Category Archives: Clothing

Bra Shopping in Paris

There are only a few situations that can be as awkward in your first language as in a foreign one. Getting fitted for a bra is one of them. Whether in English or in French, an open conversation about cup size, cleavage, sag, support, and sexiness can make even the most brazen feel just a tad uneasy. In Paris, with lingerie shops on nearly every block, the experience may seem just that much more intimidating. But, buying the right fitting bra or something for a special occasion doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable experience. Take a cue from les femmes françaises by reading our interview with lingerie expert, Stéphanie Lherminier. Stéphanie, owner of Boutique Clair de Lune in the 18th arrondissement, graciously answered the barrage of bra related questions we sent her way. We hope you enjoy Stéphanie’s insights into the purchasing habits of her Parisian clientele and can benefit from her advice!

Posted in Paris: Do you think French women go for practicality or sexiness when shopping for bras and underwear?

Stéphanie: French women generally prefer comfort when choosing bras. They will always keep the more glamorous and sexy lingerie in their wardrobe for weekends and special nights or occasions, but for everyday, comfort and “le bien aller” are most important.

Posted in Paris: Do you think the rumor that most French women usually wear matching bras and panties is true?

Stéphanie: French women, for the most part, like wearing matching bras and panties. When they buy more classic colored bras–black, white, or nude–they rarely buy matching panties; but when it comes to fun colors, they go for the matching tops and bottoms.

Posted in Paris: How often do women in France shop for lingerie? Just for special occasions or more frequently?

Stéphanie: You must consider that on average, French women purchase only 2 bras a year. However, my boutique’s most loyal clients, buy on average 3 or 4 a year I would say. They buy new bras most often when new collections come out; I would say, a new ensemble for each new collection, so one fall/winter and one spring/summer. Then the same clients often come back to take advantage of the soldes (sales held twice a year). I rarely sell lingerie intended for special occasions; the more coquette French women often already have what they need in their wardrobe. On the other hand, we do have a large male clientele who buy the more sexy lingerie for their wives or lovers in anticipation of a special moment.

Posted in Paris: What is your best selling brand and model?

Stéphanie: I have two brands of bras that sell very well in my store. The first is Prima Donna, a very chic Belgian brand specializing in large cup sizes, and the other is the more glamorous, sexy French brand Lise Charmel.

The Prima Donna woman is a woman seeking class, sophistication, and also comfort; Prima Donna is known among professionals in the lingerie world to be very comfortable. They offer 58 different sizes and cups ranging from B to I.

The Lise Charmel woman is looking for a haute couture lingerie. She likes wearing bras adorned with the finest lace, guipures, and other materials. She is seductive and hyper feminine.

The type of bra that sells the best is generally a classic form, padded. Women who want to feel secure and protected go for the close fitting type of bra and those who like the push up effect go for the “basket” form.

Posted in Paris: What brands do you recommend?

Stéphanie: As for my favorite brands and what I recommend, it really depends on the client. I section off the products in function of the clientele. For a client with generous forms, I recommend Prima Donna for a mature and glamorous look, and Twist (also sold by Prima Donna) for younger fashionable women. For smaller chested women, I recommend Marie Jo and Marie Jo L’aventure for women who appreciate fashion but at the same time want comfort and a natural looking chest. And I recommend Lise Charmel’s push up bras for women looking to feel sexy and chic under their clothes.

Posed in Paris: How often should women change their bras?

Stéphanie: I recommend changing bras every 4 years. Of course it all depends on how often you wear them. If you don’t have many and you wash them more than 4 times a week, I recommend replacing them at least every 2 years. It also depends on how well you take care of them. Hand washing your bras saves them from the wear and tear of the washing machine so they’ll last a lot longer. If you must put them in the washing machine, always be sure to close the clasp and use a laundry net. In any case, if your bra rides up on your back or if your straps are tightened all the way and have to hook the clasp on the tightest hook, or if you just feel like you’re not getting the support you need, it’s time to buy a new bra as soon as possible!

Posted in Paris: Do you have any suggestions for going bra shopping in Paris? Are there any “do’s” and “don’ts”?

