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Paris: A fashion fanatic’s (Cheapo-friendly) shopping tour

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Paris cheapo shopping
Wendy taking a break in Saint-Germain des Prés. All photos by Theadora Brack

By Theadora Brack in Paris—

Recently my sister Wendy flew to Paris for a short jaunt, so I spun a special day tour, tailor-made to suit my very stylish and au courant sibling. With a little pre-planning, we were able to visit two fashion-related exhibitions, three historical monuments, four grand magasins, along with five prime (and oh-so-affordable) shopping districts. And that was just Day One!

Grande Épicerie

Grande Épicerie de Paris Bon Marché

So fire up your printers, Cheapos! Here’s the agenda for the first day of our shop ’til you drop campaign of Napoleonic proportions!

Tips

Do pack one oversized bag for your goods. While the multiple-shopping bag scene with Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” is charming and all, you’re just inviting advances from pickpockets. Most grocery store chains sell durable large bags for just a few cents. Franprix’s current model was inspired by Mondrian!

Also, for the love of saving both time and money, purchase your Metro tickets by the “carnet” (10-pack) before you set out.

Galeries Lafayette Paris

Galeries Lafayette's dome

10:00 a.m.: Abbesses
Metro: Abbesses, line 12

After a short run around the Sacré Coeur ’hood to help Wen shake the jet lag blues, we headed to Sympa for some bargain bin shopping. This string of shops runs along rue de Steinkerque, a street once notorious for its brothels and dance halls. (Picasso shopped here!)

On this day we were able to score some slinky black tops by Carling, each costing €2.99 a pop! Confession: I bought twelve, and my sister purchased nine. Heads-up: Etam’s frilly spring 2011 line of lingerie is currently on sale for just a few euros apiece!

11:00 a.m.: 140 bis, rue de Rennes
Metro: Rennes, line 12

We then soared to Zara at the Félix Potin building (an Art Nouveau masterpiece) on the bustling rue de Rennes. It’s a pet Zara hot spot because the location usually serves as one of last stops for the chain’s leftover winter clothing sales.

Musée de la Mode et du Textile Paris

Commes des Garcons' exhibit at the Musée de la Mode et du Textile

Here my sister scooped up a classic belted trench coat, along with seven cap-sleeved turtle necks, all costing just €3.99 a piece. By this victorious moment, the woozy feeling of jet lag had completely abandoned the scene. Yes, sometimes fleeting joy CAN be bought!

12 noon: Bon Marché
Metro: Sevres-Babylone, line 12

After grabbing soda pops just outside the Rennes metro stop, we fast-trekked to the Christian Dior exhibition at Bon Marché. Decked out in Dior’s beloved white and grey, the exhibit was made up of iconic “New Look” ensembles, photographs, and super hip multimedia projections on oversized accessories like chairs, mannequins and hat boxes. After a few spins around the gallery, we snagged a few sweets at the Grande Épicerie de Paris Bon Marché, which is just behind the main building.

Wen at the Arc-de-Triomphe du Carrousel

Wendy's new coat

Please note: the Dior exhibit closes March 26, 2011, so if you’re in Paris now, hotfoot it there right away. Not in Paris? Fret not, because the department store often coordinates free exhibits. There will be more to come!

1:30 p.m.: Carrousel du Louvre
Metro: Louvre Rivoli, line 1

Feeling the sugar rush, we raced to the “Les années 1900-2000″ exhibition at the Musée de la Mode et du Textile. Our favorite showstoppers included Jean Paul Gaultier’s plumes, Junya Watanabe’s unstoppable bustles, and Comme des Garcons’ bulges in all the wrong places.

Afterwards, we had a wonderful, marvelous photo-op at the Arc-de-Triomphe du Carrousel. Film buffs, this is where the iconic balloon scene in “Funny Face” with Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire was shot. ‘S Marvelous!

Paris boot shopping

Boots galore in Saint-Germain des Prés

3:30 p.m.: Samaritaine at Pont Neuf
Metro: Pont Neuf, line 7

Spotting a few dramatic-looking rain clouds heading our way, we made a joint decision to promenade swiftly down rue de Rivoli to Zara’s other “last stop” for sale items, located in the former Samaritaine department store at Chatêlet.

