Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shopping for slobs and others

-Yves Klein blue is, it seems, so hot right now. The color's been so-very-now here at WWPD for so-very-long. Unfortunately, the Petit Bateau t-shirt I got in that color last summer promptly turned not-so-Yves-Klein-blue, almost tie-dye-ish purple, really, in the armpits, something I'd never seen happen to a shirt, and something that reaffirmed by belief that, as a general rule, t-shirts and tank tops come in gray, white, or black.

-Wimmin and their shopaholic ways, in the WSJ, via Isabel Archer. Just as articles about extreme cosmetic surgery bring out the smug in women who 'only' wear hundreds of dollars worth of makeup and face creams and maybe do a little Botox, a one about $74,000 shopping binges is sure to elicit folksy responses:

Wow...and here I was feeling all posh and "extravagant" because I recently spent $220 at my local Dress Barn store where I got one shift dress at full price, a suit jacket for 60% off, several sweaters for varying percentages off, and a pair of pants at full price. I was proud of the fact I saved nearly $115 on my clothes. For sure, I can't imagine spending $74K on one single outfit, designer or otherwise. [....]
Obviously, just about no one can imagine spending tens of thousands of dollars on a single outfit, thus why you will not find articles about how there are these women, you see, who own some clothing from the Gap, maybe a few pieces from Banana Republic. No less obviously, a non-designer outfit at that price point would require a lot of layering.

The comment is kind of interesting, though, insofar as it illustrates not only the way articles about the extreme extravagance of the few serve to vindicate smaller extravagances of the many, but also the extent to which some (many? all?) of us fall victim to the notion that it, whatever it is, once cost more than we're paying for it. Does our Dress Barn shopper know for sure that these items ever went for their ostensible original prices? Doubtful, but even if they did, sales can make the unaffordable affordable, but the delight at that 'extra' $115 is unwarranted - $220 were spent, not $115 earned. Would Ms. $74,000 be more socially acceptable if it, whatever it was, was reduced from $200,000?

-The coat on the left (see it again) is mine, and I couldn't be more pleased with it. I was ostensibly looking for this, but ended up preferring the less poufy variety, which conveniently enough was the one that had not entirely vanished from the various Comptoirs des Cotonniers. (I'd glanced at the label of the coat a woman took off in a café, thus avoiding an awkward discussion with the woman about where she'd gotten her amazing coat.) A major improvement over the Uniqlo one from last year which will now be for snowstorms only, and about the same price - thanks to the sales, I suppose, but I don't know what the original price was, that is, what I 'saved' with my good timing. In any case, I can now go out in sub-50-degree weather without looking like a slob.

The experience, however, reminded me why I'm partial to the more anonymous shopping experiences - fast-fashion or thrift, etc. The boutique atmosphere is just, ugh, even on the rare occasions when the stuff is discounted to the point that I might actually buy anything. Clothes - dresses especially - have this way of glowing in boutique windows, especially in Paris, but small clothes-shops are, 99% of the time, better for window-shopping. Sorry, small-shop owners, that's just how it is.*

I don't begrudge the salespeople of this particular chain from doing their job, but pushy does not begin to describe it. In one branch, which did not have the coat, it was this constant barrage of how beau some other coat or sweater was that I was trying on, so when I asked Jo what he thought, trying to sidestep the sales pitch and get the opinion of the person I'd actually come in with, rather than stepping aside for a moment, she just switched to a breathy "it's beautiful, it's beautiful," on and on until we'd left the store with nothing. At the one that did have the coat, as I was approaching the register, a saleswoman came by with this armful of scarves, as though once I was paying for one thing, I was obviously prepared to buy all manner of random crap. Perhaps the thinking was, I'd believe anything a Frenchwoman told me about scarves, but even 'merican ol' me knew that these did not in any which way go with the coat, and would in fact detract from its minimalist neutral-toned splendor.

*But are the shops really all that small? Boutique chains, stores that look one-of-a-kind but that in fact have branches in every hip and often not-so-hip neighborhood, plus areas within each department store. (More examples: Sandro, Zadig et Voltaire, Maje...) I suspect that a good many tourists leave Paris thinking they found a one-of-a-kind item from a shop tucked away on the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, when in fact...

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