Across the street from my Parisian Hotel, I was enjoying one of my favorite pastimes. I sat outside a quaint bakery, enjoying a pot of piping hot pressed coffee and a warm buttery croissant while catching up on the day’s events in the latest issue of The Guardian. I was half-way through the Lifestyle section when the table began to shake… the vibrations of my phone re-directed my attention to a series of incoming messages…
It was Diatta, my Senegalese friend from Paris, responding to my earlier inquiry about shopping hotspots! She is well-known, among friends, for her posh style, so I was confident that her advice would be “on-point” like the stilettos she is never caught without. She urged me to check out the outlets in Montparnasse before strolling the aisles of the “oh so popular” Galeries Lafayette. With my metro pass in hand, I headed to the nearest station.
When I reached the top of the stairs after a short train ride, I instantly spotted large block letters branding the storefronts “SANDRO” and “ANDRE.” Looking around, I noticed that the sidewalks were deserted… but the outlets were numerous… the word “SALE” as far as my farsighted vision could see. “Shops with no shoppers?” I thought. “This is the stuff that dreamworlds are made of.” And so, I scurried across the street to check out the goods.
Generally, I am not the biggest advocate for outlets. American outlets are a complete and utter eyesore. Hordes of clothes, just everywhere, jumbled together regardless of size and color. It is not at all atypical to trip over fallen items discarded by a disgruntled shopper and left to the fate of stampeding bargain hunters.
I exhaled a sigh of relief as I stepped into the doors of Sandro. I was astonished to see all merchandise was thoughtfully placed on the shelves and color-coordinated adjacent accessories to match. I rummaged through the racks, squinting to locate my size. To my dismay, I could only spy 0, 4, 6, and maybe the odd 8. I couldn’t help but think that if I found myself here five years earlier, this would not have been an issue.
Despite the limited size selection, none of the garments were jumping at the chance to be plucked from their hangers. They lazily cloaked their triangular frames, lifeless and disinterested, wearing various shades of blasé. Though the collection boasted similar fabric quality to their flagship equivalents, they were undoubtedly not Vogue quality. As I studied sweater after sweater, I realized that each mirrored the last, only featuring a different neckline. Wincing at the thought that this might be a wasted trip, I optimistically grabbed a few items and took them back to the dressing quarters.
It was a tiny closet equipped with a flapping saloon door, revealing my head and calves for all employees to see. I crouched in place to hide my head, swung my arms in the air, and shimmied into the first sweater. I twirled to the mirror and gasped! Ah!
It was as though I was looking into one of those funhouse mirrors at county carnival, through which my mid-section ballooned outwards infinitely. Garment after garment, the funhouse images became more and more grotesque. There I was, stuffing my body, sausage-style, into these tailor-made French designs, grinding my teeth, sweat beads now forming in places, hoping not to hear a “rip” or “pop.” After 10 minutes of squeezing and wedging, I gave up.
Discouraged but still hopeful, I decided to try my luck with shoes.
Upon entering the next store, these beautiful over-the-knee black leather riding boots immediately drew my attention. I grabbed the box marked “8,” sat down on the bench adjacent to the display, pulled on the shiny new boots, and zipped them right up!
I leaped onto my feet, fled to the nearest mirror, and began gazing at myself. Now these were Diatta’s style, and I envisioned her next to me, smiling and granting her stamp of approval.
“I’LL TAKE THEM!”
Mentally recovered from the last store’s trauma, I congratulated myself on my short-term success. Subsequently, I sat down to take them off. I pulled at the zipper and, unanticipatedly, I felt resistance between my fingers.
Holy shit! The zipper was stuck!
I began yanking and tugging in all directions. IT WOULD NOT BUDGE. Suddenly, I was rethinking this purchase altogether. The sweat beads reappeared, now localized inside my boot.
What do I do?!
I stood up. My forehead lines were as prominent as ever as I thought hard how I would escape this predicament. I paced back and forth for a while, puzzled, trying not to draw attention to myself. There was nothing, no ideas, no epiphanies, just emptiness, and sheer embarrassment. I soon came to the realization that I needed to tell someone.
More sweat beads formed, now on my face and under my arms. Biting my bottom lip and hanging my head in shame, I walked over to the salesclerk and tried to explain in my stale French that I could not dislodge the boot. He mumbled something, likely offensive, and his eyes rolled so far into the back of his head, I thought I would need to call an ambulance to stop him from seizing. Even Robert Downey Jr. could not manifest this level of disdain.
It was mortifying!
Regardless of his obvious discontent, he kneeled beside me and pulled out a special tool. After some effort, he finally removed the boot.
The zipper was broken, and so was my spirit. I left immediately after and never returned to the outlets at Montparnasse.
Ladies Beware: unless you are a size 0 through 4 and seeking basics for your wardrobe, you may want to save yourself the heartache.