Monday, May 15, 2006

Bargain-Shopping, Paris Style

Dr. B says I have a knack for making friends. "People like you," he says, "they meet you on the street and invite you into their home for dinner. You are interesting. People want to be your friend." I don't know about that, but I did meet someone recently, and I am glad to call her a new friend.

Last week, Lucy and I were walking in the 5th arrodissement, near Rue Monge and Rue Mouffetard. Lucy met a Jack Russel Terrier, tied up in front of a bakery, and stopped to make his acquaintance. His owner came out, and as she was struggling to untie his leash which was attached to the "Dog Park" in front of the bakery, I reassured her that Lucy was friendly and just wanted to say hello. She heard me speaking English to Lucy, and asked, "Are you American?" Next thing I knew, we were commisserating about life in Paris at the Starbuck's across the street (the warm weather has me thirsty for real iced tea, and this is one of the few places that has it--in other words, NOT from a can.) Her name is Anna, and she's lived here in Paris for 5 years, and somehow I am the first American she's met here (I have no idea how she managed to do this--I've met lots!) She was enjoying a day off from work, and had stopped into the bakery during one of her dog's 4 daily walks (he is a Jack Russell, after all). We hit it off immediately, and agreed to meet again soon.

Fast forward a few days, and I receive a text message from Anna that says, "I have an extra ticket to a private sale at Sonia Rykiel. Do you want to meet me?"

Do you have to ask?!?!?!

Anna works in the knits studio of Sonia Rykiel, and knew the ins and outs of the sample sales. All I knew was what I read in magazines, but I prepared by wearing a skirt and not-too-unflattering-or-revealing underwear, and met her outside the building. She handed me my all-important invitation, and we went in. After checking in my coat and bag (they gave me a plastic bag for my money, ID and phone--clear, of course, but with a handy cloth rope strap), I grabbed a white plastic tote, and I headed in.

It was nuts. In a large, cement-floored and white-walled set of rooms were hundreds of racks of clothing, shoes, bags, and accessories. The few mirrors were crowded 4-deep, and people were stripping to their skivvies everywhere you looked. The clothes were sorted by size, but of course things had been moved around quite a bit, so it was worth your while to check out everything.

Rykiel is known for her knitwear, and her boutiques across France and across the world sell beautiful clothes at sky-high prices. I knew I couldn't afford much, and honestly didn't expect to find anything really great, but I hoped I would find something--maybe a scarf.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Due to it being the last day of the twice-yearly sale, skirts, tops (except knits) and dresses were slashed to 50% off of the marked price, which was usually about 80% off the retail price (I am guesstimating). I am not a huge fan of many of her trademark designs (sequins and slashes, really bright colors, and things designed to flatter super-skinny slightly crazy-looking redheads) but I was thrilled to find many more classic items that suited my taste. I filled my white plastic bag to the brim, and then looked for a spot to change.

Of course, there are no cabines (dressing rooms) at a sample sale. People just drop their drawers right there, in front of God and everybody. I headed to the children's section where there weren't quite as many people, in hopes that I wouldn't be pushed aside while hopping on one leg in my underwear. People were being very polite, and no one was staring or even looking. Men who may have looked at me when I was dressed quickly averted their eyes and walked away when they saw me begin to disrobe. It took me a while to get up the courage (*GULP*), but I was very glad I did.

I had heard stories of people who bought crazy things at sample sales, and I didn't want to be stuck with something weird I would never wear. I think I succeeded in that. After making my way through the bag, I settled on a black crepe pencil skirt, a berry-colored knit skirt (both just below knee length), a super cute grey long-sleeve T with "11" on it in pink with sparkly jewel things (thick and as soft as cashmere), a pink tote bag with lots of pockets and black leather trim and a beautiful blue suit coat for Dr. B. The clothes are cut amazingly well, the fabric feels so luxurious, and they are truly comfortable. The black pencil skirt, for example, was so stretchy and had so much movement, I swear I could do yoga in it!

All these things set me back very little, especially compared to the prices they would have been in the boutique. I don't know exact prices, but Anna did hold up one of her mother-in-law's choices and whispered "900 euros"--so I know I got some great deals! For all five items, I paid less than I would have for a brooch she designed! (scroll down the page)

An awesome new friend, some new clothes, and a new experience--quite an interesting Saturday morning! (Sure beats Cheerios and the funny pages!) Ah, la belle vie à Paris... Now... I wonder where I can meet someone who works at Céline or Elie Saab? I do need a new dress...



At 3:43 PM, May 15, 2006, Blogger rondi said...

I lived in Paris five years (years ago), and to this day I wear a beautiful Sonia Rykiel top I bought there (also at a sample sale). If I hadn't been a student back then I would have bought more. Sigh...

At 4:06 PM, May 15, 2006, Blogger PutYourFlareOn said...

Pictures! We want pictures! Lovely story! You really should write a book, my dear! :) Can I get a signed copy when it happens?

At 9:12 PM, May 15, 2006, Blogger Chelee said...

You HAVE to model for us!

They sound amazing.

Great job!

At 6:54 AM, May 16, 2006, Anonymous Renee said...

Indeed we want pictures of your new outfits!! Very jealous!

At 7:51 PM, May 18, 2006, Blogger Joannah said...

Hi! I discovered your blog earlier this week. I visited Paris and the Loire Valley last summer and I'm having such flashbacks now as summer approaches. My time there was wonderful. Alas, no travel plans in that direction this summer. So, I'll live vicariously through your posts if you don't mind.

At 5:01 PM, May 19, 2006, Blogger Scarpediem said...

I want to go to Paris so, so badly now--especially after this story. It sounds fabulous. Looking forward to the pix!

At 12:02 PM, May 30, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mrs. B. --

It's Dean Tompkins. Hi to you and Jeff?

Right to the POINT: Your former student, Annelise (Schuler-Tompkins) will be in Paris from 19-26 June 2006. Would you plan to meet her, her sister (Briana) and aunt/uncle (Dr. and Mrs. Walsh) for a short while during their visit? [Mom and Dad -- me and Mary -- will NOT be visiting. :(]
If you can meet up with Annelise at a site in Paris, send me an e-mail (Jeff should have my UW-Madison e-mail address) and I will begin corresponding with you on details. Thanks.

Best to you and Jeffrey! Enjoying the blog; congrats on the taxes!

At 7:44 AM, October 07, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MRS. BROWNSON- omg!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i havent been on here forever and i thought i would check it out again!!!!!!!! i miss u sooooo much- you need to come and visit us at smg as soon as possible!!!!!!!! ok- well, that was a lot of exclamation anywyas, i just wanted to say that i luv u and hope to see you soon! :) luv always- sarah bellissimo (clarinet- cardinal band)


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