Stéphanie: When bra shopping in Paris, I highly recommend going to independent lingerie shops where you’ll get real service and you might be surprised to learn that you have been wearing the wrong size for years. You can find the addresses of these types of shops in the yellow pages under the section “Lingerie” or on the websites of your favorite brands under the section “revendeurs.”

Avoid franchises (H&M, Etam, etc.) at all costs. They are less expensive but you won’t get the same quality. Often times after only 3 washes, they become stretched out. And most of the time the sales people are not capable of informing you about the different models.

Don’t forget that the primary function of a bra is support. Good bras are expensive but our chest is subjected to a lot throughout our lives (puberty, contraceptive hormones, pregnancy, breastfeeding, swelling during periods, menopause…)–all the more reason to take care of it and provide it with good support. Otherwise, mesdames, you can expect to find yourself with a drooping, sunken chest because you didn’t do enough to maintain it. Besides their primary function, lactation, breasts play a very important role in seduction and sexuality. So take care of them!

Posted in Paris: Merci Stéphanie!

Boutique Clair de Lune
119 bis rue Ordener
75018 PARIS

Laundromat Matters

When you’re living abroad, the most simple tasks can sometimes be the most complicated. Seemingly easy things, like shopping at the grocery store or getting money out of a cash machine, take on a new level of complexity. One such task is doing your laundry at the self-service laundromat or laverie. Getting your clothes cleaned isn’t rocket science, but figuring out how to work the washing machine and what products to use is trickier than it sounds, especially if you don’t understand French.

If you’ve got dirty laundry spilling over your hamper, use our mini guide to get your pile of whites and darks washed and dried. After your first visit to the laundromat, you’ll get the hang of it. You may even end up doling out help to puzzled Parisians who sometimes have trouble figuring out the laundry machine directions themselves!

(If you have clothes that need dry cleaning or you’d prefer to use a laundry service, read our earlier post here.)

Useful Vocabulary

laundry le linge
wash la lessive
washing le lavage
laundromat la laverie
washing machine la machine à laver
detergent la lessive
to wash or scrub lessiver
softener l’assouplissant or l’adoucissant
stain la tache
stain remover le détachant
bleach l’eau de Javel
to dry secher
dryer le sèchoir
dry sec (m), sèche (f

(For information on international fabric care symbols, visit this link.)

Typical Laundromat Signage

Donating Goods to Charity

Spring cleaning or planning for your next move?  Either way, it’s the time of year for cleaning out closets and getting a fresh start.  If you find that you have too much stuff, here are some ideas of how to shed yourself of unwanted clothes, books, and household items.  And you may help someone in need at the same time.

The city of Paris offers free curbside pick-up of bulky items in the different arrondissements and greater city area. The service is generally offered twice each week with varying times for each area. Before placing any items curbside, please call 01 55 74 44 60 for direct information and scheduling. Note that it is not lawful to place oversized items on the curb without pre-authorization. For pick-up details in your area or to make an appointment on line, visit the city’s Web site and fill out the online form.

Emmaus Communautes will come to your apartment and pick up bags of clothes, shoes, toys and/or furniture that are in reusable and resalable condition.  They are similar to what many Americans know as the Salvation Army.  They will not come for just one bag, so if you call, be sure you have enough to make their trip worthwhile.  Be prepared to tell them how much you have for pick up.

Les Orphelins d’Auteuil
40, rue La Fontaine, 75016 Paris,
Tel :  01 44 14 75 20

Les Orphelins d’Auteuil is a Catholic-run  orphanage in the lower 16th that has a second-hand shop to help fund the home.  According to the web site they sell the following :

  • clothes and shoes for all ages
  • costume jewelry, silverware, dishes, artwork
  • linens such as sheets, towels, tablecloths, curtains
  • books, records, toys

You can leave things in good condition, Monday through Saturday from  9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sales take place on Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m.to 12:30 p.m. and then again from 2:00 pm to 6:30 pm.  Saturday hours are 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  There is parking available on-site so you can unload without fear of blocking traffic or being ticketed.

