothes on hold until the sale date begins, but my French is not smooth enough in either sense of the word to attempt this level of bargain-hunting.

Don't have time for the pre-game strategy? Just Buy what you like and return it later. Sometimes they will allow you to return it at a later time in the soldes and buy it back at the further reduced price. Stores will often take a second and third discount,  so if you are a gambler you could wait it out to see if you could get the lower price. But keep in mind sizes. For girls on the curvier end like me, stores tend not to stock too highly in our sizes, so weigh the consequences of saving a few euros versus not finding anything at all down the line. The truth is, the stuff that is left at the end of the soldes is left for a reason. It is the lowest of lows, so you may want to bite the bullet and pay the marginal difference for something that fits well. 

So what did I come away with from this summer soldes?

1 fabulous Trench coat (50€)
2 tank tops (35€)
1 summer bra (7€)
1 pair of earrings (5€)
1 pair of sunglasses (15€)
1 pair of print satin pants (10€)

I'm still waiting to try out the price drop on the trench.

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