Sunday, September 23, 2012

The French Bra Quest

I fully intended to buy at least one French bra in Paris. Buying a bra - or two or three, whatever - even seemed prudent because Aggie and I were in Paris during the city's biannual sales. Interestingly, the French government allows only two sale events each year and even regulates markdowns in department stores. Where ever we found ourselves, shop windows proclaimed 40% off.

The biannual sales were a sensible reason, but not my only reason for purchasing a French bra(s). For several years, my favorite bras have had labels that read 'made in France.' I did not buy these lacy, interestingly designed bras for their labels. I bought and wear them because they are delicate with small colorful details and are simply fun to wear.

Before flying off to Paris, I'd begun to read Eloisa James 'Paris in Love' . Her book chronicles a year in Paris with husband and children and is chock full of impressions, anecdotes and very useful bites of information for the discriminating tourist I took myself to be. I finished her book on the flight, carefully turning down the corners of page after page where she wrote about markets and specialty shops, museums, parks, chocolate shops, flea markets, concert venues and BRAS.
James devotes two lengthy paragraphs to her experience of bra shopping in Paris that I was eager to replicate for myself.  I quote:
"At some point I walked into the lingerie department at Galeries Lafayette and shamelessly eavesdropped on a conversation between a saleswoman and a client, a very elegant, restrained woman d'un certain age, perhaps sixty-five or seventy. (That could have been me, dear readers.) Madame liked the design of a delightful handful of cream silk embroidered with black roses, but if it were not possible to buy panties that matched, then obviously the bra was not for her. It occurred to me that it was entirely possible that a lusty, equally elegant Parisian male, also of a certain age (or younger!) waited for her at home, but more important, his opinion would make no difference.
"She was dressing for herself. And her standards were high. I turned back to the rows of bras and tried to look at them through French eyes: as delicious, delightful accoutrements that would make my breasts look like confectionery pieces - for my own appreciation and pleasure. I swept up a handful and took them into the changing room.  Some minutes later, I regarded myself adorned in soft tulle and silk.  The traps were twisted together with tiny gold threads, making me feel like a Roman senator's wife. I bought that one, and another of pleated fuchsia silk, and a third in navy, scalloped along the edges."
Way to go. That is what I wished to do.

After a week of using that Paris Museum Pass, Aggie and I turned to activities that included a trip to that carnival that is Galeries Lafayette. Ostensibly, I was on a quest for a special soap recommended by Eloisa James. And of course, I was also looking for the lingerie department. Galeries Lafayette was overwhelming, mobbed with shoppers and rather like Macy's, Herald Square in New York, except that its architecture is more interesting.
We did not find the soap, but indeed we found the lingerie department and bins of light airy little bras. I asked the cost of a flowery bra with tiny ribbon rosettes. But for whatever reasons, I did not wander through that busy department picking up a collection of bras to take to a fitting room. I will never understand why, except that the rushed rhythm of the place was unsettling. I cannot believe I just wrote that. I am a store person, undeterred by anything when I am 'looking' and 'seeing' and 'searching.' I cannot believe that Aggie and I left the lingerie department without my purchasing a French bra(s).
Why on earth did this happen? The next day we passed a lingerie shop as we wandered along a small packed street.  Its window was filled with a display of bras draped over hand painted tables and chairs. The signs read 40%. There was a bra in the window that I loved on sight and yet, I did not march into this shop and ask to be fitted. The print was so French, the tucking delectable.
My story about buying French bra(s) does not end well. I brought not one of these delicate items home with me. It gets worse. Back in Houston, Top Drawer had its summer sale and I resisted, even after receiving a postcard and several emails from this shop where I do indeed buy my bras. Top Drawer stocks French bras. Never mind. The summer sale passed.
It is now fall and I realize that I've not purchased bras in over two years. Elastic is stretching, straps are falling off my shoulders. My bras don't fit like they used to. It would have been prudent to buy bras in Paris at 40% off. They were all adorable. What was I thinking?

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