You can also find drop boxes for clothing at several locations in and around Paris:

8th arrondissement: St. Philippe de Roule, at the intersection of rue Faubourg St. Honoré and Franklin Roosevelt

12th: La Halte des Femmes (Coeur de Femmes day shelter) 16-18, passage Raguinot, M: Gare de Lyon

13th: La Maison Coeur de Femmes, 77, rue du Château des Rentiers, M: Porte d’Ivry or  Nationale

A list of 300 collection boxes managed by the organization, Le Relais, can be found on-line.  In addition,  these organizations may also accept secondhand clothes and shoes:

La Croix Rouge at 01.44.43.11.00
L’Armee du Salut at 01.43.62.25.00
Le Secours Catholique at 01.45.49.73.00
Le Secours Populaire at 01.44.78.21.00

Yahoo hosts a bilingual online recycling group called Freecycle Paris that not only enables you to donate your items (clothes, furniture, appliances, etc.) to other members who need or want them, but also allows you to browse for items that may be of interest to you.  The group is free to join.

Finally, both the American Library in Paris and SOS Helpline will accept used books, CDs, and DVDs in good condition

Tips for Getting Your New Year Off to a Good Start

Bonne année à tous!  Here are a couple of short items that will help you get off to a good start in 2011.

Les Soldes d’Hiver:  Yes, the annual winter sales start in Paris on January 12th at 8 a.m. and run until Tuesday the 15th of February.  Now is the time to make your plan of attack or risk losing out on the best deals or your favorite pair of shoes.   To get started, take a look at what Amy Thomas, a Posted in Paris contributor,  had to say in her article  on the Girls Guide to Paris site last spring.  (Spring, winter — what’s the difference?!)   And don’t forget: pretty much everything is on sale during les soldes, not just clothes.  It’s also a great time to buy housewares such as Gien porcelain, Jacquard Français linens, or any other French souvenirs you might have been eyeing.

Recycle Your Christmas Tree:  The city of Paris has set up 95 recycling points around the city through January 23.  (If you leave your tree on the curb by your building, it’s going to go into a landfill.)  To find a recycling point near you, go to this page on the city’s Web site and then download the .pdf file.   Your tree should be naked — no ornaments, no bags, and no flocking.

Catch Up on the Movies You Missed This Year:  From January 12th through the 18th, the UGC cinema chain and Le Figaro are teaming up to provide showings of 26 films considered among the best of 2010.  (Some of these released later in France than in the U.S. so don’t be surprised to see some of the 2010 Oscar winners among them.)  Best yet:  tickets are only 3 euros.   You can find more information here:  http://www.ugc.fr/typepage.do?alias=lesincontournables .  If your French isn’t quite up to snuff, check to be sure that any English language films are showing in VO (version originale).

Paris Pas Cher

Paris may not be the most expensive place to live as an expat (I think the honors go to Moscow) but it sure ain’t cheap.  But if you are clever and patient, there are bargains to be had.  Here are just a few ideas for enjoying the Parisian lifestyle when you’re counting your centimes.

Vente-Privee.com:  If you’ve got a hankering for designer clothes but not the budget, sign up for e-mail notifications from this on-line site.  You will get e-mails when a promotion is on.  Move quickly to make your purchase before stocks are depleted.   The offers are frequent (sometimes more than one a day) and the range is wide.  For example, this week, you can take advantage of sales on Longchamp bags and Hector & Lola cashmere sweaters.  In addition to clothes, the site also offers deals on shoes, wine, household items, beauty products, and even toys.

La Fourchette:  You can use La Fourchette to make restaurant reservations but the real reason to use it is to take advantage of the special promotions:  up to 50 percent off the bill, a glass of champagne, dessert, etc.   You can sign up to receive the offers in your e-mail or opt out of the e-mails and just use the site when it suits you.    You won’t find the hottest new restaurants here (as they can fill up tables without the extra promotion) but if you cross reference the good buys with restaurant reviews, you can enjoy a good meal at sharply reduced prices.

Groupon:  I haven’t used this site but here’s the information as reported by Ksam, author of Totally Frenched Out

The way it works is they negotiate some pretty great deals with companies all over France and then they publish them on their Web site (or you can choose to receive their daily e-mails). If enough people decide to participate, the “deal” is validated and they e-mail you your gift certificate. There are several ways to pay – I usually use PayPal.  FYI: The payment is only taken from your account if the deal is validated.

