Once again, no one does it better.
If you've been searching for the precise meaning of "there is a method to her madness," here follows a case study on the subject:
Frenchwomen shopping during the two major State mandated markdown periods in France -- summer and winter (never mind those other two seasons) -- when the frenzy of hysterical bargain hunting is in full tilt are the very definition of the concept.
To an outsider, a casual observer, the scene appears to be madness. It is not. Frenchwomen are not riffling through the boxes, bins and sales racks to walk out the door with armloads of items marked down 50 to 60 percent they will ultimately never wear. They do not compromise their style principles at the alter of "half price!"
If an item didn't work for one reason or another before the markdown-- shabby finish; too short; shoulders not perfect; color won't work with anything; jacket doesn't cover (fill-in-the-blank) properly; great piece, but chartreuse makes me look chartreuse; sleeves are an awkward length, it's tight through the bust (or hips or waist), but I'll re-start with Dr. Dukan tomorrow -- it won't work any better with the markdown.
Granted, in their infinite style wisdom, Frenchwomen know how to re-purpose pieces. Maybe that sweater dress could be a tunic; the gorgeous fuchsia sleeveless (yikes!) pleated charmeuse
shell would be a lifesaver under a cardigan or a jacket; what if my seamstress could add a band of contrasting black in another material to the LBD I've been looking for all my life, but this one is too short, and so on.
Forget about out of kilter shoulders, yes a superb tailor could re-make a jacket or a coat, but trust me, it's not worth it and might not work. And, it's expensive. Keep looking.
There is no such thing as mindless shopping. Compromises end up unworn and therefore the most expensive clothes a woman owns.
Frenchwomen are frugal by nature. This mindset has nothing to do with their wherewithal. They think before they spend.
1.) What does this go with that I already own?
2.) Does this give me several possibilities?
3.) Will I regret the color?
4.) Should I stay with a neutral and hit the accessories later?
5.) If I can't wear it with at least X-number of pieces I already own, is it really a bargain?
6.) Will I really wear it?
7.) She will have already tried, at regular price, a new seasonal shape, i.e. the long, full Mad Men inspired skirts for example. She will ask herself, "Is this me or not? Does it make me look silly or stunning?" If she likes it, but thinks it's too expensive, she may wait, ruminate and buy one during the sales.
(After all, she has the tops to go with it. It's not that much of a deviation. . .)
8.) If, theoretically, she would not have purchased something at regular price, she will not buy it on markdown. Either you like something or you don't. It's simple.
This is what Frenchwomen know:
1.) At this point in their lives they are more than aware of what works on their bodies.
2.) They buy the same items over and over. Now wait, that means for example, if they have found the perfect jacket for their figures, they buy it in the same cut in different fabrics and colors. It's always the same, but it's never the same. See?
3.) Rarely do they buy a "one off" unless it is so brazenly spectacular that they know they must have it. Then they make it their own and wear it over and over. A friend of mine found a red, white and blue sequined bustier featuring a star-spangled motif at the bottom of a huge dusty box in a boutique in the Marais. She loves it. She wears it. We all think it's fun, funny and fabulous. And it comes with a great story. Who could ask for anything more?
I found a black sequined pencil skirt a few years ago, yet to be worn, but waiting for that perfect event. I envision it with a black cashmere turtleneck sweater and my black satin Chanel shoes with the gold platforms. Where there's life, there's hope. And, it cost nothing! Almost.
4.) When possible, as unglamorous as it may seem in the heat of the moment, sales are a good time to replace favorite basics -- if they can be found. Out go the old t-shirts, in come the new. It's unthinkable to wear iffy white tees. What about your black cashmere turtleneck or v-neck, maybe back-up is in order. You'll be glad you did, later.
With a little luck the blazer of one's dreams could be out there, a pencil skirt, a pair of gray trousers that really fit, another white shirt -- you know you can never own too many. Frenchwomen think long term. What's more chic than jeans, a white shirt and a blazer cut with razor sharp precision?
What about a luscious jewel-toned velvet blazer a la Audrey Tautou? It's an investment.
5.) Now may be the time to add a dash of color, but in so doing it's wise to stay true to the fits that flatter.
But that's not all. . .
1.) If a season's fad is synonymous with fabulous for a woman and she is lucid in this realization, she will indulge now. She will spend the least amount possible on it and wear it immediately. She'll then pack it away and keep it until it magically turns into vintage!
2.) Rejoice and replenish. Frenchwomen love their lingerie and this is their time to splurge. And splurge, they do. In this category they can be wildly frivolous, but the dividend is a heady mood enhancer. Priceless.
3.) Bijoux de fantaisie, costume jewelry, can be found at giveaway prices and who can resist? Not Frenchwomen. Baubles and beads, frankly fake, are so much fun and add zest to the rest.
4.) Scarves. The rule is simple: scoop 'em up and run. Polka dots were big this winter, they're big this spring. There is no better time to stock up. Think gifts as well.
Frenchwomen do. So do I.
5.) A pair of ballerines? Absolutely. A girl can never have too many. And, maybe in a wild, wow color. Pourquoi pas?
6.) Belts, grab 'em.
7.) Leather gloves. Color, color, color.
8.) Super pricey bags, worth a look and serious consideration. Le sac cartable continues through the year, FYI.
9.) Floral prints carry on. A blouse might be a reasonable option, if one wears flowers. There is always the scarf option which gets my vote.
Now, let me offer a Franco-American tactic for shopping the sales. My method keeps my ditzy brain on message and has in the past prevented me from literally buying the same things. (I've mentioned to you on several occasions how many pairs of black pants I own. Enough said.)
I keep, at all times, a notebook the size of a paperback book, tucked in my purse which by category lists all the major pieces I own. Another page (or two) is dedicated to items I would like to one day find. Occasionally I see something in a magazine -- it can be a look, i.e. the way the bits were put together or something specific I like -- I rip out the page and slip it into the notebook.
This method helps me buy less and buy better. It also gives me a fresh, inspired overview of what I have and what I don't need.
Et voila, end of story.