Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It's Time For My Own Personal Spring Training (French-Style)

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Sights along the streets of Dijon, FR

Well folks, it’s that time of year.  No, not the madness that hits even the non-basketball fans every March.  No, not the season of green beer.  Not the season of daffodils and dogwoods.  It’s that time of year that I start panicking that I will not be able to lose 50 lbs. before I head to Dijon, France this summer.

You don’t have to be fashion-obsessed to fall under the spell of French fashion.  And I’m not speaking of haut-couture here.  It’s just that on your first time over there you start to realize that even the toddlers chasing the pigeons are dressed better than you are.  You can’t walk twenty feet down a sidewalk without passing another shop window with the most graceful display of what the average Dijonnaise woman is wearing.  All of the sudden I need to shop.

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At home in the States, I won’t set foot in a mall or in the clothes section of a big-box discount store until I’m desperate.  Shopping is not a leisure activity for me.  It’s not a pleasurable activity.  Nothing appeals to me.  Nothing fits how I want it to fit.  The store displays are a crowded mess where I trip over racks, get lost in a maze of clothes, and elbow my way through the crowds and shopping carts at the checkout stand.

Even the hangers are perfectly arranged
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In Dijon, though, the clothes call out to me.  On market day their bright colors wave to me in the breeze.  Under the shade of a wide umbrella, perfectly arranged for ease of shopping, the clothes entice all who pass and there is always a stall vendor or store clerk to immediately find your exact size and hold your choices as you look for more.
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Everything you try on looks wonderful.  It’s made to fit a body with drape and darts and seams arranged to make the clothes comfortable and show off your best features instead of emphasize your worst.  They seem designed to fit a real, moving woman rather than a mannequin.  They flatter and make you immediately feel chic and like you must spend the afternoon sitting at a sidewalk café sipping tea.

Of course, there are a few questionable fashion picks I wouldn’t rush to buy (bows were really in last summer).
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To make it even better, when I show up in July it is one of France’s two “sales seasons” (January is the other).  Everywhere you turn you see giant SOLDES signs.  Each week in the month the discount gets deeper until the last week when you can shop for 70-80% off.

So who wouldn’t become shopping-obsessed under those conditions?

The problem for me, though, is that I may not fit into anything I see.  At home, the size I normally wear could best be described as the “smallest” size in stores and departments for “women” (read: “plus-size”).  Sometimes I can find something in a regular department that’s cut in a way that it feels comfortable on me.  However, I can’t ever depend on that size fitting me from store to store or brand to brand.  Because of the insane variations in stores criteria for sizing women’s clothes, I have to take three different sizes into the dressing room to find something that fits.  Shopping becomes a torture instead of a pleasure.

In France, however, no matter where I am I’m the same size.  Of course, the downside of that is frequently when I arrive in that country I’m at the largest size that is easily obtainable in your average French clothing store.  Hence, my March panic.

Every spring about this time, therefore, I take stock.  If I want to come home from France draped in this

I need to stop eating so much of this

Now excuse me, I’m off to put in my Brazilian Butt Lift DVD.  I need to sweat a little if I want to be able to fit into more than the scarves in France.

 Ready to shop yet?

Do you find clothes shopping a pleasure or pain? Why? What has been one of your favorite shopping experiences when on vacation and out of your comfort zone?  What is your favorite item to shop for (clothes or non-clothes)?  Share your shopping stories in the comments box.

How is it possible that I’ve never seen what 99 million other people have watched and laughed at until they cried?!  It’s pure genius.


Unknown said...

I really enjoyed vicariously shopping through your blog and pictures.

I too will be traveling to France in early Sept. this time for an entire 6 weeks. I usually don't have time to shop for clothes, but I certainly will now.

Anonymous said...

Julie - I'm so glad to hear someone else feels the same way about clothes shopping as I do. And I thought everybody took 3 sizes to the fitting room!

thanks for inspiration.
and I absolutely loved the dog video.

Cora said...

Thanks for including that hysterical dog video--hadn't seen it before.

I don't like clothes shopping but when I do, I go right to where I need to shop and home--no window shopping. I'm too impatient.

Nadine Feldman said...

Great pics! Oh, Lord, those BOWS! Yikes.
I really dislike shopping. Nothing ever fits right. I'm very short, first of all, so I have to look for petite styles. I'm particular about colors that work with my skin, which may not be the "in" colors of the season -- if I see nothing but tan in the windows, fuhgeddaboutit!

My stepdaughter works in a boutique, and I swear that everything in it is too small for me -- and yet I am a size 6/8, depending on where I shop, smaller than the average woman. Who can fit into these clothes besides teenage girls? It makes no sense to me.

Julie Farrar said...

Nadine, I feel your pain about short. I'm short, too, but because of my weight (working on it) I don't always fit the petite sizes. But the regular sizes are all made for women 5'9". I know you say you don't like tan, but I have a whole taupe (and its variations) summer wardrobe from Dijon. All the women wear taupe and then add a pop of color with a great, white linen top or some fantastic scarf in a fabulous color. Nothing says summer like taupe and white.

Tele said...

Wow, those colors! I'm pure Pacific NW stereotype - earth tones, work pants, T-shirts and hoodies. Cap'n J went to Peru a few years ago, and was amazed by the bright colors that the Peruvian women wore - neon citrus everywhere - and how GOOD they made it look. He came home suggesting I might brighten up my wardrobe... I've tried a little, but it's just not me. No parrots among the sparrows here in the NW.

Hey, did I miss something over here? How was your time with your man Keith?:)

Carrie Daws said...

Wow! You make shopping in France sound like that alone makes the entire expense of the trip worth it! I HATE shopping, but it's a bit better now since i had a friend who's really good at shapes and colors spend the morning helping me find my best cuts. Of course, I don't venture far out of the one store she trained me in! LOL...

Lynne Favreau said...

I feel your pain Julie. I'd venture to guess we are in the same boat, and frame of mind.

I hate shopping for all the reasons you mentioned so I settle for tried and true and end up a walking billboard for Lands End.

Julie Farrar said...

But Lynne, this is where the adventure comes in. I was tried-and-true until I saw how much better it could be. Now I've found stores at home that evoke the fashions I love in France and shop only at them. Americans aren't very adventurous when it comes to clothes. It's easy to pick them out on the streets and in the airports over there.

Jenny said...

Hi Julie, after you left your kind words on my blog I decided to check yours out. You have managed to inspire me on a day I was feeling pretty negative so thank you for that!

I hate shopping for clothes but I will be going to France for the first time ever for my honeymoon in July so I will find out how I feel about shopping there! I think I'll like it!


Lisat said...

I love shopping in Paris! I hate big box stores because I get confused easily with too many choices! I prefer smaller boutiques or brand names that have lasted me (Hilfiger fan). Something about France makes us want to wear dresses and pretty skirts. But here I'm always in jeans. I also magnetize to jean Sales so that doesn't help...thanks for sharing your shopping challenges!:)

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