When planning my spring semester, I was very sad to miss out on the European Christmas market galore and essentially resigned myself to spend gloomy January in anticipation of Mardi Gras. As it turns out, there was another exciting and incredibly dangerous winter event in store for me in France – les soldes d’hiver. Les soldes d’hiver are the annual French winter sales that begin in early January and continue for six (!!!) weeks until the end of February. Think Black Friday but for six consecutive weeks (without the stampede, mostly). These sales are actually regulated by the government, which sets the dates when French stores are legally allowed to have sales — twice a year, in the winter and summer.
This year, the soldes began on January 10, which I discovered on January 9 after I attempted to purchase a sweater at Zara where I was informed that I could not actually buy anything since the sales would begin the next day and it would be pretty stupid to pay full price now. It turns out many French people use the preceding few days to strategically scout their favorite stores and pre-select items they wish to buy, so they wouldn’t have to wait in massive fitting room lines when the sales began.
Lacking self control as I do, I decided to use this opportunity to upgrade and Frenchify my wardrobe (and acquire two additional sweaters because the French do not heat the buildings nearly enough, and wearing my coat to class got annoying quickly). So, in no particular order below, you will find my trendy purchases:
Shoes. I will not lie, I used to judge the #basic girls wearing white Adidas all the time. Now, I am become one (although I boughts Pumas, because wearing Adidas shoes is one step too close to true Slavdom than I’m willing to take). In any case, the French take this trend to a whole new level. I once counted 20 pairs of white/light colored sneakers in my tram car. And they don’t seem to care at all for the impact of the incessant rain on the quality of their shoes. So embracing the trend, I shelled out 55€ (marked down from nearly 90€, which was a victory!) for these shiny new sneakers. Bonus points for the lacquered exterior to prevent soaking my feet and facilitate easy cleaning when I inevitably land in a puddle while running across tram tracks. Also check out the incredibly extra golden laces that match the buttons on my very French coat (acquired prior to departure).
Coat. I found and fell in love with this coat in the summer when it still cost way over 100€, and I may have shed a tear when forced to leave it behind. But, serendipity did not pass us by, and we were reunited again in a Bordeaux MANGO store, this time for only 60€. Would it have been even cheaper if I had waited a few weeks until the stores marked their prices down yet again (the markdowns increase exponentially as the soldes progress)? Yes. But I couldn’t risk some slim French lady snatching the last size S, so.
Sweaters. Braving the below 60F temperatures inside the classroom, I invested in two veeeery oversized sweaters (also from MANGO – I would buy everything there if it only existed anywhere in the metro-able vicinity of DC). The French go-to look seems to consist of sneakers, a chunky sweater tucked into skinny jeans or a skirt, and a very particular type of coat like the one I’m wearing below. Everyone – male and female – wears a coat like that in beige, navy, grey, brown, or black, paired of course with a fashionable scarf. If I could only get my bun to stay in place (or if I gave up and chopped my hair down to shoulder-length again), I think I can safely pass for une française. And yes, I also wear a turtleneck under my sweater because it’s so cooooooold and wet all the time.
Tiny backpack. Last but not least, pictured above alongside my second lovely sweater (and some old items just for #aesthetic), I scored a 12€ MANGO backpack that comfortably fits several medium-sized books/notebooks, my giant wallet, phone charger + headphones, various hand creams, gloves, and a bottle of water. As you may or may not know, I constantly suffer from chronic back pain–no, no one really knows what’s wrong with me–so having a backpack instead of a purse has been super helpful. (So have the new sneakers, in fact. Flat soles are much kinder on the lower back than any heel, no matter how small, which leaves me wearing my rider boots a lot less often than I would like, but comfort > fashion). Not to mention that it looks super classy and matches virtually everything in my wardrobe.
Overall, I think being asked for directions by elderly French people twice last week is proof that I can actually pass for a French girl. Whether my questionable financial decisions during the soldes had any impact on my Frenchness is unverifiable.
Now that we’ve established my undying love for MANGO, comment below with your favorite store where you would spend all your money if Black Friday lasted for six weeks!