Here are a few that I’ve chosen – a massage + foot reflexology for 18€ instead of 50€, a 36€ gift certificate for the Happy Days Diner for 18€, a 15€ gift certificate for Jeff de Bruges chocolate for 7€, etc. Plus a surprise for C for our anniversary, but more about that later….

Groupon is available all over France, not just in Paris, so feel free to check out their site.  And if you do decide to sign up, it’d be great if you could do it through my parrainage link here.

And don’t forget the Web site of the guide book Paris Pas Cher.   While it’s not as extensive as the guide itself (which is available in pretty much every book store in town), it is free!

What are your favorite Paris deals?

Costuming Your Kids

updated September 2013

by A.  Letkemann

Halloween….. that magical time of year when you can be anything you want to be. The possibilities are endless! Although Halloween is not celebrated in France the way it is in North America, the idea is catching on. And even if trick or treating is not on your agenda, there will probably be other times during the school year when your kids (or perhaps even you) need a costume. Since that shopping list of costume must-haves continues to evolve, you may want to check out the costume shops before your ghosts and goblins set their hearts on the unattainable.

Tuttifiesta is a party store that has a wide range of costumes for children and adults. They also have activity ideas and recipes.

47, rue Saint Ferdinand, 75017

M°: Argentine or Porte Maillot, line 1

01 40 68 77 89

A  La Poupée Merveilleuse is a party store that carries a full line of costumes, decorations, makeup, accessories, and other party supplies.  They have Halloween costumes for children and adults. The store is conveniently located across the street from BHV.

9, rue du Temple, 75004
M°: Hôtel de Ville
01 42 72 63 46

Au Bal Masqué is a small costume shop tucked off avenue Victor Hugo in an arcade known as la Cité de l’Argentine.

111, avenue Victor Hugo, 75016
M°: Victor Hugo, line 2
01 47 55 07 88

Sommier is a family-owned shop in the 10th that has been renting costumes for all occasions to the French since 1922. They stock costumes and disguises in just about every genre from historical period outfits to traditional ethnic garb and animal getups, including ones for two people. Wigs, make-up and other accessories are also available.

3, passage Brady, 75010
M°: Château d’Eau (line 4) or Strasbourg Saint Denis (lines 4, 8, and 9)
01 42 08 27 01

Au Clown Montmartre boasts that it stocks over 4,000 different costumes, wigs galore, and all types of make-up, including prostheses for fake facial features and body parts. The shop is a joy to visit in and of itself.

22, rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 75009
M°: Cadet (line 7) or Grands Boulevards (line 9)
01 47 70 05 93

Finally, in the fabric district at the foot of the Butte Montmartre (near the metro stop Anvers), there are half a dozen or so shops selling cheap items suitable for costumes, such as faux feather boas, sequined tube tops, and colorful mini skirts.   You may have to use your imagination but at least you won’t break the bank.

What (Not) to Wear in Paris

If you follow fashion, stop reading this post now. And if you’re a guy, you might want to move on as well. Today’s sage wisdom is for the lady concerned about making a good impression in Paris without having to buy a whole new wardrobe or going too wild and crazy trying to stay current with fashion trends.

Yes, Paris is the world’s fashion capital but relax. Not everyone dresses up here all the time. You can do just fine in Paris as long as you have a few basics in your closet and follow a few simple rules.

Don’t worry about being dressed up; just don’t dress down. Some Parisiennes go all out: killer heels, fabulous jewelry, couture, the works. You don’t have to follow suit if that’s not you.  Instead, think polished, classic, and restrained.  And don’t think about going out of the house in your gym clothes unless you are actually going to the gym. Sweats and sneakers are fine for jogging but a big no no at the bank, the post office, and the market. Save your shorts for the tennis court or for summer in the countryside.

Yes, you can wear jeans. Honestly every third person walking down the street in Paris is in a pair of jeans.  The twist?  They’re not slouchy (unless you are a 17 year old gansta rapper wannabe), holey (unless you are a 22 year old rail thin model), or grubby.   A well fitting, crisp pair of jeans is what you want.   With a pair of boots, a white button down shirt or a nicely fitted knit top, and a great jacket, you’ll fit right in.

