Shoppping for Women’s Clothes in Paris

Paris has become synonymous with women’s fashion. From the late 19th century, the world has looked to the City of Light for its fashion direction. To take home a piece of Paris fashion, consider the following:
Department Stores
Don’t dismiss Parisian department stores as a source of fashion. They can be a great place to see a wide range of styles and designers – all under one roof. The larger stores even have a number of mini-boutiques representing the “big name” designers within the store.
* Galeries Lafayette
- Built in 1906, this belle epoque multi-level shopping palace is as much fun to look at as it is to shop in. Each floor circles an atrium overlooking the bustling main cosmetics floor. The store specializes in women’s clothing and accessories. The view from the tea shop on the top floor is worth the visit. The Galeries Lafayette offers free fashion shows on Wednesdays.

* Le Printemps – Located near the Palais Garnier, this huge store is noted for its household goods as well as its fashion. The store offers many services for American visitors, including shipping, translation, and a personal shopping service. Printemps offers several free fashion shows each week.

* Bon Marche - Located on the Left Bank, this stylish store was Paris’ first department store. Designed by Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame), it is particularly known for its younger, slightly off-beat fashion.

Haute Couture
Since the late 19th century, Paris has been the undisputed Queen of fashion. Designers, such as Chanel, Dior, Givenchy, Balenciaga, and Schiaparelli have all contributed to making the Parisian Haute Couture industry the best in the world. More recently, Christian LaCroix and Karl Lagerfeld have helped to perpetuate that status. Many of the great fashion houses are located in side streets jutting off of the Champs Elysees near the Place de la Concorde.

Getting into a fashion show at one of the major houses can be difficult if you’re not an A-list celebrity or have a seven-figure checking account. Your best bet is to enlist your hotel’s concierge. (Remember to tip him well.) Failing that, most of the most famous houses have adjacent pret-a-porter (ready to wear) stores, where you can find manufactured versions (but still well-made and tailored) of the singular haute couture fashions.

Les Boutiques
The younger and more modern French designers have mostly opted to open their own retail stores and forego expensive haute couture operations. These stores, with names such as Sonia Rykiel, Thierry Mugler, and Kenzo are largely concentrated in the area surrounding the Right Bank fashion houses, along the Left Bank, and around the Place de la Victoire. Prices are still somewhat steep, but generally much less than those at the “big name” houses.

American vs. French Sizes

French sizes in women’s clothing and shoes are completely different from US sizing. Use the following as a guide:

Dresses, Coats, Skirts

* US 4 = French 32
* US 6 = French 34
* US 8 = French 36
* US 10 = French 38

Sweaters and Blouses

* US 4 = French 78
* US 6 = French 81
* US 8 = French 84
* US 10 = French 87

Women’s Shoes

* US 5 = French 36
* US 7 = French 38
* US 8 = French 39
* US 9 = French 40

The above is intended to be a guide. There are also slight differences in fit between French and American clothes. French-made shoes, for instance, tend to be slightly narrower than American shoes.

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