Half-Price Wooden 'Garage' Shirt

Paris On Sale - Bring Money or Plastic

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Paris:- Tuesday, 24. June 1996:- Last night on the television news they said the summer sales are on In Paris, and so here I am today, on the second floor of Printemps' 'Brummel' building on boulevard Haussmann, looking at shirts.

The economy is in the pits and nobody has any money, so nobody buys anything. This causes great amounts of new goods to remain unsold - in theory - until the time they have to make way for the next season's new set of fashion designs. The wary buyer therefore waits until the 'sales' are on - and in the case of today - stocks up on, get this: this summer's summer fashions, and pays as little as half-price for them. You are reading it here: 50 percent off!

Here I am, at the top of the escalator on the second floor - 1st etage - of Printemps, but it could just as easily be Galeries Lafayette, Samaritaine, BHV or Bon Marché on the Left Bank - they all sell pretty much the same stuff and the discounts are the same too. The only reason I'm in Printemps is because it is closest to St. Lazare - and I recommend all of the others without reservation, especially if they are handy to where you are.

Where am I? Oh yes, on the second floor. Off the escalator, I see... bins of shirts, with prices on overhead hangers. There are thousands of men's shirts here; long-sleeve, short-sleeve, sports shirts, every kind of shirt. You know, men's shirts look pretty much alike, so if you are in a hurry just grab one of the closest in your size, pay for it and scram.

The nearest shirts have, in fact, Printemps' house label, 'Brummel' on them, and I guess they are fair value for the money and they are twenty or thirty percent off. Their only problem is that they are just... shirts.

yslshirt.jpg (15k) Since I will only get two shirts a year - high life! - I do not want a house-label article, so I range around all these bins, tables, piles of shirts... looking for 'names.' Names like YSL or C. Dior or Lanvin - hey, all of them. The YSL's and Dior's are running in the 295 to 350 franc range, marked down from as much as 525 francs. This is about 30 or 40 percent off, but 525 francs is about $100, and I find it hard to believe this is a fair price for a ready-made shirt even if its label has Dior on it.

I already have a number of these shirts and they are several years old now, and one thing they do, is last. If you pay 100 francs for a shirt and you buy one a year at the end of five years you will have one one-year-old shirt, and four old shirts - all for 500 francs. If instead, you get a 500 franc shirt for 295 every other year, at the end of five years you will have two and one-half nearly new shirts that have a lot of life left in them - so you save money, and you only have to go shopping at the sales half as often.

But I've seen all these 'on-sale' Diors and YSLs before, and invariably, the best ones on the stand... are not on sale. These are the extra classy shirts you want.

The Printemps lady there to help me, says, when I ask her if there are any other 'classy' shirts around that are on sale, she says... no, she takes me... over... to see some shirts called.... 'Le Garage.' Yeah, Garage shirts. I see it in my head: '49th and Main Esso' and 'Fred' embroidered on the pocket.

shirtposter.jpg (31k) At the fairly small 'Garage' sales area there is a neat and trim, diminutive nifty named Frieda in charge of a few bins and a small display. These shirts look really cool too and, gazooks! they cost up to 1200 francs. She says they are made of something derived from wood. Hey, wood? Yeah, it is called 'Cupro,' which is a 100 percent rayon made of natural fibers, treated to be like silk. These 'Garage' shirts are made in France, and are machine washable. (Do you believe any of this?)

We grabble through the bins together and after finding one that can not be worn to board meetings of anything other than the Skeptics' Society, I pay 350 francs with plastic, for a 700 franc shirt called 'Le Garage.' My little folly.

In the interest of thorough reporting, on my way out I stopped in the perfume department on the main floor. The news here is no news because there is no 50 percent sale prices; there is nothing on sale here at all. Still, it does not hurt to look at the prices, so you will know what kind of a deal you may get at an airport 'dutyfree' location.

All the Paris department stores do offer a 13 percent discount on items to be exported, and you can find out about this at their international reception desks. The stores will also take care of shipping parcels abroad. Printemps, and I would suppose the others, also have multilingual services - including Japanese - and many in-store signs are in several languages.

Out the door, after the no-sale in the perfumes, there are more shirt bins on the street. These shirts are not 'on sale,' but they are only 59 francs or two for 100. The 'shop' is in the wall of Printemps, but it is leased space, run by an independent operator.

Besides being inexpensive - the usual 65 percent poly, 35 percent cotton - these shirts have one great use for a visitor. At lunch say, the waiter dumps a load of lasagna on your shirt, and after lunch you want to go to the Opéra - what to do? You buy a 59 franc shirt and put it on and put your soggy tomato-messed shirt in the plastic bag, and go and do your thing, looking nearly impeccable.

If I can remember, I go to the 'winter' sales too and buy a shirt; but I forgot to do it this year. The summer sales will last until the end of the third week of July, and unless you try and get a 'Garage' shirt, the bins will be full until then.

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