I see London, I see France… I see Cheapo underpants!
I’m still giddy with excitement. You see, I’ve just discovered Paris’ route de la soie (“Silk Road”). It’s a road through the less-traveled bargain clothing stores of Montmartre. Follow my lead and you, too, can find high-end clothing at bargain-bin prices.
The Panty Raid low-down
Our search takes place at Les Magasins Sympa Grandes Marques Griffées, or just “Sympa” for short. Sympa is a bargain clothing store with several outlets in Montmartre. Here you can find lingerie, dresses, blouses, skirts, and coats–all designer seconds from previous collections. These shops are just a stone’s throw from the steps of the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur at Metro Anvers.
Save the more popular shopping districts (rues Rivoli, Hausmann, St. Honoré and de Rennes) for window shopping (or, lèche-vitrine, “window licking” in French). On the racks, shelves, and bins of the Sympa shops, you’ll find the same trendy brands, like Kookai, Jennyfer, Naf-Naf, Pimkie, Printemps, Sinéquanone, and Sandro, but for a fraction of their original cost.
The Sympa stores are located along the rue de Steinkerque, a street once notorious for its prostitutes and dance halls. Today, you can rummage through the bargains in these same buildings–under new management, of course!
Imagine the surreal charm of shopping for your “unmentionables” inside the former brothel that Pablo Picasso frequented during his “blue period”! Another Sympa now occupies part of “le bal de l’Elysée Montmartre,” where the famed Can Can star (and famorite muse of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec) La Goulue made her racy debut before defecting to the nearby Moulin Rouge. You can nab your own knickers in the very room where she once flashed hers so fetchingly at the absinthe-quaffing crowds.
If only these walls could speak.
Ah, but at Sympa maybe they do. I recently purchased armfuls of Etam’s exquisite delicacies, trimmed with yards of lace and bows, and each possessing a provocative name like “Extravagante,” “Hypnotique,” “Promesse,” “Malicieuse,” “Offrande,” “Merveilles,” “Amourette,” “Faveur,” “Tentation,” and finally, “Bliss.”
As I sauntered home along the cobblestone streets, still under the spell of my panty raid, I could swear that I spotted Aristide Bruant drift by, whistling at me and looking rather dapper in his black cape and long red scarf. Or was that Monsieur Dalí, perchance?
Tips for Lingerie Shopping
1. First, get fortified with un café or, better yet, une bière.
2. Leave handbag at home. Carry cash in pocket.
3. Don’t forget sense of humor.
4. Hang tough. Own your corner of the bargain bin!
5. There are no dressing rooms. Know your European size numbers.
6. The best deals are always in the exterior bins on the sidewalks.
7. Hate crowds? Shop weekday mornings.
8. Saturday mornings are usually delivery day, but every day is a drastic sale day at Sympa.
62, blvd. De Rochechouart, corner of Steinkerque
1 bis, rue de Steinkerque
18, rue d’Orsel, corner of Steinkerque
Days and Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 AM—7 PM
Metro: at Anvers (Pigalle and Abbesses are nearby, too)
While you’re in the neighborhood…
In the mood for art after your panty raid? Four museums in the quartier de Montmartre:
Espace Dalí (Dive into the convoluted imagination of the surrealist master!)
Days and Hours: Monday through Sunday, 10 AM—6:30 PM
Metros: Anvers, Abbesses
Discounts: children under 8 free
Le Halle Saint Pierre
(Visionaries, naives and outsiders—and a cozy café!)
2, rue Ronsard
Days and Hours: Monday through Sunday, 10 AM—6 PM
(Special August Days and Hours: Monday through Friday, 12 Noon—6 PM)
Metros: Anvers, Abbesses
Musée de Montmartre (Where Impressionism began!)
12 rue Cortot
Days and Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 11 AM—6 PM
Discounts: children under 12 free
Musée de l’érotisme (Ooh la lah!)
72, boulevard de Clichy
Métros: Blanche, Pigalle
Days and Hours: Monday through Sunday, 10 AM—2 AM
Don’t miss the permanent exhibition on Montmartre’s famous brothels!