Invest in comfortable shoes.  Parisiennes do a lot of walking.  How those gals in heels do it, I cannot fathom.   And reserve your sneakers (unless they are Converse All-Stars) for the gym.  Instead, consider making your way around town in ballet flats, boots, loafers, or any shoe that has a chunky heel.

Think layers.  The weather in Paris is fickle; temperatures can swing wildly during the day, particularly in spring and fall, while the sun plays peekaboo.  Light cardigans and tops you can layer make a lot of sense.

Make sure you really like your raincoat because you are going to be wearing it a lot.   Right now trenches are popular and for good reason.  They work fall and spring, look great with skirts and slacks, and they keep you dry when Parisian skies open up.  A raincoat with a zip in lining is the best bet.  With a scarf and the lining in, you will stay warm on even the coldest day (which admittedly is never much below zero (Celsisus, that is).  Zip it out and you are good to go in spring and fall.

Black is the new black.  Parisiennes wear a lot of black.  You don’t have  to, but look at this way.  A great pair of black slacks or a black skirt goes with pretty much everything.

Make sure your purse is a shoulder bag that zips shut.    Clutches, purses hanging on your wrist, backpacks, and anything gaping open is a ready target for pickpockets.  A shoulder bag, either one with a strap that goes across your body or short straps that allow you to hold your bag snugly under your armpit, is a lot more secure.

Consider stocking up.  If you are tall, round, big busted, or have big feet, it’s probably not a great idea to wait until you get to Paris to go shopping.   To make a gross overgeneralization,  the average French woman is petite:  trim and not very tall.   So unless you relish the hunt, go ahead and buy an extra pair of the shoes you love or your favorite jeans and put them aside for later.

Gear Up!

Updated September 2013
Need new soccer cleats?  Going skiing for the first time?  Your kid decides to take up tennis?  Here’s where to go.
For the serious outdoorsy type, head to Au Vieux Campeur in the Latin Quarter.  This store, actually a collection of stores scattered in and around rue des Ecoles, has everything you’ll need for hiking, camping, skiing, water sports, plus tons of maps and guides.  The only trick is that each department is in a different location (with 26 in all) so you’ll want to check the Web site before you go.
If you are on a budget or buying gear for a first timer, a better bet is Decathlon.   Relatively few consumer goods in France can be described as bargains when compared with North America, but Decathlon is definitely the exception.  Where else can you find a sleeping bag for under 10 euros or a fleece pullover for under 8?  This gear won’t last a lifetime and certainly won’t work in extreme conditions, but it will get you through.  There are four locations in the city of Paris:  avenue de Wagram, near L’Etoile; Madeleine; Aquaboulevard (in the 15th) and Avenue de France (in the 13th) plus multiple others around Ile de France.
Another multipurpose address for the budget conscious is Go Sport which has multiple locations in or close to Paris including Italie 2, La Defense, Les Halles, Montparnasse, Porte de St. Cloud, and Republique.
Other options include:
Adidas:  One store at 51 rue de Rivoli in the 1st
Courir:  mostly shoes  (many locations in Paris and Ile de France)
Foot Locker (shoes only; seven stores in Paris and more elsewhere in Ile de France)
Golf Plus:  2 locations in Paris; others in Orgeval, Pontault Combault, Saint Cloud and Versailles

Clothing Your Kids Without Breaking the Bank

The French really know how to do children’s clothes.   The cuts, the fabrics, the craftsmanship:  it’s all incredible.  But pretty quick ly you will realize, as darling as your little girl might look in that Bonpoint coat, there’s no way that you can afford to pay that much and still have cash left over for groceries.    So where do you shop for decent quality children’s clothes at a reasonable price?  Moms in the know suggest the following:

C&A:  This large department store reminds me of J.C. Penney’s.  Rock bottom prices but not much selection or style.  Still you can get lucky, especially if you are in the market for basics like t-shirts, leggings, and pajamas.  Multiple locations in Paris and the suburbs.

Du Pareil au Meme:  Fun fabrics, European styling, and great prices make this French chain a winner.  They even carry shoes.   There are dozens of locations in Ile de France so there’s probably one near you.  A few of the stores are for babies only; most offer cute clothes for boys and girls up to age 12 or 14.