After ogling its spectacular exterior, we nipped into Zara where Wen picked up a few more turtlenecks (Can you ever have enough? I don’t think so!), and I scored a fur-lined vest and a thick green felt dress, both costing just €6.

4:30 p.m.: Pont Neuf and Saint Germain
Metro: Pont Neuf, line 7

We then made our way to the Pont Neuf to pay homage to King Henri IV (a.k.a. “Le Vert Galant”), and yes, to check out his boots. Green with envy and fatigue, we slowly crept across the bridge, limping toward Saint Germain des Prés.

The dapper monarch’s benediction must have been with us because in no time at all we found ourselves seated in a cozy boutique, surrounded by hundreds of boots, all on sale. The proprietor was extremely personable, helping my sister find the boots of her dreams. The boots? On Sale. The Cendrillon (Cinderella) experience? Priceless.

Twilight Paris

View from the flat at l'heure bleu

6:00 p.m.: Boulevard Haussmann
Metro: Havre-Caumartin, line 7

Losing both daylight and any remaining feeling in our feet (or “dogs” as my grandmother Wentz would say), we ended our whirlwind day trip by paying a call on those Belle Époque beauties, Galeries Lafayette and Printemps on Boulevard Haussmann.

After an ogle and a gaze at GL’s amazing dome, we stopped by its gourmet shop, where we loaded up with bread, Cantal cheese, and a bottle of crisp white Cheverny. Then we slowly hobbled back to Saint-Lazare, where we caught line 12 back to Abbesses, just in time for l’heure bleu (twilight), more sister bonding, and planning for the next day!

About the author

Theadora Brack

About the author: Theadora Brack is a writer working in Paris. Her fiction has appeared in more than 30 literary publications, including 3AM International, The Smoking Poet, Beloit Fiction Journal, Mid-American Review, and the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal.

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8 thoughts on “Paris: A fashion fanatic’s (Cheapo-friendly) shopping tour”

  1. Hi. Do you have any advice on plus sized bargain fashion in Paris? I am size 18 but hope to be size 16 by the time I go!

    Reply
  2. hi, ive read so much about sympa.i wanted to know if the cheap stuff is brand new?or used?second hand? thanks!

    Reply
  3. Thanks for the tips…What about great shopping in July? Is there any special sales or discounts that my 13 year old daughter and I should know about?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  4. Wow, great tips! I just got back but will definitely keep this for next time. You’re definitely qualified to lead a sale shopping tour of Paris!

    Reply
  5. Great tips! Beware though, it seems the Zara turtlenecks are only intended for those with the tiniest necks!

    Reply
  6. Dear Megan and Brenda,

    Thanks for your comments! The big sales in Paris are held in January and June, and typically last about six weeks. This is when you’ll find the drastic price cuts. At the end of the sale, several Zara locations serve as the “last stop” for the clothes that don’t sell at the shops elsewhere in the city. Please note: Zara rotates the “last stops.” The large, multi-level shops usually get picked. By the way, Sympa in Montmartre discounts their clothing all year long.

    Here are the Zara addresses:

    (1) Zara at the Félix Potin building
    140 bis, rue de Rennes
    Metro: Rennes

    (2) Zara at Samaritaine department store
    75 Rue de Rivoli
    Metro: Louvre Rivoli or Pont-Neuf

    (3) Also, the Zara on boulevard Haussmann sometimes serves as one of the “last stops.” It’s situated kitty-corner from Galeries Lafayette and Printemps.
    39 Boulevard Haussmann
    Metro: Havre-Caumartin or Gare Saint-Lazare

    Here’s the address for the Saint-Germain-des-Prés shoe shop:
    AM Studio
    38 rue Dauphine
    Metro: Pont Neuf

    If you have additional questions, please ask! Let us know what you find!

    Happy hunting!
    Theadora

    Reply
  7. Great post! Thank you!

    Quick question on the Zara “last stop” stores. Do they always have such great deals? Even though the main sales in Paris are Jan or June? Also, can you provide addresses of the two locations?

    Thank you!

    Reply

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