Shoe fanatic Louis XIV got the party started, while Marie Antoinette raised it to new heights. Still, shoe shopping in Paris still gleams brightly. With the recent openings of Printemps’ new three-level atrium and Galeries Lafayette’s brand-spanking-new showroom pumped with 12,000 designer shoes, the art of shoeing has never been more swagnificent. So for the love of Versailles, how does a hot-stepper avoid paying full price?
Lean in, Cheapos, and follow my lead.
Step One: It’s all in the timing
One way to avoid paying full price on shoes is to schedule your trip during either the big January or July sale periods. The upcoming “Soldes d’été” (summer sales) will kick off on Wednesday, June 30, 2010. Discounts range from 20 to 80 per cent off retail prices. Remember to know your European shoe size!
Step Two: Now, study the classics
For your browsing pleasure, may I recommend starting off with a little “window licking” (faire du lèche-vitrine) on the boulevards?
Whet your appetite in the swanky shopping districts along the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, Avenue Montaigne, Louvre-Tuileries, and Place Vendôme. Don’t forget the funky independent designers in Abbesses, the Marais, and Saint-Germain-des-Prés. But don’t buy! Just spy, and make note of what you fancy. Recognition will be your greatest asset at vintage shops and flea markets later on.
Shoe-in at the movies
While you’re out and about, do swing by the Repetto boutique for a peek at their towering cubbyholes stuffed with satin ballet slippers in shades of pale. Brigitte Bardot and Repetto transformed the classic ballet flat into an iconic street shoe during the making of the 1956 film “And God Created Woman.”
Sex and the City fans, this tip’s for you! Dior is located next to the Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés, while Manolo Blahnik’s showroom is near Place de la Concorde. Blahnik also confected the shoes for Sophia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette.” It was a piece of cake for the designer, no doubt!
Then, step into the past
This is also an excellent time to study other masters like Carven, Lanvin, Poiret, Rykiel, and Schiaparelli at the Musée Galliera and Musée de la Mode et du Textile. Exhibits change frequently, so always Google for current listings prior to your visit.
You’ll have no regrets if you stop by the Musée Edith Piaf to see the “Little Sparrow’s” black dresses, size 4 shoes, and her pocketbooks. Still need a shoe fix? Marie Antoinette’s slippers and a scale model of the Lanvin showroom are at the Musée Carnavalet in the Marais.
Step three: Knowledge pays off
With a few favorite designer names under your hat, it’s now high time to visit the vintage shops, designer stock shops (outlets), flea markets, brocantes (antique/junk sales) and vide-greniers (neighborhood-wide garage sales) scattered all over.
Cheapos, I often find treasures at the vide-greniers! This is where the locals empty their closets. My latest finds include Valentino Garavani heels in burgundy satin and pink snakeskin, red ballet slippers by Zara, and patent leather black sliders by Freelance. And none cost more than 15 euros! I also found three pair of Salvatore Ferragamo shoes. Back in the day, he created wonders for Mary Pickford and Marilyn Monroe. Imagine and sigh. His shoes usually retail for up to $500, but on this very rainy day, the dealer asked for just €10 a pop. Now that’s a Hollywood ending!
Step four: Give them TLC
“Cendrillon” (Cinderella), if you’ve found your match but they’re not quite perfect, never fear. Just take them to any shoe repair shop (“cordonnerie”) and have them resoled or reheeled. Repairs are usually quick and cheap—and well done. My favorite is located at 48 rue des Abbesses. Look for the little 1940s- automaton cobbler hammering away in the shop window.
Pinching yet another pointer from Dior, Cheapos, comfort always comes first!