On Saturday I got another glimpse into the more extravagant side of Paris life. Living around the corner from the Opéra Garnier and up the street from the Parisian equivalent of Boardwalk on the Monopoly board I get my fair share of exposure to decadence. Picking the nanny kids up from school each Thursday is like watching a fashion show of enfants wearing Bonpoint next to their Gucci-clad mothers or North African nannies.
As a Vogue-addict and serial stalker of fashion week, I have nothing against the big labels – if you can afford Chanel by all means go for it. There’s just something that disturbs me a little about Baby Dior. Babies grow so quickly that their clothing sizes are measured by monthly increments – not to mention the spitting up, the drooling and the lack of toilet training. I just can’t understand paying 130 euro for a pair of 18 month old Armani jeans that are going to be spilled on, peed in and grown out of in a matter of months.
Saturday though, I was wandering along the rue St. Honoré and up the rue Chevalier de Saint George killing some time before I had to nanny when the windows of Tom Tit caught my eye. Sales are regulated by the French government, and although various stores have markdowns year-round there are only two legal and official sale periods in France – winter and summer. Last Wednesday marked the official kick-off of the month-long summer soldes and since then the number of shopping bags has been threatening to overturn the number of people in the city.
I took B, A and C out shopping on Wednesday to experience day one of the madness – the lines winding around the stores, the burly security guards who looked like they’d been lifted from their duties bouncing doors at night clubs and the hostile crowds of frantic shoppers. Between the four of us we managed to buy… two pairs of pants. After that success we just didn’t have the energy to fight through anymore 50% off racks.
By Saturday things had…not really calmed down at all, but as I passed Tom Tit, a luxury children’s boutique, I was enticed by the lack of people inside. Excepting the two salespeople, there was no one. Baby Burberry isn’t really my bag, but I did need to find a new baby present for one of my favorite families in Seattle who are expecting in July. Might as well just look, right?
I strolled through the door wearing my nannying-for-the-day uniform of jeans, a tee-shirt, a cardigan and a scarf to be greeted by two extremely chic salespeople, one a young male, the other a middle-aged female. Feeling rather schlumpy standing in the midst of all the sparkling baby clothing, each article probably costing more than my entire outfit, I was too embarrassed to head straight for the sale racks. Instead I threw my head back and explained to the saleswoman that I was shopping for a baby present – unsure of the translation of newborn, I went for pas encore né (not born yet), and tried to convey an attitude of careless extravagance. Yes, I have enough expendable income to purchase Dolce & Gabbana onsies for a child I’m not even related to.
Apparently my act didn’t convey anything other than “student, lured in by promises of moins 50% sales,” because she nodded and smiled and led me directly to the discount racks. I pawed awkwardly through the racks of D&G, Armani, Dior and Burberry, debating whether I could make a quick escape or if I had to just bite it and buy a rhinestoned embroidered sun hat.
After a bit of plotting, I beckoned the saleswoman back over. En fait, I explained, les parents ne veulent pas savoir la sexe du bébé, donc, uhhh… (Actually, the parents don’t want to know the baby’s sex, so, uhhh). I thought this would be my quick escape – I don’t know whether I’m shopping for pink or blue, so I’ll be back after the baby’s born. Not so much – instead I was a fun challenge, providing something for the saleswoman to do. She beamed at me and dove into the racks next to me, pulling out item after item of soit fille, soit garçon (either girl or boy). I searched halfheartedly alongside her, every once in a while stopping to peer at a price tag. Thirty percent off of 170 euro – even on sale and in size 0-3 months I can’t afford Dolce & Gabbana.
While I was sweating and panicking, my French counterpart hit the jackpot. Voila! she said, pulling out a pastel blue 6 mo. sweatshirt. With snaps up the back, a Baby Dior teddy bear on the front and a half-off 62 euro price tag (apparently already marked down, because the same one sells for 105 dollars in the U.S.), this one was actually kind of in my budget. The saleswoman was beaming at me, and though I’m not totally sure I’d dress my own child in Baby Dior if it was gifted to me, I couldn’t resist. I grinned back, wiped my hands on my jeans and somewhat sheepishly handed over my credit card.