H&M:  This Swedish department store has made its name by offering trendy clothes at bargain basement prices.  The merchandise changes frequently but you can pretty much always find a good range of jeans, shirts, sweaters, skirts, and basics like underwear and socks.  Plan ahead:  not every H&M outlet has a kids’ section.  In the city of Paris, kids’ clothes can be found only at the rue de Rivoli, rue Lafayette, and Les Halles locations.  Suburban locations include La Defense, Issy Les Moulineaux, Vélizy, and Le Kremlin Bicentre.

Monoprix:  Not every Monoprix carries clothes.  But if the one near you does, take a look at the kids’ department the next time you are doing your grocery shopping and you’ll find great prices, sweet styling, and probably some darling baby clothes you’ll want to send back home for shower gifts.  You never quite know what you’ll find at Monoprix (in other words, don’t go looking for something as specific as a navy blue t-shirt) as the stock is small and rotates frequently.   But you’re going there anyway, right?

Okaidi:  Another chain with super cute clothes for ages 0-14 at prices you’ll like (including shoes.)   You tweens will particularly appreciate that the larger sizes don’t look too babyish.  There are at least a dozen locations in the city of Paris and more than that throughout Ile de France.

Petit Bateau:  With dozens of outlets in Ile de France, Petit Bateau offers beautiful knit basics:  tops, bottoms, pajamas, underwear, plus seasonal items like sweaters and sundresses.  The regular prices are a bit steep (although not by Paris standards) but there are frequent promotions, even outside the twice yearly sales.

And if Grandma’s in town and you want to spring for something extra special, head on over to the Web site, Babyccino Kids, for recommendations on Paris boutiques for children.

Getting Clothes Cleaned Without Cleaning Out Your Wallet

Updated September 2013

It happens almost without fail for every arriving expat:  you go to the cleaners to drop off dress shirts, the only thing on your mind, making sure you know how to ask for them to be finished on hangers or folded, and then it happens:  sticker shock.  For Americans used to paying less than $1.50 to get a dress shirt laundered and ironed, the thought of paying three to four times that amount does not sit well.  The plain truth of the matter is that dry cleaning and laundry services in Paris are expensive.

Take a look for example at these prices at an independent dry cleaner in an upscale neighborhood.  If you do the math quickly, using an exchange rate of 1.5 dollars to the euro, a good rule of thumb if not always completely accurate, you’ll discover that it will cost you about $60 to get a suit cleaned.

So what do you do if you need to get your clothes cleaned and you don’t want to get your wallet cleaned out too?  Here are a couple of tips for those on a budget.

  • Seek out budget chains or hole in the wall proprietors.   5 à Sec (a play on words for the French expression 5 à 7, shorthand for a quickie after work and before going home, if you get my drift), Baechler, and Alaska Pressing (with locations in the 2nd and 16th arrondissement and perhaps elsewhere) offer more reasonable prices than the establishment whose price list appears above. You will still pay between 2.80 and 3.50 euros for laundering a dress shirt.  At 5 à Sec (with multiple Paris outlets), you must buy a card, paying for laundry of 10 shirts in advance, to get the discounted price.   But be cautious; the quality of the dry cleaning and pressing services is variable.  You may find that you have to touch up your clothes afterwards with your own iron.   Think twice about entrusting one of these  places with a special item, like a cocktail dress or silk blouse that you absolutely love.
  • Beware of extra charges.  Some cleaners charge extra for an appret, a special finish that is supposed to maintain the original feel and look of your garment.  I’m not sure I can tell the difference.
  • If you have a femme de menage, she will very likely be prepared to do ironing.  Weigh the hourly rate you pay versus taking your laundry out.
  • Change your dry cleaning habits.  Most wool sweaters can go in a washing machine set on a gentle cycle and dried flat.  Save dry cleaning for silks, cashmeres, suits, and anything that absolutely cannot be laundered at home.
  • Invest in no-wrinkle dress shirts.  No-wrinkle technology has improved dramatically in the past few years; you can find no-wrinkle shirts that look and feel like ordinary Oxford cloth or brushed cotton, for example, from LL Bean if you are still in the U.S.

If you are seeking an eco-friendly dry cleaner, try Sequoia which has locations in the 15th, 16th, and 17th arrondissements.